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Thursday, July 22, 2010 05:18 am

Cool Vietnamese rice noodle bowls

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Marinade:

  • Five garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (see note below)
  • 2 T. peanut or other vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 T. fish sauce (see note below)
  • 1 T. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. thin-cut meat – a beef skirt or flank steak, pork steaks or thin-cut pork chops, or boneless skinless chicken – OR substitute for all or part of the meat one block firm tofu, halved horizontally, or 8-12 oz. portabello mushrooms
  • 3/4 lb. dried small round rice noodles (vermicelli)
  •  2 - 3 c. red or green leaf lettuce or romaine, sliced crosswise into -inch ribbons

Garnishes:

  • 1 thin regular or 1/2 English (a.k.a burpless or hothouse) cucumber, unpeeled, seeds scraped out with a spoon, and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 c. bean sprouts, or substitute radish or other sprouts
  • At least two or more of the following fresh herb leaves: mint, cilantro, dill, basil (preferably Thai/Asian), or lemon balm.
  • Roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Siracha hot sauce

Dressing:

  • Vietnamese dipping sauce (see below)

Combine the marinade ingredients in a large, resealable plastic bag. Seal and squish the contents until they are thoroughly mixed and the sugar dissolves. Remove 2 T. of the marinade and set aside. Add the meat or tofu or mushrooms to the bag, and press to remove as much air as possible. Gently toss the bag until everything is coated with the marinade (it’s especially important to be gentle with tofu), and marinate for at least one hour, and up to two hours, turning occasionally. Refrigerate if marinating over an hour.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the noodles. Boil for three minutes, then drain and immediately flush with cold tap water. Drain again, then toss with the reserved marinade and divide between 4 large shallow bowls.

Preheat the grill. Grill the meat, tofu, or mushrooms to the desired degree of doneness. Cut into bite-sized pieces or strips (flank and skirt steak should be cut across the grain).

Top the noodle bowls with the lettuce. At this point, you can either add the meat/tofu/mushrooms to the bowls or serve with the garnishes.

Place the garnishes in separate bowls or arrange them – except for the peanuts and Siracha, which should be kept separate – on a large platter. Diners can add the type and amount of garnishes and mix in as much dipping sauce/dressing as they’d like.

Serves 4 as a one-dish meal.

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