Sunday, April 16, 2017

Vietnamese Beef & Rice Vermicelli Salad

I'm always happy to head into a Vietnamese restaurant, whether in Vietnam itself or even further afield in Melbourne or London. Top on my list of favorites is probably beef pho or noodle soup, especially when it's cold and you want a soothing bowl of hot soup. But when the weather gets warmer and I want something lighter and refreshing, nothing beats a huge bowl of Vietnamese beef and rice vermicelli salad, topped with a huge handful of vegetables and herbs and drizzled with a yummy dressing.

Pickled vegetables
I suppose you can substitute the beef with any meat you want, like pork or chicken, but I love the combination of beef with all the salad ingredients. I've eaten it in several Vietnamese restaurants but I thought I'd attempt it myself. After trawling the net for a recipe, I came up with my own version that suits my taste. Like using palm sugar which I had sitting around from a trip to Vietnam. I also decided to lightly dress the carrots, cucumber and daikon radish (after I julienned them) with a bit of salt, sugar and vinegar.

Don't let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. If you prepare everything ahead, it only takes about an hour. Then you just quickly fry up the beef and pile everything in bowls.


For the dipping sauce:
•    2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
•    4 tablespoons lime juice
•    3 tablespoons fish sauce
•    2 garlic cloves, minced
•    1 1-inch length ginger, peeled and minced
•    1 medium chilli, minced
•    1 bird chilli, thinly sliced (optional)

For the stir-fry:
    •    12 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
    •    1 pound beef, sliced in thin 1/4-inch slices
    •    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    •    1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
    •    3 garlic cloves, minced
    •    3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, tender centers only
    •    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    •    4 scallions, slivered
    •    1 medium carrot,  julienned
    •    1 small cucumber, julienned
    •    1 3-inch length of daikon radish, julienned
    •    Mixture of coriander sprigs, mint leaves, thai basil
    •    Small handful of bean sprouts
    •    4 tablespoons of crushed peanuts

1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, garlic, ginger, chillies and 1/4 cup water and stir together. Let this dipping sauce sit for 15 minutes for flavors to meld. (May be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.)
2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add rice noodles, stir and turn off heat. Let noodles soften (5 to 8 minutes, depending on brand), then drain and rinse with cold water. Leave in colander at room temperature.
3. Meanwhile, combine beef, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and lemon grass in a bowl. Massage seasoning into beef and let sit for 15 minutes.
4. Divide vermicelli into 4 large bowls.
5. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. When wok is nearly smoking, add beef and quickly stir-fry until lightly browned and just cooked, about 2 minutes. Work in batches if necessary so meat browns and doesn’t steam. (If you do not have a wok, you may use a pan and work in batches.)
6. Top noodles with cooked beef, scallions, bean sprouts, carrot, cucumber and daikon radish. Sprinkle with herbs, and crushed peanuts. Drizzle lightly with dipping sauce and pass remaining sauce at table.

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