If you had to pick one ingredient as the foundation of your diet, could you? What sets your meals apart from the rest? Perhaps your mind wanders to a spice or vegetable -- something with flavor that packs a punch? In Vietnam, the foundational ingredient in their meals is something much more simple and matter of fact. It’s rice.
Rice is the base of an astounding majority of Vietnamese recipes. Because of the variety of ways it can be prepared, there is no waste in the production of rice. It can be steamed, puffed or flaked, made into noodles, vinegar or cooking oil, and is even used to make cosmetics. Rice stalks are even turned into straw to make clothing, shoes and hats. Some Vietnamese even go as far as to say that their country even looks like two baskets of rice being carried on the ends of a pole.
For this Recipe Friday Special, we’ll be looking at two different preparations of rice. Bánh and bún, or cake and noodles.
Bánh comes in many forms in Vietnamese cuisine. The most recognizable to those outside of Vietnam tends to be the Bánh Mì, or a sandwich with protein, vegetables and hot peppers. This isn’t the only Bánh though. Bánh can also come in the form of a type of dumpling, pancake, or even a banana leaf wrapped rice ball. Bánh Tet is the traditional dish of the Vietnamese lunar new year. A labor of love, Bánh Tet can take up to an entire afternoon to make, but this sticky rice cake with pork and mung beans comes out looking like a giant sushi roll to share with friends and family and is a great way to welcome in the spring weather.
Vermicelli, or rice noodles, are the base to both hot and cold bún dishes. Typically with protein, greens, carrots, cucumbers, and a mix of fish sauce, lime juice and peppers or a warm broth, these bowls are lite, but filling and full of south Asian flavor. These bowls are authentic street food in Vietnam and every vendor has their own different take on flavor combinations. Until you get there, here’s a perfect quick recipe of a Grilled Pork Bún to make you feel like you’ve just taken a break from walking the streets of Saigon.
Bún Thịt Nướng Recipe (Vietnamese Grilled Pork & Rice Noodles)
1.5 pounds pork shoulder, sliced (any cut will do)
1 package rice vermicelli (small or medium thickness)
4-6 egg rolls (optional)
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
1.5 tablespoons garlic, minced
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ tablespoon thick soy sauce
½ tablespoon pepper
3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil
mint – (rau thơm)
Vietnamese perilla – tiá tô
Vietnamese balm – kinh giới
Pickled daikon and carrots
Scallion in oil