Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 Challenge: "Bun" at Home or Why Vietnamese Food is Better Than 30 Minute Meals

Last week, Peter and I had lunch with P and R. At one point P asked us, "Why do you guys always write about Vietnamese?"

The question stopped us dead in our tracks. It was obvious from P's tone, that this young lass had never beheld the glories of chargrilled pork or slurped pho. We quickly decided against leaving the lunch and spent the next five minutes uttering non-nonsensical, onomatopoeic phrases like "It's crunchy, fresh, vegetabley things, beer food, juicy pork, just good."

We eat a lot. Most of it is not what you would call healthy, so as a detox we spoil ourselves with the freshness of Vietnamese flavors. For me, bun - the cold, noodle dish of veggies, chargrilled meats, and nuoc mam - from Nine Roses is what I crave. But a spring roll with pink shrimp, crisp mint, and bright basil also does in a pinch.Why not combine the two? It worked, but like most junkies on a detox, it just made me crave the real thing.

Vietnamese Shrimp and Fava Bean Salad

To start, go to the Crescent City Farmer's Market. Get some fava beans and shrimp. Find a friend. One of you needs to remove the favas from the pod, the other needs to devein the shrimp. Once the favas are removed, blanch them for about 2 minutes. Then toss directly into an ice bath. Once they cool, the bean should pop right out of the bitter, light green skin encapsulating it. This is labor intensive, but worth it.

Meanwhile, julienne a carrot and an onion. In a large bowl, combine a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, a 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, and crushed bay leaf. Add to this the carrot and half of the onion, let this chill out. You are basically quickly pickling the veggies. (That last sentence has a host of loose definitions.)

Fry the remaining onion until crispy and brown but not burned. Set aside. Julienne a head of romaine, but save one or two leafs to serve as wraps. The dressing you want to be evocative of nuoc mam. Combine a few dashes of fish sauce (don't have it? use soy or Worcestershire) with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Whisk in your olive oil (3 tablespoons is the preferred ratio). Add in some torn mint.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and grill for about two minutes per side. To assemble, toss romaine in dressing. Place saved leaf on plate and then pile on the lettuce. Drizzle some lemon over the fava beans and a sprinkle of olive oil, place next to lettuce. Top romaine with pickled veggies, crispy onions, shrimp and fava beans.

This is not a thirty minute meal by any stretch of the imagination. But then again the concept of restricting your cooking repertoire to thirty minute meals is a lot like letting a pretty girl know that you only intend to have sex with her for 2 minutes tops. But if you have nothing to do on a Saturday and you can't make it to the West Bank, this will do.

1 comment:

Ravenous Couple said...

we couldn't agree with you more!! great dish!