Apologies for this generically Asian named recipe. What I really wanted to call this was bun cha, but I know there are some Vietnamese cuisine purists who will immediately inform me that this is not truly bun cha (which it really isn’t). Thus, I’m sticking with “noodle salad” which also sounds good right? If you don’t know what bun cha is, oh my, you are missing out!! It is hands down one of my favorite dishes, something I fell in love with when I was in Hanoi and could easily eat every single day. I truly mean that, but that also goes for a lot of Vietnamese dishes I suppose. It’s sort of like a deconstructed noodle dish: plates of rice noodles, grilled pork or pork meatballs and fried spring rolls are accompanied with a dipping sauce of fish sauce, lime and/or vinegar sugar, garlic and chili, pickled green papaya and a plate of fresh herbs like basil, mint and bean sprouts. You sort of gather all the ingredients together into a bowl of the dipping sauce and . . . eat! It’s got the hallmark Vietnamese flavors; sweet, sour, slight heat and SO fresh and I personally like to eat it with tons of greens, making my version almost a salad with noodles. I opted to go for grilled prawns since they marinate and cook so quickly, but you could easily sub in these lemongrass pork meatballs. Either way, you need to make this while we’re still in these hot summer months and you’re putting that grill to use!
- Dissolve the salt, sugar, vinegar and hot water. Pour over julienned carrots and daikon. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Trim base end of the lemongrass stalks and pound the bottom white/light green half of the stalk with the back of the knife so that the stalks start to break apart. Thinly slice the white/light green ends of the lemongrass and mince.
- Mince a shallot and combine the lemongrass, shallot, sugar, fish sauce and oil. If they're not de-veined, cut the back side of the shrimp through the shell halfway and pull out the vein. Alternatively, you can remove the shell just around the body (keeping the tail and head in tact). I personally love grilled shrimp heads but if it's not your thing, feel free to toss them.
- Marinate the prawns in the lemongrass marinade for at least one hour (less if you take off the shells).
- Preheat the grill on high and brush the grill with a little oil. Sprinkle a little salt over the prawns. Run a bamboo skewer through the prawn inserting from the bottom through the head.
- Grill each prawn about 2-4 minutes on each side depending on how large they are until cooked all the way through (i.e., until they are opaque).
- Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions.
- Mix the dipping sauce ingredients until dissolved.
- To assemble the bowls, add a few lettuce leaves to the bowl, top with a small handful of noodles, top with prawn skewers and then top with the fresh herbs. Pour the dipping sauce over. Serve with the pickled carrot and daikon, extra lime wedges or Thai chilies.
(images by HonestlyYUM)