Has it been a month already, since last we’ve chatted? It’s definitely been a month since I have published a post. It’s shameful, really. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating…I’ve been quite busy in that respect. There’s been a lot going on in Calgary, so many openings and fun events to go to, so much great food to eat. On the nights when I am at home, I keep a more relaxing pace and eat more simply. That usually means barbecuing some kind of protein (which I’m not organized enough to marinate) with sauce such as my Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, or mostly just plain with salt and pepper. Exciting, I know. Then we round out the meal with a salad or two.
Cooking for ATW12P forces me to think ahead, snap some photos, and do it up right! I pick a block of days when there’s nothing else going on to find or think of a recipe/meal I want to try, shop for all the ingredients, then spend the time to take photos. This month’s theme was my favourite so far! I love heading out for a bowl of noodles with charbroiled chicken (Bún thịt nướng) or a steaming hot bowl of Vietnamese soup (Pho). Strangely enough, all the restaurants here in Calgary serve their Bún thịt nướng hot even though the dish is commonly served cold in Vietnam. I learned this little factoid when we lived in Australia and the few Vietnamese places that I could find around Perth always served it cold. Traditional or not, I like mine served warm.
Lemongrass marinade ingredients
Another dish that you’ll always see on the menu is Thit Heo Nuong Xa or Vietnamese Pork Chops. Since I always go for noodles or pho, I thought I would try to make the lemongrass based marinade and add this dish to my barbecue repertoire. The marinade is quite a bit of work, but I think it would be easy to make up a huge batch at once and freeze some for a later date. Also, since I’ve made this recipe, I’ve bought a Vitamix which I’m sure would make short work of all that lemongrass!
I think we’ve all cooked meats with a high sugar marinade, right? We’ve all been there. Everything is going great until BAM! It isn’t. The heat from the barbecue begins to caramelize (yum) then quickly begins to burn (not yum). The first thing I did was rinse all the marinade off so there was less sugar on the surface of the pork chop…then I just watched them like a hawk. They got spotty, but otherwise turned out okay and with no major flare ups. I served them with some simple steamed rice and some Vietnamese Salad Rolls (Gỏi cuốn) with Spicy Peanut Sauce. This dinner is perfect for those hot summery nights when all you want to do is grill. The salad rolls take a bit more fore thought and a bit of know-how. Once you have all the fresh ingredients that you want to use as filling prepped (pickled carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts, shrimp, Thai basil (mint), spring onions, rice noodles), the only thing you need to worry about is soaking the rice paper wrappers for the right amount of time. I started out with boiling water which is unnecessary, you can just use warm water. Soak the wrappers only until they have softened then lay flat on a surface that has been slightly moistened, like a granite or marble counter top. I tried to roll them on my wooden cutting board but they stuck to it like crazy. Arrange your shrimp halves and basil leaves near the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper, then cover with lettuce (I used butter lettuce, it acts as a ‘shield’ or a second wrapper so the ingredients don’t poke through). Pile the other ingredients in a line over top of the lettuce. Begin wrapping by folding the edge nearest your body upward, then fold in the sides. Continue rolling in an upright manner. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce.
A huge part of the fun of ATW12P (besides finding out what the next country will be) is reading the posts from the other participating bloggers. Will they make the other recipes that I was looking over…will they go for a full meal or keep it to one simple and tasty dish? To read the other blogger’s ATW12P Vietnamese posts, simple click on one of the links below:
Korena’s Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls at Korena in the Kitchen
Gabby at The Food Girl in Town
Nicoletta and Loreto’s Crispy Shrimp and Bean Sprout Vietnamese Pancake at Sugar Love Spices
Lemongrass Chili Grilled Pork Chops
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 shallot; finely minced
- 5 cloves garlic; finely minced
- 1 red Thai chili pepper; de-seeded and finely chopped
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- Fresh ground pepper
- 4 bone-in pork chops
- Cut off the top half of the lemongrass and save for use at a later date. Slice the bottom in half lengthwise, then peel away layers that seem woody keeping the tender inner layers. Finely mince the tender lemongrass portions (you should have at least ¼ cup of minced lemongrass).
- Combine all ingredients together in a large Ziploc bag or glass bowl. Add pork chops and seal, releasing as much air as you can from the bag.
- Marinate pork chops in refrigerator at least overnight and up to 2 days.
- Before grilling remove pork chops from the refrigerator and rinse off marinade. Grill on a pre-heated grill until the meat reaches 160 °F (71°C). Serve with rice.
Shrimp Salad Rolls
- 1 package rice paper round rolls.
- 6-8 large shrimp; cooked and split in half
- 6-8 fresh Thai basil (mint) leaves
- 6 butter lettuce leaves
- ½ package vermicelli noodles; cooked to package direction and drained
- 1 cup fresh sprouts
- Spring onions
- 4 carrots or other root vegetable such as daikon (these taste best when pickled in advance)
- For the carrots, peel them then cut into matchsticks. Place in a small bowl or jar with 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons white sugar, ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, ¾ cup boiling water. Allow salt and sugar to dissolve. Let carrots pickle for at least an hour, preferably overnight and up to one week.
- Prep all your ingredients BEFORE you start assembling your salad rolls.
- To assemble salad rolls begin by filling a shallow tray with warm water. Carefully dip one rice paper round in the water until it is just softened. Focus on keeping the rice paper from crumpling or tearing and lay on a slightly moistened counter top or smooth surface.
- Place shrimp halves and basil in a pattern on the lower half of the rice paper, then lay a lettuce leaf over top. Ensure there is enough rice paper peeking out so that you can fold it over the fresh fillings.
- Place a small amount of vermicelli noodles, sprouts, pickled carrots and a spring onion over top the lettuce leaf.
- Curl the bottom of the rice paper round over the lettuce leaf, tuck the sides over and roll in an upward direction until the entire rice paper round has been rolled over the fillings.
- Place on a platter and repeat until the rest are rolled. If not eating immediately, cover tightly with cling wrap before refrigeration.
- Serve with Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce.
Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
- ½ cup boiling water
- 4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 4 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
- 2 tbsp lime juice
Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Add chili sauce (or chili flakes) to taste.