Do you like phở ? I do. I can’t tell you how much I love it. Once, a few years back, I ate pho for lunch every day and I still didn’t get tired of it. Unfortunately, Vietnamese food in Korea isn’t up to par. There are a handful of restaurants that do better versions than most, but sadly, that’s about it. I have yet to eat pho here that blows my mind.
This post, however, is not dedicated to my favorite hot noodle soup but another Vietnamese dish that I adore–bún thịt nướng, barbecued pork on cold vermicelli noodles with herbs and đồ chua (pickled daikon and carrots) served with nước chấm or prepared fish sauce. Different restaurants present the dish in different ways, but the ingredients are essentially the same. I like mine with an additional topping of chả giò, crispy Vietnamese rolls.
When I crave something, I’m a woman obsessed. And, bun thit nuong was on my mind last Sunday.
First, the meat–the “thit nuong” part of the dish. It literally means barbecued meat and it’s always pork. I marinated the pork (shoulder) in a mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, minced onion, minced garlic, freshly cracked black pepper and a little sesame oil and let it sit for a couple of hours.
Then I shredded a carrot and quick-pickled it in a mixture of sugar, vinegar, salt, and water (1:1: 1: 3.5). It takes about an hour to pickle. So easy.
This is a Korean brand of rice noodles I bought at a local supermarket. I’d never used this one before and I got curious.
I pan-fried the pork over high heat. I love the color and the flavor of the caramelized exterior of soy-marinated pork. And the smell. By this time, Joe had sniffed his way into the kitchen. Clever doggy.
Alongside the pan of insanely fragrant pork, this was happening. I didn’t have any egg roll skins on me, so I used glutinous rice mandu skins instead, the extra large kind, which you can easily find in the deep freeze section of any local supermarket in Korea. The filling is a mix of chopped glass noodles, a little ground pork, chives, carrots and onions, seasoned with soy, sesame oil, lots of black pepper and a little sugar.
Once the noodles are cooked and rinsed in cold water, all that’s left to do is to assemble everything in a bowl. Noodles at the bottom, chopped leafy vegetables and herbs on top with the pickled carrots, pork, egg rolls and (hastily) crushed peanuts. I’d made the nuoc cham earlier by combining fish sauce, water, lemon juice (no lime…so sad), sugar, minced garlic and red chili diced into small bits. I wish I’d had lemongrass as well, but, it was fine. Cooking at home with the readily-available ingredients and trying to make it taste authentic is challenging but fun as well. You can also add sliced or shredded cucumbers and chopped green onions. I spooned some of the red chili swimming in the prepared fish sauce on top for color and served the actual sauce on the side.
Mix everything and eat. There is a bit of sweet, a bit of sour, a bit of salty, some caramelization as well as the fragrance from the herbs. I love the textures of this dish as well; the meat, the crunchy vegetables, the crispy egg rolls, the soft noodles. It is my ideal summer meal and I had it with my favorite eating buddy, catching up on our favorite TV shows. Sunday nights don’t get better than this.