It's hot and smoky here in Seattle due to all the wild fires burning in British Columbia. That makes me too tired to cook much, so I've been eating a lot of salads and sandwiches. Tonight, though, I was craving Bun, which is a Vietnamese Salad bowl full of Rice Noodles, Cucumber, Carrots and lots and lots of fresh herbs like Cilantro, Thai Basil, Mint and Shiso Leaf. Unfortunately, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant closed recently near my house and I didn't want to drive downtown to their other location. The solution? I decided to make it myself. Luckily, I have Mint, Shiso Leaf and Thai Basil all growing in my garden and I always have Cilantro in my fridge along with Carrots, Cucumbers and Lettuce. The only thing I was missing was Pork that I could slice to caramelize the Vietnamese way. But, I did have ground Pork so I made Vietnamese style Meatballs in the Broiler and I added just a bit of caramel into the Pork to give it the right flavor. I got that idea from a recipe I saw once and wrote down on a little slip of paper, which I kept, but I am sorry to say that I didn't write down where it came from. So thank you to whomever created that recipe. I topped the salad with chopped roasted Peanuts and I was in heaven. It was so good! I might not need to order takeout anymore since I love this version so much!
1 pound ground Pork
1 large Shallot, minced
3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Tablespoons Boiling Water
2 Tablespoons Cold Water
Put the Pork into a mixing bowl and add the Shallot and Fish Sauce. Then in a small frying pan, add the Sugar and Boiling Water. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Then quickly add in the cold water, stir and add to the Pork mixture. Stir to combine, pushing the meat down with a spatula until it becomes somewhat pasty. Shape into about 20 meatballs and place on a baking sheet. Press to flatten. Put into the broiler and cook for 4 - 5 minutes and then turn over and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
Bun Salad Bowl
8 ounces of Rice Noodles
1 large or 2 smaller Cucumbers, peeled and cut in half
1 large Carrot, peeled
1 small head of Butter Lettuce, washed
1/2 cup of Cilantro Leaves
1/2 cup of Thai Basil Leaves
1/2 cup of Mint Leaves
Optional: 1/2 cup of Shiso Leaves
1/3 cup chopped roasted Peanuts
Cook the Rice Noodles in boiling water from 7 - 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with Cold Water. Place in a serving bowl.
Remove the Seeds from the Cucumbers using a small spoon.Then cut into julienne pieces about 2 inches long.Julienne the Carrots into similar size pieces. Then slice the Lettuce using a Lettuce knife or tear into thin strips. Place on top of the Noodles. Then sprinkle on the fresh herbs. Lay the Meatballs on top of that and sprinkle with the Peanuts. Pour the Dressing over all and toss before serving.
Nuoc Cham Dressing
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 cup Boiling Water
4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
In a bowl, stir together the Sugar and the Boiling Water. Stir until dissolved and then add in the Lime Juice, Fish Sauce, Garlic Cloves and Chili Flakes.
Five Element Analysis
Pork belongs to the Water Element and so does the Fish Sauce. The Wood Element is represented by the Lime Juice. The Fire Element is seen in the Lettuce and Chili Flakes. The two kinds of Sugar, the Peanuts, the Cucumber and the Carrot all make sure that the Earth Element is present. And finally the Metal Element is represented by the pungent herbs, the Shallot and Garlic and the Rice Noodles. This then is a perfectly balanced Summer meal!