Monday, July 25, 2011

Vietnamese Bun with Grilled Beef

Once I saw that Emily had made the cold vietnamese noodle and veggie salad 'bun' on her blog I couldn't get Vietnamese food out of my head. Growing up in Western Mass I was not immediately exposed to many exotic cuisines, but when I lived in Worcester I found myself living in Main South where there is a bustling Vietnamese population.

I fell in love with bun in the summer and pho in the winter, and many delicious dishes in between. So much so that my local Vietnamese restaurant, Da Lat, was my #4 speed dial on my cell after my parents and my 2 college roommates.

I loosely followed the Fine Cooking master recipe for bun, making a few changes....Namely, omitting the bean sprouts for no other reason than being cheap about it.


The recipes provided give suggestions for pork, chicken and shrimp -- so I decided to wing it and made my own beef marinade of fish sauce, soy, garlic, oil and a teaspoon of sugar.


Rafe again grilled the meat perfectly, and we assembled our bowls with our ingredients. We made the lettuce the bottom layer, then rice noodles, beef, mint and basil (fresh from the garden!), peanuts, cilantro....and covered everything with a healthy splash of nuoc cham....which I soon discovered is a very polarizing part of this dish.


You see, the major ingredient in nuoc cham is fish sauce. Anyone who has ever had fish sauce knows what an absolutely offensive smell it carries. I will be the first to admit how gross it smells. But the taste? sublime. It really heightens the whole dish and makes it sing....mixed with the sugar, chilis and lime juice it hits every note on the palate, and brings all the pieces of the dish into perfect harmony.


Rafe's first mistake was smelling the fish sauce. It's so damn pungent its tough to get it out of your nose. Suffice to say he wasn't a fan, but does enjoy steak and veggies, so he was happy to dress his next helping in lime juice and soy. So all wasn't lost. And I got to take the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I call that a win-win.

14 comments:

  1. I love everything about this dish! I know that fish sauce can be a bit stinky but I love using it in marinades and dipping sauces. It is definitely a staple in my kitchen!

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  2. These are my favorite flavors!

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  3. I've never had this. It sounds delicious!

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  4. Yum!! So glad you made this - it really is perfect for hot summer days!

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  5. Yum, I love having a delicious dinner that doubles as lunch the next day.

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  6. the first time I cooked with fish sauce, adam and I nearly died from the stench. we had no idea what to expect. totally hilarious.

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  7. fish sauce definitely smells funky but its great in dishes.

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  8. I love how you really made this dish your own, adding the parts you wanted and leaving out those you didn't. And I'm so not shocked to discover that such a restaurant was on your speed dial!

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  9. I totally have a thing for Vietnamese rice noodles. And they're perfect for the summer!

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  10. My sister went to Clark and she will not shut up about Da Lat! Every time I make Vietnamese for her, it's like "oh this was slightly above Pho Saigon, equal to Bamboo House, but not as good as Da Lat"

    I find the key to fish sauce in this dish is finding the right one. There are hundreds of varieties all with differing flavors. My fave so far is one that has an orange label with a cartoon fishing boat, an island with a photo of a goldfish and a logo with 2 parrots. (oh here it is http://images.quickblogcast.com/9/3/1/3/4/152492-143139/Fishsauce.jpg?a=76) it has a strong savory flavor with only medium pungency. Try adding a little water and sugar to it to mellow it out for the wimps :)

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  11. Dan, I love that your sis knows Da Lat & is a Clark grad too (that's my alma mater!) Thanks for the tips on the fish sauce. My bottle is almost gone, so I'll try your brand next. At least he likes it in marinades, etc..!

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  12. I think it's funny that you say you weren't exposed to Vietnamese food in Western MA and then discovered it in Worcester, because I had the opposite experience ;) My favorite Vietnamese place is in Springfield. I'd be happy to take you there sometime!

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  13. I've tasted several Asian food including Chinese, Japanese and Filipino food. Adding to the list is the Vietnamese food which you just have presented. I love the Vietnamese rice. Just too perfect for the summer season. However, it's winter season, so I'd choose Chinese food in that case.

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  14. I add some vinegar in mine to make it more zesty .

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