Vietnamese foods strike the perfect balance between earthy pungent tones and spicy, sweet and sour punches of flavor. No two bites are ever the same as you slurp a big bowl of pho or delicately maneuver through a pile of rice noodles layered with grilled meats, vegetables, herbs, roasted peanuts and killer condiments that make your toes curl. This salad does all of the above. The vibrant colors alone will lure you in, but the aromatics seal the deal. Fresh basil, mint and cilantro are sprinkled throughout and the nuoc cham dipping sauce is that toe curler I mentioned. Love, love, love this sauce and provided the recipe in this post. Nuoc cham (pronounced nook cham) is a salty, sweet sauce made with fish sauce, lime, garlic, sugar, chilies and vinegar. It gives a subtly spicy bite and balance that makes this salad a year-round favorite, but particularly enjoyable on 90 degree days! If you are not a fan of fish sauce or beef, I have offered some alternatives so you can still enjoy this noodle salad bowl.
Our version of this salad takes a twist on the traditional, while remaining true to flavor and texture. I love to cook with the abundance that surrounds me and right now in the Pacific Northwest, we are in peak growing season. So I added some vegetable enhancements that I had at my fingertips; organic corn, green beans, radishes and sweet onion. It’s not an ingredient authentic assembly, but all the typical elements are there including the nuoc cham!
Makes 4 bowls
- 2 lbs organic beef sirloin
- 2 Japanese eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 T fish sauce, plus more for pickling and nuoc cham
- 3 T finely sliced lemongrass, pounded and chopped (white parts only)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh lime zest
- 3 T oil
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 16 ounces thin vermicelli rice noodles, cook according to directions, and cool with cold water.
- 1 C white vinegar
- 1/2 C white organic sugar
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 large organic cucumber, skin on, julienne cut (we used a Japanese cucumber)
- 2-3 organic carrots, julienne cut about 2-1/2 ” lengths
- 6 red organic radishes, julienne cut
- 4 Thai bird chiles, thinly sliced (or 2 jalapeños thinly sliced)
- 6 organic green onions, cut in 1″ lengths (white and green parts)
- 2 cobs of corn, cooked and cut off cob
- 12-16 fresh organic green beans, cut in half lengthwise
- 4 shallots, sliced
- 2 T peanut oil
- 1 C fresh organic basil, stemmed
- 1 C fresh organic cilantro
- 1 C fresh organic mint, stemmed
- 1/2 C roasted peanuts
- Nuoc cham, (recipe below)
In a small mixing bowl, add fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic, lime zest, salt and oil. In a glass pan place beef and sliced eggplant and pour fish sauce mixture over both, making sure meat is completely immersed in liquid and eggplant is well coated. Cover and marinate for 4 hours or overnight in refrigerator. You can also marinate in a zip lock bag. In a large glass bowl or jar, add julienne cucumber and carrot. In a medium size bowl add vinegar, sugar and fish sauce and whisk until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over cucumbers and carrots and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to four hours.
Set grill to medium high heat. Place steak down on grill along with eggplant slices. Grill beef for approximately 4 minutes per side. Grill eggplant approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove eggplant and beef from grill and onto cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice beef against the grain, into thin strips about 2′-3″ in length. Slice eggplant into bite size pieces. Set both aside until assembly.
- 1/2 C white sugar
- 1/2 C rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 C fresh lime juice
- 1/3 C fish sauce
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 Thai chiles, minced
- 1/2 jalapeno, minced
n a medium size bowl, sugar and water, lime juice and fish sauce, garlic and chilies. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Taste and add more sugar or fish sauce if needed.
Evenly divide noodles into large pasta bowls. Typically this dish is layered with the foods, but I love all the colors and textures so I like to evenly distribute sirloin strips and all other ingredients to each bowl in a decorative fashion so to showcase all of the foods in all their glory. Garnish with herbs, green onion and roasted peanuts. Serve with individual portion cups of nuoc cham and any hot chili sauce or oils you may be want to include.
For a vegetarian option, simply omit the beef. Although, not traditional, tofu is an option for this noodle bowl or you could go all vegetable. I love this version as well.
For a vegan version, along with omitting the beef, you may opt to not use the nuoc cham that uses fish sauce and use another sauce like soy sauce or Maggi-Würze, an umami rich sauce made from wheat.