At this time of year, our default setting is to submerge ourselves in big bowls of stews, soups, and mashed potatoes. Mmmmmmm, mashed potatoes…
But every now and then, we emerge from the fog of comfort food and platters of M&S party canapés and find ourselves craving something fresh, crunchy, zingy and altogether less wintery. The answer, my friends, is to be found in Vietnam.
I love Vietnamese food. LOVE it. I spend half my time in London, surrounded by a head-swimming array of cuisines and cultures, and the rest of my time in Devon on a small farm outside a town where none of the 3 takeaways deliver. So if I don’t get my fix of ebi tempura temaki, bun thit nuong or tonkotsu ramen while I’m up in the big smoke I soon start getting cravings once I’m back in the boondocks. And then it’s every woman for herself. A friend of mine recently made it his mission to make home made takeaway in an effort to rid himself of the habit of defaulting to an app every time he was tired and hungry, and inspired by his efforts, I decided to have a go at some of my favourite dishes.
This dish is certainly not for the faint of heart (or for first dates!), it’s loaded with garlic, but boy is it tasty. All those bright, fresh flavours, crunchy veggies and the smoky, sticky-sweet meat – just heaven.
Traditionally the pork should be grilled on a BBQ. I’ve given directions below for using an oven (and it’s grill), but you can very easily finish the meat off on a BBQ. In fact, if it’s dry out and you have the means, I heartily encourage you to do just that.
Bun Thit Nuong – Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Noodles
- 800g pork belly, cut in to 1 inch cubes
- 1 packet vermicelli rice noodles
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- ½ tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 carrots
- 1 Bunch of radishes
- ½ Cucumber
- 1 Bag of salad leaves
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced
- Chopped peanuts
- Nuoc Cham – Vietnamese dipping sauce (available at most large supermarkets)
- Small bunch of mint, leaves picked from the stalks
Place all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the pieces of pork and stir thoroughly until the meat is coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, overnight if possible.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 160ºC. Place pork in a roasting tin in a single layer and cover tightly with tin foil. Roast for 1 hour.
While the pork is cooking, prepare you noodles according to the packet’s instructions. Rinse in cold water when done, and set aside.
Next prepare the veg – peel the carrots and then peel into strips into a bowl. Finely slice the radishes (I cannot recommend a Benriner mandoline highly enough for this kind of job), and add to the bowl. Chop the cucumber into matchsticks (or use the blade on your fancy new mandoline!) and add to the bowl. Toss the veg with a tablespoon of the Nuoc Cham sauce.
When the pork is done, remove from the oven and turn your grill to it’s highest setting. Remove the foil form the pork, spoon the pan juices over the meat and return the pork to the oven. Grill until the pork starts to caramelise and the edges start to char, basting once or twice during this time.
To serve, put a handful of salad leaves into each bowl and top with the dressed veggie mix and a sprinkling of mint leaves. Pile noodles into each bowl and top with the pieces of the pork. Sprinkle the pork with the chopped peanuts and spring onions and drizzle over the Nuoc Cham sauce. Enjoy!