Hot Day, Cold Noodles

The New Hampshire heat wave has continued and the extreme humidity makes me want to drink sweet tea on a wrap around porch with a pleasant breeze lightly fanning my hair back off my face. Such a lovely and relaxing thought; instead, my curly hair is bigger and frizzier than ever and I'm schlepping thirty ounce iced sweet teas to the masses.

At least it's warm enough to enjoy one of my favorite summertime meals, a cold rice noodle bowl from the best Vietnamese pho place in NH called Pho Golden Bowl. I've been craving it lately and made a few attempts to make it myself, the first time came out pretty tasty but just wasn't the flavor profile I was going for. Then in the June issue of Bon Appetit there were several recipes for cold noodles dishes one of which I made a variation of to improve my own vermicelli bowl. The original recipe was more of  a tossed salad with roasted chicken and peanuts instead of thick cut pork chops and cashews. I used a couple components of the dressing as a marinade for the pork instead of using it for the salad. I found that I didn't need any extra sauce for the bowl but if you like it dressed you maybe use the leftover marinade, just reduce it down a bit in a small sauce pan and let cool before serving.

With the help of  Bon Appetit, I was able to adjust the ingredients to make this all at once refreshing and satisfying noodle bowl, especially with the genius and ultra tasty addition of the fried shallots. The cold noodles and garnishes are a great contrast with the warm and salty sweet pork, perfect for a hot and humid summer day.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Grilled Pork
 Serves four
4 thick cut, bone in pork chops
1 8oz package of  rice vermicelli noodles
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 limes, quartered
Baby spinach
two sprigs of cilantro, roughly chopped
7-8 mint leaves
1/4 cup of whole cashews, lightly toasted and roughly chopped

Marinade for pork chops
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 inch piece ginger, minced
1 clove garlic,minced
Sriracha to taste
4-5 mint leaves

Whisk all ingredients for marinade in a bowl, in a shallow dish pierce pork chops all over with a fork and add marinade. Marinate for about 30 minutes turning occasionally. While Pork chops are marinating cook rice vermicelli according to package directions and drain. In a warm pan, heat about four tablespoons oil (such as peanut or grape seed) add shallots and cook over medium heat until golden brown, about ten minutes or so. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. 

Pull pork chops out of the marinade and scrape off excess liquid, cook on a preheated grill or cast iron pan over medium high heat, about 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a platter, loosely cover with aluminum foil and let rest while assembling the bowls.

Divide the drained noodles between four deep bowls, squeeze 1/4 of a lime over noodles and arrange cold garnishes. A small handful of spinach topped with carrots, a few slices of cucumber and jalapeño. Cut the meat away from the bones and slice the pork chops into thin strip going against the grain, and layer over the noodles. Top with mint, cilantro, shallots and cashews. Serve immediately with sriracha and reduced marinade, if desired.

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