Ever since I made a version of a Vietnamese Noodle Salad I have been taken with this dish and all its variations. This time I decided to try it with sauteed tofu in a curry lemongrass sauce. The sauce was sweet and spicy and tasted great mixed into the rice noodles. My favorite part about Vietnamese food is all the tasty condiments that go along with the dishes. I chose sliced carrots, persian cucumbers and bean sprouts for the veggie garnishes and mint leaves, basil, green onion, and cilantro for the herb garnishes. All of these condiments came together really well. The last garnishes included a tablespoon of spicy Sambal Oelek I made the night before and a few tablespoons of crushed and toasted peanuts–two delicious final touches!
The grilled lemongrass chicken was so good that I wanted to have those flavors again. Instead of repeating that same meal, I used an entirely different format for those flavors–a pizza! I decided to make the cashew butter dip as the sauce for the pizza along with an assortment of tasty toppings. I tried something new and added roasted red peppers for color and flavor. The grilled chicken was great with the red peppers and cashew sauce. I topped the pizza with fresh mozzarella, jalapenos, cilantro, and bean sprouts which added a nice freshness and crunch. The cashew sauce is rich so it only needs a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. All the flavors worked great together and it was fun to eat the same dish in a whole new way!
When making Vietnamese Pho I noticed that the condiments and garnishes play a big roll in the way you eat the dish. With pho, the condiments are added methodically (usually one at a time) as you eat the soup. This salad applies that rule as well, with the platter of condiments on the side of the plate. Carrots, fresh mint, bean sprouts, red chilies, lime slices, and basil wait to be mixed in with the noodles or dipped into two bowls of dipping sauces. If any of you “played with your food” as a kid you might enjoy the process of mixing and dipping involved with this dish.
One way I would describe this dish is clean and refreshing. It really is a perfect spring or summer meal just due to the freshness of the ingredients. The grilled chicken is marinated in lemongrass paste, garlic, ginger and red chilies. The chicken was so good and the flavors were sweet and a little spicy. I loved the way all the condiments blended together with the rice noodles and chicken. I dipped the chicken in the Nuoc Cham and Cashew Butter sauces. I was generous with the sauces and poured them over the noodles and condiments which tasted great as well. I will be making this dish again soon!
Before making this recipe, I questioned using fish sauce in a way that didn’t involve heating it up before eating. I had never eaten fish sauce “raw” but I thought I would give this recipe a shot. Nuoc Cham is a simple dipping sauce made with chilis, garlic, lime juice and of course fish sauce. When all of those ingredients combine it results in a surprisingly mild sauce (and no food poisoning!). It was perfect for the grilled lemongrass chicken and I bet it would be great with spring rolls too.
I came across a recipe for this Vietnamese-style cashew dipping sauce over at Steamy Kitchen. It looked awesome so I knew I had to give it a try. I ended up doing a few things differently from the original recipe but it turned out really well! You could easily change the sauce’s flavor by using peanut butter to use with other recipes. I used chili oil and sriracha to change things up a bit and I thought it tasted great! My favorite part was the combination of the garlic and hoisin sauce with the cashew butter. It was a match made in heaven!
Pho is one of my favorite soups simply because the broth is so flavorful. A while ago I made Pho Ga which is the same soup only made with chicken. Then I went to a local Pho restaurant and the beef pho was just fantastic and I knew I had to try the beef version as well. The pho is seasoned with star anise, cinnamon stick, ginger, and cloves which gives the stock a fragrant and savory aroma. The most important part of making good stock is the beef. Charring the onion and ginger is an important first step for the stock as well and needs to be done over an open flame. I chose to make the stock with 4 pounds of beef neck bones with neck meat and the stock came out really well. Beefy and flavorful, it was one of my favorite stocks I have ever made! I chose some thinly sliced, good quality beef for the actual soup which cooks after pouring the boiling stock over the meat. My second favorite part (the first is the broth obviously) is all the great condiments that mix together in the broth! I chose cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeno peppers, Thai basil, Hoisin sauce, and Sriracha for the condiments but you can pick and choose whatever you like. Making the stock takes time but it was well worth the effort as the soup turned out great!
Pho is a Vietnamese soup that can be made with beef or chicken. Pho, to the best of my knowledge has something of a cult following among foodies and I was excited to try it out for myself. Pho is popular because of the amazing stock that is used to make the soup. The stock is flavored with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, lemongrass and nutmeg.* A list of ingredients and garnishes can be found here. I have never tried beef pho and this is the first time I have ever had chicken pho. Even though I don’t have any prior experience for comparison I really enjoyed this dish and I can see why it is so popular. The broth is really clean and fragrant and the flavors of the garnishes mixed with the noodles and broth are so good. The ingredients are basic but when eaten all together the flavors are more amazing than the sum of its parts. The star of pho is the beef soup and if the chicken version is as good as this was, I look forward to making that one too!
*I used ground spices for my soup but with most pho recipes it will require whole spices (I would imagine some pho purists would think this to be sacrilege). I thought the ground spices were great–I just made sure to strain the broth twice to remove the spice particles to get a clearer and cleaner broth.