Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

This year I got to host my mom’s birthday celebration again.

Of course, the most important part of any real birthday celebration is the cake. But the meal is also a big deal, especially for someone who can’t eat dairy or wheat but still wants to share something special.

My mom pretty much gives me free reign to try new foods when she comes to visit, but for this particular meal with all its importance, I was just stumped. Then, my darling husband suggested Vietnamese, and I instantly conjured up a mental mouthful of rice noodles, grilled shrimp, and crushed peanuts, accented by a mouthwatering sour-spicy sauce.

So we had noodle bowls. And they were delicious!

You should have noodle bowls, too. This is like a great, big, noodle salad. It involves very little cooking (except, of course, the shrimp and the noodles), and you can serve everything warm or cold, which is perfect for unpredictable situations like having company! And, bonus, each eater can customize their bowl to their liking. A perfect, simple meal for guests!

I should say, however, that you need to make some Vietnamese pickles a few days ahead of time. You can crunch it in if all you have is a few hours, but your carrots and daikons won’t have the depth of flavor of properly pickled veggies.

This is a meal that involves about 30 minutes of prep, and the rest is just assembly! A meal I can get behind.

Nuoc ChamThe first step, really, is to make the tangy, sour “dipping” sauce called Nuoc Cham that you pour over the assembled noodle bowls. This is just measuring. No stress! Fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, garlic, crushed red, and done! Set that aside, or if you’re make it ahead of time as I did, cover and chill until ready to serve.

GreeneryNow bring a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile chop up the herbs, lettuce, scallions, and cucumber. I admit to using my food processor for the cucumber, because cutting things into matchsticks is time consuming!

Also, chop up a big handful of dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts.

I bought most of these ingredients at my local Asian market, but you should be able to find all of them in your grocery store, with the exception of Thai basil (and you can certainly use sweet basil instead).

Rice NoodlesWhen your water boils, toss in the rice noodles and cook them for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly in cold water to prevent them from becoming sticky or clumpy.

Just before serving, grill the shrimp. I skewered mine for easier serving and turning, etc. Shrimp only need to cook a few minutes on each side, so be careful not to overdo it! No one likes rubbery shrimp.

Birthday LunchNow just put it all together! Lay the rice noodles in the bottom of each bowl, and top with mixed herbs, cucumber matchsticks, bean sprouts, scallions, lettuce, pickled veggies, peanuts, and shrimp! Serve with a ladle of the dipping sauce.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

lightly adapted from Allrecipes.com
serves 2–4

Ingredients:
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup fish sauce
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. sugar
1 large clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
8 oz. rice vermicelli
12 oz. medium (31/40) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 romaine heart, cut into ribbons
1 small English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup pickled carrots and daikon
¼ cup scallions, sliced
¼ cup crushed unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp. chopped fresh Thai basil
3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Directions:
Mix together the vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and red pepper. Set aside.
Cook the rice vermicelli in boiling water for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water and set aside.
Meanwhile, slide the shrimp into skewers. Grill 2–3 minutes per side, until opaque and firm.
Serve the vermicelli in deep bowls, topped with the remaining ingredients and a skewer of shrimp. Spoon the sauce over the noodles and toss to combine.

Enjoy!

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