I have had a bottle of fish sauce sitting on my kitchen counter for awhile now. It continues to beckon to me but I really have been consciously avoiding it. I bought it because I wanted to experiment with Asian flavors. I’ve avoided it because, truthfully, I really don’t know what to do with it. Asian cooking is not something I am comfortable with. I love it but I just don’t get it.
Years ago, when I first started living with my first future ex-husband, I had no idea how to cook at all. Sure I had occasionally made eggs or grilled cheese but that was about the extent of it. I grew up in a home where cooking was just something you did in order to eat. It was perfunctory at best. So, after many consecutive nights of eating hamburgers fried up in a pan by my future ex, I happened upon an copy of Julia Child’s Art of French Cooking. It had been abandoned by a previous tenant. I worked my way through that book until cooking became like breathing, natural and integral. But the flavors and ingredients I am comfortable with and base my cooking on are those of garlic, onion, celery, carrot and yes, wine. So fish sauce… totally foreign.
This cold, wintry, February day seemed like the day to begin experimenting.
I did some research. I came up with this recipe for Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Grilled Pork or Beef. Time to go food shopping! May be perfect for that Riesling I just received!
George took one look at all that greenery and politely excused himself.
I should have realized, while I was laying it all out on the counter, that there would be a lot of prep involved in this recipe. I am all about shortcuts and improvising when I cook. There would be none of that today. I was too unfamiliar with the flavors to do that. Not my favorite type of cooking. I do not like having to adhere strictly to directions.
First I cooked the noodles.
Next up was the marinade for the beef.
I took out some frustration with my mortar and pestle.
I pounded away at the shallots while the marinade was cooking down.
While the meat sat in the marinade I prepped the rest of the ingredients.
I followed the recipe for the Nuoc Cham – Vietnamese Dipping Sauce.
Spicy stuff. As I pounded away at the garlic and chile pepper I was overcome. I choked and coughed my way through this one. I finished this part up as quickly as I could. George, who was sitting in the next room, never even asked if I was okay. I think he was really worried about coming into contact with all those herbs and vegetables. I was on my own.
At this point the meat was ready for the grill.
I poured a glass of the Keuka Spring Riesling.
This is priced at under $15.00 This Riesling is off-dry and refreshing with plenty of fruit. There is peach and lime on the finish. This particular wine has won several awards. It is from the Finger Lakes region in New York.
Double Gold Medal, Florida State Fair Competition
Silver Medal, Tasters Guild International
I received it as part of a recent wine club shipment. What a wonderful treat and it paired perfectly with the spiciness of this dish.
The Vietnamese Noodle Salad was so green and bright with lively flavors. The spice level was perfect.; not in your face, just a subtle zing in your mouth.
I loved it. It was just too much work for me. But if you have a few hours and love to putter around in the kitchen on a wintry Sunday afternoon this one is perfect to expand your cooking horizons with.
Here is the link for the recipe. Not sure how to say ‘good appetite’ in Vietnamese so let me just say Buon Appetito! Enjoy!