I love Vietnamese salads. I mean, I really love them. I rarely order anything else when we go to our local Vietnamese restaurant Lele. Lele is on Hilltop and has a Gig Harbor spot too. The Gig Harbor one is a lot more fancy, but we like our little hole-in-the-wall on MLK just fine.
I think a lot of people shy away from Vietnamese salad on the menu because, well, it sounds so boring, frankly. Boring and healthy. And it is pretty darn healthy, but it is so delicious. There is really no excuse not to be making it at home more often. It consists mostly of fresh vegetables so you can adapt easily with whatever you have on hand.
Also, this recipe is with pork tenderloin but you can modify it to use any meat (or no meat) if you choose. I know there is at least one non-pork eater that reads this blog; just ignore the pork part and substitute grilled chicken or shrimp!
Vietnamese Salad with Pork Tenderloin
For the meat:
1 medium pork tenderloin
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons chopped ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
hot sauce (optional)
For the salad:
1/4 pound thin rice noodles, soaked in boiling water (take pot off burner once you add noodles) for 20-30 minutes to soften.
1 cup shredded or chopped carrots, soaked in rice vinegar with a little sugar
2 cups shredded lettuce
handful chopped cilantro
handful chopped mint (if you have it, it is a nice touch)
1 or 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
3 green onions, fine chopped
Nuoc Cham for the dressing:
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
3 Tablespoons fish sauce*
3 Tablespoons lime juice
2-3 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons sugar
*note on fish sauce: DO NOT SKIP! It will mellow out with sugar and lime juice. It adds a special tangy loveliness that is special to this dish and many Southeast Asian dishes.
Mix all the dressing ingredients and set aside.
Boil water to soak your rice noodles. You can also completely skip the noodles and just serve it on rice or shredded lettuce.
Rinse and pat dry your pork. Trim if desired. Place in pan with sides. Try to use the smallest pan it will fit in. Combine garlic, ginger, and brown sugar and moisten with hot sauce until you have a nice paste. You can use water only if you want, but honestly, it isn't that hot. Spread garlic/ginger paste on top of pork and add a little water to the bottom of the pan.
Note: I usually double my recipe when I make it because we love the leftovers!Cook in 375 oven for 20 minutes, turning it once halfway through. You can add more water if sauce starts to burn. You may need to cook it longer, depending on the size of your tenderloin. I like to cook it to 145 or 150 degrees and then I tent it with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes and the temperature will go up and the juices will redistribute and it will be perfect.
While your pork (or whatever meat you have chosen) is cooking, prep and arrange shredded lettuce, carrots, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, green onions, and peanuts on a platter. I like to let my guests choose their veggies. You can also add cucumber and sprouts too.
Once pork is cooked and rested, slice diagonally. Start with noodles in the bottom of your bowl. Add lettuce and then the rest of the veggies. Top off with meat, peanuts, and green onions. You can add the meat juices/sauce from the pan ont top as well. Pour a healthy amount of Nuoc Cham onto salad. Enjoy!
The next day, I was out of noodles, so I just made a giant salad.