Ah yes, Vietnamese Rice Noodles. I order them whenever I go to pho restaurants which is kinda odd since I should be getting pho right? Well, no. I love Vietnamese Rice Noodles (VRN). It's got the perfect balance of savory, sweet, salty and freshness. What's not to like? It touches every part of the tongue. You also have varying tempuratures too. The grilled meat is sweet but hot off the grill which balances perfectly with the cool herbs (cilantro, mint & basil) and rice noodles. You've also got the light crunch of the roasted peanuts. It was time that I made my own.
I have tried to make this once before with absolute failure but now that I have more cooking experience, this should go pretty smoothly. How hard is it to cook up some marinated meat, boil noodles and prep herbs and vegetation? Well..... here goes.
I started out by using my microplane to grate up a couple cloves of garlic and lemongrass. I added 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. I mixed that around and gave it a taste. Woo! Salty!! I quickly added some more sugar to balance out the flavors. It tasted close enough so I added the thinly sliced beef. Ah crap... the recipe did not say to add one chopped scallion to the mix so I did that.
While the meat was marinating, I prepped my herbs and vegetation. Easy enough. After that, I boiled the water for my noodles. Alright, no problem there. Finally, the all important sweet and salty fish sauce mixture that you pour over the noodles when serving. I grated garlic and thinly sliced a serrano pepper (they didn't have thai bird chilies at Lucky). Sugar was added along with more of that potent fish sauce. A squeeze of lime juice and all should be perfect. I gave it a taste and woooooah too salty! So I added some honey to it. Ah, much better.
Time to cook the beef. I heated my wok on high heat to get some good carmelization and added the beef in. I got the perfect loud sizzle as the cold beef hit the very hot wok. Success! Or so I thought. The beef was too wet to achieve any kind of nice deep brown color. Fuck! (Scuse my language heh) Oh well, I carried on anyway as I didn't have anymore beef to start over. About 7 minutes of stir frying and the beef was fully cooked. I tasted a piece of it and it was WAY salty AGAIN!! *cries* Since the honey worked for the fish sauce mixture, I added a bunch of that to the beef. That calmed down the saltiness a bit, and tasted edible enough but I was unhappy with the end result.
I got the recipe from Sarah of The Delicious Life (http://thedeliciouslife.blogspot.com/2008/03/ethnic-paris-cookbook-winner-and.html). I'm not here to discredit her or the recipe she posted. Vietnamese cooking may look easy, but you've got to find a perfect balance of flavors or the whole thing goes to shit. I just suck at this kind type of cuisine. Ah well... at least you guys have a couple pretty pictures to look at. Oh yeah, bonus too. Included in the photos are a couple bottles of this really yummy juice infused sparkling sake from Sake2Me (check BevMo.com). There are actually four flavors which include Green Tea, Asian Pear, Yuzu Citrus & Ginger Mango (a personal favorite). They should pay me for this plug because this stuff is THE BOMB. Anyway... here you go.