Vietnamese is a favourite cuisine of mine because of the prolific use of fresh herbs and contrast of hot and cold temperatures. The salads are especially attractive, marinated and grilled meat served on top of rice noodles with pickled carrots, cucumber, herbs and a sweet, spicy and sour dressing. Nuoc Cham is a great example of how important balance is within Vietnamese cuisine, if one of the components is off then the sauce won’t taste right.
Of course I have a favourite restaurant out at Sunnybank that produces killer salads, a place that we affectionately call ‘Cow and Chicken’ because of it’s sign (It’s real name is Pho Hien Vuong Pasteur). They specialise in pho but their rice noodle salads are a cooler choice than soup when the Brisbane summer is in full swing. As with most dishes that I eat at restaurants, I have to give it a go at home to see if I can do it just as well. Legit pho is still slightly intimidating to me but the rice/rice noodle salads that I’ve made at home have been a raging success. You might have to wait a little while for the full salad recipe but if you get this dressing down in the mean time, the rest is child’s play.
Add half of the lemon juice first, taste, and add the rest as you need it. You can always add more but once it’s in there you can’t add less (I’m giving this advice because I’m horrible at taking it). De-seed the chillies for a mild, kid-friendly dressing.
This one is dedicated to my step-bro Aaron, now you can make it for yourself!
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
Adapted from Nuoc Cham Sauce over at SBS Food.
1 clove garlic, peeled
3-5 large red chillies
7 tbsp fish sauce (Three Crabs Brand is recommended)
7 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
juice of 1 lemon
Blitz the garlic and chillies in a food processor until finely chopped (traditionally they are pounded in a mortar and pestle, also an option).
Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely.
For the longest time I wasn’t a massive fan of steak but as far as I can tell it was due to a childhood of eating blackened steak cooked way past well done (the treatment that Australians seem to give everything that they put on the BBQ). In response to this depraved childhood I now take my steak rare, although I am a chronic over-cooker as befits my Australian heritage.
Chimichurri is my new steak sauce of choice, it’s rich but still super fresh and has garlic for days. This recipe will serve around 4 people but go ahead and double it because the more of this you can slather on your meat the better. Use it as a versatile sauce for any grilled meats and chuck it on your salad as a dressing while you’re at it. It’s even great as a dip, I know that we couldn’t stop scooping it up with fresh bread. I’ve also got plans for using it on a steak sandwich, seriously, chimichurri can do anything.
Adapted from Chimichurri over at David Lebovitz.
1 large red chilli
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh oregano)
1/2 – 3/4 tsp sea salt
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley
1/4 – 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp lemon juice
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add more in between pulses).
Alternatively, chop everything finely then combine in a small bowl.
Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
I am just crazy for anything smokey or charred, especially paired with fresh and zingy flavours. As soon as I finished making this salsa I had to test it with a few Doritos, nek minnit half the packet is gone (okay, so that happens any time that I open a packet of Doritos but on this particular occasion the salsa was to blame). It’s great as a dip or as a side, next post I’ll show you what I did with it.
Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa
Recipe by Ainsley Badman.
1 ear of corn
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime
big pinch of salt
125g cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
large handful of coriander, finely chopped
1 avocado, cubed
Leaving the husk on the corn, microwave it for 5 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly then peel of the husk and silk.
Heat a grill pan on medium-high heat, spray the corn with oil and grill on all sides until black and blistered, set aside to cool.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the red onion, lime juice and salt, allow to sit for 5 mins.
Cut the corn off the cob and add it to the mixing bowl along with the cherry tomatoes, coriander and avocado.
Mix gently and taste for seasoning, adding more salt or lime juice to taste.
This is the first salsa recipe I tried after becoming interested in making my own, it’s so good that I haven’t got around to trying any other recipes. Coriander seems to be one of those foods that inspires love or absolute hatred, if you’re a hater then you might be reading the wrong food blog. If you don’t have a food processor then just chop everything real fine and mix it together. Slap it on yo tacos or use it as a dip, you can’t go wrong.
Tomato Salsa (Pico de Gallo)
1/2 small red onion
1 jalapeno (de-seeded if you want it mild)
1 bunch of coriander
1 garlic clove
4 ripe tomatoes (or the equivalent weight in cherry tomatoes)
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt
In a food processor pulse the onion, jalapeno, coriander and garlic until chopped finely.
Add in the tomatoes and pulse until they reach desired consistency, pulse longer for a smoother salsa.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add in the lime juice and salt, taste and adjust seasoning.
In an effort to find different ways to cram Korean food to into my mouth I’ve taken the meat and coleslaw from my Korean Burgers and Slaw recipe, slapped on some Guacamole and wrapped it all in a tortilla. I had a feeling that the spicy pork would go really well with the cool guacamole and not to toot my own horn but I was pretty spot on. What’s the best bit? Apart from the sugar in the pork marinade it’s all pretty darn good for you (just take it easy with the mayo). I cook a lot of Korean food at home because our favourite restaurant (Madtongsan 2) is nestled right in the middle of the CBD and although the food there is cheap the parking is not, meaning we have to decide if we want Korean enough to pay an extra $15.
The Korean pickled radishes are tangy and spicy, you can find them at most Asian supermarkets but if you can’t get them try using pickled jalapenos. If you don’t like pork then just whip it up with chicken instead, just allow more cooking time.
Recipe by Ainsley Badman.
one lot of cooked Marinated Pork and Coleslaw from my Korean Burgers with Slaw post
one lot of Guacamole
flour or corn tortillas
Korean pickled radishes
Warm up the tortillas then pile on the cooked pork, coleslaw, guacamole, pickled radishes and mayonnaise.
This dip was an eye opener for me about how little I knew about Mexican food. I grew up eating meals made from Old El Paso taco and burrito kits and putting sour cream in guacamole. We loved it but had no idea what we were missing. As far as I can tell Mexican food is based around super fresh ingredients and there is ALWAYS coriander. I still get a nostalgic craving for the packet Mexican but every time I think about cooking it I’m always drawn back to the fresh stuff.
I can eat a whole bowl of this stuff and because there is nothing heavy in it I don’t feel sick afterwards (like I used to with my white-people guacamole). Serve as a dip with corn chips or use it as a condiment with any Mexican inspired meal (I serve it with Mexican Chicken).
Adapted from Guadalupe Feint’s Guacamole dip over at SBS Food.
3 large ripe avocados
1/2 fresh jalapeno, de-seeded, chopped finely
4 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tsp sea salt
If you prefer a more mellow onion flavour, mix the red onion with the lime juice and salt, allow to sit for 10 mins.
Halve the avocados, remove the seed and scoop the flesh into the bowl with the onion.
Add the chilli and coriander, mash everything together with a fork.
Fold in the tomato and taste for seasoning.
Best served immediately.