There are few recipes I have been quite so excited to share with you as this one. For those who don’t know, I love the country of Vietnam. I first had the privilege of travelling there on a high school trip with Hong Kong International School. We worked with two different orphanages for children with disabilities in Southern Vietnam and I fell in love. I loved the orphans, the country, the people, the food, all of it. At that time (1996) the country was in it’s infancy of opening it’s doors to outsiders. We had a hard time even finding souvenirs to bring home because there were virtually none to be found. (Now if you go, they will take as much as your money as you are willing to part with on every variety of goods you can imagine!) That trip is what inspired me to major in Southeast Asian Studies during my undergraduate work and to study the Vietnamese language. (Sadly, I’ve lost it all, but I hope to work on it again some day.)
I have been back twice since that first trip. My how it has changed!! But I fall more in love each time I go. My sister and I led a couple of groups there in 2004 and 2005. It was a dream come true. Few things would make me happier than to bring more people to experience the country through service-learning opportunities. God’s timing is perfect, and we’ll see how that all pans out, but in the mean time, I do get nostalgic to at least enjoy the food from time to time.
My favorite Vietnamese meal, Bun Thit Nuong, is a hearty bowl of barbecued sweet pork served over rice noodles, with cucumber, fresh mint, pickled carrots and daikon, beans sprouts, peanuts, thinly sliced lettuce, and nuoc mam cham. It balances sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy and soft tastes and textures. It is seriously delicious!
Here is a bowl of it that I made last summer:
For several months now I have been craving this dish but it is FAR too cold during mid-winter in Utah to grill! I’ve wondered for some time whether I could turn this into a crock pot meal. Last night I did, with wonderful results. The meat is, obviously a little different since the thin, grilled, version has that wonderful caramelization on the outside, but this recipe will get you 95% there. It has all the flavor! I’m very excited to share this with you today. The entire family LOVES this meal. I hope yours will too!
Vietnamese Sweet Pork Salad
There are several components to this dish. I recommend that you make two of them ahead of time. The pickled carrots and daikon can be made up to a month in advance, as can the nuoc mam cham, a dipping sauce frequently used for spring rolls. In this dish you pour some over the top before mixing all the ingredients up together. There are countless variations of both. Season or adjust them to your own taste, or do your own internet research and pick and choose what you like. There is great variation of food within the country. In southern Vietnam their palates are sweeter than in the north. I tend to lean on the sweeter side of things like the south but decide for yourself how you like things best.
Nuoc Mam Cham / Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (modified from the cookbook ‘The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking’)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch of red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you like things) OR deseeded and minced fresh red chili
- 1-2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2/3 cup warm water (warm enough to dissolve the sugar)
- 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 3 tsp white or rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp shredded carrots
Combine the warm water and sugar in a bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir. Taste and adjust salty, sweet, tangy, or spicy ingredients to taste. Refrigerate until needed.
The link below is the recipe I used for the pickled daikon and carrots. If you don’t feel like taking the time to julienne the vegetables you can grate them. Other versions call for equal parts salt and sugar in the brine…so if you want them more salty feel free to adjust or find another version of the recipe altogether.
Vietnamese Sweet Pork – Slow Cooker Edition
Modified from The Ravenous Couple’s traditional version of Bun Thit Nuong
- 2.5 lb boneless pork roast, trimmed of excess fat
- 1/3 cup minced lemongrass I have yet to find fresh lemongrass anywhere in Utah. I buy frozen, minced lemongrass from an Asian grocer and thaw before using.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 large or 3 medium shallots, minced
- 3 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (nuoc mam)
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp molasses (You can also replace the soy sauce and molasses with Vietnamese caramel sauce. I couldn’t find any and didn’t have time to make it from scratch this time around.)
- Olive oil
Heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Place pork roast in the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes per side until browned on all sides. Place the roast in your slow-cooker.
Cook on low for 7 hours. Then remove meat from slow cooker, shred it, and place it back the slow cooker for one more hour. The shredded meat will soak up all the good juices and flavor.Assembling Your Vietnamese Sweet Pork Salad
- Pickled carrots and daikon
- 1 large cucumber, seeded and julienned
- Vietnamese Sweet Pork
- Bean Sprouts
- lettuce, thinly sliced
- peanuts – for sprinkling on top
- Nuoc Mam Cham
- Fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced (To do a chiffonade, stack several leaves, roll them like a cigar, then slice thinly through the roll. You will have ‘confetti’)
- 14 oz rice noodles, prepared according to directions
Place desired amount of rice noodles in a bowl. Top with sweet pork, sprouts, lettuce, pickled daikon and carrots. Sprinkled mint leaf confetti and peanuts on top. Drizzle about 2 Tbsp of nuoc mam cham over the top, mix up your salad, and enjoy!
Mid-winter in Utah, I was unable to find bean sprouts but we made due without and it was still delicious!Andy opted to eat with a fork instead of chopsticks, but this shot at least lets you see the rice noodles:This is also delicious served with Dragon Fruit Vodka cocktails!