I’ve spent three weeks in what seems like every possible kitchen scenario possible – our spacious food styling-friendly set up with the six burner Vulcan range, a posh house location in downtown Atlanta , and a rolling mobile kitchen that was lit like a horror movie but was quite the godsend. It’s been some crazy, fun times and it’s certainly pushed me in many ways.
I’ve grown. Branched out. Explored.
In the midst of many hours of prepping and chopping, my mind has been wandering. Thinking of our upcoming travel. Staying up way past my bedtime looking at photos, the trips we can take once we’re there. I’ve had my head in the clouds. Feeling a bit overwhelmed while at the same time on the edge of my seat. A plane seat that I’ll be in for 20+ hours.
When my schedule has me stressed out and exhausted, I always turn to spicy food and Asian soups for comfort and soothing. Now, with a trip across the globe no longer a pipe dream, the thought of eating those foods there…being immersed in the culture…letting sounds and smells guide me…has me a little gobsmacked.
I never thought that wanderlust would become a reality.
Now that our work schedules have been sorted, Mike and I begin finalizing all the details for our trip. We are still a ways away from leaving but we know we’ll be starting in Hanoi and taking some short trips from there. I’ll, of course, be on the food adventure of a lifetime (my lifetime, at least) and will have camera firmly in hand. I’ll be taking you along with me as much as I can, fear not.
As if to reinforce the place I’ve been in my head, the wonderful craft service folks on my shoot two weeks ago made an insanely delicious Asian inspired spread. On the menu was a spring roll salad that reminded me a great deal of Vietnamese bún, one of my most favorite dishes. My version here is just a deconstructed summer roll – all of the fillings without the rice paper wrapper. All of my favorite comfort food elements – noodles, Asian flavors, spicy heat – in one bowl.
Vietnamese Summer Roll Salad – serves 4 as an entree salad
The kicker to this salad is the dressing. There are lots of Asian inspired noodle salads out there but this packs a punch from the Thai red chilies. If they’re not available where you are, you can substitute a blob of Sriracha in a pinch – just taste as you go. I love summer rolls with shrimp in them so that’s what I topped this salad with – you can also do slices of Asian spiced pork or cubes of baked tofu. The frizzled shallots add a warm, bitterness to the salad so try and include them if at all possible.
For the salad:
- Bring a large soup/stockpot of water to a boil. Add in the rice vermicelli noodles and cook until al dente – this should take 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside in a colander until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
- In a small skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Stir in the sliced shallot and fry until dark, golden brown. Scoop them out of the pan and onto a paper towl to drain. Wipe out the skillet and, adding just a little bit of oil, cook the shrimp until cooked through – 3 to 4 minutes. Set them aside as well to cool until you assemble the salad.
For the dressing:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, ginger/ginger juice and minced red chili. Set aside until right before serving.
- In a large salad or mixing bowl, tip in the drained rice noodles along with the cucumber, mung bean sprouts and carrots. Mix together (I use my hands for this – tongs work too). Add in the fresh herbs and mix again. Sprinkle the top with the frizzled shallots and roasted peanuts. Top with shrimp or other chosen protein. You can serve this family style in a large bowl or platter…or you can divide into portions. However you choose to serve it, don’t pour over the dressing until the very end so your noodles don’t get soggy. You can also put a small ramekin of the dressing on the side with each portion if you are serving it that way so guests can dress it to their liking. Serve with lime wedges on the side, as well.