Editor's Note: Also see Vietnamese Condiments.
Traditionally, a table salad—traditional herbs, cucumbers, carrots, star fruit, and rice vermicelli—is served with finger foods such as cha gio, spring rolls, nem nuong, grilled pork meatballs, or banh xeo, sizzling "sound" crêpes. Often a bit of each ingredient is wrapped around a cooked morsel with a lettuce leaf. The table salad and wrapper, however, can vary according to the dish you serve. For example, if you were to serve nem nuong, you would use a softened rice paper rather than a lettuce leaf as a wrapper in order to add starch to the meal. If you wanted to serve banh xeo, stuffed rice flour crÍpe, the rice vermicelli would be omitted because the crÍpe provides the starch. It can be a little confusing, but one thing to remember is that your meal must be balanced with vegetable, protein, and starch.
Serves 4 to 6
1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated,
or 12 small round or triangle rice papers, soaked
1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeds removed, and thinly sliced
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and julienned or shredded
1 unripe star fruit, thinly sliced into stars
1 cup rice vermicelli (optional)
1. Arrange the lettuce (if using) or rice papers, cucumber, carrots, and star fruit on a large serving platter or several plates.
2. Place vermicelli (if using) in a dish with lukewarm water to cover. Let soak until pliable, about 20 minutes. Bring a pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Drain the vermicelli and, working in batches, place them in a sieve and lower into the boiling water. Untangle the noodles with chopsticks and boil until tender but firm, about 3 seconds. Drain and set on the plate with the other ingredients. 3.
Rice papers are traditionally used to wrap grilled meats. First, however, they must be soaked in lukewarm water to cover, about 10 minutes, and drained on paper towels. A combination of lettuce leaves and a small amount of rice vermicelli is also acceptable.
Authentic Vietnamese Cooking
Food from a Family Table
By Corinne Trang
Simon & Schuster, December 1999
256 pages, more then 50 black & white photographs
Glossary of ingredients
Recipe reprinted by permission.
Visit the Global Gourmet's Vietnam page.
Modified August 2007
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