This salad is a meal in itself. The combination of hot and cold ingredients and the contrast between crunchy vegetables and soft noodles and meat make this a favorite dish throughout Vietnam, where it is eaten primarily in the summer.
1 7-oz. package rice noodles
1/2 medium head lettuce, shredded (about 2 c.)
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 lb. pork loin or beef sirloin tip, thinly sliced
1 stem lemon grass, finely chopped, or 1 tbsp. dried lemon grass*
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts
1. Cook and drain noodles. When the noodles are cool, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut noodles into shorter lengths.
2. Divide rice noodles among 4 small bowls. Divide lettuce, cucumber, and carrot and add to each bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender.
4. Add meat and stir. Add lemon grass, garlic, sugar, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes, or until meat is thoroughly cooked. Add fish sauce and stir well.
5. Divide cooked meat mixture among the four bowls and sprinkle 2 tbsp. peanuts over each.
6. Serve with nuoc cham.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 to 35 minutes
*Before using dried lemon grass, place it in a dish of hot water and allow it to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain well and chop finely.