Culinary School and Beyond

From culinary student, to cook, to whatever the future holds

Cold Noodles, It’s What’s for Dinner: Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Marinated Flank Steak

It’s summer in Seattle. Some days, that means 65* F and just this side of showers. Other days, that may mean 86* F without a cloud in the sky. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it) my back porch garden has exploded. With a dozen or so containers, the right research on soil composition, and some TLC, I have almost the whole spectrum of herbs, a little strawberry plant, and some thriving dwarf pea plants.

Nasturtium and petunias

Nasturtium and petunias

Lemon thyme

Lemon thyme

“Tom Thumb” dwarf pea plants, growing full-sized peas

Thai basil

Thai basil

Seeing all this plant life pouring from every inch of my porch makes me want to utilize as much as possible. Not to mention cutting a few veggies and herbs sounds like a more pleasant way to make dinner on hot evenings than sweating over the stove for hours. I was also craving something with a bit of texture, a small dose of protein, and a nice kick of heat. Enter the vietnamese noodle salad. Part noodles, part meat, part herb salad, lots of spice.

The core part of this salad is the dressing (nuoc cham), which is a homemade condiment in Vietnam as synonymous as ketchup in America. The primary ingredient is fish sauce, which I’ve waxed poetically about before. While somewhat off-putting to smell in the bottle (it is often the “weird smell” you catch a whiff of when walking by Pho or other vietnamese restaurants) it’s salty tang provides a huge depth of flavor.

Anytime I think of Pho, I remember the time Alexir and I went to Pho Than Brothers near our apt. Alexir ordered some coconut milk drink and, as is his way, attempted to order the drink using the vietnamese words. Mind you, there are many things at which Alexir excels, pronouncing complicated foreign languages is not one of them. As he ordered, the server, clearly of vietnamese decent, made a terribly offended face and exclaimed “We do NOT serve that here!”. Alexir quickly corrected his order using the english. I still have no idea what he accidentally ordered. Haha!

Firstly, I set about preparing the carrot and daikon pickles. The traditional recipes suggest cutting each matchstick-sized piece of the root vegetables by hand, then allowing to pickle using naturally-occuring lactobacteria over several days. But it was maybe an hour or two before I planned to eat. I took the easy route and elected to grate all the ingredients and allow to ferment at room temperature until ready to eat. I was still pleased with the result. Some residual crunch, but having fully absorbed the brine. I covered the remaining pickled mix and left it in the fridge. This is equally as delicious on bahn mi sandwiches.

Carrot daikon pickles!

Carrot daikon pickles!

Next was marinating my beef. I picked up a grass fed flank steak at PCC, but skirt steak or other lean cuts are certainly welcome. I chose to marinate and cook off my beef ahead of time so it could rest in the fridge. It made slicing much easier, but does change the temperature contrast in the traditional dish. I love eating any sort of beef medium rare, but feel free to cook it to your own doneness preference. If you’re a fan of “well done”, I recommend thinly slicing the meat ahead of time, then marinating and cooking the slices. This will go extremely fast and assure your meat is cooked through.

Some flank steak searing happily away.

Some flank steak searing away happily

The other awesome part about this salad? Built in anger/stress management therapy. Who wants to toil away with those roly-poly toasted peanuts on a cutting board when you could just beat the hell out of them in their own bag? Did I mention you get you use a meat tenderizer? A note of caution: be sure to let out as much air as possible in the bag before hitting it, no one wants a peanut explosion.





All the preparation (especially washing and chopping herbs and veggies) can be done the day before. Imagine how sweet it would be to come home and just throw your gourmet dinner in a bowl.

The colors! Summertime salad alert

The colors! Summertime salad alert

While this recipe contains meat, you could certainly substitute tofu and use the same marinade. If the fish in the fish sauce is a problem, you could try your hand at this vegan fish sauce from The Kitchn. I haven’t tried it myself, but I hear it’s good. If you find yourself at the asian grocery store and want to take your game up a notch, consider purchasing some vietnamese mint and corriander. Their flavors are somewhat different from their American counterparts.

Nuoc cham (fish dipping sauce)

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup fish sauce

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated on microplane

1 tsp fresh lime juice

1/2 jalapeño or red bird’s eye chile of choice, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp rice vinegar

To prepare the nuoc cham: Whisk ingredients together until most of the sugar is dissolved. Alternatively, add all ingredients to a canning jar. Screw on lid and shake vigorously to combine. Use within 3 days.

Lazy Pickled Daikon and Carrots

1/2 # daikon radish, peeled and julienned or grated

1/2 # carrots, peeled and julienned or grated

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp salt

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup white or cider vinegar

Place carrots and daikon in a nonreactive container (glass dishes, mason jars, or ramekins are all good options). Mix sugar, salt, and water together until mostly dissolved. Whisk in vinegar. Pour mixture over vegetables. Taste a small amount of the veggies, and adjust seasoning to achieve desired balance of salty, sweet, and sour. Weigh down with a small dinner plate or glass jar until all vegetables are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, but ideally more than a day. May be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Drain liquid before serving.

Vietnamese Cold Noodle Salad with Marinated Beef

For the marinated beef:

1 lb flank steak

2 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 ” piece ginger, finely minced or grated on microplane

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated on microplane

1 tsp fresh lime juice

1 Tbsp canola or safflower oil

For the salad:

1/2 box or package rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions, cold

1/2 head greenleaf or other leafy lettuce, washed and cut into bite size pieces

1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

6-10 leaves mint, chiffonade

6-10 leaves thai basil, chiffonade

1 small cucumber (or 1/2 english cucumber), julienne

1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced

4 green onions, thinly sliced on the bias

1 lime, cut into wedges

Toasted, salted peanuts, crushed

Pickled carrots and daikon (recipe above)

Nuoc cham (recipe above)

To prepare the beef: Mix fish sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and lime juice in a small bowl. Coat steak in mixture. Place in fridge and allow to marinate at least 1 hour.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Sear steak on both sides to desired doneness. Rest for 5-7 minutes, then slice thinly and serve. May be made ahead and cooled in the fridge to help make slicing the meat easier.

To prepare the salad: Split the rice noodles between two bowls. Arrange herbs, vegetables, and pickled daikon/radish as desired. Garnish with peanuts. Drizzle a small amount of the nuoc cham over the salad. Serve with lime wedge and additional nuoc cham on the side.

20150610_180728 Yum! Get out there and snag yourself some veggies!



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