Grilled Pork with Rice Sticks

I've been swamped at work lately. It's a good thing because the time passes much more quickly and it means that we've got work and who can complain about that right now? However, I am getting slightly burnt out. It's times like these that I'm thankful for an outlet, i.e. cooking and this blog. As tempted as I might be to just grab some takeout after work and pass out on the couch during a Chopped marathon, I know that I can unwind and get my head in a good place by doing something fun after a grueling day at the office.

That being said, I still crave takeout. I'm a big fan of Thai and sushi but we also do a lot of Vietnamese takeout because it's friggin 'delicious. There's a place nearby, Viet Ai, which has become a family favorite. In the winter, our go to is pho. But since hot soup isn't usually my prerogative in the summertime, when it's warm out, our go to is H1, which is "grilled sliced pork on tiny rice sticks." It's kind of exactly how it sounds but in addition to the pork and rice sticks, you get lettuce, pickles, cucumbers, mint, and a dipping sauce. You make little lettuce wraps with the ingredients and it's awesome.

Even though it's much easier and quicker to just order this from the restaurant, it's fun and delicious to make this at home too. And like I said, cooking is my way to de-stress and prevent myself from going crazy so it's almost a necessity for me. Plus, if for some sad, depressing reason, you didn't have a Vietnamese restaurant near you, you can just make this yourself!
Ingredients [serves 4]:
pork & marinade
4 pork chops, sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2" piece of ginger
2 tablespoons oil

lettuce wrap
6 oz. package rice sticks
1 head green leaf lettuce (or whatever lettuce you prefer, red leaf, butter, romaine, etc.)
30 to 40 mint leaves
2 mini cucumbers, sliced (the mini ones don't have offensive seeds; English cucumbers also work)
pickled carrot & daikon (I have a homemade version on my blog)
sliced hot peppers (I like serrano or jalapeno)

nuoc cham / dipping sauce
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
juice of ½ lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

Start with the pork and marinade. Mix together soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and oil and then pour over the sliced pork chops. Give the pork a little massage to get the marinade distributed and then pop in the fridge to marinate for one hour. You could certainly do this the evening before and let it marinate overnight.

I recommend cooking the pork on a grill but you can also use a grill pan or cast iron pan - something that holds onto heat really well so that you get a good sear and some caramelization. If your pan isn't hot enough, you'll end up sort of steaming the meat and a lot of the juices will just leak out. Heat up your grill or stove to high and sear the meat nicely on both sides. It should only take 2 or 3 minutes on each side.
Meanwhile, you should also be prepping your rice sticks. I got mine in my regular market in the tiny Asian section (really, it's just an Asian shelf). If you can't necessarily find "rice sticks" just look for rice vermicelli. Boil some water and pop the noodles in for just 3 minutes (or whatever your package recommends). Drain and then plop the noodles onto a big plate or platter and spread them out into a layer. Leave the noodles alone until they "congeal" into a sold mass. This is just how our local restaurant serves this dish so that's how I like to do it too.
Once the noodles are stuck together, use a pair of scissors or knife or even a pizza cutter to cut the noodles into squares.
Next, get your other ingredients ready. I have mint growing in my garden so I picked a few sprigs. I also sliced up some serrano peppers, which were crazy spicy but amazing.
The last step, prior to eating, is to make the dipping sauce. It's just three ingredients but it's a crucial part of the meal!
Just mix together some fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and water. Stir until the sugar dissolves and you're good to go. The dipping sauce should be sweet and salty and tart.
Serve up your spread in the center of the table so everyone can access all of the ingredients and serve themselves.
Here's how I like to make my wrap! I start with a piece of lettuce (duh, it's a lettuce wrap). Then, I take a square of noodles and dip it in the nuoc cham. I plop the noodles onto my lettuce and then add some hot pepper, mint, meat, and pickles.
Then, I fold it up so it'll fit in my mouth. Just before I eat, I give it another dip in the nuoc cham. Then, it's shoveled into my mouth and I'm a happy camper.
Make this soon! You'll love it, I promise! If you're not into pork, you can use chicken or turkey or beef. And if you're a vegetarian, you can use tofu. You'll have to skip out on the fish sauce, but you can use a little miso paste and soy sauce instead.
Oh, and just a nod to our delicious dessert; we had Lucky Charms ice cream on sugar cones! All in all, a perfect summer meal.
Here's the recipe page:


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