Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quick bun nem nuong

Ah, it's over.


I feel good about it. I don't know how I did, but all I know is that I'm not going to take the Chemistry GRE again. Last year, I took it and then made some beef bourguignon to celebrate. No celebratory meal (yet) this year, but I did make the occasional good study meal. Hey, anything to procrastinate.

One of these meals was borne out of a random discovery by my mother.

Mom: I found these meatballs at Costco. They taste a lot like nem nuong (aka Vietnamese grilled pork meatballs).

Me: Really? They sell nem nuong at Costco? Are you sure?

Mom: Well, it's not exactly marketed as such, but they really do taste like them.

She proceeded to give me a package of meatballs, but she had thrown away the label. They were pretty tasty. D. went to Costco to see if he could figure out what she had purchased. He ended up returning with a package of Aidells Pineapple and Teriyaki meatballs, which are made of chicken. Turns out these were the same meatballs my mother gave us. I don't know how Aidells managed to make a kind-of-Hawaiian-kind-of-Japanese chicken meatball taste like nem nuong, but go figure.

Anyway, it's not homemade, but it's opened the doorway to a lot of quick Vietnamese meals that would normally require a little more time and effort. D. went on a weekend trip to visit his folks while I studied for the blasted GRE. Needing a study break, I decided that I would make some bun nem nuong.

The rice noodles are cooked in boiling water until al dente and rinsed with cool water. Drain the noodles completely and let air dry while the rest of the dish is prepared. Drying is important because slimy noodles don't contribute to the texture of the dish. Fresh cucumber slices, shredded lettuce, mint, and Vietnamese mint go into the bottom of the bowl. Raw mung bean sprouts are typically part of the dish, but I'm not a big fan. The meatballs are thawed and browned in a skillet, then sliced in half. I like to add some scallions and oil as garnish. Slice one small bunch of scallions. Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (any non-flavored oil is fine) in a small saucepan until hot. Toss the scallions in and let them cook down fast. Do not brown them.

Assembly is easy. Veggies on the bottom, rice noodles next, meatballs on top of noodles, and spoon the softened scallions and oil all over. Serve with plenty of nuoc nam.