Vaguely Vietnamese. Or Something Like That

Sleep, little shrimpies, on your soft bed of scrumptiousness.

When I cook, I don’t generally scruple about authenticity–I have neither time nor expendable income enough to search out (or worse yet, “source”) exotic ingredients, build my own brick oven that’s hot enough to properly char pizza crust, or embark on an epic quest for the perfect baked Buffalo chicken wing. If the ingredients are available at Wegmans, if it tastes good, if it reheats nicely for lunch the next day, then it’s usually good enough for me. Naturally, a dish gets bonus points if there is a reasonable expectation that my children might not sneer derisively at it.

Now, this is not to say that I use swiss cheese on my nachos or anything crazy like that. It just means that taste trumps tradition, for me. And it’s also to say that if this is not authentic, don’t come crying to me. Or yelling at me. Or suing me. Or being snooty with me and telling me how long you lived in Vietnam and that you know everything about Vietnamese cuisine. Or calling me an Ice Princess for no good reason except that you think I might be sleeping with our theatre professor–but I digress.

 

Kinda Sorta Bun Tom Heo Nuong. Ish.

  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small Thai chile pepper, minced
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 t. brown sugar or agave nectar
  • 1 dozen raw shrimp, shelled and deveined (if you scruple about veins in shrimp, I don’t)
  • 8 oz rice sticks or rice vermicelli
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
  • 1 small cucumber, julienned
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • Romaine or green leaf lettuce, shredded
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • fresh mint, cilantro, and basil, roughly chopped

Nuoc Cham

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small chile pepper, minced
  • 1 T shredded carrot

Combine first six ingredients in a bowl and add shrimp. Stir to coat shrimp and let marinate for half an hour. This would be an ideal time to do your chopping and mincing and julienning, and to mix up the nuoc cham.

Place rice sticks in another large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until they are tender, then divide among plates. Top with the vegetables herbs and nuts, artfully arranged if you so desire.

Saute the shrimp in a hot wok or pan, using a little canola oil, until no longer pink. Add shrimp to each plate, then drizzle with nuoc cham, passing more at the table.

 

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Food on Sticks

Skewered food FTW.

Sometimes–just to keep myself entertained–I like to plan meals around arbitrary themes. Today was just such a time, and today’s theme was “Food On A Stick.” I marinated some shrimp in lemon, a little EVOO, and some herbs from the CSA (garlic scapes, oregano, rosemary, chives). Stuck ’em on a stick. Et voila, les crevettes delicieaux.

Thing #2 loooooves shrimp, much in the same way that a kitten I once had loved shrimp, in that she doesn’t really distinguish between where the shrimp ends and where your fingers begin. She just bites. Thing #1, not so much. So I pulled a long-lost package of L’il Smokies (and, incidentally, can I just say that I hate when people or companies write “l’il” instead of “little,” but apparently not enough to cause me to boycott L’il Smokies) out of the freezer and stuck those on sticks, too.

Who were those horrible killers who put their victims’ heads on pikes? I would’ve been a good one of those.

Mini sausages, on a stick. Does it get any better than this?

I haven’t yet mastered the art of skewering brown rice, so for a side dish I made a quick quinoa salad. Do you know from quinoa? It’s a funny little grain, which blossoms into curlicues when you cook it, and which has a good dose of protein. It’s not unlike couscous, only better for you, and lends itself well to cold salads and pilafs. It’s also lovely as a breakfast porridge, with milk and raisins and cinnamon and so on.

All in all, the dinner was a huge success. I forced the children, upon threat of not getting their Rice Dream Nutty Buddies, to eat some baby carrots along with their tiny processed meats. Long-Suffering Husband made various orgasmic noises while eating his shrimp and veg, but then again he was starving after a day of kayaking and installing our new back door.

All plated and ready to be devoured


Herb-Marinated Grilled Shrimp

1 lb. Raw shrimp, in the shell
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T lemon juice
chopped fresh herbs—oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley
minced garlic
minced scallion or shallot

Mix all ingredients except for shrimp. Add shrimp 30 minutes before grilling.

Simple Summer Quinoa Salad

2 c. quinoa
½ cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tomato, diced
1-2 scallions, diced
1/4 c. parsley
¼ cup slivered almonds
EVOO
lemon juice

Rinse quinoa well in a strainer (this removes the saponin, which is a natural, bitter coating that keeps birds from eating the quinoa in its natural habitat). Cook the quinoa with 4 cups water, stirring occasionally. When the water is all absorbed, fluff with fork and cool. When cool, add to other ingredients in a large bowl. Toss. Season with salt and pepper.

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