(Originally Published 9/20/2014) We’re in a cold snap in Vermont. I had intended to post this menu when it was very hot, because it’s a great meal to have in July-caliber heat, but the summer got away from me.
It is a great dinner to eat on the porch with not-traditionally-Vietnamese gin and tonics. I recently returned from a trip to Portugal where I discovered Port and tonic with mint garnish as an excellent cocktail that would also work in this situation. Or you could make vodka martinis with Lychee fruits and a splash of Lychee juice replacing the olives and olive juice of a dirty martini (serve with a lemon twist). If you want to be authentic with your drink selections, you can peruse the Serious Eats list of 9 Must-Try Vietnamese Drinks
Hot & Sour Rice Noodle Salad – Here’s the thing. When I need to make something “Vietnamese” I do a variation on this salad: rice noodles, chunks of tomato, cucumber and pineapple (and sometimes tofu depending on who is eating it and how okay they are with tofu), cilantro and mint (or basil), dressed with a combination of lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, generous pinch of sugar and generous dash of hot sesame oil (squeeze half a lime in a glass jar, add 1 tb water, add one part fish sauce to two parts soy sauce and rice vinegar, the sugar and hot oil, put on a lid and shake vigorously, taste and adjust portions from there to your preference), then sprinkled with chopped peanuts on top.
Banh Mi – The Vietnamese Sandwich. It has a place of prominence in my affections up there with Pan Bagnat and Croque Monsieur. Two recipes here: one from a Spilled Milk podcast on Banh Mi and the other from Slate (I couldn’t bring myself to use quite as much sugar as they called for and it was still very sweet, so play around, but it really is a pretty scrumptious recipe). It should also be noted that Andrea Nguyen has an entire Banh Mi Handbook.
Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls – Here is a recipe for the basic spring roll, from which you can make as many variations as tickle your fancy. This post is from White On Rice Couple, a blog by two food photographers – my personal spring rolls are much, much slopper than this. Also to note, spring rolls can be a great way to turn leftovers into a slightly-more-interesting lunch: a little protein, a little salad-y stuff and roll. I also like to make a spring roll with apples, scallions, Napa cabbage, and tofu with peanut dipping sauce.
Vegetable Pancakes – To make a vegetarian dish, I replaced the ham and shrimp with a great deal of cooked chard. And I did not tell my guests that I willfully eliminated ham and shrimp from the recipe.
Sticky Rice with Fruit and Sprinkled with Sugar – This is just what it says, rice with a sprinkle of sugar and cut up fruit on top (tropical seeming fruit is best, but I live in Vermont, I don’t expect ripe mangos to be available with every grocery store trip, much less something like papaya, sometimes the oranges look okay. . .a tangerine would be even better – be sure all the juice lands on the rice too).
Coconut Pudding – I admit it, this is from a Hawaiian dinner, Haupia. The recipe I used then included a whole lot more corn starch and could be cut into half-pudding half-bar-cookie form, this version from the Food Network is really closer to pudding.