I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this lately, but I have the best boyfriend in the world. I haven’t been doing too well this past week, and William hasn’t left my side. Running errands, cooking meals, cleaning my apartment, he is the best nurse anyone could ever wish for. No, we don’t have Valentine’s plans. We’re actually not too big on presents for birthdays or Christmas and especially not for Valentine’s Day. Not only are we broke twenty-somethings, but we’d also rather spend our little money on trips to Asheville, Charleston, or Nashville. Instead, I am requesting his amazing Vietnamese barbeque pork noodles bowls for our Valentine’s dinner. Yes, he just made this two days ago, but I really can’t get enough of this.
First, cut a pork chop or two into long, thin strips, and marinate it in soy sauce, a splash of rice vinegar, a pinch each of star anise and cinnamon, a good bit of cayenne, minced garlic and shallot, ginger, several splashes of fish sauce, and a little white sugar. It’s good to let this sit for a few hours.
SIDE NOTE: Fish sauce is scary, especially if you’re not used to cooking with it. It smells Terrible, and our brain naturally associates bad smells with bad tastes, but don’t let the smell deter you! Fish sauce is a classic flavor in Vietnamese cooking, and they know how to do it right. So plug your nose and cook away!
Time to get cooking! Wrap the pork and a little of its marinade in tin foil and cook in a 250 (this is not a typo!) oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours. While the pork is cooking, fix your “nuoc chan” or noodle sauce. Combine fish sauce, white sugar, rice vinegar, and a little water in a small saucepan and let it slightly reduce.
When the pork is almost done, boil water and pour it over a big bowl of rice noodles. Let this sit until the noodles are soft. Then drop them in a bath of ice water to cool them off. Drain and set aside. The last step is to brown your cooked pork in a very hot pan with a little oil. This will just give it a nice crunchy crust. Mmmmm, maillard reaction! Toss everything together and top with thin slices of cucumber, carrot, cilantro, basil, and crunchy lettuce.
This is SOOO delicious! I know the whole thing sounds a little odd, but you have to give it a shot. It really is incredible. And Happy Valentine’s Day!!!