There are certain moments at the dinner table that are pleasing to me, in possibly odd ways. Not creepy, just unusual. Hearing the slurping sound of my young daughters gobbling up slippery fragrant noodles in fish sauce has to be one of those times. It’s as if the sauce acts as a grease to get the noodles moving as quickly as possible so that they can dig their tiny forks into more. Like dinner is a race to see how quickly the noodles disappear. Usually, that also means they thoroughly enjoy the dish as well. These Vietnamese Bowls use vermicelli noodles which are a very thin rice noodles and they have the capacity to take on whichever flavours are poured over them, making them excellent for noodles bowls or for any kind of dipping in sauce.
Some people might think, fish sauce … gross. It’s not, at least it’s not when it’s mixed with other ingredients. If you remove the cap and take a whiff, it’s extremely pungent, as if you took a giant vat of salty small fish and fermented them for months and then lifted the lid to smell the vat. I wouldn’t recommend it. I only did it so that I may forewarn you not to. That being said, fish sauce is the key component to the sauce for this dish as it contains all the salt. There is no other salt added, and without the fish sauce, all the other flavours become bland, bleeding into each other without any direction. Fish sauce is readily available in most supermarkets and grocery stores in the Asian Foods aisle (meaning that it’s quite common and readily available).
This dish is light and Summery thanks to the cucumbers and fresh herbs. As you can see in the photo above, most of the bowl is actually cucumber chopped into a new shape (keeps the kids on board with all vegetables if I change the shape I serve them in on the regular). I could eat this type of salad for days without getting sick of it. Due to the fish sauce, it’s balanced between acid and sweet, like a good vinaigrette, but without all the pretense of add ons (like garlic or mustard) that can mask what you’re eating. This dish is kind of naked … everything shown in plain view and there’s no apologies for how salty sweet it is. It’s not crazy salty sweet, but rather the supple noodles, chewy pork and crunchy cucumbers keep the sauce in check.
No lie, I was nervous preparing a fish sauce based vinaigrette for my kids. It’s so strong that I thought it could polarize them the opposite way and result in them hating it and therefore hating dinner as well. Since I don’t make 2 dinners (ever) I was pretty nervous about serving this. I have found that almost every time I’ve felt nervous in this fashion I’ve been incorrect. Kids usually take to stronger flavours, well my kids anyways. I also have kids that hated pizza until they were almost 3 years old so we could be an abnormal family that loves bold food. 🙂
This recipe delivers 4 very large servings, although there’s not a ton of meat per serving, half of a pork chop per serving to be exact. If you have large meat eaters in your family, you may wish to double down on the pork in this recipe or supplement with something else (tofu?). This dish is primarily focused around the sauce with the noodles and salad. The limited amount of meat makes it feel lighter, while still satisfying those who need meat in every meal (hi Greg). The lack of meat and easy preparation of the noodles makes this entire meal come together in 20 minutes. Yup, 20 minutes. I know back-to-school is headed our way too, so let’s all lean on these quick, nutritious and simple meals together.
Thin rice noodles and thin grilled pork with a salty sweet sauce complimented by a lightly quick-pickled cucumber salad.
5 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
20 minTotal Time
- 2 x 1" thick boneless pork chops
- 2 tsp vegetable oil, such as grapeseed oil or canola oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 x 400 grams package vermicelli noodles
- 1 long English cucumber, cut into matchsticks or spirals
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp garlic
- 4 tsp vegetable oil, such as grapeseed, olive oil, or etc.
- Optional garnishes: thinly sliced chile peppers (Thai chilies)
- Cook noodles as per package instructions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
- Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut each pork chop crosswise (horizontally) into 4 very thin pieces of pork, giving you 8 thin pieces total.
- Preheat grill or a large skillet to high heat. Using skewers, thread thin pork chops (do not use skewers if using skillet). Rub chops with 2 tsp of vegetable oil and season very lightly with salt and pepper. Place on grill or in skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3-4 minutes and flip once grill marks/browning appears. Cook on second side for about 3 minutes until meat is browned and cooked through.
- While meat is cooking, in a small bowl combine fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, garlic and vegetable oil. Whisk until complete combined. Set aside.
- Place noodle and pork on a platter and top with sauce. Top dish with sliced basil leaves.