Vietnamese dinner / by Megan Tomino

I used to subscribe to this great CSA box called Oahu Fresh. Stopped my subscription because there was this point in time where our bags had bitter melon in it 3x in a row... not exactly the most delicious veggie around, but that's another story. One week I got a large bunch of lemongrass and immediately called Lindsey to plan a Vietnamese themed dinner.

Lemongrass Tofu Vermicelli Bowls

Adapted from Epicurious.com

2 or 3 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground tumeric
1 thai chili (optional)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 tablespoons shoyu
3 teaspoons sugar
block of firm tofu, cut into medium cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
vermicelli noodles

Sauce & Toppings:
three crabs brand fish sauce
3 whole limes, juiced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 carrot, thinly shaved strands
sugar and salt to taste
unsalted peanuts
fried shallots and garlic
thai basil
bean sprouts

In a food processor, combine lemongrass, tumeric, shoyu, sugar, and garlic. Pulse until lemongrass is finely chopped, almost in a paste. There will still be some larger slice of lemongrass in the mixture. 

In a large pan, heat enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and shallot and cook until translucent. Carefully add the tofu, chills, and lemongrass mixture. Stir until the tofu absorbs the lemongrass sauce. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the vermicelli noodles and watch carefully as the noodles will cook very quickly. Stir the noodles constantly to prevent sticking. Once the noodles are tender, drain and wash with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Make the sauce. We used Three Crabs brand fish sauce (you'll know because there are three crabs on the bottle, convenient!) because the woman at the market in Chinatown said it's the best-- and when aunty tells you something is the best, you listen. There is no exact recipe for the sauce, but here is the basic rules of thumb. First make a "limeade" with the sugar and lime juice. When you taste the mixture, you want it to be tart with a lingering sweetness. Once you achieve the limeade level you prefer, add the carrots and garlic and stir well. Then, add fish sauce to taste. We like to use a lot of fish sauce because we like the sauce salty.

We like to serve this dish family style. Put a big stack of bowls out with vermicelli, lemongrass tofu, fish sauce mixture, peanuts, fried shallots and garlic, basil, and bean sprouts on a big table and let everyone build their own bowls!


Shrimp Summer Rolls

1 packet rice paper
1 bag rice noodles
1 cucumber, cut into sticks
1/2 lb. shrimp, deveined, cooked, and cut in half
thai basil, leaves only
bean sprouts, rinsed
chives, cut in 4 in. pieces

Prep all veggies and shrimp. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rice noodles and cook until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Make your assembly line. Set all fillings out on the table. Fill a large, shallow plate with enough water to cover the plate.

Pick-up one piece of rice paper and dip one side in the water. Gently press the stiff paper so the entire sheet has been exposed to water. Flip over and repeat with the other side. Do not soak the rice paper for too long or it will absorb too much water. 

Place your hydrated rice paper on a large plate and add your fillings quickly! I like to assemble my summer rolls in this order, shrimp down first, then basil, rice noodles, bean spouts, and a cucumber on the side. Roll up the rice paper like a burrito. Fold the edge closest to you over the filling. Fold over the right and left sides, and continue to roll the bundle up like a log.

Serve with hoisin sauce mixed with sriracha with chopped peanuts mixed in.

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