This is the first post in a series of recipes for Vietnamese, American, and fusion international cuisines inspired by our upbringing. I hope that through this food series, my fellow bloggers and I can demystify the traditional and more exotic cuisine of Vietnam and our interpretation of it today. I grew up in a family of amazing home chefs and professional chefs. Vietnamese food can be as complicated and easy as you make it. Whenever I see my various family members cook, it is always about the innate taste that comes with years of experience and never any real measurement. I hope to create recipes that many people can find accessible and easy to follow to recreate that innate taste.
Vietnamese vinaigrette is a deceptively simple and complex dressing. This is our equivalent to the balsamic vinaigrette that most people have come to know. The sauce is tangy, sweet, and salty at the same time, bordering on the sweet and tangy. This is a great sauce to have in your pocket whenever you need to make a quick meal with a little extra jazz.
Easy Vietnamese Vinaigrette
3 tablespoon of vinegar
2 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoon of Maggi seasoning sauce
1-2 tablespoon of water (to taste)
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds
a pinch of black pepper
Mix the vinegar, sugar, and seasoning sauce together. Slowly add the water to dilute the strong concentrate to your preference. I like to add approximately 2 tablespoon of water to the mixture so it is less potent. This is where you can change the recipe to your taste (more water = less strong of a vinaigrette). If you like the vinaigrette to be sweeter, add more sugar. If you like the vinaigrette to be less tangy, add only 2 tablespoon of vinegar. The beauty of making your own vinaigrette is that you can adapt it to your taste as long as you know the basic components and proportion.
The Lazy Girl Vermicelli and Deli Chicken Salad
An example of how this simple sauce can elevate the most basic of salads is the ubiquitous deli chicken. As a busy New Yorker, I do not always have time to cook a healthy meal after work or the gym. One quick meal that I can count on is my version of chicken and vermicelli salad. I usually have some type of salad mix, rice noodles and herbs at home. I also have a rotisserie chicken in my fridge all the time to create a last minute meal.
1 cup of baby spinach
1 cup of mix mesclun (or any salad mix)
½ cup of shredded carrots
½ cup of bean sprouts
2-3 leaves of basil julienne
1 cup of shredded deli chicken (I used lemon rotisserie chicken or any basic rotisserie chicken without a strong American herb taste.)
1 bundle of rice noodles (rice noodles come in a package with usually 4 bundles of dried noodles).
Boil the water and drop the rice noodles into the water. Cook until the rice noodles are translucent and soft but still al dente. A trick to boiling the noodles much faster is to soak the dried rice noodles in a bowl of cold water while the water is coming to a boil.
Once the water boils, drop in the soaked noodles and the noodles should be cooked quickly after that. This saves a few minutes of waiting for the noodles to cook.
Assemble the ingredients into a bowl and add your vinaigrette. Mix together and you have a quick and healthy meal. You can substitute with any vegetables or protein that you may have in your fridge. I like this particular mix of vegetables for the airiness and crunchiness. The key is to pick vegetables and protein that do not have a competing strong taste to the sweet and sour vinaigrette.