In 2016, I spent a couple weeks in rural Vietnam, living with extended family in a farming community, a window into a world of fresh culinary delights where nearly everything was made from scratch with hyper-local ingredients. I’ll be writing more about Vietnam in the future but for now here’s a simple homestyle recipe for fish and shrimp spring rolls and bún, together as one meal. Main tasks: wash greens, cook rice noodles, shrimp & fish.
Ingredients (in order of use): -1 head soft lettuce (butter, Boston, red or green leaf) -cilantro, thai basil -1/2 lb rice vermicelli -1 lb small shrimp (51-60 count/lb),ideally fresh with heads & shell on. -1 whole white fish for frying (1-2lb)(tilapia, catfish, sea bream, etc) -Salt -1 cup frying oil (canola, veg/soy) -Rice Paper -Fish sauce (make your own! Everyone has their own preference of flavors)
- Wash herbs and lettuce. Shake dry in a colander and let sit.
- Cook Vermicelli: (follow instructions for timing), cool in a colander with running cold water, drain well.
- Cook Shrimp: Boil/steam/grill…just get ’em cooked and peeled!
- Thoroughly wash the fish, drying very well. Salt generously, esp the inside.
- Fry Fish: Heat oil in a wok on medium-high. When hot, add the fish, gently lowering it (away from your body). It’s going to spatter but don’t dare cover the pot! Cook 5-6 minutes, until golden brown, don’t flip until the edges start crisping. Using a fish spatula and chopsticks, carefully flip once (it shouldn’t stick to the pan if you used enough oil and let it cook long enough). Fry another 5-6 minutes or till brown. Flip once more and fry another minute to re-crisp the first side. Drain on a metal rack (not paper towels!).
For Spring Rolls – Layer the rice paper with herbs, lettuce, vermicelli, lastly fish/shrimp. Roll, tucking the ends halfway.
For Bún – Fill up a bowl with noodles, greens, fish and shrimp. Serve with fish sauce.