In sanguine moments I often dream of owning a noodle bar. My mother thinks I’m crazy whenever I wax about all of the noodle dishes that I remember from my childhood in Thailand, Singapore and elsewhere in the Far East, that I would serve paired with this or that beer.
Most Americans are familiar with the pho noodle soups made popular by Vietnamese immigrants who came to this country with their entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the pan-fried and stir-fried varieties of Chinese American chow mein and chow fun standard on most Chinese restaurant menus.
But noodles don’t have to be served hot. I vividly remember a cold noodle dish served at one of our favorite restaurants in Fort Worth during the summertime. It used cold chow mein noodles dressed in a peanut and sesame sauce that was out of this world. Sadly the restaurant is no longer there but the memory of that dish lingers.
Mai-fun noodles are also perfect to serve cold. Their delicate texture takes on the flavor of sauces easily, and these thin noodles are refreshing chilled and served with julienned vegetables such as cucumber and carrot. Add refreshing bean sprouts and you have the basis for a summertime noodle salad. And what about a dressing? Something sweet, salty and tangy like the Vietnamese nuoc cham sauce is perfect for a dish like this. It’s light and refreshing. All you need to do is add a little meat. I love the flavors of cumin and paprika and created a marinade for pork that reminds me of Moroccan flavors, so I christened it Moroccan pork. Quickly seared in a cast-iron pan and then sliced into thin pieces, the pork makes a wonderful addition to the salad.
Perfect for a hot languid summer day.
Cold Mai-Fun Noodle Salad with Nuoc Cham Dressing and Pan-Seared Moroccan Pork
- 1 package of mai-fun (thin rice) noodles
- 4 pork chops
- The juice from half a sweet white onion
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ½ tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ tablespoon garlic salt
- ½ tablespoon ground cloves
- ¼ cup water
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- The juice from 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon ground red chili or Sriracha chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 3 cups bean sprouts
- 1 large English cucumber, julienned (use only the flesh, not the seeds)
- Soak the noodles in cold water, enough to completely cover noodles, for at least an hour.
- Combine onion juice, cumin, garlic salt, paprika, chili powder, ground cloves and mix well. Marinate pork in this mixture for at least an hour.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the noodles for about 3 minutes, just until they’re cooked al dente, drain and rinse in cold water to chill them and set aside in serving bowl.
- Combine the julienned vegetables and bean sprouts, toss, and place in a serving bowl.
- Make the nuoc cham by combining water, fish sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, ground chili, minced garlic, and set aside in a serving bowl.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast-iron skillet and sear the pork, cooking until done.
- Slice the pork and place in a serving dish.
- Place the bowls of vegetables, nuoc cham, noodle and the dish of pork on the table and let each diner make assemble their own noodle salad and dress with nuoc cham. Toss and enjoy!