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Rice Stick Noodles with Grilled Pork

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless pork loin, about 1 lb.
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 shallots, finely minced
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or corn oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fish sauce

For the garlic-lime dipping sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 fresh red serrano chili
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 lb. dried rice stick noodles
  • 4 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 4 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup finely julienned peeled cucumber
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely julienned
  • 1 fresh red serrano chili, seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

Directions:

Enclose the pork in plastic wrap and place in the freezer until partially frozen, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and cold water. Bring to a boil, swirl the pan and cook just until large, thick, deep brown bubbles form, 5 to 8 minutes. Do not allow the sugar syrup to burn. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the 1/4 cup hot water. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is caramelized and forms a light syrup that coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and pepper. Pour into a large bowl and let cool. Stir in the shallots, oil, soy sauce and fish sauce.

Cut the pork across the grain into very thin slices, then into strips 1 inch wide. Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, gently pound the strips until slightly flattened. Add to the caramelized sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To make the dipping sauce, in a bowl, combine the sugar and hot water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Seed and finely chop the serrano chili. Add to the sauce with the garlic, lime juice and fish sauce.

Place the rice noodles in a bowl, add warm water to cover and soak until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil; add the noodles and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Drain, rinse with cold running water and drain again thoroughly.

Prepare a fire in a grill.

Divide 2 Tbs. each of the mint and cilantro among 6 bowls. Drizzle each with 1 Tbs. dipping sauce. Divide the noodles among the bowls and top with equal amounts of the cucumber, carrot, chili, and cabbage and the remaining mint and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate.

Oil the grill rack, lay the pork strips flat directly on the rack and grill, turning once, until marked with grill lines, about 2 minutes per side. Divide the pork strips among the bowls, placing them on the noodles. Sprinkle with the peanuts, drizzle with the remaining dipping sauce and serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Asian Flavors, by Joyce Jue (Time-Life Books, 1999).