Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vietnamese Pork Satays

I love the fresh flavors of this dish. Lots of bright ginger, lime, cilantro; fresh and cooling cucumber, carrot and bean sprout garnish; and a tingling of chile sauce for spice and fish sauce for a little kick of saltiness. And then there's pork, and who doesn't love pork? Ok, maybe lots of people, but not me. If you use a lean cut, like tenderloin or loin chops, they're more or less guilt free!

As if you needed an extra bonus, they're fun to eat too, as long as you don't mind a little mess -- heaven knows I'm a sucker for anything that lets you pick and choose and wrap up little bundles of deliciousness. Add as little or as much cilantro as you like, I always like a lot. This is great during the summer when it's hot, mint is readily available, and you want something light and refreshing to eat. Or, like this time, when it's cold and raining, and you're wishing for warmer weather.

Vietnamese Pork Satays

Pork and Marinade:
1 lb pork tenderloin or boneless chops, cut into ½” cubes
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 TB fish sauce
1 TB fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
6 lime leaves, sliced very thin
8” fresh lemongrass, sliced very thin
2” fresh ginger, finely sliced
TB sambal olek

Nuoc Cham:
1 tsp sugar
2 TB fresh lime juice
2 TB fish sauce
1 red or green chile, sliced (or 1 tsp sambal olek)

Table Salad:
1 head butter lettuce, leaves removed
8 oz cooked beanthread noodles
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup cucumber, julienned
1/2 cup fresh herbs - cilantro, mint, and/or basil

Combine all marinade ingredients in a glass bowl. Add pork, stir to coat, and marinate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak bamboo skewers in water.

Put bean thread noodles in a large bowl, and cover with hot (but not boiling) water. Let soak for 15-20 minutes - test for doneness after 15 minutes. When done, drain well and set aside.

Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

After 20 minutes, thread pork onto skewers, about 6-7 pieces per skewer. Lightly oil and heat a grillpan or heavy skillet (do not use nonstick) over high heat (or a real grill if you like!), and cook quickly, just a few minutes per side, until browned on the outside.

Arrange all ingredients on a large platter. To eat, put some pork, noodles, vegetables and herbs inside a lettuce leaf. Roll up, dip in the nuoc cham, and eat.

Adapted from Street Food by Clair Ferguson.


  1. This sounds delicious! I loved your drunken noodles recipe in the GWS wiki as well, so I would like to try this recipe out in the near future, although I have a couple of questions first.

    I have never found lime leaves anywhere - is there an acceptable substitute for this? I don't really know what the leaves taste like, so I don't know if zest or a bit of lime juice would work.

    Also, lemongrass is something else I have a hard time finding - is there anything I can substitute or would the dish be severely affected if I omitted it?

    Thanks so much! I really enjoy your blog. :)

  2. Hi Jessican!

    Most gourmet-oriented markets or Asian markets will carry lime leaves and lemongrass. It would be worth your time to find and Asian market, if available, and stock up on items like lime leaves, lemongrass, galanga, etc. and keeping them in the freezer. Lemongrass is actually easier to find; sometimes you can find it minced and packaged in tubes near the packaged herbs and mushrooms. Lime leaves are trickier to find. I would just a tiny bit of zest in the marinade, and maybe a very light squeeze of lime juice over the finished skewers as a substitute. There is no substitute really for lemongrass, I think adding lemon would compete with the lime, so you're better off just skipping it. It still will be fresh and flavorful with the ginger and lime!

  3. Thanks so much for your reply. I travel all over the state of Michigan for my job, and I stop in Asian markets whenever I find a new one. The best one I've found so far is in Lansing, and I still don't recall seeing lime leaves or lemongrass there unfortunately. I will definitely freeze some if I happen to find it - thanks for the tip!

  4. Whoops, sorry for all the grammatical errors in my earlier comment. That's what I get for trying to write while watching a movie, and not proof-reading my own comments before publishing! And I forgot to say: thanks for the compliments :)