this is a vietnamese dressing - it has a really wild, chilli kinda flavour and it's totally addictive. here's the recipe for it, one way in which you can use it, and a whole lot of suggestions. i use a mortar and pestle to make it, but you could also use a food processer. vietnamese cooking is all about achieving a balance between these four flavours: salty, sour, hot and sweet. so it's important to check the dressing to see if you have a balance of these flavours, and adjust it to your own personal taste. this recipe makes about 1.5 cups, and the excess dressing will keep for about 3 days in the fridge.
· makes about 1.5 cups
· 4 long red chillis
· 2 garlic cloves, peeled
· 4 tablespoons caster sugar
· 1/3 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
· 3/4 cup fish sauce
· 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar (you can get this from your supermarket or Asian grocery store)
· fienly chopped green or red small (birds' eye) chillis, to taste
1. Split the chillis down the middle, scrape out the seeds and slice thinly.
2. Pound the garlic with a pinch of salt with the mortar and pestle. Add the sliced red chillis and keep pounding until you get a smooth-ish paste.
3. Stir in the caster sugar. Then add the lime juice, fish sauce and rice wine vinegar until it's all incorporated. Also add about 1/3 cup water to thin it out a little bit. Taste it, and add some of the chopped small chillis to taste.
vietnamese prawn + cabbage salad
· serves 2
· 1/4 Chinese cabbage
· 1/2 carrot
· 1 punnet cherry tomatoes (about 8-10)
· 6 cooked large prawns, peeled, deveined and tails removed
· 1/2 cup peanuts, toasted and lightly crushed in a mortar or food processer
· 1 cup, or more, of mixed Asian herbs (eg. Thai basil, mint, coriander)
· nuoc cham dressing ^
· 1 portion rice vermicelli noodles, prepared to packet instructions
1. Slice or shred the cabbage leaves really finely.
2. Peel the carrots and slice into really thin matchsticks.
3. Halve the cherry tomatoes, then chuck them into a big bowl with the carrots, cabbage, prawns, peanuts and herbs.
4. Add enough of the nuoc cham dressing to coat it all generously. Toss to combine and serve with rice vermicelli noodles.
· use as a dipping sauce for barbecued chicken
· drizzle over grilled fish
· dress an iceberg lettuce salad with it
· dress a salad of mango or papaya and spring onions
· use it as a marinade along with crushed peanuts for chicken, then grill it and serve with a salad of shredded cabbage, lettuce and carrot with rice noodles and mixed Asian herbs