Vietnamese Style Rice Noodle "Patties" with Nuoc Cham, Lettuce and Herb Basket, Pickled Vegetables and Crispy Shallots
FOR THE PICKLED VEGETABLES:
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 small daikon radish, shredded
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
FOR THE NUOC CHAM:
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 fresh red chili pepper or 1 teaspoon sambal sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 lime, juiced, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc nam)
- 2 tablespoons water or more to taste
FOR THE NOODLES, LETTUCE AND HERBS:
- 3 1/2 ounces Vietnamese rice vermicelli
- 4 tablespoons rice flour
- 1 head red or green leaf lettuce, washed and separated
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed and trimmed
- 1 bunch opal basil, washed and trimmed
- 1 bunch mint
- 1/4 pound bean sprouts
FOR THE GRILLED SHRIMP:
- 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Peanut or vegetable oil
FOR THE CRISPY SHALLOTS:
- 1 cup peanut oil
- 5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
- Hoisin sauce, for serving, optional
- Sriracha sauce, for serving, optional
Combine the water, sugar, vinegar and spices for the pickled vegetables in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Pour hot liquid, using a strainer to remove seeds, over shredded vegetables and let sit for half an hour or more. Refrigerate in a non-reactive airtight container if prepared in advance.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, chili pepper, and sugar into a smooth paste. Add the lime juice and the Vietnamese fish sauce (if using the sambal sauce add it at this time) to the paste and stir. Add the water, to taste. Set aside.
To make the noodle "patties", bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, and then drain in a colander. Pat the noodles dry, place in a large bowl, and sprinkle with the rice flour. Toss to thoroughly combine. Lightly oil your hands, then, working 1 at a time, gather a small amount of noodles and shape into small nests about 2 to 3 inches wide. Repeat until you have at least 24 patties. (Any remaining noodles should be discarded.) Prepare a steamer and line with waxed paper. When the steamer water is boiling, steam the patties, patting them down to compress with a spatula, for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly before serving.
To grill the shrimp, heat a grill pan or the grill to medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Lightly grease the pan or the grill with peanut oil and place the shrimp on the grill. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp are just cooked through. Set the cooked shrimp aside, in a warm spot or lightly covered while assembling the rest of the dish.
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of peanut oil. Add the shallots in batches and fry to a golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season the shallots with salt as soon as they come out of the oil.
To eat the noodles, take a lettuce leaf, add the noodle "patty", spoon a little nuoc cham over noodles, add the pickled vegetables, herbs and sprouts, shrimp and shallots. Roll up to dip into the nuoc cham and then eat with your hands. Serve with hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side for diners to season their rolls, if desired.