I grew up with friends that would go out for Pho once a week.To this day I’ve yet to order Pho at a restaurant because I’ve always been able to get my hands on some homemade stuff. Now I’m finding a lot of my friends falling in love with Vietnamese Vermicelli. The three classic proteins are BBQ pork shoulder, pork spring rolls, or BBQ pork meatballs. Any combination of the three is delicious, although I prefer all three as its a great way of serving pork three ways.
Like most Vietnamese dishes, pork vermicelli relies on how fresh the ingredients are. Luckily for me, my herb garden grows both mint and purple perilla. You’ll find that most Vietnamese restaurants will add pickled carrots to the mix as it is a great way to add texture and acidity. It is also much like a salad in the sense that you just toss the ingredients in fish sauce and it is ready to enjoy. My all time favourite protein with vermicelli is the BBQ pork meatball. The sweet and spiciness is unique and it also just so happens to be the most visually appealing.
This has always been my favourite Vietnamese dish. I always found it to be underrated growing up although judging from my what my friends now order I believe that to be changing. In my opinion, this dish sums up everything that is great about Vietnamese cuisine. You have a lot of raw components which taste horrible if they aren’t fresh. You also have a very light tasting noodle in order to keep the overall fresh mouth feel. Next, you have a complexly sweet, savoury, and smokey protein (and in the case of the spring roll you also get a more obvious texture contrast). Last, you get a wonderfully balanced fish sauce which tastes incredibly light considering it has one of the highest glutamic acid concentrations that you’ll be able to find (what makes things taste savoury). Usually in other cuisines you’d smother the protein in some tomato product. It is not by total chance that Indian tomato based curries have become popular worldwide, along with tomato based pasta sauces and our favourite, Ketchup! Just a light glazing of this fermented fish product however, gives you a deep meaty sensation. It does this without compromising the light and fresh feel of the dish which to me is incredible.