One of the harsh realities one faces when leaving the family home is that food no longer magically appears on the dinner table. Some days when my will power is at absolute zero, like all good children I make the trip back home for dinner! However, I know nothing is ever free. My payment comes in the form of being completely ignored since grandchildren get all the attention, being nagged about everything I have done in my life and dad singing Vietnamese opera into a microphone that plays its own music! Sounds a little crazy, huh? But believe it or not, it is just another day in a Vietnamese household.
So, when I first moved out of home, what did I do every time there was no food on the table and the fridge was completely bare? Well, I’ll tell you I was a particularly slow learner. For the first six months I just panicked then worked myself into a meltdown. But after repeating the same mistake again and again, I began to think of safeguards.
Our first safeguard was to stock up on 2 minute noodles. We had the spicy Korean noodles, the Chinese noodles Steph grew up on, the migoreng ones everyone else grew up on, and a whole bunch of other ones we found at our local Asian grocery shop. They were supposed to be for days where we had no other food, but they were so convenient we just ended up eating them every day then feeling guilty afterwards. Overtime, Steph and I got smarter (and fatter) and realised we needed a better system.
We started to stock items that were versatile and would keep well. This included the obvious staples like eggs, beans and pasta, but also what we call components. Components are items you make in advance which can be eaten on their own, but more often than not are mixed and matched with other ingredients to form a component of a complete meal.
Spring rolls are one of our staple components. We make a big batch every few months or so, then store them in a plastic ziplock bag in the freezer. They are great on their own as a snack or as an entree for a dinner party.
However, if we are after a complete meal, then we rarely go past this spring roll noodle bowl. Think rice noodles, loaded up with fresh herbs and vegetables, tossed through with nuoc mam dressing then topped with crispy spring rolls. These bowls are packed full of flavour, color and texture while also being reasonably healthy. It is particularly refreshing on a hot summer day where great tasting cold dishes help take your mind off the heat.
I’d be lying if I said we still don’t eat 2 minute noodles every now and then, or that we cook a proper dinner every night. We have however learnt a thing or two about managing the food in our kitchen, and this recipe captures the main lessons. It uses key pantry items (the noodles), components (the spring rolls and nuoc mam dressing) and leftovers (the herbs and vegetables). So for everyone who is no longer seeing food magically appear on the dinner table, just keep calm, get yourself organised, and make this noodle bowl.
Spring Roll Noodle Bowls - Bun Cha Gio
- 1 packet of bean sprouts
- 1 bunch of Thai basil
- 1 bunch of coriander
- 1 bunch of Vietnamese perilla / tia to (optional)
- 1/2 of a head of iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 1 continental cucumber, sliced
- Water for boiling
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 20 frozen or freshly made spring rolls
- 300 gm – 400 gm of dongguan rice vermicelli (approx 70 – 80 gm / person)
- 1/2 cup of crushed peanuts
Nuoc Mam Dressing – Nuoc Mam Chan
- 2/3 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of warm water
- 4 tbsp / 60 ml of lemon juice
- 10 tbsp / 150 ml of fish sauce
- 2 tsp of palm vinegar
- 2 tsp of minced garlic (optional)
- 2 medium birds eye chillies, chopped (optional)
Vietnamese Spring Rolls – Cha Gio
Please see my Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls – Cha Gio blog post.
Pickled Carrot and Daikon – Do Chua (optional)
Please see my Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon – Do Chua blog post.
- Wash all herbs / vegetables and then spin dry. Set aside.
- Make the nuoc mam dressing in a mixing bowl by dissolving the sugar in the warm water
- Add the rest of the nuoc mam dressing ingredients and mix well. Cover with cling wrap and set aside.
- In a large pot, boil plenty of water and cook the rice vermicelli as instructed on the packet.
- Strain the rice vermicelli and set aside to cool.
- In a saucepan, heat up the vegetable oil to 175 C – 180 C.
- Add the spring rolls and cook for 3 – 4 mins or until golden.
- Allow the spring rolls to drain on a cooling rack.
- Serve all the components individually on the table and allow everyone to make their own noodle bowls.
- Do not rinse the rice vermicelli with cold water after straining or it will go soggy and mushy.
- If you want to serve warm noodle bowls, then heat up the noodles and the nuoc mam dressing in the microwave before serving.