Last night I had a craving for an Asian noodle bowl. Bun noodles are my absolute favorite and I always keep a few packages in the pantry for when the noodle bowl cravings begin. One thing I have learned about noodle bowls is that any thing is pretty much fair game. As long as I have nuoc cham, my favorite sauce to pour over noodles, I can add any veggies and meat that is available and it is always delicious.
I surveyed the garden and selected some nice crisp romaine lettuce, some onions and a few sprigs of cilantro. I had some left over red bell pepper in the fridge and some chicken breast in the freezer. I also already had the five spice marinade in the freezer which was left over from my last noodle bowl attack. While the chicken was marinating, I chopped up the veggies and prepared the nuoc cham.
Nuoc cham is such a delicious sauce. It has the perfect balance of sweet, sour and salty, and, because I had Thai hot peppers to mine, just enough heat without overpowering the freshness of noodle bowl ingredients. If you have spent much time exploring Vietnamese food, either in your own kitchen or out and about, I am sure you have encountered this basic Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Once everything was chopped and prepped and I heated up a grill pan for the chicken. I really like it best when grilled over a charcoal fire, but it was late and I was hungry. While the chicken cooked, I boiled the bun noodles, then drained and rinsed with cold water. I removed the chicken to a cutting board and sliced it thinly, against the grain. Building the bowl is so easy. Just put romaine in the bottom, top with the noodles, add the chicken to the middle, surround it with the veggies and top with some chopped cilantro. I like the sauce on the side so I can add it as I go along. Ground peanut is also a great addition, but I just didn’t feel like wielding a pestle last night.
That’s it. Simple, healthy and delicious! I was once again bowled over ;-).
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. fish sauce (Vietnamese style if available)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1-2 Thai chilies, thinly sliced
Mix the lime juice, sugar and water. Taste this mixture. It should taste like a really good limeade. Add more sugar or lime juice to the get the sweet and sour balance to your liking. Add the fish sauce and taste again. Once again add more fish sauce as needed to get the salty balanced with the sweet and sour. Add garlic and chilies and sit aside to allow the flavors to develop.
Five Spice Chicken
1 tsp. Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. minced onion
3 tbsp. Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tbsp. black soy sauce
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast (or use boneless skinless thighs if you prefer dark meat)
Mix the first eight ingredients well. You can also use a food processor. Add the chicken and coat well. Allow to marinate for 1 hour at room temp or overnight in the fridge. Allow the chicken to return to room temp before grilling. Grill over medium high heat 7-9 minutes per side or until cooked through. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then slice thinly and serve as desired.