8, Feb 2008
Vietnamese Pork Salad with Carrot Relish

E and I were looking for a fairly simple and healthy meal to make for my parents that would show off some of our favorite flavors. We love Vietnamese food and are big fans of pork in all its incarnations, and eventually (after some debating in the aisles at the supermarket) devised this salad. Like good Vietnamese food, it’s fairly simple and makes use of fresh ingredients (plus plenty of nuoc cham). Of course, not everyone takes to nuoc cham, so it’s good to let people dress their own salads with more sauce and relish. We also accompanied the dish with some stir-fried vegetables and rice, as a nice contrast. It was a big success with my parents. And endless variations on the same basic themes will probably all be good, especially in warmer weather when a salad is extra welcome.

2 lb boneless pork “country ribs” (about 1 to 1.5 inches thick)
marinade/brine: water, kosher salt, lime juice, chili sauce, minced garlic
grilling glaze: soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, minced ginger
head romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped (as for salad)
3 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
3 tbsp basil, chopped
nuoc cham
vietnamese carrot relish

Mix together the marinating ingredients, and marinate the pork for at least two hours, covered, in the refrigerator. Remove the pork from the marinade and lay on a hot grill. Brush with the grilling glaze. Grill for about 8 minutes or until done, flipping halfway through and brushing again with the glaze. Remove from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes, tented with foil. Mix the chopped lettuce and mint together and spread on plates. Slice the pork the long way, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick and lay slices on top of the lettuce. Top with a spoonful of the relish. Serve with additional nuoc cham and relish for dressing to diners’ taste.
Awesome. There are some obvious variations, like adding carrots, red cabbage, or cucumber to the salad base. Variations on the relish idea would be good, like cucumber and shallots in place of carrots and red onion, for a somewhat cooler taste and color. The meat could of course be almost anything, though pork seems the most natural to me. Shrimp would be good.