YIELD: 4 servings

For the noodle salad:

2/3 lb. dried (Vermicelli-style) rice sticks
2 cups shredded red or green leaf lettuce
1 ½ cups bean sprouts
1/3 cucumber, seeded, cut into thin matchsticks
1/3 cup mint leaves, cut into thirds
1/3 cup Asian basil leaves, cut into thirds

For the pork:

2 Tbsps. minced lemongrass
2 Tbsps. white sesame seeds, lightly toasted, coarsely ground
½ tsp. Vietnamese shrimp sauce or 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 ½ tsps. caramel sauce or 1 tsp. light brown sugar
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
2/3 lb. pork shoulder, untrimmed, cut across the grain into thin slices (about 2” x 4” and 1/8” thick)
12 (8-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Garnishes:

2 Tbsps. fried shallots
4 Tbsps. chopped roasted peanuts
1 cup Vietnamese dipping sauce (see recipe)

For the Vietnamese dipping sauce:

3 Thai bird chilies or 1 serrano chili, or to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsps. sugar
2/3 cup warm water
1 ½ Tbsps. fresh lime juice
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsps. finely shredded carrots for garnish (optional)

1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the rice sticks and stir gently to loosen them. Cook until the noodles are white and soft but still resilient, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold, running water. Set them aside for at least 30 minutes. The noodles should be dry and sticky before serving. Gently toss together the lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumbers, mint and basil leaves.
2. Divide the salad mixture among 4 large bowls. Top each with 1/4 of the rice noodles and set them aside.
3. Combine the lemongrass, sesame seeds, shrimp sauce, fish sauce, caramel sauce, shallots, garlic and oil in a bowl and stir well to blend. Add the pork and let it marinate 20 minutes. Thread the meat onto the skewers and set aside.
4. Preheat a grill or broiler to high heat. Oil the grill, then grill the pork slices until the meat is done and the edges are nicely charred, about 3 to 4 minutes.
5. To serve, remove the pork from the skewers and arrange on each of the four noodle bowls. Garnish each bowl with 1/2 Tbsp. fried shallots, 1 Tbsp. peanuts and about 3 to 4 Tbsps. sauce. Toss gently before serving.

Photo and recipe: National Peanut Board