Monday, April 1, 2013

Smoked Veal Salad

Fireworks, parades, celebrations?  Yeah, that's how New Year's Day is spent in America but is this commonplace elsewhere?

In many parts of Asia, the celebration of the New Year  begins a month or so after January 1st.  The first day (until the third day) of the first month of the Lunar Calendar (late January or early February), the Vietnamese people celebrate the holiday known as Tet Nguyen Dan (meaning Feast of the First Morning) or simply Tet.  Traditionally, parades, fireworks, games and gifts of money are part of the celebration otherwise known as- an Tet- meaning to eat Tet!  As with most cultures, food begins to take center stage during holiday settings.  During Tet, duck is considered to be unlucky and shrimp walk backwards, thus making you move backwards (as opposed to progressing through life); other seasonal dishes become a part of the Feast. Visit your local Vietnamese community to enjoy the celebration of Tet or find the nearest Asian Market and expand your pantry.

Dried candied fruits, pickled vegetables and sticky rice filled with meat or mung bean are among the various dishes offered.  However, our focus will be on a seldom seen dish involving smoked veal and wonderful fresh herbs.  This specialty becomes prominent during Tet, however, we enjoy it any time of year.

In Vietnam, a whole calf is roasted in an open flame pit, but supplies the roasted veal to many Asian markets throughout the US.  The method is slightly different but the results are wonderful.  The meat is already sliced and beautifully packaged, which makes this a wonderful year-round treat.

Be Thui-Smoked Veal Salad
1lb. Vietnamese Style Roasted/Smoked Veal Sliced-*
2 each red or yellow onion
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 bunch perilla-*
1 bunch Vietnamese coriander-*
roasted peanuts
roasted rice powder-*

Ginger Nuoc Mam
½ cup fish sauce-*
¼ cup water
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
¼ cup palm sugar (or to taste)-*
1 or 2 limes juiced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 Thai chilis thinly sliced-*
2 tbsp ginger minced
*- ingredients can be found at your local Asian Market

Nuoc mam, a staple of Vietnamese cuisine, adds sweet, salty, spicy and acidic flavors to any dish, and this version includes freshly chopped ginger.  Thai palm sugar is my choice but any type of sugar will work, and we use unseasoned rice wine vinegar.  Measurements are provided but have fun with this and adjust according to your tastes.  You might want less sugar or more spice, so play with it and change it according to your palate.

Break up the sugar, and add it to the liquids while bringing to a slow simmer.  This will allow the sugar to melt nicely and blend the flavors together.  While working the sauce, finely chop the garlic, ginger and thinly slice the chilis.  After a few minutes, the sugar should melt properly, and the chilis, ginger and garlic are added. Turn off the heat and let is rest, then thinly slice the red onion and toss it in rice wine vinegar. 

As the onions are marinating, tear the herbs from the thick stems and set aside.  Now we are ready to plate the salad.  Layer the onions on the bottom with the sliced veal on top, and sprinkle a teaspoon or so of roasted rice powder along with the sesame seeds over the top of the salad.  Garnish heavily with the torn herbs, and serve the nuoc mam on the side.  The smokiness of the veal pairs beautifully with the freshness of the ingredients.  

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