I can’t tell you I didn’t cut my fingers julienning every vegetable and chopping every herb and nut under the sun, but I can tell you it was worth it. My boyfriend’s parents got me a Vietnamese Home Cooking cookbook by Charles Phan, Chef-Owner of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door, and I couldn’t wait to start experimenting. I really love Asian food, so naturally everything sounded amazing, but not necessarily simple. So, I chose a couple simple recipes to start…or so I thought (I won’t go into detail about how I bought the wrong kind of papaya, but that happened).
San Francisco is a ridiculously beautiful city, and if you have not had the chance to visit, go immediately. During my first trip to meet my boyfriend’s family, we met his mom in the city for lunch at The Slanted Door, and I have since been back multiple times. I’m not sure what it is exactly, maybe the view of the bay or the swanky dining room, but it always feels special.
Green Papaya Salad with Rau Ram, Peanuts and Crispy Shallots & Mix-and-Match Wok-Fried Noodles
2 cups canola oil
1 large green papaya (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, seeded, and finely julienned with a mandoline or sharp knife (about 5 cups shredded)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh rau ram or a mixture of spearmint and cilantro (I used a mixture of spearmint and cilantro)
1/2 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise into half moons (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pickled carrots
3/4 cup flavored fish sauce
2 tablespoons shallot oil or canola oil
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped, for garnish
1/3 cup fried shallots, for garnish
16 ounces rice vermicelli or dried flat rice noodles, thin width (about 1/8-inch)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 teaspoons fish sauce
3 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
In a large bowl, combine the papaya, rau ram, cucumber, celery and carrot. Pour the flavored fish sauce and oil over the top and toss to coat evenly.
Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the peanuts and shallots. Serve immediately.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. If using vermicelli, add them to the pot and boil until just cooked but still firm, about 3 minutes. If using dried flat rice noodles (what I used), add them to the pot and boil until just cooked but still firm, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not overcook, because the noodles will finish cooking in the wok. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet; toss with 1 teaspoon of canola oil.
In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon fish sauce, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, cornstarch, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon canola oil. Mix well and let stand 10 minutes.
Heat a wok over high heat; the metal will have a matte appearance and a drop or two of water flicked onto its surface should evaporate on contact. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil; when the oil is hot, add the beaten eggs, smearing them all over the bottom of the wok to coat (this helps prevent the noodles from sticking). When the egg is no longer wet, but has not yet begun to brown, add the noodles, bean sprouts, celery, and remaining fish sauce and soy sauces. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, lifting and tossing the ingredients so they are well incorporated.
Transfer to a warm platter and serve.