This Asian fusion dish was inspired by a Vietnamese dish called bun chay. Rice vermicelli served over chopped lettuce, topped with tofu and vegetables, peanuts and a dipping sauce. Instead of using a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce, I opted for a more Thai like dipping sauce inspired by this recipe from Thai Table. My sauce isn’t really the same, but it has the key ingredients of tamarind and palm sugar. I think it is delicious!
The Vietnamese restaurant across the street, called Vien Cafe has the best vegetarian Vietnamese food out there. We’ve been to restaurants that will give you a vegetarian version, but then forget that so many dishes need a sauce and they only have nuoc mam, which is fish sauce! This place has the BEST VEGETARIAN sauce. The other thing that stands out is that they char the vegetables and oh my they are so flavorful! So for this recipe, I charred the carrots, broccoli and onion.
For the carrots, I was inspired by a burnt beet recipe in Men’s Journal from an Argentine chef, Francis Mallmann, author of Seven Fires. They turned out fantastic and I think I should actually blog this on its own sometime!
For the broccoli, I followed a recipe on a blog called Two Girls on the Go, but the domain looks like it has been taken down. The original recipe uses olive oil and parmesan, but I used the coconut oil and garlic. My husband, who is not a broccoli fan, actually complimented the broccoli!
To get a good char, you really need a cast iron pan that can get smoking. I’m also lucky that one of our burners, while not as hot as I would like it, gets hotter than most apartment stoves.
This dish is complicated in that everything is done separately, but it really didn’t take that long. I tried to group ingredients to make it easier to follow and the order of the steps keeps the pots and pans to a minimum.
Start Tamarind Sauce
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons chopped onions or shallots
Garlic for Broccoli & Carrots
A little more coconut oil (if pan looks too dry)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 big floret broccoli cut into half florets
1/4 cup white vinegar
3-4 teaspoons sugar
1 big carrot sliced into big sticks
1 sliced onion
Splash white vinegar or lemon juice
Splash soy sauce
Finish the Tamarind Sauce
4 dried red chilis
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon maggi
2-3 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/2 cup water
1 chopped green onions
~4 ounces vermicelli noodles
Veggie ham or firm tofu
1/2 romaine lettuce head thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1/4 cup peanuts roasted and chopped
- Start Tamarind Sauce: Heat coconut oil in a small sauce pan and add onions. Saute until browned and then remove the onions from the pan.
- Garlic for Broccoli & Carrots: Add more coconut oil (if necessary) and garlic to the same small pan and saute until lightly golden.
- Charred Broccoli: Remove half of the garlic and toss with broccoli and salt in a baking dish. Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes until burned slightly.
- Charred Carrots: Add vinegar, sugar, salt and carrots to the same small pan, then barely cover with water. Boil until the water is almost gone and the carrots are tender. Remove carrots from pan. Heat a dry cast iron pan until smoking. Add carrots to the smoking cast iron pan in a layer and leave put for a couple of minutes. Once blackened turn over and blacken the other side. Remove from pan.
- Charred Onions: In the same cast iron pan, add onions in a layer and leave for a couple of minutes. Turn over, salt, and sprinkle with a little vinegar or lemon juice and soy sauce. Once the other side is burnt, remove from pan.
- Finish the Tamarind Sauce (I love this sauce!): Add the red chilis to that same cast iron pan and cook for just a second to get them toasty. Throw them in the same small pan, add back the cooked onions, and add the dark soy sauce, maggi, pam sugar, tamarind paste and water, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add sliced scallions.
- The Rest: Meanwhile boil water and cook rice vermicelli noodles for about 4 minutes (or according to package directions). Drain and rinse with cold water and let sit for 15 minutes or so. Add a little oil to a pan and saute veggie ham or tofu until browned. Slice and chop the lettuce, cilantro and peanuts.
- Make your bowl! Layer of lettuce, layer of rice vermicelli, broccoli, carrots, onions, veggie ham or tofu, then top with cilantro, peanuts, and sauce.