Roasted Pork with Green Onion Oil
Today we're going to cheat a little. I will tell you how to have this authentically traditional Vietnamese meal with only about five minutes of actual cooking. You'll also get to enjoy a nice, leisurely drive through Houston's bustling Chinatown off of Bellaire Boulevard near the Beltway.
This version of roasted pork with noodles is something I enjoyed growing up. However, I recently realized that it's not typically served in restaurants due to the time investment required to prepare the pork and noodles. So here is how my parents have taught me to assemble this awesome dish.
First stop: roast pork. My favorite place for roast pork is Sinh Sinh (9788 Bellaire Blvd). Though this place is a full-service restaurant that usually showcases its fresh seafood, it also has a great selection of roasted meats available a la carte. When you enter, go past the fish tanks filled with tonight's dinner, veer left of the cash registers and there is the roasted meat counter. It is like a food stand within a restaurant. Place your meat order with the butcher and pay the cashier. There is more than just roasted pork, so let your inner carnivore run free. The pork is seasoned through, with superbly crisp skin.
Second stop: bánh hÿi (sounds like "bon hoy"). Bánh hÿi is made out of rice vermicelli cooked in a vinegary solution and woven into layers like phyllo dough. The best place to get this stuff is at Vÿn Lÿi (12319 Bellaire Blvd). When it comes to food, the Asian culture celebrates the specialists. Typically, a person or establishment will specialize in one thing and one thing only. Sure, they will offer up other items to help appeal to a larger population, but the majority of customers come for that one thing that place does best. In the case of Vÿn Lÿi, it is bánh hÿi.
Now that you have the main ingredients, it is time for a stop into the Hong Kong Food Market in Hong Kong City Mall (11205 Bellaire Blvd.) for the following garnishes: green onions, fried onions, mint leaves, pickled carrots and fish sauce.
To make the green onion oil, you will only need green onions and oil. In a small saucepan, heat ¼ cup of canola oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, chop up three or four stalks of green onion. When the oil is nice and hot, add the onions and stir until even. Cook for a minute and then remove from heat and let stand until the dish is ready.
Instructions for assembly, after the jump.
Cut the bánh hÿi into two-inch squares and add a portion of it to a plate. If you came directly from Vÿn Lÿi, the noodles would still be at room temperature, which is best for assembly. If you're reusing leftovers that have been refrigerated, it's best to warm up the noodles in the microwave for about a minute; otherwise the cold, brittle noodles will crumble.
Add a spoon or two of the green onion oil by spreading it over the noodles as you would jam over toast. Pile on as much pork as you like. If the pork has gone cold, it's best to warm it up in the toaster oven. For me, I lay several pieces of pork on a small sheet of foil in the toaster oven and hit the button for medium toast. The pork comes out warm and juicy with sizzling crisp skin as if I had just roasted it myself.
Sprinkle on some fried onions and fish sauce. Add some pickled carrots on the side and serve with your favorite mint leaves.
Here's a little secret about mint: I always get it from the Hong Kong Market. The mint there sells for $0.59/bunch (about a dense fistful) instead of the insane $3 or more for a few sprigs at other grocery stores. Get there early in the day, and all the mint looks fresh-picked. There are about six varieties to choose from. I typically pick up about four kinds and add all of them to my plate. Enjoy!