This is my favorite low sodium recipe to date, and one I didn't think was possible. Bún thịt nướng (Vietnamese grilled pork noodle salad) typically has a ton of sodium. One tablespoon of fish sauce alone is about 1,400 mg of sodium, and there's plenty of fish sauce (and soy sauce and salt) in many traditional recipes. This low sodium alternative has just 127 mg of sodium per bowl, which includes the dressing. It's not exactly a quick weeknight meal, but neither is the salty original, so plan ahead and make this next weekend and eat it for days.
Servings: 4 bowls Sodium: 127 mg per bowl
Time: 20 minutes to assemble if the meat is made ahead of time
1 package cooked vermicelli rice noodles (see Tips below)
12 ounces low sodium grilled lemongrass pork with scallions
2 cups pickled daikon and carrots
2 cucumbers, sliced thin or chopped
3-4 cups of various greens and herbs. I use red leaf lettuce, mint, cilantro, and shiso or perilla leaves
4 tablespoons toasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
4 tablespoons fried shallots or caramelized shallots
1 lime, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp dried ground mustard
1 tablespoon unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Makes about 3/4 cup of dressing, enough for 4 bowls
1) For the dressing - combine all ingredients and whisk or shake in a glass jar to blend. If you don't have the chili garlic sauce, add any spicy chili you like or simply omit entirely. That said, I highly, highly recommend making some for this dish (it's also used in the pork marinade).
2) To assemble the noodle bowl - this isn't the kind of noodle salad you can pile on a big serving platter, each bowl should be assembled separately. Start with the noodles, which should be dry and room temperature. Then add the grilled pork and scallions, vegetables, pickled daikon and carrots. Sprinkle the toasted peanuts and fried or caramelized shallots on last and serve with about 3 tablespoons of dressing and a wedge of lime on the side.
-Cooking rice noodles - I've seen recipes that tell you to cook rice noodles by soaking them in hot water so they don't get gummy. That works for something like pad Thai where you stir fry the noodles after you soak them, but not here where you're eating the noodles boiled. To cook rice noodles, cook in boiling water according to the package. Most packages I've seen are about 12-16 ounces and you'll need to boil in at least 3-4 quarts of water for about 7-9 minutes. Once the noodles are soft, but still a bit firm in the center, turn off the heat and add 2 cups of room temperature water to the pot. Cover the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes. The noodles will continue to get softer and fuller, but they shouldn't get mushy or break when you pull them out. Then drain and rinse the noodles. Bún should be eaten dry and at room temperature.
-If you don't have rice noodles, plain wheat vermicelli noodles are also great. Or try Korean glass noodles (the ones used for japchae). Both have zero sodium.
-The vegetables are very flexible, but have at least two different types of herbs because they are really central to this dish. For the greens, any type of lettuce will work. I happen to have perilla (shiso) growing all over our yard this summer, so we're eating a lot of that and it's perfect for this dish. But mint and cilantro are the staples and easy to get year round. Thai basil is also great.
-The sodium in this dish comes mostly from the pork. If you use a leaner cut like loin, it can be as low as 60 mg of sodium for 4 ounces. Pork shoulder comes in at closer to 75 mg per 4 ounces. Carrots also have more sodium than many other vegetables so if you're looking to cut some sodium out, you can pickle just daikons without carrots, and add red or orange bell peppers.