Nashville Vietnamese Salad

Nashville Vietnamese Salad

In Nashville birds were singing sweet country songs to the landslide of tourists and newbies in one of the fastest growing cities in the US. The syrupy roads meander along gently rolling hills along a sea of newly leafed trees. With a thin river winding through the landscape like a snake in a hurry, there were no easy ways for us humans stuck on land to get around town by bicycle or car. With no choice but to surrender, we gave in to the slow pace of the South and enjoyed the bittersweet taste of molasses on our barbeque. Hours rolled by as we melted into our chairs and sat quietly listening to the landscape around us. 

Lance enjoying a little sunshine.

Lance enjoying a little sunshine.

With our RV park very close to the Grand Ole Opry, there were a million touristy gawky things we could have done, but we sidestepped most of that, staying mostly on the East side, which reminded us of Portland. We visited the local coop, where I picked up a few items I had never tried: pimento cheese (which is delicious), sorghum syrup (which is like slightly sweeter molasses), smoked blue cheese (creamy and good), and some really weird elk salami (too advanced for me).

One night after dinner I had a tremendous urge to walk and we eventually found ourselves heading out on a dark country road. John became extremely nervous and tried to pull us back home, but I pushed him forward and we continued down the road enjoying the sweet silence of the country punctuated by the occasional car (the reason for the fear). In that moment, I needed to be lost in the darkness and allow myself to experience what darkness means. John never quite became comfortable with the trek, but his urge to protect me was strong and that kept him right by my side. 

Just a little middle of the road, middle of the night Warrior 3

Just a little middle of the road, middle of the night Warrior 3

And now, for the salad…

Nashville Vietnamese Salad
2 servings

We’ve been trying to be as regional as possible with our food choices, but we really do miss Asian food. The wonderful produce at the Nashville Coop inspired me to make one of my favorite salads. There is a lot of chopping and organizing which I find quite meditative, and don’t be afraid to play around with the recipe as a way to learn about how Asian flavors combine. 
Think salty, acid, pungent, spicy. And adventure.

Salad Part:
4 cups baby bok choy, sliced lengthwise into strips (about 4 bulbs) 
1 ea red pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 ea carrot, the sweeter the better, grated in cheese grater
4-5 mushrooms, thinly sliced

Layer all ingredients in a bowl or Mason jar, starting with the greens. Napa cabbage or even mustard greens can be substituted for the bok choy. (If dressing the salad in advance, don’t use green leafy lettuce)

Meat Part:
1/2 block of firm tofu or 1 chicken breast
1 large clove garlic
Soy Sauce, to taste
Peanut oil, for frying

For tofu, slice into 4 slices. For chicken, split breast in half horizontally. Coat tofu or chicken in garlic and fry in thin layer of peanut oil until tofu is golden or chicken is cooked. Remove from heat and sprinkle with soy sauce. Let cool. Slice chicken or tofu into thin strips and add to salad. 

Dressing Part:
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 inches peeled ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon peanut oil or other neutral oil (not olive oil)
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar\*
1 Tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)
1-2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (lemon juice is ok, but not quite the same)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or jar. If the dressing is too strong, it can be diluted with about 2 T water. Dressing will keep for at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator. 

*Apple Cider Vinegar or any neutral vinegar with about 1 tsp sugar or honey can be substituted for the rice wine vinegar.

Topping Part:
2-3 shallots, thinly sliced
Peanut oil, for frying
Salt
1/4 cup peanuts, almonds, or walnuts, chopped
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup green onions
1/2 cup thai basil, chopped (optional)

Thinly slice the shallots into 1/8” thick slices and separate into rings. Heat about 1/4” of peanut oil in a small sauce pan. Fry the shallots until dark golden brown and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with salt. Hide them from your husband.

Top the salad with any or all of your chosen ingredients. 

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