Vietnamese cuisine is very simplistic. Almost every dish has a savory/salty component intended to be eaten with a plain starch and fresh greens and herbs. The balance in flavor and texture is what makes Vietnamese food so delicious. While it's definitely an acquired taste (and smell), fish sauce is the magical ingredient that makes Vietnamese food taste Vietnamese. For those less familiar with the stinky goodness, fish sauce is a condiment made from fermented anchovies. It's in marinades, dressings, dipping sauces and stands front and center as a key ingredient. I've grown accustomed to the way it smells and happen to like the way it tastes--tangy, salty and sour.
Interesting fact: my family is from a small town in south Vietnam called Rach Gia that actually boasts a fish sauce factory! This town probably makes New Jersey smell like roses!
My dinner tonight was the perfect balance of flavors and textures. I had a rice noodle salad with crispy fried taro egg rolls, sliced pork and pork skin tossed in toasted rice powder, fresh cucumbers, mint and green lettuce, all tossed with a spicy garlic fish sauce dressing. And yes, the fact that it's a "salad" voids the fried factor.
|rice noodle salad|