November 11th, 2010

Lemongrass Noodle Bowl With Mock Duck

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Serves 4

My recent trip to Minneapolis confirmed my deeply held belief that the Twin Cities has the best Vietnamese food in the USA. And the most vegan-friendly, too, with menu items clearly marked at two of my favorite spots, Jasmine 26 and Camdi.

This dish isn’t an attempt to recreate any dish in particular, it was just to satisfy my craving for Vietnamese flavors: Lemongrass, lime, mint, ginger…if matzoh ball soup is Jewish penicillin then this noodle bowl is a flu shot.

Even though I often make my own fake meat, that mock duck in a can is so delicious and endearing (it even has little pin marks for the fake skin, but no ducks were harmed in the process), I have to use it here.

You can pick it up at many Asian markets. If you don’t feel like making the whole soup, the marinated mock duck on its own makes a great meal with some rice and veggies. You can grill it on skewers for a fun change of pace, too. Oh and while you’re at the market, pick up some jarred lemongrass slices, too. That’s what I used here to make things a bit easier, and cheaper, too.

Another thing I love about Vietnamese food is copious amount of herbs and fresh veggies served the meal. Definitely have an herb garden stuffed into your bowl and use which ever fresh veggies you like. Cucumbers, tomato, or whatever you might find on a salad would be appropriate here. I didn’t use any nuts, but a sprinkle of chopped roasted cashew or peanut on the mock duck would work.

I like to use homemade broth and infuse it with aromatics, but you can use bullion if you like. Just try not to make the base too strong, you want all the flavors to shine through.

Two 10 oz cans mock duck (or equivalent amount homemade seitan)
8 oz vermicelli  rice noodles

1/4 cup chopped shallot
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon agave syrup
A few dashes fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil (or canola oil)
2 tablespoons sliced lemon grass
Juice of one lime

2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon peanut oil (or canola oil)
2 inch nub ginger, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons sliced lemongrass
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable broth (or equivalent bullion)
6 cups water
Juice of one lime

To serve:
Sriracha hot sauce
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced red pepper
Lots of fresh mint
Lots of fresh cilantro
Limes wedges
(see other suggestions above)

First prep the marinade. Toss everything into a small food processor (Magic Bullet works perfect) and puree until relatively smooth.

Remove mock duck from the cans and give em a little squeeze over the sink to drain some of the moisture. Place in a bowl and smother in the marinade. Let marinate for about an hour, turning a couple of times to keep everything evenly coated.

Now prepare the broth.

Preheat a stock pot over medium heat. Dry toast the coriander seeds for about 3 minutes, until they’re fragrant and a few shades darker. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and saute for about 15 minutes. Add the lemongrass, salt, broth and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer for about 30 more minutes, or until everything else is done. When done, strain in a fine mesh strainer (remember to have a large bowl underneath obviously) and return to the pot to keep warm. Squeeze in the juice of a lime.

Now prepare your noodles according to package directions. Once they are ready, drain and rinse under cold water and set aside. It’s okay if they’re at room temp.

In the meantime, this is a good time to prep all your veggies and accoutrement.

Now prepare the mock duck.

Preheat a large pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Drizzle a little peanut oil in the pan. Saute mock duck for about 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Oh, and if you like things spicy, add a big pinch red pepper flakes while sauteing.

Prepare bowls:
Place 1/4 of the noodles into a large bowl. Pour in broth. Tuck fresh herbs and veggies all over. Top with mock duck. Serve with a fork or chopstick and a large spoon.

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