Thịt Heo Nướng Xả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops with Rice Noodles
I am gonna be brutally honest here. I am not at all that familiar with Indochinese cuisines. Despite being in the big ASEAN family, Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes still largely fall within the “exotics” category for my palate. Hardly an excuse really, given the proximity but fact is I do not eat these foods as often as I could or should, despite there being quite a few good Vietnamese eateries around Singapore, especially in my all-too-familiar Joo Chiat area just a stone’s throw away from my favorite wet market at Geylang Serai. I love Pho Bo and have an affinity for Bahn Mi and Bahn Xeo but apart from these two dishes, my next to-go-to Vietnamese dish to order whenever I am dining in a local viet deli would be Thit Heo Nuong Xa Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops with Rice Noodles. Love the smokey and lightly charred aromas of the grilled pork chops against the assortment of crunchy and refreshing greens. And here’s my take of this popular yet healthy dish.
Thit Heo Nuong Xa Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops with Rice Noodles despite the name is actually more like a salad given the high ratio of greens incorporated. It is a complete meal by itself with all the components of the major food groups around, i.e. carbs, proteins, vitamins etc but should one decide to go for a lighter and less indulging spread, simply opt out the rice noodles.
The ingredient list for this dish is largely divided into 2 components, i.e. the meat and its marinade, and then the “salad” components. In Vietnam, I was told that the “salad” greens which comprise of local lettuce, basil, coriander, mint and beansprouts on every table is a common sight in their local noodle shops where one could top up and add freely. Not the case here in Singapore for sure as in a vietnamese food bistro in Suntec City Fountain Terrace run by a local Michelin acclaimed food group, one has to pay for a small saucer of “salad greens” which is basically just a few leaves of basil and some strands of beansprouts. Simply sacrilegious and total ripoff! There are times which I would grab a bunch of Thai basil and a bag of beansprouts at Geylang Serai wet market before heading over to the viet food deli which we frequent to have our Pho Bo fix!
I was given some bottles of McCornmick’s latest range of products to try out and they worked pretty well to enhance the flavours of the lemongrass pork chops. Very healthy with all-natural ingredients within any artificial chemicals like MSG which is ironically known in Singapore as “Viet-sin” to some… no pun intended! They do add to the flavour of the pork chops by completing the palate profile of nucleotides and glutamates extracted naturally from foods like tomatoes and soy but feel free to opt out these condiments. The rest of the marinade should work very well too!
Yes the spread does look very “grand” when fully displayed and yes the ingredients list does look kinda daunty, but the dish is actually incredibly easy to replicate at home. Just make sure one sets enough time to allow the pork chops to marinate, preferably overnight for the flavours to work fully into the meat. Then it is just a matter of grilling and assembling the various components together. Traditionally the meat are grilled over a charcoal stove but a convectional oven would work fine as well. If you have an air-fryer, I’m pretty sure it would work really well too.
Thit Heo Nuong Xa – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice Noodles
6 pieces (500g) of pork shoulder butt, appro. 1/2 cm thick
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
2 tbsp water
In a small bowl, mix water and baking soda to dissolve.
Place pork chops in a small mixing bowl and pour the baking soda solution over them,
Mix well and set aside for 30 min in the fridge.
Remove from fridge, rinse twice to remove baking soda solution.
Pat dry, return to mixing bowl and set aside.
3 stalks lemongrass, lower white portion only, sliced thinly
1 medium bombay onion, peeled and cut
60g soft palm sugar or honey, more if one prefers a sweeter edge
1 tsp McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic Pepper Salt Free Seasoning (optional)
1 tsp McCormick Perfect Pinch Vegetable Seasoning (optional)
3-5 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce, depending on how salty the fish sauce used is
1-2 tbsp light soya sauce
Place all the marinade ingredients in a food blender and pulse to obtain a coarse paste.
Pour the marinate paste over the pork chops and rub to coat evenly.
Set aside to marinate for at least 30 min, preferably overnight in the fridge.
To cook, grill the pork chops, either over a proper charcoal grill or in an oven or airfryer until both sides are nicely browned and edges slightly charred. poke through to make sure it is thoroughly cooked without oozing any blood.
Set aside to rest and cool down slightly before cutting into broad slices.
Nuoc Cham Dip Sauce Ingredients
Juice of 6-8 calamansi limes or 3-4 green limes
2 heaped tbsp sugar
100 ml water, preferably warm
3-5 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bird’s eye chili, deseeded and cut into thin rings
Place all the wet ingredients in a microwave proof bowl and microwave at 900W for 45s to 1 min to just melt the sugar.
Add minced garlic and sliced chili. Set aside for later use.
3-4 portions of rice vermicelli (Khanom jeen or laksa noodles), appro. 130g to 150g for each portion, lightly blanched
2 cups lettuce leaves
1 cup Thai basil leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup coriander leaves
1 cup crushed peanuts, lightly toasted until fragrant
1 cup pickled white radish and carrot strips (do chua)
1 cup pickled cucumbers (optional)
2 red chilies, deseeded and sliced
1 green lime, cut into quarters
To assemble, place lettuce leaves over a serving plate.
Place a portion of blanched rice vermicelli over the top of the lettuce and lay a portion of grilled pork chop strips over the rice vermicelli
Place basil, mint, coriander leaves, red chilies as well as pickled white radish and carrot strips sporadically around the plate.
Drizzle Nuoc Cham Dip Sauce generously over the ingredients and sprinkle with a tbsp of crushed peanuts.
Garnish with a quarter of green lime at the side and serve.
To enjoy, squeeze the lime juice over the pork chops and give everything a good toss before eating