Living in a multi-cultural city with significant pockets of new immigrants that come from all over the globe means there is no shortage of ethnic restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores within easy reach. Walk a mile out my front door and you can be sitting down to a meal from Nepal, El Salvador, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Japan, or Sardinia. And while I’ve enjoyed dipping my fork into all of these cuisines, nothing has quite gotten under my skin like the food and flavors of Vietnam. Whenever the call for “take-out” rings through the hallways of our house, usually on a lazy Friday night, Vietnamese is almost always my order of choice. The lightness and fresh, bright flavors are hard to resist.
These tacos bring together what I love about Vietnamese cooking, done for the home kitchen. You start by making a gingery marinade for the pork that doubles as a dressing for the salad. The tenderloin, a particularly lean cut, cooks up quickly and very tender. Chicken or flank steak would work equally well here.
Once cooked and sliced, set out the pork along with all of your other taco “fixings” (cucumber spears, shredded carrots, mung bean sprouts, peanuts, and fresh cilantro). Generous lettuce leaves serve as the taco shells. Make more of everything than you need and turn it into a delicious chopped salad for your (or the kids) lunch the next day. It’s just the sort of DIY dinner that kids love with all the Vietnamese flavors adults (at least this one) are crazy about.
PORK TACOS WITH GINGER LIME DRESSING
Flank steak or boneless, skinless chicken can be used in place of the pork in this recipe. Any leftovers are delicious chopped into a salad for lunches the next day.
1/2 cup lime juice (4 to 5 limes)
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce or other favorite hot sauce (more if you like it spicy)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, honey, and sriracha sauce until blended. Add the ginger and stir again.
Pork and Taco Fixings
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch-thick spears
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1/3 bunch fresh cilantro
Leaves from 1 large head butter lettuce or 1 head Romaine lettuce
Put the pork tenderloin in a resealable plastic bag and add 1/2 the marinade/dressing. Seal and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.
Pull the pork out of the refrigerator a half hour before you are ready to cook. Cook the pork on a medium-high grill, in a heavy saute pan over medium-high heat, or under a broiler until the center of the meat registers 150 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and rest on a carving board five to 10 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, arrange the bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, cilantro, and lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Once the meat is cooked and cooled, cut it lengthwise down the center and then into thin slices and set it out with the rest of the taco fixings, with the remaining dressing on the side.
To assemble, use a lettuce leaf as your taco shell and layer in the sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, peanuts, and cilantro. Spoon a little dressing over the top and dive in.
Makes 4 servings.