When most (non) Vietnamese people think of Vietnamese cuisine, the most popular dish that comes to mind is probably pho. Occasionally maybe someone will have a hankering for bún (cold vermicelli) or banh mi (vietnamese sandwich). Until recently these dishes were more than enough to satisfy my cravings for Vietnamese food. Until recently. A few weeks ago I was introduced to a new taste sensation and all I have to say is...why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner? I have wasted countless meals (not to mention calories) on wilted, uninteresting chunks of tasteless lettuce when I could have been having this? ::sigh:: It really is a travesty. Gỏi ngó sen, or lotus stem salad, is a medley of crunchy vegetables, herbs, and meats such as shrimp or pork, seasoned with a fish sauce preparation which typically includes sugar and lime juice. The result is a fresh, tasty salad that manages to be filling without being overly heavy. The flavors are complex but not overwhelming. When I say this salad is tasty, it is exactly that. Lots of flavors but they blend nicely and are well-complimented by the abundance of veggies and herbs. If I had the patience I would make a giant tub of this stuff and eat it for a week straight. However, it seems slightly labor intensive - multiple types of thinly sliced vegetables, butterflied shrimp, julienned mints and basil, fried shallots and crushed peanuts - I won't even pretend I know how to prep the lotus stems. Or mention attempting to achieve the flavors in the sauce mix. So for now I'll settle for getting it from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant whenever I need a fix. Seriously though...when you're in the mood for the flavors of Vietnam and want something a little different, give this salad a try. It's well worth the taste venture.
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