Sweet, salty, sour and hot: the tantalising flavour of nuoc cham, a classic Vietnamese salad dressing, is an example of how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. In this instance, hot chillies, fresh lime, fish sauce and sugar create a flavour combination that is hard to match. I love it on any type of salad, but douse it over a pan-fried pork chop and it really does transport you to a sizzling street food stand in Hanoi.
Grilled lemongrass pork chops with nuoc cham and shredded carrots
A little pork goes a long way here, so I use two chops to feed four. If you can’t get hold of mooli, try shredded white cabbage or julienned turnip instead.
Prep 20 min
Marinate 30 min
Cook 10 min
2 large pork chops, free-range for preference
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tender bottom part only, outer leaves discarded, roughly chopped
3 tbsp palm sugar, or demerara sugar
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tbsp olive oil
For the nuoc cham
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 Thai bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp fish sauce
For the salad
2 large carrots, peeled
1 large mooli, peeled
2 big handfuls radishes
1 small bunch coriander
Sticky rice, to serve
Remove the bone from the chops and bash the meat to flatten. Put the shallot, garlic, lemongrass, sugar and peppercorns in a mortar, add half a teaspoon of salt and bash to a rough paste. Stir in the oil, pour into a sealable bag or shallow dish, then add the pork chops and rub in the dressing. Leave at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the nuoc cham. Dissolve the sugar in three tablespoons of boiling water, then mix in all the other ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar, fish sauce or lime as you see fit.
Using a julienne peeler, or the julienne blade on a food processor, shred the carrots and mooli for the salad, and put in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, finely slice the radishes and roughly chop the coriander, add to the bowl and toss to combine.
Put a griddle pan on a high heat and, once it’s smoking hot, brush with a little oil, lay in the chops and grill, turning frequently to prevent burning and basting with any leftover marinade, for five to seven minutes (I like my pork so that it’s very slightly pink and still juicy, but cook to your liking).
Leave the meat to rest for five to 10 minutes, then slice finely. Dress the salad with half the nuoc cham dressing, then top with the pork. Serve with sticky rice and the rest of the nuoc cham for spooning over.
The simple flex …
For a vegetarian take, substitute the fish sauce for soy, and fry some celeriac steaks instead of the pork chops.