Let’s have a slightly more introspective than average Monday post, shall we? (And if you’re not feeling particularly introspective, look at all the pretty pictures of Vietnamese Chicken Vermicelli Salad! Yay! You also might want to skip to the end where the recipe lives ↓)
So for some of you that have been following along, you might know that I have had the last month off of work for my endearingly termed “funemployment” period. I don’t have a lot of tangible things to show for this extended reprieve from reality. I didn’t go to South America or Europe. I didn’t lose that 5lbs that I promised myself I would. I didn’t even clean our house that much.
But what I can say is that I’ve been happier than I have been in years. First of all (and I’m just going to gloss over this, you know, because, internet…), I was able to extricate myself from a job that just really wasn’t meeting my needs. And in all honesty there was nothing dramatic. I commuted 2 hours a day. It wasn’t a good fit anymore. I found a job that seems like a better fit. That’s that.
But more importantly what I’ve discovered during my unemployment is that prioritizing time to be creative is critical to my mental sanity. And it’s really tough to do, especially if you lead a somewhat manic life. Because not only does being creative require time, but you also need to be in a “zone” where you can actually feel inspired to create. Being stressed out doesn’t really facilitate this very well… (bloggers/creatives you guys know what I’m talking about right?)
So basically what I’m saying is that for the last month I intentionally didn’t travel, intentionally stayed home, hung out with the cats, walked around my neighborhood a lot, slept 9 hours daily, read fantasy novels, and just cooked recipes, took photos, and painted. And it has been So. Incredibly. Glorious.So even though I truly don’t want this fantasy February to end, I do recognize that I need a paycheck at the end of the day or risk homelessness, so I am preparing to return to work this Wednesday. And in doing so I feel refreshed, unburdened, and full of many creative ideas for the future. (Plus it really helps knowing I have like 5 weeks of recipes backlogged just in case…)
But seriously, the whole reason for this job change is to improve my work-life balance, and already I am seeing how this will be possible. I can finally take the art class on Monday evenings that I’ve been dreaming of taking for years. The grocery store is literally on the way home from my job and my new commute is 10 minutes. There will still be sunlight when I get back from work!!!!!
(Food blogger’s dream come true right there.)But I think what I’m trying to say here is that – we have one life to live (although I often wish I could have several) – and it’s up to us to strive for those things that are absolutely the most important for each of us. It’s on each of us as individuals to figure out how to arrange our lives to make our story what we want our story to be. Change is very hard, but sometimes it is the critical step toward self-improvement that we need to take. So no more excuses, me. Live the effing dream! (Or at least figure out a way to attend art class after work while receiving a comfortable bi-weekly paycheck).Thanks for listening to my little Monday ramble, and I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. I’m going to go eat some noodle salad with chicken and water the flowers and enjoy my last unemployed Monday for a long, long time…
(Also this post deserves a shout-out to my friend Phi whose similar post over at Sweet Phi Blog schooled me in my Vietnamese food n00b-ness and has since resulted in an excessive number of trips to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant for chicken vermicelli salad, and ultimately culminated in my creation of this recipe for the blog. So thanks Phi- the unwitting muse behind today’s recipe.. you’re the best!)
Vietnamese Chicken Vermicelli Salad
_For the chicken:_
- 2 chicken breasts pounded thin
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 shallots minced
- 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
_For the Nuoc Cham:_
- 2/3 cup warm water
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup lime juice juice of about 3 limes
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 red thai chili- cored seeded, and sliced thin
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 tablespoon shredded cucumber
- 1 tablespoon shredded carrot
_For the salad:_
- 8 oz dried rice vermicelli
- ½ of a head of red or green leaf lettuce sliced thin
- 1 cucumber peeled, de-seeded, and shredded
- 1 carrot shredded
- ½ cup roasted peanuts chopped
- Cilantro to taste
- Mint leaves to taste
To prepare the Chicken Marinade
- In a small saucepan combine sugar and ½ cup water. In the microwave or stove-top, heat another 1/3 cup of water and set aside.
- Heat saucepan with sugar over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Then, stop stirring and allow mixture to boil, untouched, for about 10-12 minutes, until mixture turns a deep golden brown.
- Turn off the heat and pour in the additional hot water- do this very quickly and carefully so that you do not burn yourself. Mixture will sputter and bubble up a bit and then settle down.
- Stir until caramel becomes liquid-y. Set mixture aside to cool.
- Meanwhile prepare a second bowl with shallots, soy sauce, fish sauce, and olive oil. When caramel sauce is cool to the touch, add the caramel sauce to the shallot mixture.
- In marinating dish (or ziplock) add chicken and pour marinade over the meat.
- Marinate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
To prepare the noodles:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add vermicelli and boil per package instructions; mine took 5 minutes. Drain into a colander and run cold water over the noodles until they are cool to the touch. Set aside to drain while you prepare your remaining ingredients.
To prepare the Nuoc Cham:
- Combine water, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, vinegar, garlic, thai chili, shredded cucumber, and shredded carrot. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.
To grill the Chicken:
- Brush a grill pan with vegetable oil and bring to high heat.
- Remove chicken from marinade and blot with paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Grill for about 3-4 minutes per side or until chicken is completely cooked through.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Prepare the noodle bowls by distributing a handful of lettuce, ¼ portion of noodles, and top with shredded carrot, cucumber, chopped peanuts, mint, and cilantro to taste.
- Top salads with sliced grilled chicken.
- Separate the Nuoc Cham into 4 portions for serving. Pour sauce over salad and mix immediately prior to eating.
- Makes 4 noodle bowls.
Glad to hear you enjoyed your funemployment! Sometimes a girl just needs to intentionally not do a dang thing! Love this salad! Pretty AND packed with loads of flavor? Sign me up! So much yum going on here! Cheers! 😉
Hey Cheyanne! Thanks so much- I have definitely enjoyed my time off…. time for me and my fancy salads to get back to reality 😉
What a beautiful dish and my idea of a perfect dinner salad! All my favourite flavours. Sounds like you had a wonderful re-charging month. Good luck in your new job 🙂
Hey Jennifer! It definitely was the perfect salad. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
This salad looks so good, I’ll make it when I get home. I’m glad you had some time to recharge. I hope your new job is good for you.
Hey Gerlinde! Definitely let me know if you end up making it- would love to hear your thoughts. I am definitely looking forward to the new job. It feels promising but you never know until you start!
Being happy is the key to a good life. Hope your new job is amazing and good luck for your first day tomorrow ?
Amen sister! I am cautiously optimistic about the new job. Thanks for the kind words of support 🙂
It’s all about finding what works in life, right? 2 hours is such a long commute – I would know, because right now to-and-from work takes about an hour and a half…on good days! And my hubby and I were watching the news last night and they said that the major constructions which is going on is going to get a lot worse before it gets better – great. So I definitely understand what you went through – that’s awesome that you found a better fit – congrats and best of luck! Love Vietnamese flavors!
Nooooooooooo that construction situation sounds awful! Hopefully it’ll get better for you.. I can’t believe you’re doing that drive and with how bad Midwestern winters can be, yikes! I feel like a wuss for complaining now, haha. P.s. obsessed with your latest travel pics!
Your February sounds amazing. Good on you for deciding to make a change with your job, and hell yes to a 10 minute commute and still having light when you get home at the end of the day!! Love vietnamese salads too – my current version is pretty similar but I love adding green mango or papaya and vietnamese mint if I can find it! So fresh and light <3
Hey Claudia! Thanks for the vote of support- sometimes change is necessary to make our lives easier 🙂 I love the idea of green mango and papaya… Next time I’ll give it a try!
The colors and the flavors in this salad are just wonderful Sarah! Love it! A delicious meal in a bowl! Sounds like you made a great decision to change jobs, take some time off and recharge! Hope you enjoy the new one!
Thank you so much! I just started the new job on Wednesday and so far so very good! 🙂 Looking forward to this new chapter. Thanks for the compliments on the recipe- it really means a lot coming from you- thanks!
This looks so great! I love vermicelli and Vietnamese flavors are the BEST!
Yesss I am glad you are another Vietnamese recipe enthusiast!
All my favourite flavors in one dish. Vietnamese is such a delicious cuisine.
Hope you are enjoying your new job.
Thanks Anna! So far so good 🙂 Really liking the change.
This was very much like what I order at my favorite Vietnamese place. I really liked it. Even my bet picky daughter gobbled it up. I never told her there was any fish sauce in it but what she doesn’t know just amounts to flavor. Great recipe!
So thrilled you liked it!!