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.