O to let a Tuesday go by without making tacos! My day was long, and my appetite almost nonexistent. My loved one had eaten a very large, late lunch of bbq, so cooking a real meal seemed less than necessary. As it got later and later I kept reminding myself that I should eat a little something, so I decided to resort to a package of ‘ramen.’ Yep, I have those in my cabinet and there are some REALLY great products that aren’t of your cup-o-noodle variety, but we will talk about those at a later date. The one that I did end up making was a new brand that I wanted to check out. Forbidden rice noodles and miso broth. Vapid. That’s all I have to say about that. I did some doctoring with lime, sriracha, scallions, Sichuan peppercorns oil, and (gasp) some pho base paste. It tasted better, but I just didn’t want it.
Dinner turned out to be some buttered popcorn, a glass of wine and a couple of episodes of Silicon Valley.
However, in honor of the Taco Tuesday that wasn’t, I will relate the method for one of my favorite go to tacos. I believe that ‘tacos’ can be of any variety - not just Mexican. Getting creative with what you wrap up in a tortilla or any type of flatbread makes Taco Tuesday something worth celebrating. A Vietnamese riff makes these some of my favorites that tend to be a regular dinner item - especially when the weather gets warm and grilling is WAY better than heating up the kitchen. And hey, I love cooking with fire. The bright flavors, herbs and heat are almost a holy trinity of flavor love.
Remember that pho paste I mentioned earlier? I normally would feel some shame over admitting to having a product like that in the refrigerator. It seems like blasphemy to a point, but fuck it - it’s too good of a technique not to share. I discovered that it makes a ridiculously great ingredient as part of a marinade when you want really intense flavor. Makes sense, right? I know that making a paste from scratch is the ideal, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
This is more of an assembly process than anything else. Marinating meat and grilling it is the most involved thing you will have to do. There are two condiments that I usually have in the fridge for this, so making them are additional steps, but not difficult. Make those first so they can have time for the flavors to bloom.
Spicy Bahn Mi Mayo
I first started developing this for bahn mi and over time it got more complex and is a good staple to have on hand.
• 1 Cup of mayonnaise (home made or your favorite brand - I like Duke’s)
• 2-3 Garlic cloves grated (if you do this first the ginger will help get the garlic smell off of your hands - so will rubbing your hands on stainless steel)
• 1 Tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
• 1 Teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
• Sriracha to taste (don’t be shy!)
• Peel and cut carrots into long matchstick pieces or thin slices with a vegetable peeler (a cup or two)
• Pour about half a cup or more of rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon of super over and mix well.
• Let sit in the fridge.
After these two items are hanging out in the refrigerator put your meat in the marinade. I usually use pieces of pork, but you could use beef or chicken. I cut it into thin strips that will cook quickly on the grill.
Into a large bowl add your meat pieces of choice. On top of that add:
• 2-3 Tablespoons of pho paste
• 2-3 Cloves of garlic grated
• 1 Tablespoon of ginger grated
• 2-3 Stalks of lemongrass grated (only use about the bottom 2 inches of the stalk)
• A couple of spoonfuls of honey
• 3-4 Tablespoons of a neutral oil
Combine well and let it sit in the fridge.
Build and light the fire.
While the coals are burning down, prep the rest of your ingredients. You can use all, or whichever you like best.
• Wedges of lime
• Slices of cucumber (I love the little Persian ones)
• Slices of avocado
• Fresh cilantro
• Fresh Thai basil
• Fresh mint
• Sliced green onions
• Fresh slices of red jalapeño
• Chili sauce of choice
When your fire is ready, skewer your pieces of meat and put them on the grill. You want some good crispy charred bits!
Done? Now it’s assembly time! Heat some flour tortillas - I use a hot dry pan, but you could wrap a bunch of them in foil and throw them on an indirect heat side of the grill to warm up that way.
Tortilla, bah mi mayo, meat, vegetables, herbs, additional heat, squeeze of lime.
Taco nirvana. I could eat these all spring/summer long. Pair with a bright grapefruit-y sauvignon blanc, vinho verde, or super cold beer and you are all set.