Many Asian dishes balance contrasting tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Granulated sugar in the dressing harmonizes with the savory fish sauce, acidic vinegar and lime juice, and slightly bitter fresh herbs. Brown sugar patted onto the pork caramelizes on the grill, creating crunchy blackened bits.
3/4 cup water
4 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (6-ounce) package rice vermicelli
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups thinly sliced red leaf lettuce
1 cup matchstick-cut peeled English cucumber
1 cup matchstick-cut carrot
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
Lime wedges (optional)
How to Make It
To prepare dressing, combine the first 8 ingredients in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or just until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; cool.
To prepare salad, place vermicelli in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.
Cut tenderloin in half lengthwise. Cut each piece in half crosswise. Place each pork piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to an even thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Combine 2 teaspoons fish sauce and 1 teaspoon Sriracha; drizzle over pork. Sprinkle evenly with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Pat brown sugar onto pork.
Place pork on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 12 minutes or until slightly pink in center, turning pieces occasionally to prevent burning. Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Cut across grain into very thin slices.
Combine vermicelli, lettuce, and next 6 ingredients (through mint) in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad; toss well. Top with pork and nuts. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
Beer note: Try a Belgian white beer, a light-bodied wheat beer that both refreshes and invigorates. The widely available Hoegaarden White ($8 for a six-pack) has a sweet-tart balance and includes subtle additions of orange peel and coriander--ingredients that bring their own exotic spice to this dish's mélange of Asian flavors. --Jeffery Lindenmuth