After breakfast at Tai Pan, mom and I headed over to the Family Look Fun Factory to pick up some noodles for dinner (this is the dinner we finished off with the black sesame soup). We got 20 rolls of plain look funn for about $8. The factory also carries char siu, shrimp and even black sesame look funn (black sesame is taking over the world!) There are two shops in Chinatown specializing in look fun. The older shop, Ying Leong Look Funn Factory is just around the corner. (Anyone know why one shop spells it “funn” and the other “fun”?) We used to get our noodles there until Family opened up. I like the softer texture of the noodles here in addition to the lower price! Here’s what we made from the noodles. This is a traditional Vietnamese dish that makes for a very simple and light dinner. Since dinner at grandma’s involves exactly 9 people we set out the components of the dish and everyone prepares it to his/her liking. We first unroll all the noodles and chop them into large irregular pieces. Baskets of cooked bean sprouts, mint leaves, basil leaves, and slices of cucumbers are set along the table. The slices of meat in the picture are called ja. I honestly have no idea what the English name is, but imagine boiled pork sausage or an Asian version of not salty spam. Ja is sold in a long log wrapped in foil and banana leaves and is a important component of the every popular banh mi’s. Just layer all the ingredients onto the plate and dress the salad with nuoc mam, a light vinegary dressing made from fish sauce, white vinegar, sugar, garlic, plenty of chili paste and water. The nuoc mam sauce is used in nearly all savory Vietnamese dishes from soup seasonings to a dipping sauce for summer rolls. The flavor of nuoc mam is precisely what makes Vietnamese dishes distinctively Vietnamese.
This noodle salad is a very cleansing meal with the crisp combination of fresh veggies and herbs and the soft mellow noodles flavored with the tang of the nuoc mam. The ja provides a welcomed meaty addition without weighing down the dish. The only problem with light dinners is that it gives one greater incentives to indulge in a rich dessert!