Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business, Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.
Vietnamese-style Shiitake Mushrooms & Pork
By the time I turned 18, in 1971, the war in Vietnam was winding down. That, along with my conscientious objector status from an anti-war draft board in left-leaning Eugene and a relatively high number in the draft lottery, kept me out of the army. With the fall of Saigon a few years later, Vietnamese refugees came to Portland, and before long had introduced us to the joys of the fried spring rolls called chả giò and set off the debates over who served the best phở.
At some point during those years, I wrote that the best Vietnamese restaurant is the one closest to your house. For our family that meant the original Saigon Kitchen on NE 9th and Broadway. We ate cellophane noodles, salt and pepper squid and a tomato-based, chili-spiked hot and sour soup that could cure the common cold. Almost every visit included an order of rice paper rolls, aka bánh cuốn, the ubiquitous street food of what we still called Hanoi. Inspired by the traditional filling of ground pork and wood ear mushrooms, this version can be wrapped in rice paper, served over rice, or scooped up with lettuce leaves.
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced*
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ pound ground pork
1 tablespoon sugar***
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
Juice from 1 lime
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
*Shiitake stems are tough, so remove and discard or chop very fine.
**Remove seeds and white membrane for less heat.
***Use coconut or palm sugar if you have it, but cane sugar is fine.
Cook the mushrooms in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, then add the pork. Break the meat up with a spatula until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add the jalapeño, garlic, sugar, black pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Add the fish sauce and lime juice, taste and add salt if needed. Top with cilantro. Makes 4-6 servings.