Vietnamese Noodle Bowls with Grilled Shrimp from The Picnic
Sunset Digital Editions Managing Editor Erika Ehmsen loves al fresco dining so much that she’s stashed a stack of plastic plates, utensils, and—most importantly—unbreakable wine glasses within easy reach of her kitchen deck, and she keeps a water-resistant picnic blanket folded in the trunk of her car. Here, she takes a stab at cooking two ingredients she’s always wanted to cook more of—raw shrimp and whole stalks of lemongrass—in Vietnamese Noodle Bowls.
Why this recipe? Cold pasta salads are a picnic staple—they’re easy to prep and assemble, they transport well, they’re crowd-pleasers … and they can be deadly boring. So I went looking for a pasta salad upgrade, something impressive in both flavor and presentation, and this zesty lemongrass and garlic noodle bowl with grilled shrimp and fresh herbs and veggies caught my eye. And as a native Westerner and adoptive San Franciscan, I’m embarrassed to say that I had never grilled shrimp or prepped stalks of lemongrass, two ingredients that I love to eat—so this gave me that chance. Also, I knew that I could save money by buying them whole and breaking them down myself.
What was it like to make it? With the exception of Thai chiles, everything was in stock at my local Safeway. The dish was fairly time-consuming to prep—lots of veggie chopping and shrimp shucking—but the recipe was easy to follow. Because I couldn’t fathom waking up extra early to cook for a lunchtime picnic, I flouted the recipe’s instructions to cook the dish “up to 4 hours” in advance and instead prepared all ingredients the night before, including peeling, butterflying, and grilling the shrimp. It was my first time, so I was a bit tentative. (I was definitely faster and more confident last week when I prepped shrimp for grilling on a friend’s Maui lanai).