When we get Asian food, more often than not it is either chicken or pork. One of the things that we like about this dish is that you can vary the amount of spice to make have a little tang or you can turn up the heat if you want. We chose to keep it on the milder side this time, but if you make extra marinade, you can always make that a little spicier and allow people to choose how much of the sauce to add to their finished dish. Asparagus is in season at the moment, so we chose to pair it with the chicken, but broccoli would work equally well. We also chose to serve it over white rice, but if you prefer brown rice, it will pair nicely as well. We made it for just the two of us, but obviously it is easy enough to increase the size to make it for more people.
During our trip to Vietnam, we went to the same Bún Chả restaurant twice because we enjoyed it so much. Bún chả is thought to have originated in Hanoi and it is a dish made of ground pork and noodles, which typically served with egg rolls. We actually learned to cook Bún Chả during the cooking class that we took while we were in Hanoi. Many people think of Pho when they think of Vietnamese cooking, but Bún Chả is certainly just as popular, at least in the region around the capital city.
One of things that makes Bún Chả different from Pho is that Pho is a soup, but the liquid in Bún Chả is used as a dipping sauce and isn’t meant to be slurped up with a spoon. It is definitely a menu item that you will find at most of the street side restaurants where everyone gathers around in the colorful, tiny chairs. We don’t usually eat the same meal several times during a trip as we want to try as many variations of local dishes as possible so it was very unusual to actually eat Bún Chả three different times during our two week trip.
When we were in Iceland, one of the things that we ate that hadn’t tried before was arctic char. It is a fish that is similar to salmon or trout, but it has a slightly different texture and taste. Because it is the type of fish that can stand up to bold flavors, we decided to create a soy, sesame, citrus marinade to glaze the char. Ensuring that the skin gets nice and crispy adds to the flavor as well as provides a different textural component to the fish. We served it with fresh baby spinach that we pan-seared in oil and seasoned with crushed red pepper flakes. It was a perfect accompaniment to the glazed arctic char.
1lb Arctic Char – cut into two filets
4 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
4 tsp Honey
1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tbsp Fresh Orange Juice
1 lb Fresh Baby Spinach – stems removed
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes – more if you’d like more heat
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and orange juice until the honey is fully dissolved and the sauce is thoroughly mixed. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and place them, skin-side up, in a baking dish and pour the marinade over the fish and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes in order to let the fish absorb the flavors. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the baby spinach. Cook the spinach until fully wilted, about 5 minutes, and stir in the red pepper flakes and season generously with salt. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to a cast-iron skillet and heat to medium-high heat. Place the fish in the skillet, skin-side up, and cook for about 4 minutes and it releases easily and the flesh is slightly browned. Flip the fish to skin side down and add the marinade over the fish. Cook the fish for another 5 to 6 minutes and the skin is crisp while continuously basting with the marinade in the skillet using a spoon. To serve, plate the spinach and the place a filet of arctic char on top of the spinach.