This Vietnamese-style dish lets kids assemble and wrap their own meal. Fish sauce, as common as salt in places like Vietnam and Thailand (and available in most large supermarkets), has a strong smell on its own, but makes a sublime condiment when mixed with lime juice and sugar.
- 1 lb. medium shrimp, cleaned and shelled (or 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes; or a cup of extra-firm tofu, cubed)
- 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 head Boston lettuce, washed and dried, leaves left whole
- Basil and/or mint leaves, washed and dried
- 1/3 cup lime juice (about 2 to 3 limes)
- 1/3 cup sugar (palm sugar or raw sugar, if possible)
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- Rice or bean thread noodles, cooked according to package directions, rinsed and drained
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- Tiny chili peppers, chopped
- Shredded carrots
- Snap peas
- Marinate the shrimp (or chicken or tofu) in the ginger, garlic and sesame oil for about 15 minutes.
- Mix the lime juice, sugar and fish sauce. Toss with the noodles.
- Grill the shrimp on high heat, or heat the oil in a medium frying pan over high heat, and sauté. (Sauté the chicken or tofu, if using.)
- Set the table: lay out, in separate bowls or plates, the noodles, the shrimp (or chicken or tofu), the lettuce leaves, and the shredded carrots, or snap peas, if using.
- To eat, take a lettuce leaf, and add noodles, shrimp and vegetables. Be sure to put on a basil or mint leaf. Roll up lettuce leaf tightly. Keep lots of napkins on hand!
Spicing It Up: To make a spicy condiment for parents, mix finely chopped chili peppers with equal parts fish sauce and lime juice. Grown-ups can spoon a small amount into their noodle wraps. Stored in a jar in the refrigerator, this spicy condiment will keep for months, and will mellow as it ages.
Larissa Phillips is the contributing food editor for United Parenting Publications.