Bun Bowls with Sautéed Cabbage, Mushrooms and Spare Ribs

Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 4
Bun Bowls with Sauteed Cabbage, Mushrooms, and Leftover Spare Ribs
(Lindsay Kreighbaum / For The Times; prop styling by Dorothy Hoover.)
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Chả giò (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) are one of my all-time favorite foods, but I reserve making them for special occasions because they can be labor intensive. To get the same satisfying crunch you get from chả giò but with about a quarter of the effort, I shallow-fry raw rice paper until it is puffed and über crispy. For the vegetable-heavy filling, I use cabbage and mini king oyster mushrooms, but you can use any produce you have lingering in your fridge. If you didn’t make the spare ribs, you can use 2 cups of any leftover cooked pork in their place.


Use kitchen shears to cut each rice paper wrapper into quarters. In a medium saucepan, heat ½-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, crack off a small piece of rice paper and add it to the oil. If it puffs up and turns bright white immediately, the oil is ready (the rice paper might smoke a little when added to the hot oil but that’s OK). Add one piece of rice paper and cook until puffed, bright white and crispy, about 5 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining rice paper wrappers, making sure to not let the oil overheat.


Make the nuoc mam: In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, sugar and water and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the minced garlic and reserve to use for the sautéed vegetables and pork. Add the remaining garlic and 1/3 cup fish sauce to the bowl with the sugar and lime mixture. Whisk to combine and reserve.


In a large high-sided skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and well-browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the reserved 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and remaining 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted and crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the pork and cook, stirring, until the pork is hot and the cabbage is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.


Divide the cooked rice vermicelli noodles between four large shallow bowls. Top with the sautéed pork and vegetable mixture and then top with sliced cucumbers, lettuce or your favorite crunchy vegetables and cilantro or other fresh herbs. Divide the nuoc mam between four small bowls and transfer the crispy rice paper to a large serving platter. Serve each bun bowl with a bowl of nuoc mam and place the crispy rice paper in the center of the dinner table so everyone can grab and eat them like chips or crumble into their bowls.