This simple, refreshing dish that's a staple in many Vietnamese restaurants around the world was one of my favorite things to order when eating out in Little Saigon in Orange County, Calif. It can be thought of as a "noodle salad" — vermicelli noodles are served on top of a bed of lettuce and herbs, pickled daikon and carrot, and topped with some type of grilled meat — traditionally pork in the Hanoi style, lemongrass grilled beef, grilled chicken, or grilled shrimp. Then, it all gets topped with a fish-sauce based "dressing" that gets mixed in just before eating. Delicious.
If you plan on whipping this up again quickly in the future, make a double batch of dressing to cut down on prep time.
*Note: While the dressing may seem a bit salty on its own, its flavor will get mellowed out when combined with the noodle salad. Fish sauces can vary in their level of saltiness, so try mixing in a bit of dressing with a small amount of salad, and taste to see if the level of water or fish sauce needs to be adjusted accordingly in the dressing.
In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the rice vinegar. Add the carrot and daikon and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, water, and sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.*
Lightly coat a cast-iron grill pan or outdoor grill with the oil and preheat over high heat. Season the steak with salt and pepper, to taste, and grill until the desired level of doneness is reached. Let cool and slice.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Boil the noodles for about 6 minutes, transfer to the ice bath, and drain immediately.
Set out 6-8 bowls. For each serving, place a handful of lettuce, some mint leaves, and some cilantro (with or without stems) at the bottom of the bowl. Place a handful of noodles on top, followed by the steak and pickles. Pour about 6 tablespoons of the dressing over, and mix thoroughly to coat everything in the dressing before eating.