02 January 2010

A New Year? It's Time for a New Meatloaf!

Okay, I admit the title is a little weird, but what the heck! 2010 could be the year of the meatloaf - and why not start the new year off with a bang? This dish could soon become a favorite at your house. It takes a familiar dish and turns it completely upside down by adding delicious Southeast Asian flavors. You end up with a tender, moist meatloaf that is light but incredibly flavorful. It was the perfect healthy meal to wake up my taste buds and get me out of a winter funk.

I originally found the recipe for Vietnamese Meatloaf on my sister's blog, The Spiced Life. I think her results were a little mixed, but her review enabled me to make some changes along the way that made my results delicious. I decided to use ground turkey for my meatloaf, and I was thrilled with the results. I often find ground turkey a little on the icky side - just something about the taste that I need to cover up or improve on - and the ingredients in this meatloaf perfectly camouflaged that icky-ness.

The carrots and onion also kept the meatloaf moist, which is really important when using turkey. I also have to say that this meatloaf would not be nearly as enjoyable without the nuac cham on the side as Laura suggested. I more or less doused my meatloaf with nuac cham, which I had used to marinate a simple salad of sliced carrots, radishes and onions. The salad alongside the meatloaf was amazing, all covered in the tangy, sweet, salty nuac cham "dressing".

Visit Laura's blog for instructions on how to make nuac cham to your taste (I like mine a little chili-garlic paste added in!).

Cha Dum (Vietnamese Meat Loaf)
Adapted from The Spiced Life and Nancie McDemott

8 oz ground turkey
1 1/2 oz dried rice vermicelli (or try mung bean threads)
2 T finely chopped shallots or red onions
1 T minced garlic
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 T fish sauce
1 T superior dark soy sauce (if you don't have this ingredient, try adding 1.5 T of fish sauce and 1 T of brown sugar)
1-2 T chili garlic sauce (to taste)
1 beaten egg
small handful of chopped cilantro, 1 T reserved for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Set aside a small baking dish.

Place the rice vermicelli in a bowl and pour hot water over them. Leave them to soak until pliable, 10-20 minutes. When they are pliable, drain them and then place them on a cutting board and roughly chop them. Set aside in a large bowl. Add to that the carrots, onions and garlic. Add the meat and mix with your hands until the ingredients are roughly but evenly distributed (i.e., do not over mix). Add the egg, fish sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic paste, and cilantro and mix again with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Do not over mix.

Shape the meat mixture into a round on the baking dish. Bake until it is firm, fragrant and cooked through, 30-40 minutes. Let the meat loaf cool for 10 minutes in its pan, and then transfer to a serving platter. Serve with fresh veggies, such as romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and carrots, and nuoc cham. Garnish with reserved cilantro.

Serves 2

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