Often overlooked, pigs' ears star in this dish. After a long slow braise in a fragrant broth the outside becomes tender and flavorful and the inside retains a sharp crunch. Tossed with a classic, spicy Vietnamese-style dressing and paired with a variety of herbs and greens, this dish becomes a flavor and texture bonanza! Bonus: the braising broth doubles as a wonderfully fragrant and richly pork-y soup you can use in any Asian soup dish. —vrunka
pigs' ears (about 4)
4-inch knob of ginger, sliced
stalk of lemongrass, cut into 1" segments and smashed slightly
Remove hair from ears either by shaving them with a razor (nothing makes you feel closer to your food than shaving it!) or by singeing it off over a gas range flame (hold the ears with tongs).
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add all of the braising ingredients. Slice ears thinly (this may be easier after the ears have been in the boiling broth for about 15 minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, until tender.
Shortly before the ears are done, prepare the noodles by boiling them for 2 minutes, or until just soft. Drain and set aside.
Next, prepare the dressing. In a mortar, grind up chili peppers, lemongrass and garlic to a rough paste. In a bowl, whisk together lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce until sugar is dissolved, then add chili paste.
When the ears are tender remove them from the broth (drain and reserve liquid for another use). Toss together with prepared carrots and greens, noodles and dressing. Top with peanuts and serve immediately.
Note: If you have access to a good Asian grocery with Vietnamese greens, get a variety of interesting looking ones and mix them together for a nice variety of colors, flavors and textures.