Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Red Pepper and Bacon

Until last year, I didn't eat brussels sprouts.  This is not that surprising since I long had an aversion to cabbage, and brussels sprouts are kind of an uber cabbage.  The smell of them cooking repulsed me. The smell of steamed brussels sprouts, which is the way Tjing usually cooks them, is the smell of decrepitude and death.  Walk into a house where brussels sprouts have been steamed and my first reaction is to look for the corpse rotting in the rocking chair.

One way to explain my new found appreciation for brussels sprouts is that taste buds change as we age.  There's a greater receptivity for bitterness.  It's as if our taste buds have themselves adjusted to increasing levels of bitterness as we age.  Another way to explain my change of heart towards brussels sprouts is that as I've aged I've become increasingly comfortable with the stench of of decrepitude and death.  Either way, brussels sprouts have become my new feel good vegetable.

This version is similar to a dish in Momofuku.  I had some home cured bacon that I was looking to use up, so I thought I'd give this a try.  The sprouts are stir fried in bacon fat along with a sweet long pepper and tossed with some nuoc cham.  The bacon pieces are returned to the dish to coat with the reduced sauce just before serving.

Brussels Sprouts with Red Pepper and Bacon

1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1 long sweet red pepper or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
a few tablespoons of water
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup nuoc cham with caramel sauce

In a wok or large frying pan, crisp the bacon piece over medium low heat.  Remove the bacon pieces and drain on paper towels. Turn the heat up to medium high.  Add the brussels sprouts, cut halves down.  Brown the sprouts, then add the pepper.  Stir fry a few minutes until vegetables are charred at spots.  Add a little water and cover the wok.  When the brussels sprouts are cooked through but still crunchy, add the nuoc cham.  Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has been reduced to a glaze and the vegetables are thoroughly coated. Stir in the bacon pieces just before serving.

Nuoc Cham with Caramel Sauce
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup water
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup Vietnamese caramel sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 TBS sriracha sauce
1/4  to 1/2 cup white sugar, to taste


  1. Actually, I've never seen/tasted brussels sprouts until, well, I was way into adulthood. ;)

    "stench of decrepitude and death." LOL.

  2. A very pretty picture, but your description of the sprouts would turn most people away from trying them. However, I think they're a great vegetable!

  3. TS,
    Thanks. Way into adulthood is when one is ready for brussels sprouts.

    Neither brussels sprouts nor my descriptions are for everyone, but for people who've tasted bitterness and grown to live with the spectre of death and decrepitude, this is their vegetable. Thanks for your comments.


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