I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t really understood this food-in-a-jar craze. Sure, I love the adorable colors and the repurposed use for Mason jars, but honestly — I wasn’t sure about restricting my meal to only what I could stuff in a one-pint jar. I envisioned myself happily sitting down to my meal, excited by the variety and the colors and the cute little jar, only to devour my entire one-pint meal in 60 seconds and be hangrily searching my pantry for MORE.
Then, stupidly and perhaps quite obviously, I realized that OF COURSE the jar can be bigger than a pint. It can be any size I want! I can pack down my ingredients and let them explode onto my plate at lunch in a giant smorgasbord of yum! Why, oh why did I not have this realization earlier?
So… I puttered into my kitchen to make these Vietnamese rainbow noodle jars.
Appetites run on the large side of big in our family. My kids eat not only massive quantities at every meal, but they do it at a terrifying speed. I figured whatever I put together in my Vietnamese rainbow noodle jars needed only to look good for roughly three minutes, but it needed to be in a sizeable jar. I rummaged around in my kitchen and — lo and behold — I found four Bonne Maman jam jars of varying sizes (as I mentioned before, we eat a lot. And apparently a lot of that is jam). The kids’ jars were the size of the regular jam jars (about 14 ounces), while mine and the hubby’s were significantly larger (the hubby’s is actually a Bonne Maman storage jar that can store up to a kilogram of stuff)!
For my Vietnamese rainbow noodle jars, I first assembled as many veggies as I could find in my fridge: shelled edamame, corn, carrots, cucumbers and snap peas. While I boiled the noodles, I julienned the carrots and cucumbers into long, thin strips. After the noodles were finished boiling, I fished them out of the pot and put a steamer basket on top to steam my snap peas. Then, I seared strips of chicken breast. In the grownups’ jars, I garnished everything with peanuts, cilantro, mint and a little bit of fresh green salad.
The dressing was easy to make with things I had on hand, too. A squeeze of lime and some splashes of fish sauce went into a little bowl, and then I whisked in some sunflower oil, scallions and minced red chillies. I packed everything into the jars, sealed the lids on top and then stuck them in the fridge. I had this vague idea that I’d pack the jars into a cooler bag, and then we’d wander down to Regents Park to soak up another gorgeous London fall day.
Well, that was the plan, anyway. By 11:00 am, my kids were laying outside of our kitchen doorway, one hand astride their little foreheads, claiming that they were “wasting away” from hunger. Mind you, these were the same children who, not two hours earlier, had devoured a mango “smash” (fresh mango puree mixed with plain yogurt, a squeeze of honey, and a scoop of granola), two fried eggs each, a piece of toast and a glass of milk. These were the same kids who also ate an apple each not more than an hour earlier. But whatever — this is normal in our household. I don’t know where the food goes, but it goes.
So, out came the Vietnamese rainbow noodle jars. My kids oohed and ahhed over the colors. I splashed some dressing on top of the jars and asked the kids how they’d feel about eating their lunch directly out of the jar. Meimei was all for it. She dug a chopstick into her jar, rooting around for treasured pieces of corn and carrot. Ge Ge preferred instead to dump out his entire jar onto a plate and mix everything together.
As it turns out, it doesn’t matter how you eat your Vietnamese rainbow noodle jar. As predicted, my kids devoured theirs in minutes, and I was left scratching my head as to whether they’d really eaten lunch or if this was some in-between, “elevensies” sort of meal happening.
Sigh. Imagine how much these guys are going to eat when they’re teenagers.
- 1 package Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodles (about 8 ounces)
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 1 cup edamame, shelled
- 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
- 1 cucumber, sliced lengthways and deseeded, then julienned
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1.5 inch strips (e size of chicken fingers)
- 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or light olive oil)
- 2 scallions, sliced horizontally (green and white parts included)
- optional garnishes: mixed green salad, cilantro, chopped peanuts, fresh mint, minced red chilies
- Bring a pot of water to boil in a medium-sized pot over high heat. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the noodles and immediately switch off the heat and cover the pot. Allow the noodles to steep for 8-10 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. (Note: if the directions on your package of noodles vary significantly from this method, you may want to follow those directions instead of mine.)
- While the noodles are boiling, julienne the carrots and cucumber and steam the snap peas (if using). Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet and heat it over high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and the chicken, searing each side of the chicken for 4-6 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the skillet onto a plate or cutting board and allow to cool.
- Assemble the jars: Start with the noodles, filing the jar roughly ⅓rd of the way full with noodles. Then add the veggies, dividing one type of veggie between the four jars before moving on to the next veggie. Slice the chicken into slivers and arrange on top of the veggies, then add the salad, cilantro, mint, peanuts and chilies (if using).
- Make the dressing: whisk together the fish sauce and lime juice. Whisk in the sunflower oil, followed by the scallions and more red chilies (if you're using them). Taste and add water gradually until the flavor of the dressing mellows out. Store the dressing in a separate container until you're ready to eat your Vietnamese rainbow noodle jar!