Vietnamese party food

19th May 2020

Here’s another request blog; a friend, Pete (who has featured in some of my lessons) is planning a party this Friday. His daughter, who is turning 18, has requested some Vietnamese food.

My friend Pete: musician, online DJ and all round diamond geezer

However, Pete lives in the UK, which is still under lockdown (quarantine), so many restaurants are closed. Furthermore, he lives in the middle of the country, so had no access to really fresh sea food (the Vietnamese only say sea food is fresh IF it was swimming in the sea just ten minutes before).

Additionally, Pete won’t be able to get his hands on some vegetables or ingredients so we’ll have to take that into account. Having said that, here are some tips for making Vietnamese food in a western kitchen.

Beginners Guide to Vietnamese Cooking: 8 Glorious Recipes - YouTube

Banh xeo is like a pancake filled with beansprouts, shrimps, salad, grilled meat …

Grilled pork is ubiquitous – a street food stable served with rice and pickled vegetables.

Fried spring or summer rolls – can be a bit fiddly (difficult) to make, and require special material. Probably available in Asian supermarkets, but hard to get in small towns (or just order online like everyone else in 2020). Contains salad leaves and shrimp and vegetables).

Pho (pronounced ‘far’) is THE traditional food of Vietnam, and is normally eaten for breakfast. It’s basically noodle soup with meat of your choice. Shrimps (prawns) or just vegetables could be substituted. Another ubiquitous dish.

HA NOI

The best Vietnamese pho soup, pho Hanoi or pho Saigon?
If the locals are queuing for the food, if must be good and reasonably priced.

Sai Gon

Pho Ha, Saigon - review by Rusty Compass
Typical street scene in Ho Chi Minh City

And now, without further ado … how to cook Vietnamese:

First, one of the UK’s most loved, and sadly missed chefs, Keith Floyd. Keith came to Vietnam as part of an east Asian cooking show. In Sai Gon, he made this dish, beef cooked in sweet and spicy stock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO6cSQ8Vly8

The scene starts at 06.39

But, I hear you protest, how can a westerner make authentic Vietnamese food ?

Ok, so now let’s have pho bo (beef noodle soup) made by a Vietnamese lady: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCaGOQLpTt0

For fans of the fowl, connoisseurs of the chicken, I haven’t forgotten you. Here’s an interesting recipe, lemongrass chicken (lemongrass, which is ten-a-penny in Vietnam, that is, very cheap, can be so expensive in the UK. I once saw 5 lemongrass on sale for £1, that’s over 30 000 VND): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJtMlTnqyw0

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Goodbye from Viet Nam

Life in Sai Gon: Coffee Time (again)

22 February 2020

After Brasil, Vietnam is the world’s biggest exporter of coffee, and coffee shops are ubiquitous. There are high-end chain stores, with near London prices, down to street coffee which, being honest, is probably more ‘street’ than ‘coffee’.

Here are a few recent caffeine-driven excursions:

OK, this first one is no longer in operation. Can’t think why. Branding is important, even in a Socialist country. This joint is located at the base of an apartment complex in District 2. The lady that stays there is, I believe, an artist and is extremely friendly, not ‘grumpy’ in the least.

Now, staying in District 2, just a short ride away, is this library cafe:

It looks like it’s based in an old house, with large plants and dusty old books on even dustier shelves.

The coffee, however, was a disappointment, probably due to my ordering the wrong drink. I wanted a hot latte and got an ice version. Perfect for the heat, but not what I was expecting. Oh well, never mind.

Still in District 2, ‘Ventura Coffee’ was near my old apartment by the port of Cat Lai. This was a great place, and had live football and a beautiful dog:

Damn fine cappuccino, too.

Here are a couple of signs on the wall:

Back to my new manor (are in which I live). ‘Coffee Time’ on Nguyen Duy Trinh. Fine coffees and juices. Nice decoration, and outside seating. Free Wifi, naturally. We had a hot latte and an ice coffee. The cappuccino is also recommended.

And of course, all this coffee makes a guy hungry. Back at my new apartment, we have a restaurant where they catered to my no-meat diet. Delicious crab-noodle soup. Around 40 000 VND (about £1.35) and worth every penny. Extra chilli sauce !

Adult Speaking Class, Level 2. Theme: food

23rd January 2020

Contents

Free speaking

Idioms and expressions

Planning a party

Traditional British food

Vocabulary

Image result for world food

Idioms and expressions

tea / cherries /nutshell / cucumber / carrot

Idioms and collocations 

Growing up is hard, life isn’t always a bowl of _________ . 

He walked in, as cool as a _________ , and told the boss he wanted a pay rise.

We’re going to try using a _________ and stick approach 

I’m not a fan of karaoke, it’s not my cup of _________ at all. 

To put it in a _________ , driving motorbikes is very dangerous.

Image result for life is a bowl of cherries

Vocabulary

prefer / would rather have

When you like many things BUT one more than the others.

I like tea but I prefer coffee. He loves reading but prefers painting.

She would rather have the red dress. I’d rather be in Sai Gon than Ha Noi.

I prefer Indian food to English food. I’d rather have a good spicy curry than plain meat and vegetables.

Image result for Indian food
Indian food

Traditional British

What do you think of this food ?

Roast turkey with stuffing, baked vegetables, sprouts, carrots, potatoes baked ham

Christmas pudding with brandy cream / mince pies / gingerbread men

Image result for uk christmas food
Image result for uk christmas mince pies
Image result for uk christmas gingerbread men
gingerbread men

Planning a party

There is a party and the managers want to know which food to serve.

The options are:

vegetarian

Korean

sea-food

western fast-food

traditional German cuisine

Image result for korean food
Korean food
Image result for western fast food
western fast food
Image result for german food
German food

Discuss which food to choose. Run through the pros and cons of each one.

Expressions: I adore I really enjoy

I don’t mind … I quite like …. I can take it or leave it

I’m not keen on …. It’s not my cup of tea

I can’t stand (noun or pronoun) I can’t stand it !

Spicy bland hard to eat unhealthy fatty not used to it doesn’t appeal

you can’t please everyone each to their own fussy eater 

it’s free food – who cares ?

If music be the food of love, play on;

Hygiene (noun)– hygienic (adj)

I have concerns over the hygiene of street food.

Be wary of street hawkers and scam artists.

If you could recommend …

A Vietnamese party:

Image result for vietnamese food party
Vietnamese party food

My friends are coming to visit so I want to give them a real Viet culinary experience. What food and drink should I serve ?

First – what questions do you need to ask about my friends’ dietary habits ? 

Explain everything we need to do – where to buy, how to cook, how to eat.

Free Speaking

Questions:

What is the most unusual food you have tried ?

Dialogues

Speaking practice:

Pat Well, I’m exhausted. I need a damn fine cup of coffee and a big piece of pie.

Sam There’s a Highlands over the road, or we can go to Coffee Bean or Milano.

Pat I’d prefer Starbucks but it costs an arm and a leg. Highlands is also expensive.

Sam But great quality and superb cakes. Come on, I’m starving, I need coffee now !

Pat OK,hold your horseshahaha. After we can meet up with Niall.

Sam Sounds good. Now … shall I have chocolate cake or fruit cake … ?

Inside Highlands

Sam Hi, I’ll have a large cappuccino, please. What do you fancy ?

Pat Tough decision. I’m going for the caramel freeze and a slice of blueberry pie.

Sam Oh, me too. Big slice, no, only joking, I have to watch my weight.

Pat You ? I think you look great. Lets also get some chocolate cake and we can share.

Sam Brilliant. Oh, did I show you my recent photos ? Here, on my phone.

Pat Let me see … oh, so funny. Who’s that ? The man next to Niall ?

Sam That’s Jimmy, he’s Pete’s friend. He plays drums, and drinks like a fish !

Pat And that’s you, a selfie. You look adorable. Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth.

Image result for butter wouldn't melt
Meaning someone looks so sweet, they would NEVER do anything wrong.

Student project

One of my adult students prepared this presentation. For my Asian students, canyou tell me the story of:

Black Glutinous Rice Cake

(Bánh ít lá gai)

1. A story.

2. Flavour

3. How to make it?

Mung bean

Boehmeria nivea

Rice flour

4. Useful.

Sai Gon eating: Food court, Pham Ngu Lao, District 1

17th August 2019

Asiana Food Town@Chợ Ẩm Thực Dưới Lòng Đất

This is in the backpacker district of central Sai Gon, a new underground food court and mini ‘street-market’. The goods, and prices, are aimed strictly at tourists, while the food was typical food court fare. However, it looked quite nice, there was clearly a lot of thought and effort into the design.

The redeveloped site of Asiana Food Town and Shopping Centre.

Time to try the dimsum

The dimsum was OK … nothing special. Time for some typical Viet sweets:

A variety of Vietnamese sweets, beans and jellies
Jelly and condensed mild (and an awful lot of ice).

In the interests of reportage, I should go back and try other dishes … MANY other dishes 🙂

IELTS Revisited

10th April 2019

I’m now taking my second IELTS class, and the great thing is that I’ve already made lesson plans. Additionally, my class is much smaller – seven students as opposed to 17 – and they seem slightly more motivated and animated.

But there is still room for improvement … and I’m referring here to myself, as a teacher. My centre tries to promote as much student talking-time as possible, ideally aiming for as high as 80% student conversation … ideally. In reality, the teacher has to face a number of obstacles. I’ll save those for another, more general blog, as I want to dedicate this post to extra work, and tips to get the students talking.

First up, I need to make the students take notes (Vietnamese are not in the habit of doing this, as my centre manager explained). Instead, they will often just take a photo of the board. Secondly, once the student has sat down, they generally will not move until it is time to leave … three hours later.

I will now insist that they take out and use notebooks, the rationale being that the active process of writing will help them remember the words or phrases much better than taking a photo (which they may never look at) or relying on their memory.

Likewise, I will strongly recommend that instead of sitting and talking with the same person all class, they get up and move around, practice with different people (“But teacher, I am tired, I am lazy,” – I have actually heard these from people half my age ).

Now, without further ado, some extra work.

In Lesson Two, I started off with some compound nouns, based upon shopping. This was a way to introduce new vocabulary as well as filling time while late students arrive.

My manager suggested that this could be developed into a speaking exercise. For example, using the compound nouns ‘bulk shopping’, ‘window shopping’, ‘binge shopping’, ‘impulse shopping’ and ‘dumpster diving’, make a presentation with questions:

Have you ever made an impulse purchase ?

How often do you go window shopping ?

Do you ever buy in bulk ?

Is dumpster diving popular in Viet Nam ?

Then, what are the pros and cons of:

Typical street market … but is the fruit safe ?
District 7 shopping mall: food courts, cinema, shops and stalls.
Souvenir store in District 1. Are the prices fixed or does it depend on how rich the buyer looks ?

Basically, get the students speaking as much as possible. To help them develop longer, more complex sentences, I’ve given them sheets of discourse markers, and each week we focus on one type and select three words. For example, last week was ‘addition’; instead of saying ‘and’, they could use ‘additionally’, ‘furthermore’, or ‘moreover.’

This gets practiced when they have to link two basic sentences:

I like coffee. I like tea.

They could be linked by a simple ‘and’, but try using new discourse markers.

Sentences can be built up by using adjectives, adverbs, discourse markers, and by the use of clauses. This will entail relative pronouns … but that is for another lesson. The students have two months and hopefully they will see improvements after every lesson.

Sai Gon eating and coffee bars 2: the beat goes on.

The previous blog found me after work, Saturday evening, discovering a great coffee bar, and very cheap Robusta Honey coffee (25 000 VND). Before the coffee, I went here:

Quán Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang Liến Húa at 151, Nguyễn Duy Trinh, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2. This is referred to as a ‘hawker stall’, ubiquitous in HCM. They also sell Chinese dim sum (but I was too late), so I had seafood noodle soup.

45 000 VND (£1.50 $1.94). Hope to go back and try the dim sum soon.

Again, closer to home, a busy, no-nonsense pho joint:

In the less than glamorous Cat Lai area of District 2, near the port so constant container lorries in the main road, trucks and cement mixers on this road and the non-stop flow of Hondas and Yamahas, a small oasis of great traditional pho (noodle soup:

One seafood, one beef. Typical spread, accompanied by fresh herbs and salad, lime and fresh chilli, with crushed chilli to really pump up the heat. Great food, best in the area, around 40 000 VND each (£1.30 $1.73) but … it’s now closed, been taken over by Chap Coffee … looks exactly the same, but I’ve not tried their food … yet. Now, back to District 3.

Nhà Hàng Hoàng Ty at 106 Cao Thắng, Phường 4, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh. Famous for its seafood, and this restaurant is ornamented with classic bikes. As for the food …

Seafood porridge, fried rice and mixed seafood soup. This is a very popular place, so it gets busy and noisy at peak times. Well recommended.

Sai Gon eating: coffee bars and street food.

A compilation of various restaurants and coffee houses. First up, seafood in District 2.

Vietnamese from costal areas dislike seafood in Ho Chi Minh, as it can never be as fresh and certainly not as cheap as their home town. Having said that, I really enjoyed the Hải Sản (seafood) at Phố Ốc (271 Đường Nguyễn Duy Trinh, Phường Bình Trưng Tây, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh).

Taken from Google images. No copyright infringements intended.

Clams in lemongrass (and heavy on the chilli) with Vietnamese sea snails. The leaves are slightly bitter, in contrast to the sweet, tangy sauce. Washed down with Tiger Beer (Singapore).

Even closer to home, a small restaurant specialising in just a few dishes, O Hai Quan.

Bún riêu cua

Rice vermicelli soup with tofu, tomato and crab. The purple sauce in the small dish is the extremely pungent shrimp paste (mắm tôm). Prices from 35 000 to 40 000 VND (£1.14 – £1.30 / $1.50 – $1.71).

Party time – the Vietnamese love a party, love eating and making noise … a LOT of noise (I can vouch for that – I often suffer dreadful drunken deafening wedding party karaoke – but that is for another blog) and I was invited to a house-warming shindig over in the north-western suburbs. There was food, there was beer and yes, there was karaoke.

Late night drinking means early morning coffee. Back to District 2, and a chain called Ding Tea.

https://www.facebook.com/DingteaCantavilQuan2/

Hazelnut Coffee was 46 000 VND, Passion Fruit Milk Tea 39 000 VND. Total 85 000 (£2.77 $3.64)

Was actually heading for Highlands Coffee when I saw this new store. Probably would have paid about 70 000 VND just for one coffee there (but it IS good). Based in the Cantavil Shopping Mall complex.

I used to work in District 10 and live in District 3. At weekends I had a three-hour lunch break, so I would go home, rest and change clothes, but for lunch, I’d stop off here:

This is a very popular diner, and easy for non-Vietnamese speakers – just point and take a seat. They also sell vegetarian food. This spread, including two fish dishes, a vegetarian pancake-type dish, soup, rice and side salads was around 140 000 VND (£4.55 $6). Service is quick, and the customers always seem slightly bemused by a westerner tucking in and enjoying the grub.

So, it’s Saturday, had three classes, starting around 7.00 am. It’s now 6.30 pm and I’ve just finished a noisy, very active class of 7 & 8 year olds. I need food, I need coffee. Fortunately, my centre is based on a busy street (Phố Ốc is to the left, tonight I turned right) with coffee shops and restaurants all over. A quick stroll and I found:

Robusta Honey coffee

Laha Coffee at 169 Nguyễn Duy Trinh. Very small, just three or four tables (mainly a take-away joint) but great ambience AND great coffee. This was just 25 000 VND (£0.94 $1.24).

The food, and more coffee, I’ll save for the next blog … now it’s time to eat !

Sai Gon: Eating out – Vietnamese style

A quick guide to some local food.

Chap Cafe

A local joint in a side street surrounded by new residential blocks, Chap Cafe has a lunchtime contract to feed workers from a local engineering firm.

This dish is Bang Da Cua (noodle soup with crab meat). As usual in Vietnam, it comes with a plate of herbs and green leaves, banana plant and chilis, lime, and the ubiquitous fish sauce. This cost 35 000 VND (£1.20 / $1.50).

The cafe has a so-so reputation among locals, it’s OK but nothing special. I spiced up my bowl with chili flakes, fresh chilis and plenty of lime juice.

I’ve taught my engineering students about British politeness. They would now classify this cafe as ‘not the best’, nor ‘the most delicious in HCM’.