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.
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.
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.
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 ?
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
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.