In the Vietnamese culture (I’m not too sure if other cultures are the same), food not only provides nourishment but it also serves as a means of communication when words fail to express themselves vocally. From “I’m sorry”, “I miss you” to “Welcome back home”, certain dishes are suppose to portray these different messages. What food also does is provide insight into and knowledge about a culture. The monthly blogging event, Delicious Vietnam, founded by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of The Ravenous Couple, does precisely that, it aims to promote and explore the diversity seen in Vietnamese cuisine. And this month, I had the pleasure of hosting this event. So without further ado, here is this month’s round up of Delicious Vietnam entries..
Let’s kick this off with a drink shall we? Whilst it may seem unusual for some to have artichoke in a beverage. But take my word for it, it really is refreshing; the Vietnamese name for this drink is nước mát which literally means “cooling/refreshing water”, and I’m sure the oldies would claim some medical benefits for drinking it as well. Now that I think about it, I do remember my dad making this for us when we were younger and how much relief it provided us during those sweltering Summer days. Thanks Kim and Hong of The Ravenous Couple (Los Angeles, CA, USA) for making me relive those memories.
There has been an outburst of rice paper rolls this month. The first comes from Shulie of Food Wanderings (Washington, DC, USA) who has combined her Delicious Vietnam post with another blogging event, Rice Love, and made perfectly grilled lemongrass beef rice paper rolls to share with friends.
Our next rice paper roll comes from Genie of Bunnie Eats Design (Auckland, New Zealand) who has believed she has found and shared the secrets to rolling these rice paper rolls as she has had problems with rolling them before. The trick is to quickly dip the rice paper sheet in the water as it will continue absorbing the water and softening as you work with it.
The last set of rice paper rolls come from Julie and Rebecca of Meat Loves Salt (Washington, DC & Brea, CA USA. Who has provided a handy and easy to follow pictorial guide to rolling these rice paper rolls perfectly; even showing us what the moisten rice paper looks like, the correct and incorrect way.
Lan of Angry Asian Creations (Baltimore, MD, USA) created a simple and vibrant salad of red cabbage and chicken perfect for a casual warm day when you don’t want to be slaving away in the kitchen. It is made more simple by shredding a store-bought chook and jazzing it up with shredded red cabbage and crispy fried onions, and dressed with nước mắm chấm (a Vietnamese dipping fish sauce). However, this dish could also be made during the colder seasons as well – “imagine roasting a chicken in the cold days of autumn or winter, and then shredding it by hand to create this salad, the meat still warm to the touch, your fingers taking the morsels to your mouth more often than adding it to the dish…” We tend to serve this salad with a big bowl of congee (rice porridge) in the cooler seasons.
Anthony of Food Affair Vietnam (Sydney, Australia) has whipped up a quick and easy roast duck noodle soup from one of those Chinese roast ducks that you buy from the Chinese meat shop. “It will have your friends and guest thinking you spent many hours preparing this soup.” – I like the sound of that!
Mai of Flavor Boulevard (Berkeley, CA, USA) shares a gastronomical feast that she had with the masterminds of Rau Om. A 12 course meal with a bit of a twist was prepared combining elements of Vietnamese and Japanese (and a little of Korean) cuisines. With dishes such as bossam-styled oysters with prosciutto, tofu misozuke (tofu wrapped in miso for at least 2 months), chilled tomato soup with yuba cream, salted kumquat quail, sous-vide chao (fermented bean curd) and so much more, it would have been a truly elaborate and memorable meal.
Knowing the innovative cooking abilities of Dang & Oanh of Rau Om (Michigan and California) it was interesting to read about their use of homemade salted kumquats to roast quails. This original dish of theirs never seems to fail to impress all the the guests they have made this dish for. Using kumquats that they have salted and preserved for at least 2 months, the flavour of the kumquats transforms from a floral, citrus note to an earthy and complex aroma which imparts into the juicy roasted quails. Sounds divine!
Sandy of Ginger and Scotch (Dubai, UAE) proves that there is no excuse for not being able to whip up a bowl of Pho. On a recent holiday trip to Scotland, the homeland of her in-laws, she wanted to show her father-in-law more about Vietnamese cuisine as he was keen on learning how to make Pho. Her blog post recounts the adventures she went through to source the ingredients she needed and the experiences she had with the ingredients she had to work with as they weren’t ideal for Pho making. Her final message is “Vietnamese cuisine may at first seem daunting to cook at home as the techniques and ingredients can seem rather foreign…. But I can tell you that I have done it in a small seaside town of Dunbar (Scotland) so you can too!”
Reminiscing of the food her mum and aunt would make for the men as they nhậu (a term used to describe a gathering of adults where they would eat and drink), Nam of The Culinary Chronicles (San Diego, CA, USA) serves up a dish of crispy fried salted prawns. The entire prawn is tossed into a mixture of salt and flour (or cornstarch) and quickly fried. As the prawn is cooked with the shell remaining, a lot of moisture is retained and it is encouraged that the entire prawn is eaten whole (shell included) as it provides alot of texture and all the seasoning is on the shell itself. And according to her “the bonus (is) you get to suck the deliciousness from the heads!”
Nothing beats the comfort food made by your parents. Cháo is one of those simple comfort dishes that is made each time when we are sick, it is the Asian equivalent to chicken soup; one of those food remedies that seem to work despite any medicinal properties. We would always get a big bowl of it after we’ve had cạo gió (a common remedy which involves rubbing a coin over your back resulting in red marks to rid of the “cold you caught”), and the next day we would often be fine again. Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey (Melbourne, Australia) makes her family’s chicken congee by pre-soaking jasmine and sticky rice (which I must admit is new to me), coarsely pounding the rice and cooking it slowly with chicken stock until each individual rice grain has puffed.
A Vietnamese take on the Hainan chicken dish. I learnt about the Hoi An version and how it is served after I made the dish but vow to try the dish the next time I go back to Hoi An (which I miss terribly) and make it soon in the near future since the warmer season in Sydney is just around the corner.
And if you want to participate in next month’s Delicious Vietnam, send your entries to Bonnibella by the second Sunday of October.