Food has the ability to speak, food is a universal language, food is the one thing we all have in common and the one thing we all understand.
Vietnam is known for many things; 2000 miles of glorious coastline, thousands of ancient and magical temples, green, lush rainforests and most of all incredible people.
However, Vietnam offers you the chance to taste some of the world’s best cuisines.
More to Vietnamese food than Rice
Vietnam is known for growing a range of amazing foods; sweet potatoes, various beans, rice, cocoa, pepper and corn to name a few. Most of which are healthy and nutritious, and for many are the staple foods of their everyday diets.
Herbs are a huge part of Vietnamese cooking and they use over 70 different varieties, no Vietnamese dish is complete without a herb or two!
You can expect to see meat on the menu wherever you choose to eat throughout Vietnam; they eat more pork than any other meat and will use the entire animal to make tasty broths and soups, known locally as ‘Pha Lau’.
Let’s get cooking Vietnamese style
Get a little saucy
Vietnam has over 30 kinds of sauces; from fish, shrimp, to the exotic frog and crab egg sauce.
Sauces are typically eaten with meals and added to broths or rice dishes. They are also used for dipping meats and spring rolls.
Vietnamese sauces are always freshly made, with locally sourced ingredients and they are such an easy way of adding flavor to a dish.
I simply love this easy, traditional fish sauce ‘Nuoc Cham’ you can quickly throw together at home.
Makes 3/4 Cup: 3 tbsp fresh lime juice, 2 tbsp sugar or honey, 1/2 cup water, 21/2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 small garlic, minced, 1 small fresh chili finely chopped. Combine lime juice, water, and sugar or honey until dissolved, taste and adjust to your sweet/sour preference. Add the fish sauce, minced garlic and finely chopped chili and chill for 24 hours. Mix well and serve over salad, hot rice or use to dip in pieces of succulent meat.
A taste of French baking – Banh Mi
Banh Mi or the Vietnamese baguette is a simply made beautifully tasty bread.
The French introduced the traditional baguette to Vietnam throughout their rule in the mid-1800, and it has been embraced and eaten throughout the country ever since.
Banh Mi is always baked fresh and is often filled with marinated pork and salad, they taste amazing!
The most important steps in the recipe are to ensure the dough rises three times and ensure you place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam during the bake.
Made with few ingredients, you can now enjoy a piece of French-Vietnamese bread in your kitchen with my super easy recipe.
Makes two large baguettes: 1 1/4 oz dried fast action yeast, 1 1/2 cups warm water, 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar. Mix the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and leave for five minutes, put the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl (use a mixer with dough attachment if you wish), combine 1 cup of water with the dry ingredients and start to form into a dough. Add the 1/2 cup of water and yeast mixture and keep kneading for around 5 minutes (1 minute in a mixer). Leave the dough to double in size, deflate the dough and leave to rise again, deflate and rise one more time. Shape the dough into two long baguettes and leave covered with a dish towel for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450F and place a pan with water in the bottom of the oven. Slice the baguettes diagonally and spray with water. Place in the oven for 20 minutes and spray again with water. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool – enjoy!
Make your own street food
Street food has been part of Vietnam culture for hundreds of years and long before it became ‘trendy’ to us!
Street food is a time for locals to meet, tuck into tasty freshly cooked food and watch the world go by.
The most popular street food in Vietnam is beef noodles and it’s a dish eaten all throughout the country; often with minor regional alterations to the recipes.
A healthy, filling and tasty dish not to be missed. The recipe takes a little time, as you need to prepare a quick broth BUT it’s definitely worth the effort! I have to say this is the most authentic ‘quick’ recipe I have found so far
Snack Time Vietnamese Style
Snacks in Vietnam are typically fruit or vegetables, you will not see sugar laden sweets or snack bars. That’s a good thing right?!
Vietnamese snacks consist of sweet potatoes and corn cobs cooked over an open grill. You may also get to indulge in a few roasted peanuts from street vendors too.
Sweeter snacks are far and few between, and will usually involve rice cakes made from soaking rice in coconut milk or condensed milk. They sound odd but are totally delicious and filling!
However much I love the idea of snacking on a sweet potato freshly cooked on an open grill, let’s be realistic!
I have combined a traditional Vietnam snack with a few other AWESOME ingredients to give your morning snack time a little piece of Vietnam!
Sweet Potato Cookies – Makes 24 small cookies. 1 medium cooked, mashed sweet potato, 2 tbsp superfine coconut sugar (can use caster sugar too), 4 tbsp coconut oil (or 1/4 cup butter), 1 large egg, 1 cup rice flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, cinnamon and nutmeg for dusting. Preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheet, mix the dry ingredients together and add the coconut oil or butter and pulse together (or rub together using hands) add the sweet potato and egg into the mixture and mix until it starts to form a dough. Wrap the dough in cling wrap, form a cylinder shape and chill for an hour. Cut into thin discs and bake in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes. Cool slightly and dust with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Enjoy!
Vietnamese Sticky Rice
Xoi or ‘sticky rice’ is actually a dish typically eaten for breakfast in Vietnam and it will vary in color and flavor.
The rice will only every be colored using natural dyes and will be flavored with locally sourced, fresh herbs and spices.
Sticky rice will often be topped with thinly sliced pieces of pork, chicken or beef and finished with a delicious authentic homemade sauce – Try the above sauce recipe!
Stovetop sticky rice is such a quick and easy dish to prepare for a mid-week meal, so why not add a little Asian flair to your dinner time and give Xoi a try!
Serves 4; In a large pot place 3 cups of basmati or Asian sticky rice. (The right type of rice is kinda important, so if you have a local Asian food shop, it’s worth seeing if you can find Sticky Rice BUT basmati does get sticky). Cover the uncooked rice with three and a half cups of water and soak overnight. Add 1/2 tsp salt and bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium/low and keep the lid slightly off to one side and cook for a further 10 minutes, but do not stir. Check to see if the rice is cooked by pulling the rice away from the center and checking for water. Keep cooking until all the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat, place the lid on and leave to sit for 10 minutes. Serve with beef noodles or your homemade sauce!
Coffee – A Robusta blend from Vietnam
I cannot fail to mention Coffee when talking about Vietnam.
Since the introduction of coffee by the French in the mid-1800, it has played an important role in the country ever since! Hit any city or town and you will be faced with amazing cafes brewing up locally grown amber nectar.
Coffee in Vietnam is usually served with condensed or evaporated milk, which gives it an amazingly rich and creamy flavor. Vietnamese iced coffee tastes AWESOME and is super easy to make!
Brew a fresh cup of robusta (or French equivalent) ground beans either in a stovetop coffee maker or cafeteria, place in a cup with a screw-top lid. Chill for 20 minutes. Once chilled mix in 2 tbsp of cold condensed milk and add ice. Shake well and serve immediately. Tastes lovely with your sweet potato cookie snacks!
Vietnamese dishes are diverse, healthy and are easily replicated in any kitchen, so get your apron out and get cooking your Asian inspired dishes.