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Vietnamese Food


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I recently made this recipe http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2009/04/vietnamese-restaurantstyle-grilled-lemongrass-pork-thit-heo-nuong-xa.html and it came out pretty damn well. Unfortunately I didn't marinate the chicken very long (maybe 20 mins) and I feel that it would've been a lot better if I let the meat sit int he marinade for a longer amount of time. Hence the peanut sauce on the side.....it needed more flavor!

I made a nuoc cham dipping sauce on the side as well, but I felt that it didn't taste anything like the nuoc cham you get at restaurants. For one thing, at restaurants its always more of an orangeish color. Is that from the carrot threads? When I make it at home, the fish sauce makes the color more brown.

15832_172165577201_518117201_3268161_6123619_n.jpg

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I have found that in restaurants (Southern California, but huge Vietnamese population), the nuac cham is much lighter and sweeter than what I would prepare at home. Lots more sugar, and WATER. The color can be a very light orange. This is stuff you could just drink- happily. At home I tend towards a stronger more fish saucey, limey, garlic and chili type sauce for dipping.

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Yep, it definitely lacked some sweetness. I just added lime juice and fish sauce and it definitely didn't taste right. I'm sure I needed to add sugar, but Ms. Nguyen said to just add lime and fish sauce.

Yep, as heidih said; you need added sugar and water. But I'd also say chilli for the complete nuoc cham. The simple combination of lime and fish sauce would be another dip I'd have with this tapioca noodle soup known as banh canh.

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Bravo. Beautiful photo and recipe. Now there is one question I have. I asked that question to my stepfather who was originated from Hue, but his answers always change.

I always considered Raum Ram as the inseparable from Bun Bo Hue. In your recipe which seem very traditional, you don't mention it.

So my question is this : Is Rau Ram served with Bun Bo Hue in Hue or not ? Is it a late addition from south vietnamese people who appear to like this herb very much?

Old post, but I wanted to drop in a reply.

I can't recall ever eating bun bo Hue, in California or in Vietnam, with rau ram. The go-to herb for bun bo Hue is the banana flower. From a flavor standpoint, the mild sweetness of rau ram would be lost in the strong chile flavor. The banana flower is there I think mostly for color and texture. In other cultures, banana flower is partnered with meat curries: strong plus strong. Rau ram traditionally goes with poultry: soft plus soft.

Or I could be completely wrong. But I do know that the further north you go, the less garden you get with your food. In the South, they have jungles full of vegetables, and they toss it in as filler. In the North, it's go meat (relatively speaking) or go home. And Hue is in Central, and has a very long history of more refined cuisine.

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Or I could be completely wrong. But I do know that the further north you go, the less garden you get with your food. In the South, they have jungles full of vegetables, and they toss it in as filler. In the North, it's go meat (relatively speaking) or go home.

I found this to be true when living in Hanoi. Like, if you were getting pho at a neighborhood pho cave, the herbs would be pre-sprinkled for you - no herb plate. Just limes and chili sauce/chopped chilies on the table. If you went to Pho 24, you'd get an herb plate, but they're a Southern chain, right?

Bun cha, on the other hand, always comes with a generous herb plate in Hanoi.

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Old thread but banh mi are a fav so I have to throw in some comments/clarifications.

What I've been calling Vietnamese hoagie, and what I've been eating for a long time -- in fact my favourite sandwich -- I have only today found out that it's called "Banh Mi Thit Nguoi" (sp?).

I just had one for lunch. From what I can identify of the filling, there's two kinds of cold cuts, a meaty red paste, a creamy yellow spread that looks like mayonnaise, coriander (cilantro), a long strip of cucumber, juliennes of pickled carrot and radish (?), and hot chillies. The bread is a crusty white roll, like a small baguette.

The cold cuts, one pink and the other a pale off-white, are unlike any Western cold meats I've had. They taste like pork, but crunchy and gelatinous at the same time, reminding me of the cartilage in pig's ear. The meaty paste is stronger in flavor. It looks like a mixture of richly spiced ground fatty pork, and I can smell some liver in there too. Today's hoagie had strong black pepper overtones.

What goes in your favourite Banh Mi and where do you get it from?

Can anyone tell me the names of the meat ingrediets, and the mayonnaise? I intend to search the asian grocery stores for them. Also, can one buy the pickled carrots or does that have to be made from scratch?

Bánh mì thịt nguoi ("cold cut baguette"), also known as Bánh mì đặc biệt ("baguette special") is the classic Vietnamese American sammich you're talking about. And it's one heavily influenced from the days of French colonialism.

The bread is a French baguette. It's not a psuedo baguette. It's not a rice flour bastardization. Unlike what a link previously mentioned purports, a Vietnamese baguette tastes just like a French baguette. It is nothing like a bolillo roll, which is round, has a soft crust that does not flake, and is spongy, almost marshmallowy soft. (The Vietnamese baguettes you find where the crust crackles off in flakes has just been overly spritzed with water towards the end of baking. The rapid surface cooling cracks the crust.)

The city of Đà Lạt in Central Vietnam, established as a resort town for the French, is known for having the best baguettes in Vietnam. The baguettes there are much lighter and less dense than in the rest of Vietnam. I'd say this is primarily because Đà Lạt has a very unique climate compared to the rest of Vietnam -- it's more like San Francisco, with cool summers, cool rains and morning fog, as opposed to being hot and humid year-round like the rest of Vietnam. It's 1500-2000m up a mountain, deep in the middle of a conifer forest -- you won't find seafood here. It's known for its wild game: boars, frogs, and deer especially. More like France, n'est pas? In the rest of coastal Vietnam, they may try and imitate, but high elevation bread is hard to imitate I imagine.

As for ingredients you would typically find in the U.S. or other nations with Viet Kieu diaspora communities, predominantly made of South Vietnamese and Chinese-Vietnamese emigrants: the yellow stuff is in fact home-made mayonnaise, all yolk and no whites. There is no garlic aioli or gods forbid, fish sauce. The meat is chả lụa(steamed pork pâté), head cheese, and pork liver pâté spread. The vegetables are long thin cucumber slices, cilantro, sliced Serrano chilis, and pickled radish and carrots. The pickle? Simply, vinegar. You season with black pepper and Maggi. Soy sauce is the cheap substitute. Cheaper, non-"special" versions will take out the head cheese and liver pâté. The chilis are often left out -- Southern palates generally prefer sweet and avoid spicy. Central palates are vice versa.

Note that this is a very South Vietnamese style baguette. Lots of filler. I never saw one of these Vietnamese American baguettes in Central Vietnam, in Đà Lạt. What I commonly saw was Bánh mì hột gà ốp la bít tết (fried egg steak baguette) -- a baguette with eggs sunny side up in a baguette with thinly sliced steak grilled medium rare seasoned with garlic and black pepper. Drizzle with eggs with Maggi and dig in. The baguettes were amazing. The food? Absolutely Vietnamese. My dad was a chef, and is from Đà Lạt. This is what he ate for breakfast. He never ate those veggie filler baguettes.

The only other kind he made were bánh mì xíu mại -- baguettes with ground beef meat balls seasoned with diced onions and black pepper. You boil the meatballs and drizzle the hot, fatty broth onto the baguette -- not too much or it becomes a soggy mess. Note that xíu mại is borrowed from the Chinese shumai dumplings -- though the Vietnamese only borrow the name. Xíu mại are very much meatballs and are not meat dumplings.

And a digression: the only other common Vietnamese dish you will find served with baguettes is beef curry -- again an interpretation of the French boeuf braisé aux carottes. Stewed brisket, carrots, bay leaf, star anise, lemongrass, anatto oil, turmeric, onion, garlic, ginger, fish sauce.

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What I love about travelling through Vietnam is how regional the food is there. For instance, the baguettes in Hanoi were short with a mouth-laceratingly crispy crust, and then filled with an herb omelette or (even better) Turkish kebab-style pork. For the veggies - one or two tomatoes, a sprig of cilantro, and some pickled onions. I never saw a steak and egg baguette, but if I had, that would have been a morning must. (As it was, I was utterly addicted to the excellent pain au chocolat you could get everywhere.) Then, in Hoi An, you can get long, thin white baguettes with just a hint of colour; more chewy than crispy. Spread with Laughing Cow and pickled carrots and cukes - awesome.

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I think you have to never try and tell yourself it's cheese, and just take it on its own merits - a spreadable substance that won't melt in the heat. I worked with someone from the UK who used it as a base for cream sauce in her pasta because she couldn't get the real thing. I could never work out how she got it to melt!

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  • 1 month later...

Being a Botanist and foodie, I could not help but comment on the recipe for Bun Bo Hue about Rau răm. The latin name Polygonum is not a 'nickname' but is a part of it's official Scientific name, and some would say it's official international name. But it's only part of it. And it is not really informative at all as this could mean hundreds of plants. If I heard this name and knew it was a food, I would not really know what plant it was referring to.

So - it's Polygonum odoratum. However botanists being contentious and territorial, it's also known as Persicaria odorata. But knowing one will get you the other as these names are cross-referenced.

And as a gardener... It was mentioned in the recipe that you can root it. Rau răm is one of the easiest plants to grow. It loves water so you need a pot with no holes. It prefers bright light, but when outdoors prefers partial shade (at least for me with very intense higher elevation sunlight and nearly no clouds in summer). It can survive light frosts, but not heavy freezes so I bring it indoors. It loves a cool bright window. To grow just stick a healthy stalk in wet soil (and gradually expose to sunlight if it's from the Asian Market). You can't over-water the plant and if it gets old and 'leggy' just take cuttings and re-root them in the pot.

I also see Ham Hocks in the originally posted recipe, but I'm pretty sure it's meant to be pork hocks. In the US ham hocks are always cured and smoked ham. But in the Vietnamese soup, I don't think this is what is meant - at least not in any version I've ever had.

Then the part about keeping the broth clear and skimming. Well I used to be pretty fastidious about this, but now not so much. In many cultures there are even superstitions about this foam - nearly calling it evil! But if you make a broth, and then chill it, and strain, it clears nicely. And that's almost always what I do anyway. I do still skim the first foam off though.

Lastly pigs feet being cut by the butcher. Why? Just put them in whole and remove from the soup when tender and cut them up then. If the butcher does it, you will likely get a lot of those annoying bone fragments from the saw. And if you use a cleaver you will get bone chards. But in classic French technique - they would poach the feet wrapped in cloth, then carefully remove the bones, chill and then slice (or even stuff with forcemeat - cook and then slice).

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Oh and laughing Cow cheese is not popular in Vietnam because it won't melt - actually it melts easily, though not at normal air temperature even in the tropics. It is used in warm areas because it does not need to be refrigerated = Shelf stable. Like Velveeta in the US, it actually melts quite easily and remains very smooth when melted. I really don't like either on their own, but in a cheese sauce it can be pretty good!

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Actually, you're right, Vache Qui Rit does melt. Shelf-stable is a better way to put it. I always marvelled how banh mi makers could leave it out in their sandwich cases without it losing structural integrity. I know someone who used it as a base for her her own cheese and mushroom pasta sauce, I don't know why I forgot about that.

I don't know why, but I love the plastic taste of VQR, but can't stand Velveeta.

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  • 2 months later...

Another fine recipe adapted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table:

Chicken curry with sweet potatoes (ca ri ga): Brown curry-rubbed chicken thighs with garlic, shallot, and Sriracha. Deglaze and simmer with coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, sliced carrots, onions, ginger, lemon zest and lime leaves (sub for lemongrass). Garnish with scallions, basil, and cilantro.

The family and a visiting friend of younger son's inhaled the curry, sopping up the gravy with hunks of sunflower baguette. We will definitely make this again.

CaRiGa11-01.JPG

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Oh, that looks incredible. I can't get lemongrass at all, so I've given up making a lot of Vietnamese dishes entirely - but you've subbed lemon zest and kaffir lime leaves, you say? Oddly enough, I can get those. Is it a reasonable substitute?

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Erin,

In your part of China, a sprig of lemon grass should root & grow vigorously almost 8-9 months of the year. Surely a stalk can be found somewhere, and rooted? Or purchased from a gardener? Ask likely folk for a source? From the market people to the university types? I hear the country is overrun with Vietnamese brides; where are they when you need them?!!

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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I can't get lemongrass at all, so I've given up making a lot of Vietnamese dishes entirely - but you've subbed lemon zest and kaffir lime leaves, you say? Oddly enough, I can get those. Is it a reasonable substitute?

I was very happy with the flavor and fragrance of the dish, but I do play to try this curry again with proper ingredients and compare. In this case lemon zest and lime leaves were a reasonable substitute, but I don't know whether that would be true in a less-complicated dish where the flavor of lemongrass featured more prominently.

Odd that you are so close to lemongrass country and can't find it, whereas we are so far away and lemongrass is reasonably available (although often looking a little tired).

And, as always, thanks for the kind words.

Edited by C. sapidus (log)
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I've always assumed lemongrass is available in the Southern provinces, but not around here, sadly. It sometimes appears in shops in Shanghai; if I see any, I'll try to root some.

In curry, lemongrass is more of a supporting player, so substituting it here seems logical.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, here's my attempt at this curry: Vietnamese dinner (with Chinese characteristics)

Curry, with fried greens and garlic, and smashed cucumbers; jasmine rice.

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I found a packet of curry powder from my last trip to Malaysia tucked into the back of my cupboard, so I used that. My husband is going to Vietnam in a couple of weeks, so I going to get him to pick me up a pack of a local mix then. I'm always picking up spice mixes when I travel, but the mostly just orbit around the inside of my cupboard, avoiding me like cockroaches. It was satisfying to use this one.

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