Seven traditional Vietnamese family recipes

By Uyen Luu, The Observer

Saigon fresh summer rolls

Saigon fresh summer rolls

Saigon fresh summer rolls. Photograph: Clare Winfield

This recipe is from Saigon but every region has its own take on fresh summer rolls. Although they are great for special occasions, they are tasty and healthy enough to take to work for lunch – you’ll be enjoying a good herb and prawn salad inside rice paper.

Makes 6
rice paper 6 sheets, about 22cm

pork belly 150g
king prawns 18, shelled and deveined
rice vermicelli 30g
lettuce leaves 6
coriander sprigs 12, stalk on, chopped
garden or hot mint leaves 18, chopped
cockscomb mint sprigs 3 (available from Asian supermarkets)
shiso/perilla leaves 18
garlic chives 6, halved and head removed

Dipping sauce
cooking oil 1 tbsp
garlic clove 1, chopped
hoisin sauce 2 tbsp
white wine vinegar or cider vinegar ½ tbsp
sugar 1 tsp
Sriracha chilli sauce ½ tbsp
roasted salted peanuts 2 tbsp, crushed

Bring a saucepan of water and a few pinches of salt to the boil. Add the pork, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick it with a knife. Allow to cool, then cut off the skin and very thinly slice the meat. Put the prawns and a pinch of salt in a saucepan of boiling water and poach for 2 minutes, or until opaque. Drain and allow to cool.

Put the rice vermicelli, a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar in a bowl or pan of boiling water, cover and allow to cook for 5–10 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse with hot water.

Once the pork, prawns and vermicelli are ready, put them and the remaining filling ingredients in their own individual bowls in front of you. Pour some warm water into a tray deep and large enough to submerge the rice paper sheets. Use a plastic board as a base on which to make the rolls.

Dip a sheet of rice paper into the water and take it out as soon as it is moist all over – do not let it sit in the water. Lay the sheet on the plastic board. Imagine the sheet is a face and now place the filling where the mouth should be: line up a couple of pork slices, 3 prawns, 1 lettuce leaf, and one-sixth of the vermicelli and herbs. Fold the 2 sides inward over the filling, as if making an envelope.

Now fold the bottom corner over the filling. Put 3–4 pieces of garlic chives along the roll with the tips sticking out of one end of the roll. Start to roll up the package tightly, pushing it forward and tucking in the filling in a neat cylinder as you roll it towards the far side of the sheet. Keep in an airtight container or wrap in clingfilm while you assemble the remaining rolls.

For the dipping sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Fry the garlic until it browns slightly. Add the hoisin sauce, vinegar, sugar, chilli sauce and 1 tbsp water and bring to a gentle boil. Pour into dipping bowls and sprinkle the peanuts on top. Serve with the rolls for dipping.

Omelette baguette

Omelette baguette

Omelette baguette. Photograph: Clare Winfield

I love to eat this greedily on a beautiful sunny morning, quietly and alone to absorb the utter goodness. For an extra dimension, drop the sliced chillies into a bowl of good soy sauce and bruise them with the back of a spoon – this releases the chillies’ flavour and heat. Drizzle over the baguette.

Serves 2
carrots 2, shredded
daikon/mooli ½, shredded
cider vinegar 5 tbsp
sugar 5 tbsp

eggs 2, beaten
spring onions 2, thinly sliced
sugar ½ tsp
salt a pinch
black pepper a pinch
soy sauce 1 tsp
cooking oil 1 tbsp
Asian shallots 2, finely chopped

To fill
Vietnamese baguettes or freshly baked, small French baguettes 2
bird’s eye chillies thinly sliced (deseeded for less heat)

Mix all the pickle ingredients in a bowl and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Drain and wring with your hands.

For the omelette, beat the eggs in a bowl with the spring onions, sugar, salt and pepper, and soy sauce.

Heat the oil on a medium heat in a frying pan and briefly fry the shallots. Pour the egg mixture over the shallots and spread evenly. Cook for a couple of minutes until the underside looks golden brown (lift up one edge and check). Flip the omelette over and cook for a couple of minutes until brown. Remove from the heat and cut into strips.

Slit the baguette lengthways and pull out the soft doughy inside (which can be used for breadcrumbs). Spread with butter and insert the omelette strips, pickle, coriander and chillies.

Fried tilapia with green mango

Fried tilapia with green mango

Fried tilapia with green mango. Photograph: Clare Winfield

The traditional Vietnamese diet is healthy. Meals revolve around rice, vegetables and fish. The fish here has a crunchy, crispy skin and soft flesh, complemented by crunchy and sour unripe mango. The mango must be green and unripe as the sour flavour balances perfectly with the sweet nuoc cham dressing. This is a meal that leaves you wanting more and more.

Serves 2
vegetable oil 1 tbsp
whole red tilapia (or lemon sole, dab, brill, black tilapia, red snapper or pomfret) 1, scaled and gutted
unripened green mango ¼, julienned
cooked rice to serve

cider vinegar 2 tbsp
sugar 2 tbsp
fish sauce 2 tbsp
garlic cloves 2, finely chopped
bird’s eye chillies 2, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over low–medium heat, then put the whole tilapia in the pan. Fry for 10 minutes on each side, or until golden, crispy and cooked through. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Lay out the mango on a serving dish. Place the tilapia on top and drizzle with dressing. Serve with cooked rice.

Caramelised sardines in coconut water

Caramelised sardines in coconut water

Caramelised sardines in coconut water. Photograph: Clare Winfield

I have lived in Hackney, London, since I was five but my mother brought me and my brother up on a strict Vietnamese diet. We loved school dinners because it was different and exotic compared to what we had at home. However, nobody at school liked school dinners very much and they decided to go on strike! My brother and I bowed to peer pressure, joined the strike and told my mum to make us some packed lunches. She made us each a tiffin box with rice, soup and sardines caramelised in fish sauce and coconut water. Today I jump for joy at the prospect of this meal, but then, I was 10 years old! My friends hadn’t even heard of Vietnam and you can imagine what they thought of the sardine smell from our rucksacks.

Serves 2
cooking oil 1 tbsp
red onion ½, finely chopped
whole sardines 350g, scaled and gutted
coconut water 150ml (or use fresh water plus 1 tsp sugar)
bird’s eye chilli 1
black pepper a pinch
coconut caramel 1 tsp
sugar 1 tsp
fish sauce 1 tbsp
vegetable oil 1 tsp
cooked rice to serve

Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the onion until browned. Add the sardines to the pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side. Add the coconut water, chilli, pepper, coconut caramel, sugar, fish sauce and vegetable oil. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Serve with cooked rice, or a palate-cleansing soup and fried greens.

If you cannot find coconut caramel, melt and caramelise some palm sugar or raw cane sugar to colour the dish.

Read the full article by Uyen Luu from The Observer.

Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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