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Delicious Vietnam #19 – November 2011 Round-Up

Tue, Nov 22, 2011

Posted in:  blogging,recipes,vietnamese recipes    |    Tagged as:  

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Ethnically Chinese but born in Vietnam, my parents fled Saigon for a better life in their late-20s with me barely 2 years old. We ended up in New York City with few physical possessions but with a life-long affinity to Vietnamese food.

Growing up, and not realizing it at the time, I could always distinguish which of my mom’s home-cooked dishes were Chinese and which were Vietnamese.

How? The Chinese dishes were spoken of in Chinese and the Vietnamese dishes were said in Vietnamese – simple huh?

When I moved to Dubai in 2007, there was only one Vietnamese restaurant, Hoi An, and it was in the Shangri-La hotel so you can just imagine that the food prices were too prohibitive for frequent dining. Just an appetizer alone would set you back $20 which is about how much a simple meal for 2 people would cost in a budget-friendly Vietnamese restaurant.

One more Vietnamese restaurant opened up this year, bringing the grand total in Dubai to TWO, but once again, it is a high-end establishment, called Voi, and billed as a “fine dining Vietnamese and French Colonial restaurant” located in Jumeirah’s Zabeel Saray hotel on the Palm Jumeirah.

Without budget dining options, I started recreating many of my mom’s dishes at home but it was challenging at times because my mom, being a natural in the kitchen, doesn’t use any set recipes nor measurements so I supplemented her recipes with two Vietnamese cookbooks.

As I began cooking at home, I realized how limited my knowledge was of Vietnamese cuisine.

I wanted to learn more and to try my hand at making some of the foods that my mom didn’t know how to make like Nem. I also wanted to make the flavorings for Vietnamese Curry or Bo Kho from scratch instead of using pre-made spice packets. Somehow, in my Google searches, I landed on a “Delicious Vietnam” post and discovered a whole bunch of blogs that featured not only traditional but also inventive and fusion Vietnamese dishes.

I am excited to be have hosted this month’s Delicious Vietnam, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine created by A Food Lovers Journey and Ravenous Couple.

Below is the round-up of the November submissions. This round-up is, sadly, the second-to-last of the series as next month, this two-year blogging event as we know it will conclude it’s run and migrate to its own Facebook page.

But before it ends, you have the chance to enter a giveaway and win a copy of Indochine, the new cookbook from Luke Nguyen. Anh from A Food Lovers Journey will be hosting the final Delicious Vietnam edition and details of the giveaway can be found on her blog here.

indochine by Luke Nguyen

I hope you enjoy the round-up below and hope to see you in December’s edition!

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1)  Magic: Homemade Organic Soy Milk

Homemade Organic Soy Milk

An old storybook memory of Jack and the Beanstalk comes alive again with Lan at Angry Asian Creations (Baltimore, MD) as she recounts a story of a magical drink reminiscent of her childhood with her eldest uncle and his family.

Her magic beans of choice? Organic soy beans – for which she didn’t have to barter a cow but went the modern route of purchasing at Whole Foods.

If you’ve never made Organic Soy Milk before (I haven’t), all you need are soy beans, water, a little bit of sugar, a pinch of salt, and a cheesecloth. Easier than I would have imagined!

2)  Introduction to Vietnamese Water Fern Cake (Bánh Bèo)

Vietnamese water fern cake Bánh bèo

These beautiful little servings of steamed rice cakes topped with shrimp and pork crackling and drizzled with Vietnamese fish sauce is a popular snack food.

Quynh Anh of QA Kitchen (Amsterdam, Netherlands) gives us the secret of how to make perfect Bánh bèo or Water Fern Cakes. She has it down to not just a science, but an art - balancing the proper proportions of rice flour and tapioca flour with water. She also explains some of the regional differences of size and texture.

Even preparing the shrimp topping is an art and can range from dicing to mincing to shredding to flattening the shrimp with a knife then breaking it apart during the cooking stage.

I don’t think I’ve every tried Bánh bèo but you can be sure that if I ever see it on a menu, it will be one of the first things I’d order.

3)  French-Vietnamese Grilled Époisses Rice Crackling (Bánh Dap Pháp Viet)

Bánh dap with melted Époisses

OMG! Dang and Oanh of Rau Om (based in Michigan and California) totally had me at “Époisses” in their description of French-Vietnamese Grilled Époisses Rice Crackling.

I hated despised cheese up until a few years ago but have now acquired such a taste for it that I’ve even come to love a strong, stinky, put-it-in-two-nesting-tupperware-containers-yet-still-stinks-up-the-fridge cheese, like Époisses.

From Dang and Oanh: “In our post this month, we’d like to introduce a new dish that combines infamous delicacies from Vietnamese and French cuisines. In our take on the north-central dish banh dap, we finally had a chance to combine Époisses with mam to astonishingly harmonious effects. The flavor of mam and époisses combined beautifully, with salty mam dominating the initial sensations and rich, creamy Époisses lingering on the palate afterwards.”

4)  Vietnamese Cabbage Rolls

Vietnamese Cabbage Rolls

Here is a food equation for you: Cabbage + Rolls = ?

Just look at that photo of beautifully wrapped cabbage rolls amidst knotted garlic chives! No question mark about it – it just screams: put me in your mouth right now with some extra sauce so that you can taste my inner goodness.

Doug of Javaholic (Northern California, USA) recreates this Vietnamese comfort food that he’s grown to love. While tofu can be used as a vegetarian filling, he prefers (as do I) the pork version. Nom-nom-nom.

5)  Thit Bò Nuong Lá Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Thit Bò Nuong Lá Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

I must say that I’ve never heard of betel leaves before and am now intrigued by this leaf that is not only prevalent in Vietnamese food but also its culture (betel leaves are used ceremonially in traditional Vietnamese weddings).

Nam of The Culinary Chronicles (San Diego, CA, USA) tells of a restaurant specialty that I recall my mom telling me about but have yet to experience first-hand and that is something known as Beef-Seven-Ways (Bò 7 Món).

Her favorite course is the Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves in which the “leaves are quite fragrant and literally produces a trigger effect for my mouth to start watering when I smell it being grilled.”

6)  Black Tea Rice (Com âm phu trà  den)

black tea Hades rice (c?m âm ph? trà ?en)

One of the monthly blogging events that I participate in (and am hopelessly late with posting the finished dish and photos) dared me to cook up something savory with tea for the November challenge.

I still haven’t gotten around to doing anything for this challenge but I was excited to see that Mai from Flavor Boulevard (Berkeley, CA, USA) channeled this cooking with tea thing into her recipe of Black Tea Hades Rice.

Mai imparts some lessons and tips learned in her experiment: (1) loose-leaf teas versus tea bags and (2) how “green tea gives the rice the tea fragrance, and black tea gives it the tea taste, but neither gives enough of both.” Try for yourself!

And once you’ve done it, remember this: “tea rice needs companions, too, something savory enough to make it exciting but plain enough to not overpower its flavors.”

7)  Vietnamese Fish Porridge (Cháo Cá)

Chao Ca Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Whether Chinese or Vietnamese, one of the things that both cultures have in common is the comforting effects of rice porridge (aka congee). Often fed to weaning babies as a first food (in quite large quantities too, I’ve observed), it courses through our Asian veins.

Hong and Kim of Ravenous Couple (Los Angeles, CA, USA) presents a very traditional southern way of making Fish Porridge, made famous in the Mekong delta region which is known for its abudance of fish, other sea life and for its floating markets.

8 )  Vietnamese Preserved Mustard Cabbage (Dua Muoi)

Vietnamese preserved mustard cabbage (dua muoi)

I shared a similar experience with Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey (Melbourne, Australia) – looks like we both returned from visiting our parents with pickling on the brain.

For me, it was a new venture into pickling daikon and carrots (mostly for Vietnamese Banh Mi/sandwiches and for snacking :) ) and for Anh, it was Vietnamese Preserved Mustard Cabbage. Unlike my mom though, Anh’s parents have invested in a special pickling jar – who knew there was such a thing!

These preserved mustard greens can be used in all sorts of dishes, from soups to stir-fries, or can be eaten straight out of the jar.

9)  Make Your Own Vietnamese Curry Powder

Homemade Vietnamese Curry Powder

And finally, my submission for the month is home-made Vietnamese Curry Powder. Having nearly run out of my own precious stash that I had brought over from the US, and finding no recipe sources on-line, I used a commercially available powder as a base to create my own special blend.

It received the seal of approval from Scotch and can’t wait to taste-test it on my parents the next time I see them.

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I hope this round-up has left your taste buds anxious to try and make some of these dishes or to visit a Vietnamese restaurant :).

Perhaps you will consider participating in next month’s final edition of Delicious Vietnam. Put it on your food blogging calendars and be sure to send your submissions to Anh by December 31, 2011. Happy blogging!

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and subscribe to future posts via RSS feed reader or have them delivered directly to your email.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

anh@anhsfoodblog.com November 22, 2011 at 5:17 am

Beautiful, beautiful roundup! I am learning a lot about Vietnamese cooking myself :-)

Thanks for hosting this!
anh@anhsfoodblog.com recently posted..Easy spicy lamb skewers & a tangy burghul saladMy Profile

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Michelle November 22, 2011 at 10:34 am

Wow. Totally drooling here. :D Everything looks so good!!

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Linh-Dang November 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

Thanks so much for hosting! Everything looks amazing!

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Mai November 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Thank you for the round-up, Sandy! So beautifully composed!

I, too, don't care much for cheese, but Oanh and Dang totally had me in the bag with their tofu misozuke, which is very cheese-like.

I feel like I should share this though, "la lot" is not the same the betel leaves used in wedding ceremonies, but they are in same family. I believe the English name for la lot is lolot or "wild betel leaf".

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I Live in a Frying P November 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I'm so with you, why are there no budget Viet restos in town?! :( maybe YOU should start one.

Loving the round up…I wish someone had done Banh Mi, but I guess that's too run-of-the-mill…that fish porridge looks yum, all those dishes do actually…

Dear Dubai people with money to start a restaurant:

NEED CHEAP VIET RESTAURANT IN DUBAI.

Love,

Hungry Mi.
I Live in a Frying P recently posted..I’ll bet a cheesy sausage you’ve never tried this place.My Profile

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Lan November 23, 2011 at 12:28 am

thank you so much for hosting.

the recap is fantastic.

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thanh nguyen November 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Just let you guys know that there is one new cheap Vietnamese restaurant opened in Dragonmart food court. The phone number is 044458324 if you cant find it. Check it out, I think its worth a try as its tastes quite authentic.

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Jen December 17, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I love your blog! It makes me feel good that there's someone in Dubai also is also dying for some good Vietnamese food! :D Well I used to live here 2 yrs ago for a yr and a half , then I went back to America, now I'm back here again for good and I feel dreadful that in a few months I'll feel very frustrated for not having some good Vietnamese food. I'll give the new Vietnamese restaurant in Dragonmart a try for sure hehe. Where do u get fish sauce ? And what brand ( hehehe its not like there're 10 brands to choose from :P )?

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Vinh October 4, 2012 at 3:46 am

For the betel leaves, the ones that used in Bo La Lot arent the same ones that used in traditional weddings (which called La Trau- this kind is not used for cooking. Long ago, they are eaten by elderly women as a way to dye their teeth in black). Hope this give you some clarification.

I really like your blog and all the posts. Attempt to make egg cakes tomorrow … Cant wait ;)

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ginger October 12, 2012 at 12:55 am

Thank you for the clarification :)

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