Vietnamese ‘Chicken’ & Mint Salad

I first made this salad many years ago when I lived in the US. Nigella Lawson was doing a competition on her website where you had to make this salad, plate it and take a picture and the best looking picture won. I was a bit annoyed back then because I’d submitted my photo and plated in a certain way then the person who eventually won posted after me and plated very similarly. But resentment over, this is a great salad, the cabbage makes it nice and crunchy and it’s so easy these days to replace the pulled chicken. I used Linda McCartney’s hoisin ‘duck’. The mint balances the spices very nicely and the fish sauce adds a nice sourness. Anyone who is familiar with Nigella Lawson will appreciate her narrative on the recipe ‘When it comes to chicken, I am very much a thigh than a breast person’. She is my idol!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garilc
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion
  • pepper
  • 200g white cabbage
  • 1 carrot
  • 200g chicken substitute
  • 40g mint

Method

1.) Heat a frying pan and cook the chicken substitute until crispy then set aside to cool.

2.) Make the dressing by adding the chilli to a measuring jug, crush the garlic clove, finely chop and add that, add the sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, a pinch of pepper and oil. Stir and leave to sit.

3.) Shred the cabbage and add to a large salad bowl. Peel the carrot and grate and add with the cabbage. Pick off the mint leaves and chop up and mix in. Peel and finely chop the onion and add that. Add the cooled ‘chicken’. Finally, add the dressing and give everything a good mix. Serve.

Prawns in beer sauce

I’m now doing a month’s alcohol detox as I never made it through dry January so it was a little sad to use beer in cooking without being able to drink any but this was a tasty dinner which I enjoyed. In the last couple of years I’ve really started to enjoy porter and stout beers and a result of my detox I’ve found a really great alcohol free Milk Stout from the company Big Drop. Also, I had a girly dinner at Salvi’s Italian restaurant in Manchester yesterday and they had Crodino on the menu which is like an alcohol free Aperol spritz but actually a little nicer in my opinion as it’s a little sweeter. So there’s a couple of ideas for you if you’re doing non-alcohol. The beer prawn recipe was again in the Vietnamese Market Cookbook. I did change it up a bit by adding tomatoes to the sauce and serving it with rice noodles and broccoli to make it more of a meal.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 250ml beer (I used Birra Morreti)
  • 1 bunch fresh lemongrass
  • 300g prawns
  • 250g tomatoes
  • 1 lime
  • salt and pepper
  • rice noodles
  • 200g broccoli
  • 10g coriander leaves

Method

1.) Chop up the lemongrass into stalks

2.) Chop up the tomatoes

3.) Add both to a large frying pan and add the beer

4.) Cook down the tomatoes and lemongrass until the tomatoes really break down and most of the beer has cooked down into a sauce

5.) Add the prawns and simmer until cooked through. Chop up the coriander leaves finely. Slice the lime in half.

6.) Add the rice noodles into a sauce pan with the broccoli. Cover with boiling water and cook until the noodles and broccoli is tender.

7.) Take the lemongrass and discard. Squeeze the lime juice into the sauce. Serve the noodles and broccoli with the prawns and sauce. Sprinkle over some coriander leaves.

Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Soup

Whilst in Paris, our friend made us a delicious rhubarb crumble and it reminded me that rhubarbs do exist as they’re so underutilised. I was hugely intrigued by this Vietnamese soup from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ as to use rhubarb is by itself interesting but to use rhubarb in a savoury recipe is something I’ve never seen before. It seems that the authors added the rhubarb as a happy accident as they just had some rhubarb to use up. The rhubarb adds the sour element and then you get the sweetness from the pineapple. I bulked the soup out with some smoked tofu which also added some protein. I could only find tinned rhubarb but if you get the fresh stuff, do remember that the leaves are poisonous.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 tin rhubarb
  • 160g pineapple
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 spring onion
  • 200g smoked tofu
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves

Method

1.) Chop up the tomatoes

2.) In a casserole dish, heat up the oil and add the garlic

3.) Cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, the sugar, salt, pepper and garlic powder and a splash of water.

4.) Bring to the boil.

5.) Rinse the rhubarb and chop up the tofu, pineapple and the coriander leaves and spring onion,

6.) Once the tomatoes are soft, add the rest of the water and the pineapple and bring to the boil for 5 minutes.

7.) Add the tofu and rhubarb and cook for another couple of minutes.

8.) Season with the fish sauce

9.) Serve and garnish with spring onion and coriander.

Herring and Potato Salad Summer Rolls

I guess you’d class these herring and potato summer rolls as fusion food. I’m a big fan of the Summer Roll and have made them a few times now so I was intrigued by this alternative version in Tony Singh’s ‘Tasty’. Actually, they work really well and with the Thai dipping sauce per Tony Singh but I think they would be delicious with some sort of mayonnaise, especially Kewpie mayonnaise. When the herring came, it came with pickled onions and in hindsight I would omit the onion and just use the onions from the herring.

Makes 8 rolls

Ingredients

  • 8 rice paper rolls
  • 120g rocket
  • 150g new potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 16 mint sprigs
  • 16 sprigs coriander
  • 16 sprigs Thai basil (or normal basil)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 150g pickled herrings
  • 1 cos lettuce
  • 4 tbsp peanuts (I used cashews)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 chilli

Method

1.) Put the potatoes on to boil.

2.) While the potatoes are cooking, add the rocket to a large mixing bowl, finely chop the herbs and add them. Peel the carrot and chop into small matchsticks. Chop up the cucumber into matchsticks too. Shred the lettuce, peel and finely chop the onion and add all of that to the salad bowl.

3.) Chop up the drained herring and combine with the salad.

4.) Make the dressing. Peel and finely chop the garlic and finely chop the chilli. Add to a container with the sugar and the fish sauce. Chop the lime in half and add the juice to the dressing. Give it a good mix with a fork.

5.) When the potatoes are done, chop them into small pieces and mix with the salad. Crush the nuts and add those too.

6.) Now, to assemble the spring rolls, get a big bowl and one by one, submerge the rice paper into the water. Pull out and spread out on a plate. It’s best to have another plate ready that you can move the rolls to once they’re assembled.

7.) Grab handfuls of the salad and put in the middle of the roll. Fold up the roll. I find it easiest to do one side length ways, one side width ways, then the other two sides. The rice paper should stick together because of the water. Turn over so the crease is at the bottom and set aside. Repeat until all the salad is used up.

8.) Serve rolls with the dipping sauce on the side.

Asparagus and Crab meat Soup

When I was a kid I loved Chinese food as I had good access to it with all the Chinese takeaways. Over time, that love has broadened to include many more cuisines from South East Asia as I’ve had more exposure. Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food I also now love though I await the day when vegetarian versions of Char Sui Buns are readily available (yes I should make some!). All these cuisines have a few things in common for me – they have a few central ingredients which are used to create many different dishes, they’re fresh, flavourful, healthy, quick to make and the meat recipes are generally quite easy to substitute. This recipe from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ is a great example of this.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Chicken flavoured stock
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion
  • 200g crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • rice noodles (I didn’t measure these – enough for 4 – I really like the wide strip ones)
  • 1 punnet of shitake mushrooms
  • pepper
  • coriander leaves

Method

1.) Peel and chop up the onion

2.) Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the onion until soft

3.) Boil some water and make up 1.5 litres stock

4.) Add the crabmeat to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes then add the fish sauce and fry for one more minute

5.) Pour in the stock and turn up the heat

6.) Slice up the mushrooms and asparagus and add to the pan with the rice noodles. Reserve the tips of the asparagus as they cook quicker.

7.) Cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until the noodles are soft, after 3 minutes, add the asparagus tips. While this is cooking, chop up the coriander leaves.

8.) When the soup is done, sprinkle in some pepper. Serve up with a garnish of coriander.

Vietnamese Pho

My version of pho – pronounced as ‘fuh’ in Vietnam

In March 2019, we visited Hanoi in Vietnam for a few days as a last stop on a mini-Asian tour. This is a truly crazy city chock full of moped drivers who aren’t even deterred by flooded streets. Whilst I didn’t enjoy the trip to Ha Long bay as much as I was hoping – tourists were packed in to the point there was barely a space to park the boats, I did enjoy haggling a little with the market stall owners who charge about 3 times what they usually would if you’re a Westerner. I think they quite enjoy the haggling as long as you don’t take the mick!

Whilst in Asia, we did cheat a little on our pescatarian diet to be able to try the local delicacies though I do believe that it would be impossible to avoid meat even if we were making an active effort to. In Vietnam, my favourite was the Chả Giò which are Vietnamese spring rolls. They are deep fried and the rice paper they are wrapped in crisps up beautifully.

However, this recipe is for Pho – a chicken or beef flavoured broth served with rice noodles. As the traditional recipe calls for beef/chicken bone stock I’ve taken a couple of liberties adding garlic and ginger which is not traditionally Vietnamese. I was extremely happy with the outcome of my dabbling (sorry traditionalists!)

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • thumb ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 100g rice noodles – the ones that are strips like tagliatelle rather than the vermicelli style
  • 800ml ‘beef’ stock made with Massel beef flavoured stock powder
  • 3 spring onions
  • 15g mint leaves
  • 10g coriander leaves
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 pak choi
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 160g beef style soya chunks (I used a Tesco own-brand).

Method

1.) Peel the garlic, shallots and ginger. Chop them finely.

2.) Fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander seeds, anise, cloves and cinnamon stick and fry for a couple more minutes.

3.) Add the ‘beef’ stock and put on to simmer for 20 minutes.

4.) Wash and chop up the spring onions. Add half of them to the stock.

5.) Wash and chop up the pak choi – add the stalks to the pan but reserve the leaves.

6.) In another pan, fry the soya chunks until cooked.

7.) In another pan boil the rice noodles until soft and drain. Add these to the bowls to eat. Divide the soya chunks between the bowls.

8.) In the meantime, chop up the coriander and mint leaves. Quarter the lime. Put a lime quarter in each bowl.

9.) 2 minutes before the broth is ready, fish out the star anise and the cinnamon stick. Ideally, you want to fish out the cloves too but personally I couldn’t find them so I didn’t bother.

10.) Add the pak choi leaves and simmer for 1 more minute.

11.) Stir in the soy sauce and the fish sauce.

11.) Now pour the broth into the bowls and sprinkle on the herbs and the rest of the spring onion.