Vietnam Open Fair 2013

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Cakes made from dark green leek leaves coated in batter are deftly re-fried on a huge open wok at the Thanh Binh stall.

I went along to the Vietnam Open Fair last Saturday on the Southbank. Interestingly, it was supposed to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic ties between Britain and Vietnam. Considering it was the British army that reinvaded Vietnam after WW2, brutally suppressing the people’s newly founded independent government, so paving the way for the French to reclaim Vietnam as one of their colonies, which eventually lead to the war with America, I suppose 40 years is no small marker point…

Unfortunately I missed the performances that were featured on the Sunday, but from the Saturday the resounding picture I picked up about Vietnamese culture was overwhelmingly food-orientated. A mini-street of Vietnamese restaurants lined the river bank, with multitudes of dishes on sale. I tried many many very delicious sweet dishes for the first time which made me very happy: Rice flour and mung bean dumplings in ginger syrup would have to be my favourite, deep fried sesame balls with sweet mung bean fillings a close second.

The savoury vegetarian options weren’t too bad either – lots of fried spring rolls, some summer rolls, fried leek cakes and even a fairly tasty slow cooked tofu curry. As you can tell, I went away with a very full stomach. I even managed to get some information about a new type of Vietnamese Export level beer ‘Saigon Special’ that I hope we can stock at our forthcoming supper club at the Vauxhall Griffin, ‘Lemongrass’. Here are some of the best food pics from the day:

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Picked carrot and daikon radish on batons to accompany fried spring rolls with fresh tofu.

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Crinkly cut pandan and taro jellies

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Crinkly cut fruit cup with pandan and taro jellies

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Sweet potato and taro in coconut milk with tapioca pearls.

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Green papaya salad.

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Rice flour dumplings with a sweet mung bean filling in a ginger syrup. Amazing.

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Crinkly cut pink taro jellies.

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The ladies at this stall had an amazing vegetable shredder that made everything they cut look pretty.

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I’m afraid I can’t tell which meat this is (goat?) on skewers grilled in betel leaves!

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The iced Vietnamese coffee from song que, that kingsland road stalwart, was delicious.

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