Category Archives: Recipes

Guardian WRAPPED recipe swap and pickled lemons

Pickled Lemons West Hampstead

Happy to see a recipe for my vegetarian spring rolls with eggs that I submitted to Felicity Cloake’s Guardian reader swap column made the final cut! She tested it and made her own version which you can find here amongst 5 other incredible looking wrap recipes. It’s the fourth one down.

Feeling pretty summery at the moment staying with friends in West Hampstead for the month, especially because I’ve been pickling lemons to make Chanh Muoi, or Vietnamese Salty Lemonade, for the new Jade and Verde food club I’ve set up with a friend. Have used a recipe from Wandering Chopsticks and so far the lemons look, smell and taste beautiful. Going to leave them on a windowsill for a month now and see how well they pickle. Fran (aka Verde) has been pickling them too so hopefully we’re going to have a salty lemon surplus to see us through the coming months even after we’ve served it at our restaurant night, ‘Lemongrass’ on 10th August in Vauxhall.

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Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Breakfast Parcels and Vietnamese Supper Clubs

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The little package of yellow, turmeric infused steamed glutinous rice is topped by shavings of cream coloured mung beans and sunburnt crispy shallots. 

Taking a break the other day from my lovely green smoothie breakfasts a la Vedged Out, I decided to carb-out and make this popular Hanoian breakfast dish. For some months now it’s been sitting looking yellow and handsome in my copy of Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl’s book, Vietnamese Street Food, and it was specifically recommended (and requested) by Hang, a new Vietnamese friend who took the time to google search all her favourite Hanoian food that she missed with me. When it got to this dish, the look in her eye was particularly sorrowful and longing – a good sign.

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Although the exact quantities can be found in the Street Food book, you make this dish by soaking glutinous rice and yellow mung beans overnight, steaming the glutinous rice in a kitchen cloth for about 30 minutes with (fresh) turmeric, salt and sugar, boiling the mung beans till soft then squeezing them into a ball and grating it over the top of the rice. You then top with fried shallots and shallot oil or sesame oil if you don’t have that. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before making this and was worse for wear in the morning, ending up setting fire to the kitchen cloth and burning half of it off while trying to use it to steam the rice. So… be careful.

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I’m more than usual on the hunt for great vegetarian Vietnamese dishes at the moment, since a friend of mine and I are hoping to host our very first, one off Supper Club towards the end of the summer. This is pretty exciting news and I will keep posting with new developments. The Sticky Rice and Mung Bean breakfast parcels turned out to be a bit carby and mild to suit a dinner party menu, but it’s addictive and the rice is so dense that you can use your hands to eat it and it will all hold together! This is a breakfast fit for a workman with delicate flavour sensibilities.

photos by Luke Walker

Vegetarian Summer Rolls (Gỏi cuốn)

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The mint leaves are rolled into the last layer of the wrappers, so that the green shines brightly through the translucent rice. Strips of carrots give the summer rolls a pink hue.

Last week I was lucky enough to help out at my first Grub Club pop up event, hosted by the brilliant and energetic Sharon and Eliza at Miss Manchu. Sharon is Malaysian Australian and an expert in Pan Asian cooking, and she designed a 6 course menu ranging from a starter of deep fried son-in-law eggs and Vietnamese prawn summer rolls to Chinese style pork buns and Thai pandan pancakes with lychee ice cream and bubble tea. We were catering for 40, and so as soon as I arrived at 1pm I was put to chopping 40 chilies, gutting 40 prawns (a slightly uncomfortable new for me) and rolling 40 summer rolls.

As soon as that was done I set about making as many green pandan pancakes, which took about an hour and a half because the pancakes needed to be cooked slowly on each side to avoid them from browning, and then needed to be rolled with a sweet coconut filling just like the summer rolls. We finished cooking that night past 11pm! And I left happy and satisfied with a tub of Sharon’s delicious home-made lychee ice cream in tow.

So as you can see I have summer rolls and rolling in general on the mind, having picked up a tip or two from both Sharon as well as Nhu – a lovely and skilful fellow sous-cheffer. Urged on by the late onset of spring, since then I’ve been making batches of summer rolls at home, and so here’s my recipe using tofu, mushrooms and peanuts:

Recipe (makes 8 rolls):

20g rice vermicelli, soaked in boiling water for 4 minutes then refreshed under cold water.
3 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes.
1 carrot, sliced into julienne strips
100g tofu
1/2 jicama (optional), julienne sliced and then fried gently for 3 minutes.
16 mint leaves plus extra for serving
8 Thai basil leaves
5g of coriander, coarsely chopped.
8 circular dried rice wrappers
Nuoc Cham Sauce (click here for recipe)

Slice the tofu into thin strips, about 1 cm thick and 5 cm long, and shallow fry them in a wok in hot oil until they begin to turn golden. Remove and place them on kitchen roll to absorb excess oil, then slice lengthways again to make them thinner. Set aside with other filling ingredients. Slice rehydrated mushrooms into thin strips, about 2 mm wide.

Soak a rice wrapper in a bowl hot water, turning the edges like a wheel so that the whole sheet becomes wet. As it starts to soften, place the wrapper carefully on a hard, moistened work surface. Then place 4 strips of tofu horizontally about 5cm away from the bottom edge. On top of this add two slices of mushrooms, about 5 batons of carrot, a couple of batons of jicama if using, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, two mint leaves, a sprinkle of coriander and about half a tablespoon of vermicelli. The shape should be that of a small, horiztonal sausage.

Now, carefully roll up the bottom edge of the wrapper until it has covered the ingredients, and then do another half roll over the top. Then fold each side edge of the wrapper to the centre over the sides of the filling, trying to avoid any creases or folds. No carefully go back to rolling the filling towards the top of the remaining wrapper. Before the last roll of the filling, place a Thai basil leaf face down about 2 cm from the top edge of the wrapper, which will then be rolled in at the top of the summer roll as in the picture above.

Invite eaters to wrap the rolls in crispy lettuce to add a crunch to each bite, and dip in the nuoc cham sauce as they go.

(Photo by Luke Walker)

Tofu and Cashew Nut Curry

So, in celebration of the Yan Kit So award (see my last post), here’s a brand new recipe:

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The turmeric blends with the coconut milk and lemongrass to create a rich, subtly sweet sauce, that gradually absorbs into the tofu and cashews as they simmer gently. And the green Thai Basil and fresh red chillies contrast sharply with the mild flavours and the all consuming yellow…

This mild curry was inspired by the many delicious recipes for lemongrass tofu that you find in the South of Vietnam. Vietnamese curries are elegant – delicate but very fragrant, with abundant use of lemongrass, ginger and fresh chillies, as you will see… Although I’ve not often found tofu with cashew nuts together in Vietnamese cookery both are used individually and go very well together. Credit goes to my partner and colleague Luke for the idea to add cashews (coconut milk was my idea)! We’ve been working on different lemongrass tofu recipes for years, and this is a good one.

Recipe (serves 4):

450g block of firm tofu, chopped into 2cm cubes
3 stalks of lemongrass, chopped very finely or grated
2 chillies, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 inch piece of garlic, peeled and chopped very finely or grated
165ml coconut milk
80 ml water (or coconut milk for a richer sauce)
1 1/2 tsp turmeric, ground
100g cashews
1tsp lime juice
2 tbsp thin soy sauce
A handful of Thai Basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 – 2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
salt, to taste

Fry the garlic, chillies and ginger on a low medium heat for 3 minutes, then add the lemongrass and fry for another 2 minutes.

Add the tofu, coconut milk, water, nuts, lime juice, soy sauce and sugar, then cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring whilst being careful not to break up the tofu too much. Add the salt and pepper, then simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce has reached your desired consistency. Take off the heat and leave for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better, it will taste better the day after). Reheat and stir through the Thai basil, and serve with fresh rice and a vegetable dish.

(Photo by Luke Walker)

Yan Kit So Memorial Award for Asian Cookery Writers

During my month long hiatus from The Jade Cave involving a couple of rushed house moves, I am thrilled to announce that I was awarded Asia House’s Yan Kit So Memorial Award for budding Asian Food writers.

The award is a generous travel grant that will get me to Vietnam this Autumn, where I’ll continue my work on this blog, researching Vegetarian Vietnamese recipes, gathering enough material to develop a cook-book proposal when I’m back in the UK! The award was judged by an array of intimidatingly Michelin starred chefs specialising in Asian cooking. Thanks to the generous support at the Asia House team I’ve already had the chance to speak to one of them, Fuchsia Dunlop, who’s kind of The Queen of Sichuan and Sichuanese cooking.

Fuchsia’s basic advice to me was that the beauty of a cookbook is that it can be as weird as you like – it’s not a particularly rigid genre – as long as your research is thorough and your recipes excellent. And so just how Fuchsia discusses Maoist history in her books, I hope to write about Buddhist Vegetarian cookery, with winning food quotes from Vietnamese literature, as well as plenty of region-by region delicious vegetarian recipes.

In May I’ll be attending Atul Kochhar’s ‘Curries Of The World‘ demonstration at Asia House, which should give me a good idea of what to expect when I come to present my own findings there next year. And I’m also going to be working with Grub Club, helping other Asian cooks and hopefully leading to hosting my first public event. So watch this space…

Vietnamese Crêpes (Bánh Xèo) with Cinnamon

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Cinnamon flecks these creamy coloured, crispy pancakes. Bright Yellow kumquats, red chills and fresh green herbs make a colourful filling.

Making Bánh Xèo the other week at Lily’s, at the crucial moment we found that we were out of turmeric. But ingenuity came to the rescue, and we decided to use cinnamon instead. This worked surprisingly well with the coconut milk used to mix the rice flour into batter, creating a faintly sweet, delicate taste. I would still use turmeric, since the flavour and colour is really important, but try adding a bit of cinnamon and you might be pleasantly surprised… This would work well if you wanted to add a Vietnamese inspired dessert filling to the pancakes too, like sweetened mung beans.

Recipe (Makes 8 pancakes):


For the batter:
200g Bánh Xèo flour (rice flour mix that can be bought at oriental supermarkets)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of salt

For The Filling:
1 carrot, chopped into Julienne strips
3 spring onions, chopped into Julienne strips
200g beansprouts
1/2 pepper (red or green), blanched and diced or julienne sliced
1/2 bunch of coriander
1/2 bunch of mint, stems removed.
200g tofu, fried and chopped into roughly 1cm square pieces
1/2 red chilli, sliced diagonally
8 whole, large iceberg lettuce leaves

For the Nuoc Cham Sauce:
5 tablespoons of warm water
3 tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 kumquats, sliced lengthways (optional)
1/2 red chilli, sliced diagonally for garnish

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Mix the Nuoc Cham ingredients together, adding the chillis and kumquats at the end as garnish.

Combine the batter ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps left. Head a non-stick frying pan to a medium high heat and brush oil over the surface. Add one ladle of batter to the pan and tilt the pan to each side to  make sure the batter spreads evenly and thinly. When the bottom half is starting to brown slightly and become crisp, flip the pancake and cook the other side in the same way.

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Line up the filling ingredients, and on one half on the pancake surface, pile a few stalks of onion, pepper, carrot and beansprouts, a few pieces of tofu, one of two pieces of chilli and layers of herbs to taste. Add 1-2 tbsps of Nuoc Cham, wrap the whole pancake in a lettuce leaf and eat. And if you feel like it, keep dipping in Nuoc Cham as you take each bite.

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Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Flour Pancakes With Mushroom And Tofu Filling

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This pile of about 25 pancakes lasted only about 5 minutes between 3 people, even with two other dishes on the side. The 3 mushroom filling was so light and savoury, especially when combined with the slightly salty rice pancake, it felt almost as if we hadn’t eaten them.

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited round to my new friend Lily’s – Vietnamese cook and food marketer extraordinaire – where together we made a veritable feast of Vietnamese food. Using Lily’s own meat recipes as a starting point, we made Bánh Cuốn – translucent rice flour stuffed pancakes – using a non stick frying pan. Instead of shrimp or pork, however, we made a frankly delicious filling made from mushrooms, with 1 egg, a little tofu and a little bit of carrot and kohlrabi. Lily also made a separate dish tofu with fresh tomatoes (see next post) and an excellent Mango salad, which you might recall is a recipe I got from Lily in the first place. This was supplemented by copious fresh fruit like Chinese grapefruit (pomelo), custard apples, mandarins and extra mangoes. And considering it was still January and therefore epiphany in the French calendar, I brought over a homemade Galette de Rois made with puff pastry and almond frangipan, to finish our meal off! Lily is an excellent cook and an excellent person, and we plan to do a weekly Sunday Vietnamese cooking session at hers, so in effect I can tick off one of my life dreams as achieved. Expect Banh Xeo next week, and Banh Chung for Tet the week after!

Lily The Mango Fiend

Lily The Mango Fiend

Recipe (Serves 3-4 with other dishes).

200g steamed pancake flour – comes in packs of 400g at Vietnamese supermarkets, mainly consisting of rice flour and salt.
250 ml water – we found we needed more than the packet instructions detailed
2 black fungus mushrooms, soaked and then chopped into very small cubes about 2mm in diameter
2-3 small dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked and chopped into 2mm cubes
2 fresh shitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped into 2mm cubes
50g tofu, chopped into small cubes or crushed.
1 egg
1/4 carrot, chopped into 2mm cubes
1/2 kohlrabi, chopped into 2mm cubes
1/2 yellow onion, chopped into 2 mm cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped into 2 mm cubes
1 egg
3 tbps medium soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
half a tsp of sugar
half a tsp salt.

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Fry all the chopped ingredients together in the oil on a low-medium heat in a saucepan for 8-10 minutes, adding the egg to the mix about half way in. Once the vegetables are tender, the onions sweet and translucent, season the mixture to taste and set aside.

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Mix the Banh Cuon flour with the water until there are no lumps left in the batter. Brush oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat it on a low heat. Add about half a ladle of the batter to the pan, turning quickly to ensure the bottom is evenly coated. Put the lid of a saucepan over the frying pan in order to steam the top half of the pancake. Once the pancake is translucent and you can see quite clearly through it, carefully transfer it onto a plate to be rolled.

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Split the pancake in half to form two pancakes. Along each edge spread half a tablespoon of the mixture thinly. Roll the straight edge of each half over towards the curved edge once, rolling up the mixture in the process. Transfer to a serving plate and repeat with the other pancakes until all the pancake batter has been used.

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