Tag Archives: Recipe

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

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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)

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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Vietnamese Omelette

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Seemingly humble, nay, even strange (to Europeans) ingredients like squiggly black cat’s ear mushrooms render a delicious, mildly salty taste and lovely crunchy texture to this staple Vietnamese dish. 

This is my adaptation of my Tata Hélène’s recipe for Vietnamese omeletes, aka hairy omelettes as I used to call them, due to the crunchy ribbons of noodles, onions and mushrooms that thread through the eggs. The savoury, salty flavour that hits you from the mixture of fried eggs, onions, garlic, vermicelli noodles, dried cat’s ear mushrooms, pepper and thin soy sauce is like no other – you’ll not get over it, it is overwhelming and addictive. When we used to visit my aunt in Marseille, us kids would love these so much that on the last day of our visit, Hélène would make several big ones (with shredded pork) and stack them up on a plate for us to take away on the journey home. The last time she made them for us as children I ate so many in the car on the way home that I contracted salmonella from the eggs… I’m sure there a several lessons to be learnt from that story. But this summer she made some again for me, after many years of absence, and I can vouch for their enduring deliciousness – I was certainly no young fool in my childhood love for these.

Recipe: (serves 2 with side dish(es) and rice. Double the ingredients to make one big, fat omelette to serve up sliced for 4 or more).

1/4 onion, sliced lengthways quite finely
1 – 2 cloves garlic depending on taste, finely diced
1/2 cup bean vermicelli, soaked and chopped into roughly inch long pieces
1/2 cup pre-soaked, sliced wood ear mushrooms (aka: black fungi/cat’s ear mushrooms/oreilles de chats. You can buy these pre-sliced in longdan supermarkets, or use about 2 whole mushrooms)
1 tbsp thin soy sace
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Fry the onion and garlic on a low heat for 4 minutes in the oil, until they become translucent and begin to soften. Use a non-stick frying pan.

Add the soaked and shredded vermicelli and mushrooms and fry on a medium heat for another 3 minutes. Frying all these separately before adding the eggs ensures that they impart maximum flavour.

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Beat 4 eggs together in a bowl (use chopsticks to save on washing up), until yolks and whites are fully combined, and add soy sauce and pepper. Add egg mix to the frying pan and mix quickly for a few seconds to ensure even distribution of vegetables. Let it fry for 2-3 minutes on one side, until the bottom half is firmly cooked and curling off the edges of the pan.

Take frying pan off the heat and put it under the grill for another 2-3 minutes, until the omelette is golden and all the egg is thoroughly cooked.

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Vietnamese Mango Salad

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I’ve never seen a wooden table so yellow it matched the flesh of a mango. Even the mango’s yellowness seems to have been enhanced. As well as crucial flavour, bright green mint and coriander give the yellow salad some much needed colour contrast.

These were the last food pictures I took before retrieving my better camera. Expect new food photos to be truer to original colours! This lovely salad recipe was given to me by Lili at Longdan Supermarket on the Hackney Road in Shoreditch, who is involved in designing the new restaurant menus there. Vietnamese salads at their best are a real treat – sweet, crunchy and fresh. The trick is to make sure you’ve balanced the dipping sauce just right (I’ve had several acidic, mouth puckering accidents where I over-used lime or vinegar), and to be generous with the fresh herbs and toppings.

Recipe (serves 4 as side salad):

1 under ripe green mango, sliced into Julienne strips (See video above for how to do this with a knife). The mango must be very hard or it will not keep its texture in the salad. Luckily during winter in the UK, underripe mangos are easier to find than ripe ones!
1 small carrot, sliced into Julienne strips (or grated)
Half a small red onion cut into very thin rings and soaked in cold water for 1 minute
Half a small kohlrabi cut into thin julienne strips
10 gr chopped coriander
5 gr chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots

Mix together the sliced vegetables, sprinkle with the mint, coriander, chopped peanuts and crispy fried shallots.

Make a dipping sauce (the same recipe as for the pho) with garlic, lime, chilli, water, sugar and thin soy sauce. Sprinkle this over the salad and serve.