This variation of the French cake salé | savory cake infuses the flavors of a traditional Vietnamese chicken curry into a radiantly colored loaf. You’ll often find such savory cakes served alongside apéritifs during the cocktail hour. Given how easy they are to make and their versatility, they also make an ideal hors-d’œuvre for picnics or potlucks. They travel well and can be served warm, room temp or even cold.
One of my favorite ways to stay cool during this past summer’s heatwave is with this Vietnamese basil seed and malva nut drink. The basil seeds (hột é) look very similar to chia seeds, but they are slightly smaller and don’t need to soak for as long. The seeds are often paired with malva nuts (đười ươi), which puffs into an algae-looking blob. It, too, has a slightly gelatinous texture and imparts a subtly earthy flavor. Both seeds have a very mild flavor, so the drink needs a little bit of sugar to give it more body.
When the inhabitants of China’s Hainan Province migrated to Southeast Asia, they brought with them one of the province’s most notable culinary exports, Hainanese chicken rice. The eponymous dish made a mark on essentially all cuisines in this region. In Vietnamese cuisine, this delectable chicken and rice dish is known as cơm gà hải nam. It’s such a simple dish composed of few ingredients, yet tastes exquisitely delicious.
Bánh giò is a Vietnamese rice flour dumpling filled with ground pork sautéed with wood ear mushrooms and shallots. The pyramid shaped dumplings are wrapped and steamed in banana leaves, which give the rice flour dough a greenish hue and a slightly floral leafy aroma. This North Vietnamese specialty is not a bite-sized dumpling like potsickers. One dumpling can be a meal in itself and is commonly eaten for breakfast. They can also be enjoyed as a snack or light meal at anytime during the day. The dumplings are served warm and can be eaten straight out of the banana leaf without any sauce or garnishes. They can also be dressed up with Vietnamese ham and slices of cucumber.
My version of these caramelized ribs differ slightly from my grandma’s in that they don’t have any added minced lemongrass nor chili peppers. I instead add chopped green scallions in their place. I’ve noticed that a few recipes out there include fish sauce, but my family’s version of this savory, slightly sweet dish doesn’t include any.
This Vietnamese chicken curry dish was no doubt influenced by the small Indian population that took up residence in Vietnam. Our interpretation of curry, however, differs from the Indian curries that I have had. While Indian curries tend to be thicker and more sauce-like, the Vietnamese version is more like a broth, which yields a slightly less pungent flavor.
Chả Hấp Chay (steamed tofu pâté) is a vegetarian take on the classic Vietnamese chả trứng hấp, which is a steamed egg meatloaf with ground pork. This meatless version is composed of tofu, onions, wood ear mushrooms, beanthread noodles, and fermented tofu, which imparts a satifying umami flavor. The steamed tofu dish is vegetarian and vegan friendly and best enjoyed with a side of steamed white rice and sautéed greens.
Similar to bò kho in flavor (beef stew) but much quicker to make, fried tofu and king oyster mushrooms are simmered in a broth seasoned with lemongrass, chilis and a blend of spices. The king oyster mushrooms add a satisfying meaty texture, while the combination of chili peppers and spices gives a bold depth of flavor. The dish packs such a punch that you may even forget that you’re eating a vegetarian dish!
I don’t recall ever having had this variety of Japanese eggplant back in the US, but this has become one of my vegetables of choice for its milder taste and ease of preparing. This dish is an ideal weekday meal because it is composed of easy to find ingredients and only takes 15 minutes to throw together. Though meatless, this savory-sweet dish is chock-full of flavor and will leave even the pickiest taste buds satisfied.
There are certain dishes that remain inextricably linked to defining moments in my life, dishes whose aroma alone can instantly transport me back to moments that reside in the deepest recesses of my memory. Among those dishes is thịt kho nước dừa, which is pork belly and eggs simmered in coconut juice and nước mắm.
Before lightly frying the tofu, the surface is dusted with turmeric and coated them with minced lemongrass and chili peppers. The fried tofu and vermicelli rice noodles sit on a bed of chopped lettuce and fresh aromatic herbs. The noodle bowl is dressed with a drizzle of a Vietnamese fish sauce mix before serving. This is an ideal summer dish that minimizes stove and prep time, yet doesn’t skimp on flavor.
Pâté chaud (bánh patê sô) is a French-inspired Vietnamese meat pie, which can be found in just about every Vietnamese bakery. The rich meat filling composed of ground pork and French pâté is enrobed in a puff pastry. Once out of the oven, the buttery aroma and flaky puff pastry shell will be hard to resist!
Vietnamese caramelized ginger chicken perfectly marries savory and sweet flavors. Once the liquid reduces, it bathes the chicken in a glistening amber sauce imbued with a fiery ginger flavor. The sauce will no doubt have your taste buds popping and begging for more. This dish pairs perfectly with a side of steamed white jasmine rice.