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.