Archive for the 'Vietnamese' Category

Banh Mi

The first time we went to Vietnam, I wasn’t a vegetarian and I happily ate bowl after bowl of pho and bun cha. The second time we went, I no longer ate meat and things got a little trickier, until I realized that you could get banh mi with just Laughing Cow cheese, chili sauce, and vegetables. I ate dozens of those sandwiches as we explored the southern end of the country.

For his birthday yesterday, Mike requested sandwiches for dinner and I realized I had never attempted homemade banh mi. This recipe called for thin slices of fried tofu, lots of vegetables, and mayo. I switched out the mayo for Laughing Cow, and we both LOVED these! The bread I found at the store wasn’t quite right (it was too chewy and not crusty enough) so I may make my own bread next time, but in a pinch just about any white sandwich roll with a nice crust should work.

(adapted from Herbivoracious)

makes 4 sandwiches

1 pound firm tofu, sliced evenly into 12 thin slices
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices
1/2 daikon radish, peeled and cut into thin slices
4 triangles Laughing Cow Cheese
1/2 English cucumber, cut into thin slices
1/2 white onion, sliced thin
1 avocado, sliced
about 1/4 cup fresh mint
a handful of fresh cilantro
a few tsp Chili Garlic sauce or Sambal Oelek
4 crusty mini-baguettes

Dissolve the sugar in the water and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add the daikon and carrot and let marinate for about 20 minutes.

Pat the tofu slices dry. Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium high. Add the tofu in a single layer (cook in 2 batches) and fry for a few minutes on each side (until golden). Remove and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

To prepare the sandwiches, cut the bread almost in half lengthwise. Spread with cheese and chili garlic sauce, then top with tofu slices and vegetables.

Pho with beef or tofu

I ate pho at least once a day when we were in Vietnam, but when I gave up meat I knew it would be tough to make a vegetarian version that comes close to the rich, full-flavored broth that makes it so great. While this broth does have a nice blend of spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom, and fennel), it’s missing the beef marrow that makes it so rich and smooth.

Still, for vegetarians, this is a great recipe to try because the flavors are nice, and honestly, one of the best parts of pho is all the things you get to stir into it! Plus, because each person assembles their own bowl, it’s easy to cater to vegetarians and meat-eaters at the same time, like I did here. I just put some thinly sliced tofu on top of my noodles, and some thinly sliced beef on top of Mikes noodles before ladling the broth over everything.

(adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, via Steamy Kitchen)

8 cups water
1 onion, quartered
a 2″ piece of ginger, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 star anise
1 cardamom pod
3 cloves
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

Combine all broth ingredients and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, then bring to a simmer in a large saucepan when you’re ready to assemble your soup. Taste and add more salt or sugar if necessary.

7 ounces medium rice sticks (like these)
1/4 pound flank steak, sliced as thinly as possible
6 ounces of tofu, drained and thinly sliced
2 habanero peppers, thinly sliced (if you like spicy food)
1-2 cups bean sprouts
2 limes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (loosely packed)
fish sauce

Prepare the rice sticks according to package directions.
Arrange the peppers, bean sprouts, limes, and mint on a serving plate so people can customize their bowls of soup. Have the fish sauce available for seasoning soup as desired.
Put a few noodles in the bottom of a bowl, then top with either tofu or beef. Ladle the simmering broth over the noodles, then garnish your soup however you like.

My favorite appetizer

Allow me to introduce you to my favorite appetizer of all time

Since I first tasted these little beauties at a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland about 7 or 8 years ago, I’ve been in love with them.  I always thought they were way too involved to make at home, but I was wrong.  My mom makes these a lot, and I have discovered they are pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
Instead of a recipe, I’ll give some ideas for success.  Just know that the “learn by doing” philosophy really works here.  I prefer more vegetables and fewer noodles, but my husband is the opposite.  Some might prefer vegetarian salad rolls, but I like mine with shrimp.  Experiment and find your ideal salad roll. You will not be disappointed.
You will need 
– spring roll wrappers like this:
I like the square ones because I think they are more user-friendly, but you can use the round ones if you prefer.
Then, it’s up to you what else you include.  Here are my favorites:
– Cooked rice vermicelli
– julienned carrot
– green leaf or butter lettuce
– julienned cucumber
– bean sprouts
– cooked chicken, cut in thin strips
– cooked shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
– green onion, julienned
– cilantro leaves
– Thai basil leaves
Put about 1/2″ of water in a 13 x 9 pan.
Soak one spring roll wrapper for about 20-30 seconds, until it is very flexible but doesn’t tear.
Put it on a plate, and add the filling ingredients.  Less is more here!
Fold the bottom corner up over the filling, fold in the side corners, and roll up, burrito style. 
Cut each spring roll in half on the diagonal to serve. 
I like to dip them in hoisin sauce mixed with chopped peanuts.


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