Category Archives: Vietnamese

Vietnamese Salad with Kohlrabi (or Mock Green Papaya Salad)

mockpapaya_Raw kohlrabi sticks have been my favourite healthy snack since early childhood. As an adult I tasted cooked kolhrabi and it was so awful, losing its refreshing crunchiness and delicate flavours, I was completely put off trying to incorporate it into any dish, even cold. When I saw Shu Han (from Mummy I can cook) make Thai salad with kolhrabi instead of the customary green papaya I found the idea extremely tempting, but then completely forgot about it. Luckily, kohlrabi is available most of the year, so it’s – almost – always a good moment to experiment.

If you have never bought kohlrabi, apparently also called “German turnip” or turnip cabbage”, it does look a bit like a big turnip, but has light green smooth skin and when you peel it and taste it, it might make you think of an extremely delicately flavoured radish (though if you wait too long after peeling, kohlrabi will start smelling a bit cabbagy). Some people cook it, but personally I think it’s the worst thing one can do with this vegetable. It loses its unusual freshness and becomes similar to any turnip really.  It also loses its precious vitamin C and maybe other healthy elements too.

Shu Han made a Thai green papaya salad. I made a Vietnamese one. Both are a bit similar and probably equally good (I have never tasted the Thai version). The famous Vietnamese green papaya salad is very simple to prepare, especially if you skip, like me, dried beef and fried shallots. Just like I do when making it with green papaya (see the post here), I followed the recipe from “Vietnamese Street Food” by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl and I hope it’s at least close to the genuine thing.

While tasting this mock green papaya salad I was surprised to see how small the difference was. The kolhrabi is maybe slightly sweeter and less dense in texture, but otherwise I didn’t think it spoilt the original recipe in any way and I certainly liked it as much as the real thing. Thanks to this modification I was thrilled to use local organic vegetables instead of produce pumped with pesticides and probably also sprayed for transportation… (one of the reasons I try not to buy green papaya too often). Thank you so much, Shu Han, for this excellent idea!

TIPS: When buying kolhrabi, try to choose the one with the smoothest skin and don’t take the biggest specimens. The smaller it is and the smoothest the skin, the juicier and the crunchier it will be.

If you prepare the sauce in advance, bear in mind it becomes hotter with time. It also loses the lime’s fresh aroma, but keeps its acidity of course.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):

1 medium kolhrabi

a big handful of soybean/mung bean sprouts

3 Asian spring onions (white and whiteish parts only) or 1 Asian shallot (advised in the original recipe)

1 heaped tablespoon toasted and roughly crushed peanuts

1 heaped tablespoon fried onion/shallot (I have skipped it)

leaves from 4 branches of coriander

Sauce:

1 small bird’s-eye-chili, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 flat tablespoons sugar or Agave syrup

1 tablespoon fish sauce

juice from 1/2 lime

(shredded dried beef)

Peel the kohlrabi and cut it into long matchstick threads or julienne it (a julienne peeler is the best tool here).

Combine it with the sprouts (you can cut them in two), chopped spring onions and coriander leaves.

Mix the sauce ingredients and pour them over the vegetables.

Stir well, sprinkle with peanuts and serve.

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

asp_springrollsp I hope you are not bored with my asparagus posts yet because… here is my most recent discovery! I have already tested – and with no regrets – asparagus as a filling in  maki sushi, then in filo rolls… now the time has come for spring rolls! Asparagus, the spring vegetable par excellence, thoroughly justifies the name of these snacks. I am glad to add them to my growing list of asparagus dishes and at the same time to my collection of spring rolls, which will once more become a staple during approaching hot days. I strongly recommend these to all the asparagus lovers.

If you don’t like asparagus, here are some other spring roll filling ideas:

Surimi and Avocado Spring Rolls

Surimi and Avocado Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Soba Noodles and Cucumber Spring Rolls

Soba Noodles and Cucumber Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

If you look for other asparagus dish ideas, you might like some of these:
Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Asparagus Tempura

Asparagus Tempura

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

TIPS: I have added here mung bean sprouts because I like them and buy constantly, but since the asparagus is already crunchy, you can skip them and add more of other ingredients instead.

These rolls can be served with any sauce of your choice (or without any sauce too!), but I particularly liked it with a mixture of soy sauce, chilli oil and vinegar (my ratio is usually 3:1:1). They were also delicious with the sesame salad dressing I have posted here. (The one you see above is a Vietnamese sweet, sour and hot sauce, but finally I didn’t find it the best for the asparagus).

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (8 rolls):

8 (22 cm or 8 3/4 in diameter) rice paper sheets

1 x 40 g (about 1,4 oz) package of glass/cellophane (mung bean) noodles

8 rather big lettuce leaves (or the equivalent of other green leaves) 

two small handfuls of washed fresh mung bean sprouts or more glass noodles/more asparagus

12 green asparagus spears, blanched and still crunchy (the lower hard 1/3 – 1/4 part trimmed)

1 big baked, grilled, boiled or steamed chicken breast

(mayonnaise)

(chili paste or sauce)

Put the glass noodles into a bowl.

Cover with boiling water and soak them about ten minutes until they soften and become limp.

Drain them with cold water.

Cut the asparagus into halves or smaller portions, so that they are as long as your spring rolls will be.

Cut the chicken breast in two horizontally and then into thin strips.

Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.

Divide the lettuce leaves, the chicken breast, the asparagus spears, the glass noodles (and the mung bean sprouts if you use them) into ten equal portions.

Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them. As soon as the sheet softens (after about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a big chopping board.

Place first the lettuce leaf in the middle, horizontally (at the edge which is closest to you) the asparagus, a piece of chicken breast, mayonnaise, mung bean sprouts and chili paste if you choose to do so.

Roll tightly starting from the edge which is closest to you.

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally with the sesame paste dressing/dip or with a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.

If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.

Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

greenpapayasaladp

This salad has become my obsession and addiction of recent weeks. Maybe it is due to the green papaya which I have tasted here for the first time or maybe it’s the unusual, perfectly balanced hot, sour and sweet dressing… The truth is that after five or six meals in recent two weeks, instead of getting bored, I crave it more and more.

I suspect that a big part of my enchantment is due to the green papaya. Did you know that green papaya is simply unripe papaya? I suppose all my Asian friends will laugh here at my ignorance, but I’m still in awe at how huge is the difference between unripe and ripe fruit stage. While I am not fond of the ripe papaya’s overwhelming aroma, I adore the green one’s subtle, delicate scent and crunchy texture. I intend to explore more recipes from South-Eastern Asian countries and India, where apparently green papaya is very popular. Apparently papaya is not only flavoursome, but also healthy, so I hope it’s better than being addicted to bacon.

This salad is also my first step into the discovery of real Vietnamese cuisine. Since my only memories of “Vietnamese” food were greasy, heavy dishes in thick, sticky floury sauces, this salad was a revelation. The recipe comes from “Vietnamese Street Food” by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl, a book I have recently bought when I realised I didn’t know much about this country’s cuisine and didn’t have a single Vietnamese cookery book. The book is not an introduction to the Vietnamese cuisine, but only to its street food which for me is a fascinating world, so absent in European culinary culture. It is beautifully designed, contains luscious photos and tempting recipes. While reading it I realised that many ingredients used in Thai cuisine are also used in Vietnam and, as I have already mentioned in a previous post, Vietnamese use my beloved shiso quite a lot (called tia to or ti to, but don’t ask me how to pronounce it).

I have slightly modified the recipe, skipping dried beef  and fried shallots I didn’t have. I don’t know how much I missed without these ingredients (every time I made it I skipped them), but the result was awesome and far beyond my expectations.

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):

1/4 medium green papaya

a handful of soybean/mung bean sprouts

3 Asian spring onions (white and whiteish parts only) or 1 Asian shallot (advised in the original recipe)

1 heaped tablespoon toasted and roughly crushed peanuts

1 heaped tablespoon fried onion/shallot (I have skipped it)

leaves from 4 branches of coriander

Sauce:

1 small bird’s-eye-chili, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 flat tablespoons sugar or Agave syrup

1 tablespoon fish sauce

juice from 1/2 lime

(shredded dried beef)

Peel the papaya and cut it into long matchstick threads (a mandolin is a good tool here).

Combine it with the sprouts, chopped spring onions and coriander leaves.

Mix the sauce ingredients and pour them over the vegetables.

Stir well, sprinkle with peanuts and serve.

 

Spring Rolls with Soba Noodles and Cucumber

sobaspringrollsp

Still in a joyful mood as a recent Charles’s guest blogger, here I am, travelling far across the ocean, straight to MJ’s Kitchen. Fascinated by MJ’s Southern cuisine, so exotic and different from mine, and impressed by her meticulous approach to every single recipe and ingredient, I am very proud to guest post for her today and sincerely hope you will visit her beautiful blog.

Given my passion for the Asian cuisine, I was glad that MJ suggested it for today. The last hot sunny days are still there, so I have chosen to present you a recent snack discovery. It is a cross between Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine, driven by an inspiring recipe on a… Korean blog. It sounds a bit complicated, but in reality this four-ingredient recipe is quite quick and simple.

Vietnamese rice paper used to prepare the famous spring rolls is a versatile staple I enjoy every summer. It is easy to stock, it has a very long shelf life and filled with vegetable or meat leftovers, it can be transformed into delicious, light sandwich alternatives. Even though I experiment a lot with rice paper, I would have never thought of combining them with Japanese soba noodles (see below), if I hadn’t spotted Soba and Kimchi Rolls at Heart Mind and Seoul blog. The rolls looked delicious and the presence of soba noodles was particularly surprising and tempting. The day I decided to recreate this recipe I ran out of kimchi, so I decided to replace it with cucumber for a crunchy, fresh note.

These simple rolls proved one of these rare vegetarian (and even vegan) snacks in which, even as an avowed carni- and piscivore, I didn’t mind the absence of fish or meat. This was probably due to the fact that soba noodles have a high protein content and are quite filling. They are satiating, but not heavy thanks to the substantial amount of the cucumber and the light, hot dipping sauce. They are an excellent alternative to sandwiches and I have particularly appreciated them as an afternoon snack. Halved horizontally, they make original party finger food. For a more complete meal, I can imagine them as a side dish with grilled meat or fish. Thank you, Sook, for the inspiration!

Soba (蕎麦) means in Japanese both buckwheat and buckwheat noodles. Soba noodles have a nutty taste and a characteristic strong aroma and can be served in both hot and cold dishes, the latter being particularly popular in cooling summer dishes.  They are popular in whole Japan, but are apparently particularly in Tokio. According to wikipedia, in the Edo period (from 1603 to 1868) the rich population of Edo (the ancient name of Tokio) who consumed only white rice, poor in thiamine (vitamin B1) the deficiency of which lead to beriberi. When it was discovered that soba was rich in thiamine, the Edo population started to consume it in big amounts.

Buckwheat is not only transformed into flour and  consumed not only in Japan. In fact hulled and roasted buckwheat grains are very popular in several Central and Eastern European countries (Russia, Poland, Ukraine…). In France “gallettes” or savoury crêpes originating from Brettany region are also made with buckwheat flour. Belonging to the Fagopyrum genus, buckwheat is not a grass, nor a cereal, even though it looks like one. Its qualities are so numerous, it is surprising most of the Western countries never consume it. It is very rich in protein, minerals, antioxydants, iron and doesn’t contain any gluten, so can be consumed by people who don’t tolerate it.  Moreover, buckwheat grows very quickly and easily. That is why it can be cultivated in cold climate and crops can be easily multiplied in hot regions. If you ever have the chance, taste buckwheat honey. It has an unforgettable aroma and taste.

TIP: Dried noodles called “soba” can be bought in Japanese grocery shops, but most of them contain a mixture of buckwheat and wheat flours, so check well the ingredients before buying. My favourite are 100% buckwheat soba (juwari 十割 or towari) because of their intense flavour and aroma, but some people find it too strong. Soba noodles are usually light brown, but they can also be green when mixed with green tea (cha soba) or seaweed (hegi soba) and light pink when flavoured with cherry (sakura soba).

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (for 5 – 6 rolls):

6 rice paper sheets (22 cm/about 8,6 in. diameter)

50 – 60 g (about 2 oz.) soba noodles

1/2 big cucumber

2 – 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Dipping sauce:

5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or less if using standard soy sauce)
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Cook the soba noodles for 3-4 minutes in boiling unsalted water (the time depends on the brand and the kind of noodles, so check the exact time on the package).

Drain the noodles with very cold water to stop them from further softening.

Cut the noodles in two (shorter noodles will be easier to use here) and put aside.

Prepare the cucumber cutting it in 6 cm sticks.

Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.

Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them.

As soon as the sheet softens (about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 5 cm/2 in. from the rice paper edge which is closest to you, a stack composed of noodles and cucumber pieces.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you.

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally.

If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.

Spring Rolls with Surimi Crab Sticks, Avocado and Lettuce

surimispringrollsp

Despised by many people, surimi crab sticks (or imitation crab sticks) are one of the rare processed products I regularly buy. They are the lightest snack I can imagine, have a long shelf – or rather fridge – life, they are easy and quick to use in salads, maki sushi and are quite enjoyable if paired with certain ingredients. There is also a question of brand because imitation crab can easily become awful. Among all the French brands I have tested, only one (Coraya) is edible. In short, I stick to one brand, I don’t expect too much from surimi sticks and they never disappoint me.

I often use surimi crab sticks in maki sushi and this was the first time I tested them in spring rolls. When a couple of days ago I saw A_Boleyn’s appetising Shrimp Summer Rolls, I thought I should write about my rolls which, apart from rice sheets, are completely different from hers. I left out glass noodles and even though I haven’t followed any recipe, I must have been influenced by the Japanese Nama Harumaki, raw spring rolls containing lettuce. The rolls were really good and refreshing, not as filling as the traditional ones (with glass noodles), but perfect as a light meal or snack or why not a breakfast on a hot summer day. Since they contain already mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, they do not necessarily need any additional dipping sauce, but a simple mixture of low-sodium soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar is the best option for me.

TIP: Do not use bitter lettuce here (I used here my favourite “rougette” with slightly violet leaves, but the international iceberg would be perfect too)

Preparation: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients (10 rolls):

10 (22 cm or 8 3/4 in) rice paper sheets

10 small lettuce leaves (or 5 big leaves, halved); 

1 avocado

10 surimi/imitation crab sticks

1/2 big cucumber

mayonnaise

Worcestershire sauce

Tabasco

Cut both the avocado and the cucumber into thick strips.

Remove the thick and tough parts of lettuce leaves (they might tear the delicate rice sheets).

Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.

Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them.

As soon as the sheet softens ( after about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a big chopping board.

Place first a lettuce leaf, horizontally (at the edge which is closest to you), then cucumber strips, avocado strips, some mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and a crab stick. You should aim at approximately 9cm/3,5 in long roll.

Roll tightly starting from the edge which is closest to you.

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally.

If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.