So I got back from Vietnam and wanted to recreate the favourite dishes I ate there. One of the first things I did was my own personal Masterchef moment: I cooked a family birthday lunch for ten people, that needed to cater for vegetarian and non chilli lovers as well as chilli lovers, plus show off some of the things that I really liked eating while I was in Vietnam.
It was a bit of a tall order but I
pulled it off my family didn’t complain about the result.
On the menu (note, some of this may not be Vietnamese but all the flavours seemed to mesh enough that I didn’t mind!):
- Banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) for entree
- Green papaya salad
- Vietnamese vegetable curry
- Eggplant & tofu “claypot” – I don’t have a claypot.
- Beef with bok choy – this for the chilli haters
- Pork with lemongrass and chilli – this for the chilli lovers
- Three different bowls of nuoc cham varied by the amount of birdseye chillis that went in (none, half or one)
- Rice – the rice cooker handled this one. I did nothing.
I was too frazzled to take photos while I was cooking so all I have to show for my efforts is a photo or two of the dishes underway, near the start. I began with the vegetable curry and the eggplant dish, as I figured those two could sit around a bit while I stirfried the other two.
We cooked Vietnamese vegetable curry in the cooking class that I did while I stayed in Hoi An, and I found it surprising that they just use Indian curry powder for their curries, given the red/green/massaman pastes etc. going on in the country next door. However: who’s to argue.
I used this recipe for Vietnamese seafood curry for the basic curry as it seemed similar to what we cooked in class, but substituted ingredients at will. Having visited Little Saigon market in Footscray on the Saturday and topping up at Ying Yang supermarket in Forest Hill on the Sunday I had quite the haul of vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices to play with.
It was packed with veggies: eggplant, sweet potato, carrot, bok choy (okay this was on special at Little Saigon, I brought home oodles of it), and mushrooms. It was pretty hot due to the chillies, which suited everyone just fine, except my dad, who can’t handle the heat.
As my brother is vego, I wanted to make sure that more than one of the dishes I cooked for the extended family were vegetarian/vegan so he’d have some options.
One of the other dishes I loved in Vietnam was eggplant and tofu in claypot. I ate my best version at Streets restaurant in Hoi An, potential travellers should note! It had a feelgood factor too as they train up street kids in the hospitality industry. I definitely wanted to make this dish.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a recipe for it, so after much umming and ahing and googling, I was running out of time. I decided to use this recipe from Vietnamese Vegan Cuisine as the basis. I changed very little:
- I did sub out the apple cider vinegar, replacing it with lime juice as I had oodles of limes on hand and was cooking heaps of other dishes requiring lime juice as well.
- I also used the amount of cornflour that they say in the recipe, but it ended up too gluggy – I’d recommend using a tablespoon less (which I did the next time I cooked this).
The second time I made this I used the wrong kind of tofu (silken instead of firm) in a brain fart moment, which resulted in a similarly tasty dish, however the food looked like vomit as the silken tofu had disintegrated in the wok. If you eat with your eyes… don’t make this mistake!
The recipe creates a delicious dish, if not exactly eggplant tofu in claypot! I’d like to hear of anyone’s recipes for claypot dishes (and also where I can get my hands on a claypot… Asian supermarkets?
Oh and… the lunch went down a treat!