Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hoi An foods

Tra Que vegetable farm is just outside Hoi An and it was the first stop this morning on the shopping tour of the cooking class I had signed up for. Typical herbs of the Vietnamese cuisine like Asian basil (a.k.a. Vietnamese mint), Vietnamese coriander and sawtooth coriander are grown here using traditional methods, all organic and by hand. Wandering through the fields we smelled and tasted loads of different herbs, you'll be surprised how many different varieties of basil are grown here, one smells fishy actually. We stocked up on fresh herbs and were treated to a herbal refreshment before moving on.
Next stop was the local market where we bought veggies & spices including banana flowers and water spinach, typical for the Vietnamese cuisine and locally sourced.
fresh organic herbs

organic farming, outside Hoi An
if the grass is greener on the other side: water your own grass!


We unloaded the purchased produce after a short drive to the red bridge restaurant and cooking school, which is located on the Hoi An river and got started in the kitchen right away!

Appetizer: Lemongrass Shrimp

Fresh shrimp marinated in a paste of lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chili, salt, pepper and sugar and then grilled on a BBQ. Properly done they are actually wrapped in banana leaves and then grilled. The dipping sauce is very simple yet delicious: 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and sugar mixed with the juice of a lime.
grilling lemongrass shrimps

Lemongrass shrimps with a lime, pepper, salt and sugar based dipping sauce

Starter: Grilled Chicken and Banana Flower Salad

Chicken breast is marinated in soy sauce, sugar, pepper and five spices mix and grilled until golden brown. The salad is based on banana flowers, grated green mango, green papaya and carrot, with a bit of chili, spring onions and water spinach stems and tossed in a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, garlic and sugar, topped with some fresh Vietnamese herbs: Mint, Vietnamese mint, Asian Basil and some fried shallots and roasted sesame seeds.
Grilled chicken and banana flower salad


Probably the best known Vietnamese dish in the west, this rice noodle soup is originally from Hanoi. 
Phở Bo is topped with beef (Bo) and the proper broth should also be a beef broth. To make the broth get a kilo of beef bones and fry them for a few minutes to reduce the fat, add cinnamon, ginger, onion, star anise, cardamom and shallots to the fry then add water and a pinch of salt and sugar and let it simmer for an hour or more, skimming off the fat from the top.

preparing the broth for the Phở

Next we were taught how to make rice noodles: It's basically rice soaked over night mixed with water and a pinch of salt and put in a blender until it's a smooth white batter. A cotton cloth is tight over a pot of steaming water, a spoon of the batter goes on top and after a minute you can lift it off with a bamboo stick and cut into strips about a cm wide.
making rice noodles
Noodles go into the soup bowl, topped with thinly sliced beef filet, cover with the stock and serve with fresh herbs and pickle to taste. In the street food places of Hanoi the herbs are on the table for everyone to help themselves to pimp their Phở with Asian basil, sawtooth coriander, Vietnamese celery, chili, lime, bean sprouts etc. Delicious.
Phở. The best ever.

sizzling fish stew in a clay pot

Main: Clay pot fish with fresh dill

Fish filets marinated in turmeric, salt and pepper for an hour, briefly fried, then simmered in a clay pot with a sauce of garlic, shallots, chili, oil and water. Topped with fresh dill and peanuts and served with rice noodles.
Clay pot fish with fresh dill

P.S.: got the munchies? you can find the recipes here.
P.P.S.: it's a blog post that belongs to my trip from January 2012. I was lazy. I'm catching up.

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