The Little Viet Kitchen Cookbook and Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

Recently, the lovely Thuy Diem Pham – founder of my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in London, The Little Viet Kitchen launched her very first cookbook of the same name published by Absolute Press.  I preordered a copy for it to arrive on launch date and it is as beautifully styled and photographed as I had hoped.

It is clear that a lot of love and attention has gone into compiling the recipes in this book and the photos, by David Loftus, are just dreamy. Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I could literally eat all the recipes in the book, so will be working my way through it over the coming months. Happy days.

Just looking at the photos has me salivating.

Summer rolls – perfect for the months ahead and oh so pretty.

I was pondering on what to cook – so many choices – but I decided on Thuy’s lemongrass chicken banh mi – Vietnamese baguettes. My family are obsessed with them so I knew it would be a hit with everyone. If you prefer tofu I have a recipe post on how to make them here, and of course Thuy has her tofu version in the book too, which I will most definitely try out.

The cookbook guides you gently through Vietnamese cooking – from Thuy’s larder where she shows you clearly how to make all manner of sauces and dressings, to wonderfully fragrant broths – known as Pho (pronounced ‘fur’), street food, small plates, colours of Vietnam, Thuy’s creations and sweet treats. Like Indian cuisine, Vietnamese does require a few specialised ingredients, but once these have been found then you are ready to go.

Unlike Thai cooking, Vietnamese food is less chilli hot so is pretty versatile for the whole family to eat it. It is packed to the brim with fragrant, refreshing flavours such as lemongrass, tamarind, mint, coriander, ginger and lime juice. It’s all about balancing the sweet, salty, sour and hot and throw a good crunch and texture into the mix then you have the perfect dish. To make banh mi there are a few steps, but nothing that a bit of planning can’t solve.

SO here is what you need. Don’t panic if you find this too long winded. I promise you it really is simpler than it looks. I made a few changes, namely store bought mayo and adding sriracha and then I completely forgot to add the crispy shallots and spring onions – oh dear! – so you won’t find any of those in my photos.

Serves 4

1 or 2 large baguettes (I’ve been told the ones in Sainburys that you heat up in the oven are rather good for banh mi, but not tried and tested as yet)

4 tsp butter

4 tbsp mayonaisse

1 tbsp Sriracha sauce 

1 cucumber, seeds removed and cut into thick diagonal slices

2 spring onions, sliced lengthways

4 tbsp crispy shallots, either store bought or fry up your own (banana shallots work well)

pinch of crushed black peppercorns

4 tbsp chicken liver pate

small handful of pickled carrot and daikon (see recipe below)

large handful of fresh coriander leaves

3 tbsp light soy sauce

optional 1 red chilli, finely sliced

 

 

STEP 1

Make the pickled carrot and daikon (also known as mooli or white raddish).

Makes enough to fill a 500ml jar and will last for a couple of weeks

250ml rice vinegar

250g granulated sugar

250g carrots, cut into fine matchsticks

250g daikon, cut into fine matchsticks

  1. Heat the rice vinegar and sugar together in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Allow to cool completely before pouring over the finely cut carrots and daikon.
  3. Seal properly and cool before placing in the fridge.

 

STEP 2

Prepare a little bowl of the mayo/sriracha mix, to taste

 

STEP 3

Prepare the cucumber, spring onion and coriander and place in a bowl ready to fill the baguette.

 

STEP 4

Place the fried shallots in a separate bowl

 

STEP 5

Cut up the baguette at a diagonal. Scrape out a little of the bread so that there is more room to add the filling.

 

STEP 6

 

Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

750g chicken breast fillets, sliced diagonally into 1 x 5cm strips

2 tbsp vegetable oil

for the marinade

2 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp finely diced lemongrass stalks

2 tbsp finely diced garlic

1 tbsp finely diced chillies

1 tbsp finely diced onion

4 tbsp sesame oil

 

  1. Combine all the ingredients and place in a large bowl in the fridge to marinate for at least 3 hours or ideally overnight (I did the latter).
  2. When almost ready to fill the banh mi, heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken in golden in colour and completely cooked. Keep the chicken moving around the pan or it will burn because of the sugar.
  3. Take off the heat and place immediately into your banh mi.

 

STEP 7 – to serve

  1. Put a little butter and chicken liver pate in the baguette.
  2. Add a good dollop of the mayo/sriracha filling
  3. Lay the cucumber inside, careful not to overfill and add the pickled carrot and daikon.
  4. Add the lemongrass chicken followed by the coriander, spring onion and drizzle of soy sauce
  5. Lastly, sprinkle with chilli slices, crispy fried shallots and crushed black peppercorns.

 

Dive in and enjoy.

 

You can purchase Thuy’s book at all good book shops and of course online here

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The Little Viet Kitchen – Islington

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For those who have a weakness for seriously tasty Vietnamese food, as I do, you need to pay a visit to Chapel Market, a stone’s throw away from Angel tube station. As you stroll through the market, past the famous Pie & Mash and Eels restaurant M.Manze you come across a shining beckon of shabby chic cool with a mint, grey and wooden exterior. The name ‘The Little Viet Kitchen’ is etched above the door. Once you enter a wave of calm serenity washes over you. This is a place to lunch and take your time.

The first thing that hits you is how charming and well thought through the restaurant is. From the stunning chandeliers, to the beautiful vases of fresh flowers on each table, to the wooden ceilings, the bar stools and the lights above the bar.

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Everything oozes with considered cool. It’s a place that immediately puts you at ease. There is no frenetic lunching here.

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The restaurant is the brainchild of Thuy Pham-Kelly, who launched the restaurant last year, having previously run a successful Vietnamese supper club. She still continues with her supper clubs each month where dinners arrive at 6pm and are treated to a surprise Vietnamese banquet that changes each month. Her passion and love of Vietnamese food is clearly evident both in the cooking but also the way that she has injected so much of her own personality into the restaurant. She wants diners to feel they are dining in her own home.

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We started our Vietnamese feast with non-alcohol cocktails. For me a ‘Lemongrass Ginger Sherbet Colada’ and for my partner in crime ‘Cucumber Mojito’. I had never tried anything like my sherbet colada before, but I must say it was addictively good. It reminded me vaguely of those wonderful sherbet fountains I used to eat as a child. You know the ones that you dip a liquorice stick in.

We then opted for today’s special starters (they change daily), which were king prawns and a spider crab each on a Vietnamese salad bursting with flavour. It was a great taster of what was to come.

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As a side note I wanted to mention the stunning, tactile crockery that the food was served in. Not only did the bowls and plates have weight they also kept the food hotter for longer, owing to the fact that they were made of clay. Sourced from Japan, they complement the food perfectly.

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One of the statement dishes (the other being Pho, but I shall have that on my return visit) is Banh Xeo – Vietnamese Pancakes – which was larger than life as you can see. We opted for the one filled with pork belly and prawn. It’s a great dish to share and allows you to get really stuck in as you need to eat it with your fingers. After cutting a bite sized portion of the pancake you wrap it in a lettuce leaf and add some fresh herbs – mint and coriander. You then roll it up slightly before dipping it in the nuoc cham sauce. If you want to know how to cook them yourself, albeit a lot smaller ones than the one I ate, take a look at my recipe here.

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Next up was the ‘Coconut Poussin Curry’ that packed a delicate chilli punch. All the meat sourced is organic  and consequently has flavour and tastes good. The coconut infused broth was deliciously creamy and nicely spiced. Nothing bland about the cooking here.  The dish does require quite a bit of concentration to eat as there is a generous portion of noodles sitting in the bowl. Transferring noodles to mouth without any contact with one’s pristine top/blouse/shirt (delete as appropriate) is quite a skill. I think I just about managed it!

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We were then treated to Thuy’s special ‘Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls’ that were filled with pork, water chestnut and glass noodles. They were utterly delicious and I liked the fact that they had water chestnuts in them, a first for me.

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Needing to digest we drank cups of lemongrass and green tea, the perfect beverage to finish off a very filling and delicious lunch. Will I be returning? Most definitely YES and I plan to entice more of my south London friends to join me. The northern line really does make it very easy.

 

The Little Viet Kitchen

2 Chapel Market, Angel Islington

London, N1 9EZ

Tel: 0207 837 9779

Monday             Closed

Tuesday             12:00 to 15:00, 18:00 to 22:00

Wednesday       12:00 to 15:00, 18:00 to 22:00

Thursday           12:00 to 15:00, 18:00 to 23:00

Friday                 12:00 to 15:00, 18:00 to 23:00

Saturday            12:00 to 23:00