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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Vietnamese Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich

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I have a love affair going on when it comes to the ubiquitous Vietnamese sandwich known as banh mi. If the truth be told I love them in every form: pork, chicken, fish, beef, tofu – you name it and I pretty much love all the varieties that you can have. I love the cruchiness and sweet and sour piquant from the pickle, combined with the freshness of the coriander, the spices from the marinaded tofu/meat/fish, the chilli and the freshness from the baguette. Every bite has so much action going on for the palate – sweet, sour, umami chilli notes.

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They are not as much of a chore as you’d expect if you make them at home. I tend to buy the baguette, but if you have time on your hands, then I can totally recommend The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen to show you how to make the traditional baguette as well. Father Christmas kindly popped it in my stocking a few years back – such a thoughtful fella!

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I’ll talk your through it step by step, but once you’ve made the pickle – this takes no time at all – you’re pretty much all set. The pickle also lasts up to a month in the fridge so there is no need to use it all in a couple of days.  I am going to show you how to do the tofu version, but if you prefer to make it with chicken or pork then the same marinade can apply.

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I used the silken firm tofu, which you need to handle with care. Some brands are firmer than others, but ultimately if it falls apart a little it doesn’t really matter once it is in the baguette.

There are a few ingredients that you really need to get hold of before making a banh mi:

  • daikon (also known as mooli or white radish) – it looks similar to horseradish but has a lot milder flavour. I pick mine up from my local Indian grocer.
  • carrots
  • rice wine vinegar
  • a crunchy baguette
  • maggi seasoning sauce – according to Andrea Nguyen for a ‘first class banh mi, drizzle on some maggi sauce; it will boost each bite with an umami hit’ – she goes on to explain that ‘it is practically synonymous with banh mi’. I picked mine up from my local Asian supermarket but you can also order it from Ocado here
  • chillies to give the heat injection
  • fresh coriander
  • cucumber to add texture and crunch
  • mayonnaise (vegan if you want to keep the whole meal vegan)
  • sriracha sauce
  • 1 litre jar for the pickle

 

So to begin with you need to prepare the pickle. Trust me it is quick and easy to make.

 

Carrot and Daikon Pickle

500g daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks *

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (as above)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp caster sugar

100g caster sugar

300ml rice wine vinegar

250ml warm water

1 litre storage jar (can be slightly bigger but no smaller)

  1. After peeling, cut the carrot and daikon up into equal size matches and place them in a bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the salt and the teaspoons of sugar over the carrots and daikon and gently massage them gently for a few minutes using your hands. This will make them become softer and more bendy.
  3. Wash and drain them thoroughly under some cold water before placing them into your jar.
  4. In a separate jug mix the rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and warm water so that the sugar dissolves and then pour into the jar with the carrots and daikon. Discard any left over brine. If you need a little extra brine to cover the carrots and daikon simply add a little more warm water.
  5. Refrigerate for up to a month.

*the exact size of the matchsticks is irrelevant, obviously not too big, but do make sure that the carrot and daikon matchsticks are of similar size if possible.  I have seen them super skinny and slightly wider like mine below. Both ways taste delicious. 

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Matchstick daikon and carrots above and with salt and sugar ready to be massaged below.

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Once your carrot and daikon pickle is resting it’s now time to make the marinade for your tofu. I slice my block of tofu gently into about about 9slices. You don’t want to cut them too thin or they will easily break.

Place them gently in a bowl and add the marinade, which consists of: tamari (or soy sauce), 1/2 lime and zest, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger and cracked pepper. Coat evenly and then leave to marinade for around 20 minutes. Heat some groundnut (or sunflower) oil in a pan and then let the tofu  cook gently on each side for around 3-5 minutes before turning over. It wants to be nicely bronzed.

Tofu Marinade

349g firm tofu (or similar size pack), sliced

2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

1/2 lime, juice and zest

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

liberal amount of cracked pepper

1 tsp groundnut/sunflower oil

  1. Slice the tofu gently into approximately 9 pieces and then place in a bowl and cover with the marinade ingredients.
  2. Leave to marinade for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat  the pan with oil and gently space out the marinated sliced tofu. On a medium low heat, leave the tofu for around 3 minutes to see if it is nicely bronzing. If it is then carefully turn it over for a further 3 minutes. Leave a little longer if it requires more time to bronze.
  4. Remove from pan and leave to cool whilst you prepare the rest of the sandwich.

If you are using pork or chicken make sure to slice the the meat thinly and leave to cook for longer on both sides. 

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The next part is easy. You simply mix a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (homemade, vegan or shop bought) and add sriracha to taste. I usually find that around 1/2 tbsp works really well.

 

Sriracha Mayo

2 tbsp mayonnaise (homemade, vegan or regular shop bought)

1/2 tbsp sriracha, or to taste

  1. Mix the two ingredients together to form a salmon pink sauce. Taste and add more sriracha if necessary.

The next part is the assembling. First you need to slice the baguette, but not all the way through.  Take out some of the white bread part within – this allows more space for the fillings. Now follow the instructions below.

Assembling the Bahn Mi

few drops of maggi seasoning sauce

1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced

handful of fresh coriander

2 red chillies, chopped – optional

  1. Spread out the sriracha mayo evenly along the baguette followed by a few drops of maggi seasoning sauce.
  2. Next add the cucumber, tofu followed by some of the pickled carrot and daikon. You can also add some thinly spiced fresh red chillies for extra heat if necessary or omit this part and just add the fresh coriander.

It sounds terribly long winded but I assure you that it really doesn’t take that long at all. The pickle will last for ages and is pretty quick to make in the first place. The marinading is straightforward and the sriracha mayo takes seconds. So give it a whirl. Trust me you’ll become as addicted as me about banh mi.

 


Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

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Don’t ever throw away coriander stalks as they are bursting with flavour and are perfect for making a delicious paste to go in all manner of curries. Today I wanted to show you one of my Vietnamese inspired prawn curries that combine lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander stalks, jaggery (palm sugar – or you can just use caster sugar), fresh mangoes and coconut milk.  To say it’s sublime would be an understatement. It is so downright delicious that you’ll be wanting to make it on repeat.

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I always seem to have frozen prawns in my freezer as, once thawed, they are hugely versatile to make all manner of curries or prawn cakes and generally speaking I find that most people like prawns. I had some fresh mangoes and lemongrass that were needing to be eaten so I thought that I would work the recipe around my three main ingredients – prawns, mangoes and lemongrass.

My hand blender is back in action (rejoice – how I missed it) so it took no time to whizz up a paste that tasted of the exotic Far East. By adding a little coconut milk allowed the paste to become smooth, whilst retaining its thickness.

My mother-in-law modelled the mangoes and I bought king prawns that had already been deveined and peeled to save time. So all in all from start to finish this is definitely a 15 minutes tops kind of meal, unless you are slow at peeling and cutting up your mangoes, which in that case might add on another 5 minutes or so.

If you love prawns you might also like Bengali Chingri Maach or perhaps Keralan Prawn and Kokum or my Prawn and Tamarind Curry or if you buy prawns with shells on don’t forget to keep the shells and heads so that you can make a heavenly Prawn Bisque

Happy Easter All.

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Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

paste

40g coriander stalks

2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers removed and finely chopped

1 red chilli

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp jaggery/palm sugar or caster sugar

a little coconut milk from a 400ml tin

*****

2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

15g shallots, finely sliced

1 tsp salt

700g king prawns, deveined and peeled

2 mangoes, cut into bite sized pieces

the remaining coconut mil from the 400ml tin

  1. Place all the paste ingredients into a hand blender and whizz them up to form a smooth paste. Adding a little of the coconut milk will loosen up the ingredients and help the paste to become smooth.
  2. In a deep pan or karahi add the oil and when it is hot add the shallots and salt. Move them around the pan for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
  3. Now add the paste and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Let the coconut milk heat up before adding the prawns.
  4. Move the prawns around the pan until they become pink. This will take no more than a few minutes. Simmer for an extra couple of minutes before adding the mango.

Serve with rice with some fresh lime on the side and a sprinkle of fresh coriander on the top.

If you like this recipe I am sure you will love my Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Coriander Curry


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

 

 


Vietnamese Pho Bo – Beef Noodle Soup and finding the perfect cooking course in Hoi An

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Vietnamese cuisine is to put it simply, ‘heavenly’. After my first bite of a Banh Mi, from Banh Min 11, back in London, not that long ago, I knew that it was going to be a culinary love affair. Since arriving in the motherland it has not disappointed. Each meal we have eaten has been a multitude of delicate, fragrant flavours – spices that sing to you and dance on your tongue.

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Herbs feature heavily in most dishes and add real fragrant lift. I was sufficiently enthused that I am going to attempt to grow some of them back in London – for example Vietnamese mint (which I should have no problems growing!), Vietnamese basil, saw tooth coriander, Vietnamese lemon balm, garlic chives. There is a great explanation of Vietnamese herbs here.

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I was keen to attend a cooking course in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An and so set about researching a course that best suited my needs. I was given a few recommendations, however, I decided that a course run by the very affable Van, who runs ‘Green Bamboo Cooking School’ suited my needs perfectly.

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The course run by Van offered a detailed tour of the fresh food markets, where we picked up our ingredients; convivial fellow pupils; personal touches by Van who runs the course in her own home; unhurried tutoring over seven hours; a generous range of recipes manifesting itself in a memorable group lunch and a souvenir goodie bag to take home. Throw in door to door service as Van kindly ferried us to and from our hotels, and it is no surprise that Trip Advisor has over 210 positive comments for this class with no dissenters.

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I am pleased to say that course surpassed even my high expectations. Van was charming, spoke excellent English and a was a natural teacher. She also converted me to Vietnamese coffee – the condensed milk being the key.

My fellow students were a really lovely bunch of enthusiastic foodies – three Australians, two Norwegians and two Swiss and all of us had huge grins on our faces all day, clearly revelling in the fact that we had chosen such a perfect course. Here are few photos of the day. Scroll down.

I elected to cook the unofficial national dish of Vietnam – pho bo, beef noodle soup (pronounced ‘fur’). You can find pho stalls on most streets in Vietnam, but to cook it well is the tricky part. I was keen to understand how to cook it from scratch and to make that perfect pho broth. First stop was the market to buy the beef, which was as fresh as it gets as the cow had been slaughtered that very morning. We bought the beef fillet and 1kg of beef bones. Normally Van would have bought the spine, but there had been a run on spine bones that morning from a hotel restaurant, which had bought the lot. So instead we had a range of other beef bones and some shin to add to the flavour.

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Back at Van’s house the first trick I learnt was to gently char the skin of some ginger, shallots and garlic over a flame as this would give the broth a deep smokey flavour.

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It takes no more than a couple of minutes on each side.

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I then removed most of the skin of the ginger, using that back of a teaspoon and also the skin from the shallots and garlic, which is very easy at this stage as they virtually pop out.

After properly cleaning the beef bones, place them in a large pan of boiling water so as to get rid of any scum from the bones before cooking. Submerge them in boiling water for under a minute and then place them into a second large saucepan, which has also has boiling water in it. Discard the water from the first saucepan. You then need to add the charred ginger, garlic and shallots

Continue to add the following ingredients to the pan: 2 chillies, stick of cinnamon, 1 large white onion, 5 star anise, 5 Chinese apples. I had not come across Chinese apples before, but they tasted delicious. As they may be difficult to source for some people, dates work equally well. Add some sugar and salt and if you fancy, some beef stock as well (I decided to omit the beef stock, to see how it would taste in its natural state).

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Place a lid on the top and leave to boil away gently for a further 2 to 3 hours. Add more seasoning to taste and beef stock if necessary.

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Meanwhile, very finely slice the beef fillet and leave in the fridge until ready to use.

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Before serving have individual bowls of bean sprouts and fresh pho noodles/rice noodles, (the noodles you have submerged into boiling water for 30 seconds and drained) at the ready. In a large ladle add a little of the raw beef and submerge it into the pho broth so that the broth fills the ladle. Using a fork or chop sticks, move the beef around in the boiling stock in your ladle for 30 seconds (that magic number) so that it cooks through and ladle it over one of the bowls of noodles that you have prepared.

Add a generous amount of fresh herbs, including Asian basil, coriander, spring onions along with a quarter of a lime and chilli sauce to taste. You can also have a small bowl of soy sauce on the side, should you wish to add a little, as well as some sliced green papaya and fresh sliced chilli.

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I was delighted by the results and despite having eaten a ridiculous amount of the tastiest Vietnamese food, cooked by my fellow foodies, I managed to see off a bowl of my pho bo.

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Eight happy and well fed people were then deposited back to their hotels, along with a goodie bag provided by Van.

I hope that you too will try this tasty version of pho. Watch this space for more Vietnamese recipes over the coming months.

Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup)

Adapted from Van’s recipe, who runs Green Bamboo Cooking School

Serves at least 8

500g fresh pho noodles/rice noodles

300g beef fillet

1 kg beef bones – ideally spine bones or shin

5 litres boiling water

1 tbsp beef stock

******************

5 star anise

1 large stick of cinnamon

1 roasted fresh ginger

5 roasted shallots

1 large roasted bulb of garlic

5 dried Chinese apples/dates

1 whole white onion, peeled

2 red chillies, left whole or chopped in two

2 tsp salt and pepper

1 tbsp raw sugar

**********

50g fresh bean sprouts

50g fresh Asian basil

50g fresh coriander

50g spring onion, finely sliced

2 limes, cut into quarters

green papaya, finely sliced

chilli paste to taste

soy sauce, to taste (optional)

2 fresh chillies, sliced (optional)

1. Wash the beef bones under a tap and then place to one side. Meanwhile bring two large pans of water to the boil. In the first add the beef bones and submerge them for just under a minute and then transfer them to the second saucepan. Discard the water from the first saucepan.

2. Over a gas flame place the garlic, shallots and ginger on a metal grill directly above the flame, allowing them to char/roast. After a couple of minutes turn them over so that both sides are equally charred. Using the back of a teaspoon, peel off a little of the skin of the ginger.

3. Add them to the bones and boiling water, along with the onion, chillies, dried Chinese apples/dates, cinnamon stick and star anise. Add the salt, sugar, pepper and beef stock it you wish and place a lid on the pan and let  it boil gently for 2-3 hours.

4. Meanwhile, very finely slice the beef fillet and return it to the fridge.

5. Before serving, warm the noodles by placing them on a slotted spoon and submerging them in boling water for 30 seconds. Drain and place in individual bowls. Add the bean sprouts to each of the bowls.

6. In a large ladle add a little of the thinly sliced beef fillet and submerge into the pho broth so that the ladle is completely full and the beef is submerged. With a fork or chop sticks move the beef around in the ladle so that it ‘cooks’ through properly.  Pour over the noodles. Please note the pho broth needs to be boiling/bubbling away at this stage so that the beef fillet is cooked properly. 

7. Add the fresh herbs, lime, spring onions, green papaya and chilli paste/soy sauce/fresh chillies to taste.

8. Serve immediately and enjoy piping hot.


Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken

The past week or so has been very memorable here in the UK. The Olympics kicked off to an outstanding opening ceremony last friday, which made me laugh and marvel in equal measure. Ok, I’m biased, but I thought that it’s quirky, eccentric nature pretty much summed up us Brits. No amount of money spent on an opening ceremony, past or future, can trump the fact that Her Majesty gamely played herself with Mr Bond as part of the ceremony itself. How cool and even the non royalists out there must have had a sneeky smile on their faces. As for Mr Bean – what a great touch to include him as part of the ceremony; he was definitely one of the highlights.  It was fun, original and gamely humorous and had all of us glued to the TV screen for over three hours, wondering what Danny Boyle was going to bring out of the hat next. I think it is safe to say he is a ‘slam dunk’ for a knighthood in the coming months.

Since the Games begun I have been glued to the TV watching the swimming in particular. Mike Phelps gaining his 19th Olympic medal making him the greatest winner the Olympics has ever seen -truly remarkable. Also the spectacular performance of China’s Ye Shiwen, who, at 16 years of age, wins gold in the women’s individual medley.  It’s addictive viewing watching the world’s best athletes compete in such a wide variety of sports.  I’m going to see the men’s beach volleyball soon, which should be fun and a little surreal to watch in central London.

We’ve had some good sunny days recently, which always inspire me to cook fragrant Asian dishes that are not too heavy. This recipe I stumbled across really recently and it caught my attention as it was served cold and could almost be classed as an Asian noodle salad, of sorts. I’ve cooked it a few times already and I have to admit it’s really good. My number one fan (Big A – who is 6) gave it a definite 10/10.  It was originally posted in the New York Times, however, I found it on the hugely popular food bloggers site ‘Smitten Kitchen‘. As with all great recipes, Deb Perelman – from Smitten Kitchen, adapted hers from the original and I changed hers a little bit further. For example,  I omitted chilli, as I was feeding it to Big A, Little Z and my father who all don’t eat chilli. That said if I were feeding it to just adults (or chilli loving adults) I would definitely add the chilli (hence it has remained on the list of ingredients), I added only one large cucumber, added baby sweetcorn, slightly more rice noodles.

For the really observant amongst you, you will have noticed that I completely forgot to scatter the crushed roasted peanuts over the dish for all the photos. When I sat down and started eating the meal I remembered but clearly too late for the shots for this blog post !

Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken

Sourced from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe from David Tanis whose recipe appeared in The New York Times

Serves 6

Dipping Sauce

6 tbsp Asian fish sauce

6 tbsp brown sugar

12 tbsp lime juice

2 garlic cloves, crushed

small thai red or green chilli,  to taste but optional

Peanut Dressing

3 tbsp Asian fish sauce

3 tbsp rice vinegar

9 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp of light soy sauce

1 1/2 (one and a half) inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

6 tbsp natual unsalted peanut butter (if you can’t find this just use regular)

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

pinch of cayenne

Chicken and Noodle Salad

3 tbsp toasted sesame oil

500g boneless skinless chicken thighs

250g dried rice noodles

1 large cucmber, cut in 1/4 inch half moons

2 carrots, cut in thin julienne

handful of baby sweetcorn, halved

handful of fresh mint and coriander (you could also add Thai basil)

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

handful of roasted peanuts, crushed

lime wedges to serve

1. Begin by making the ‘dipping sauce’. On a low heat, place all the ingredients into a pan and gently stir until the sugar has been properly dissolved – this will only take a few minutes. Place in a small serving bowl and allow to cool.

2. Next you need to make the ‘peanut dressing’. Place all the ingredients into a small food processor and puree all the ingredients so that you are left with a thick creamy sauce. Pour into a serving bowl.

3. In separate large bowl pour approximately half of the dipping sauce and a third of the peanut dressing and stir together. Add the chicken to the mixture and coat thoroughly using your hands. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

4. Once the chicken is marinated gently heat up a griddle pan and add a little toasted sesame oil and brown the chicken thoroughly on both sides, which will take a few minutes per side. I cook my in batches so that I can be sure that the chicken in properly cooked through. As an alternative you could grill the chicken for 20-25 minutes.

5. When the chicken is cooked, chop into bite sized pieces.

6. To serve there are a few alternatives that you can do –

option 1: Place everything on a large serving platter with the noodles, chicken, vegetables, dressing and marianade all separated out and then your guests/family can help themselves.

or

option 2: Divide the cooked noodles into individual bowls or plates. In a small bowl toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of dipping sauce. Place the vegetables and chicken onto each bowl/plate. Place a further 2 teaspoons of dipping sauce and dressing to each helping. Add the herbs, peanuts and spring onions to each bowl and serve.

Note: As an alternative to baby sweetcorn you could add fresh peppers which work equally well.