Vietnamese food is light, crisp and colorful. It is unique but has a strong Chinese influence and tropical, Indian and French touches. Think of rice paper rolls, fish sauce, savory caramel sauce, Vietnamese coffee, raw herbs, and charcuterie.
Universally known dishes are pho, a chicken or beef soup with rice noodles, lime and herbs and bahn mi, a sandwich that encompasses part of the colonial history by using French baguette and pate. Unbelievably healthy this cuisine does not rely on oils or heavy sauces. Nevertheless, there is one caveat: you need to learn how to use the seasonings that accompany the dishes. Tyler Cowen writer of “An Economist eats his Lunch” explains that Vietnamese food is not as successful overseas as other Asian food like Chinese or Thai, because people don’t learn how to use these sauces and condiments correctly. This is very different from Chinese where food comes already seasoned, so you have been forewarned.
Bahn Mi is a great introduction to Vietnamese food because it’s easy and all the ingredients are available. When making this sandwich, be resourceful. Your filling can be almost anything, some roasted duck or chicken from the supermarket, smoked tofu or leftover meatballs.
- 1 small baguette (not too crispy)
- 2 tbsp. of mayonnaise or butter
- 1 tbsp. of sriracha (optional)
- a couple drops of soy sauce/ hoisin/ salt
- 4 slices of green chili
- 6 cucumber slices
- ¼ cup Daikon and carrot pickle (recipe below)
- 3 tbsp. of chopped cilantro
- 90 g of store-bought roast butter chicken, smoked tofu, or roasted duck cut in bite size pieces.
You might need to crisp your bread in the toaster oven. Let it cool. Cut the bread in two lengthwise. With your fingers remove some bread from the inside to make room for the filling. Spread the mayonnaise or butter and add the sriracha and sprinkle a little soy sauce/ hoisin. Start at the bottom and lay the chicken, or your chosen filling. Add the pickle, chili, cucumber and cilantro. Close the bread and slice in half crosswise. Enjoy!
Daikon and carrot pickle
- 1 medium daikon
- 1 large carrot
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 300 ml of white vinegar (you can use rice vinegar also)
Peel and cut the daikon into matchsticks or use a mandolin.
Put in a bowl and add the salt and 2 tsp. of sugar. Massage the salt and sugar in for a couple of minutes.
Using a colander, wash with water and press to get rid of excess water. Transfer to a big container. Mix the remaining sugar with vinegar until dissolved. Pour over carrots and daikon cover and use after 1 hour. Can be left in the fridge for 2 weeks.