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Apr 16, 2007 02:37 PM

Into The Vietnamese Kitchen

Pikawicca and I are near neighbors, within walking distance if we are not being lazy. We both discovered Into The Vietnamese Kitchen, she had bought it and I had just found it at the library and have since ordered a copy.

Sat.PM her husband was out of town and she was going to get some take out from a nearby Asian restaurant. Scallion Pancakes were on her mind. I suggested that she come over and that we'd make the pancakes (thise were from Trang's Essentials and dead easy) and that we each make something from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. I also had some cold rice and threw together a little fried rice with Chinese sausage. She made the shrimp toast from the book. Oh my they were good. bread much thinner,crispier and baked and more shrimp flavor. I made stuffed squid (use a food processor and a pastry bag for filling) also wonderful with the accompanying sauce my DH put together from the book. The next AM I did have squid filling left over and took the suggestion from the book to use it as an omelet filling and my DH and I split a leftover scallion pancake. If Vietnamese and Asian foods are favorites this boook is not one to be missed. On my list for this week is her Tamarind Shrimp and Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Another thing i like about the book is that there is a glossary of Vietnamese herbs with a phonetic pronounciation guide. I have a favorite Vietnamese recipe for fried squid rings with dill. I was asking a Vietnamese friend what the Viet. name for dill was and she was clueless as to what i was talking about. Now I know it is spelled Thi La and pronounced "tee la".

Oh and my kitchen smelled so good on Sunday AM!

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  1. Thanks for your report on this book, Candy. I happen to have a signed copy (disclosure: I know Andrea) and have tried a number of her recipes. I've made the shrimp toasts, deviled crab (cua farci), crab w/ glass noodles (mien xao cua), and beef stew (bo kho).

    The shrimp toasts were so easy and I loved their delicate crispiness, but they tasted a little underseasoned to me. Tasted good w/ more fish sauce at the table so I'll just add more fish sauce in the shrimp paste next time. The deviled crab makes for a great first course or a light meal paired w/ a salad or something. Her crab w/ noodles is a wonderful recipe! I like it better than my mom's. Very simple and lets the crab shine. The beef stew tastes very Viet-French to me, and I really like the elegant seasoning of the star anise and lemongrass. Perfect w/ some toasty Viet or French baguette for sopping. I've tasted her lemongrass ice cream (haven't made it myself) and it is amazingly good. The flavor and texture remind me of gelato; it's made w/ all milk and cornstarch for thickening and the flavor is very direct and pure.

    Look forward to trying more recipes. It's clear from reading it that alot of testing and thought went into these recipes. It appears to be the most comprehensive of my Viet books and has a nice balance between traditional and modern styles. I've made Trang's stuffed squid but not Andrea's so will need to give that a try.

    Photo of crab w/ glass noodles (mien xao cua):

    9 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover

      Might you be able to please paraphrase the crab with noodle recipe?

      1. re: chitta chef

        Sure, I'll paraphrase when I get a chance in the next day or so. In the meantime, here's a link to Andrea's website w/ some recipes including the stuffed squid (although I'm not sure if she may have altered some for the cookbook):

        1. re: chitta chef

          Ok, here it is w/ paraphrased instructions:

          Cellophane Noodles w/ Crab & Black Pepper (Mien Xao Cua)
          Serves 2 as main or 4-6 w/ other dishes

          Cooked meat, tomalley and fat from 2-lb. Dungeness crab (about 1/2 lb. meat and 1/4 c. tomalley and fat)
          1 egg
          1 TB water
          1.5 TB fish sauce
          1/2 to 3/4 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
          2 TB cilantro, finely chopped
          2 TB canola or neutral oil
          1 large shallot or small yellow onion, thinly sliced
          3 dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated, stemmed and cut into 1/8 in. wide strips
          1/4 lb. cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until pliable and cut into 10 in. pieces


          Combine tomalley and fat, egg, water, fish sauce, pepper, and cilantro in bowl and stir well. You're aiming for a total of about 1/4 c. Add more water if necessary.

          In wok or skillet, heat oil over med. heat. Stir fry shallot for about 2 min. or til soft. Stir fry crabmeat and mushrooms for about 1 min. til aromatic. Add noodles and stir about 2 min. til they start to soften and look a little dry.

          Stir tomalley mixture well and pour over noodles. Quickly combine w/ noodles to evenly distribute ingredients, lowering heat if noodles start to clump. The noodles will turn translucent and golden in about 2 min.

          Take off heat and taste, adjusting seasoning. Transfer to plate and serve immediately.

        2. re: Carb Lover

          I adore this book! I used one of the crab recipes--can't recall the name--that used oyster sauce, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and a little sugar--to stir-fry blue crab clawfingers. Absolutely delicious. The salad recipes are great, too...I'm thinking of trying a pate/pork loaf recipe next.

          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            She's made the cucumber and shrimp salad for me as well as the chicken liver pate. Both were wonderful. For the cucumber salad, I would use farmer's market quality english, japanese or persian cucumbers. Very nice served w/ rice crackers. The chicken pate had a great texture. I appreciate having a small charcuterie section since some other books don't really cover this much. Let us know if you try it!

          2. re: Carb Lover

            An important tip I got from your friend with the squid was to pierce the tail end with something like a skewer or poultry lacer pin. It provides a steam vent and the filling does not all try to go shooting out the end you close with a toothpick.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              does the writer Andrea write for the LA times? I read an artical several years ago in the LAT about Vietnamese New Year and in particular about kho, chicken kho. i forget the actual name of the dish but it was done with carmal and fishsauce. out of this world! I've been making it for a few years now. anyhow the artical was by a woman named Andrea something but it did not mention that she had a cook book. If this is the same writer I'll need to find this book.

              1. re: nedgreely

                Yep, that's her. Into the Vietnamese Kitchen came out in late 2006, so she wouldn't have had a cookbook when the article was written. Here's a link to that New Year article on her website:

            2. Indeed, this was a most excellent dinner -- near bliss, in fact, with lots of delicious little morsels. I agree with Carb Lover that the Srhimp Toasts could use a tad more flavor. I would serve these the next time with a dipping sauce of soy and rice vinegar (this would be good with the scallion pancakes, as well). I plan to make the caramel pork next.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                I made the caramel pork last week. We liked it alot. We had it with sticky rice and pickled cucumbers and carrots.
                One of my favorites from the book is Garlicky Fried Chicken with a Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce. Really crispy and good.

                1. re: zataar

                  Oooooh, I'll have to try that garlic chicken! I like the story behind it and it sounds like great home cooking...

              2. anybody love Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" and care to compare?
                (this post is making me nuts...the book sounds great, but I don't *really* need another Vietnamese book.
                Or Do I ?)

                17 Replies
                1. re: pitu

                  I don't own Pham's book--I've looked through it at the bookstore. I ended up buying Nguyen's because it covered the dishes I most wanted to learn to cook.

                  1. re: pitu

                    I have Pleasures and love it, also Trang's Authentic Vetnamese, Trang's Essentials of Asian Cooking...also a must have, Pham's Best of Vietnamese and Thai (a combo book), Lemongrass and Lime from London's restaurant of the same name, Annabelle Jckson's Street Cafe Vietnam and an odd put wonderful little publication, paper back in English but from Vietnam all about spiciy Asian salads.

                    Pikawicca (Cindy) was just here and dropped off some aspic to try with our dinner tonight, I am trying out Nguyen's Vietnamese Chicken Salad to see how it compares to Pham's and Trang's. She and I were talking about this thread and thought that maybe in adition to our book of the month, we might have an alternate option of picking a cuisine of the month and not specify any particular book but let each of us decide which book from the agreed upon cuisine and report on that book and its recipes. So in essence we might all be cooking from 5-6 Vietnamese, Chinese, English, etc. books at the same time and posting about them.

                    1. re: Candy

                      A PS on the stuffed squid. There is a error in the recipe, Carb Lover you might mention this to your friend for the next edition.

                      The recipe calls for 1 bundle of rice noodles and then says it should weigh 1.3 oz. Oh way way too much. My entire package weighed .8 oz and that was 4 bundles. I soaked two but it was still too much.

                      In one recipe I hve used in the past the recipe called for the squid to be lightly dusted with a fine flour like Wondra to give them a more appealing browning.

                      The Cicken salad is setting up in my fridge. When the chicken cools I will add it. The Trang book suggests some chopped peanuts on top as a garnish so I will add them. I like the flavor addition. Tomorrow the Tamarind shrimp and I guess I will be buying some crab too. Hope to report back with some photos.

                      1. re: Candy

                        Great, sounds like you are on a roll, Candy! I def. like chopped toasted peanuts in my chicken salad. The beauty of having a few different Viet cookbooks is that you can start improvising and pulling from several recipes. Let us know how things turn out...and link photos if you can.

                    2. re: pitu

                      I own Trang's book and have checked out Pham's book from the library. I like Pham's book better than Trang's but didn't really feel like buying it. Pham seems to have a nice collection of recipes that are a bit more detailed and explain the origins and context better. I'm completely basing this on memory and just a general subjective "feeling" but as a whole, I find Pham's book more Viet-Chinese whereas Nguyen's book feels more Viet-French to me. One isn't better than the other, but this is how I have them categorized in my mind. This is based on the type of dishes, techniques, and general aesthetic. So...good enough reason to have both?!

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        thx very much for breaking that all out, Joe, Carb, Candy, Celeste

                      2. re: pitu

                        I have Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table and really like it. However, I think Into the Vietnamese Kitchen is a more comprehensive book. Definitely nicer food photos. There's more emphasis on the food and less travelogue/cultural info than the Pham book. Nguyen seems to like caramel sauce a bit more than Pham does judging by the number of recipes featuring it in each book. I've had very good results from both books. I like Vietnamese food, but it's not one of my favorite cuisines, so if I had already owned Into the Vietnamese Kitchen I probably wouldn't have purchased Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. I thought Into the Vietnamese Kitchen was good enough that I did buy it even though I already had Pham's book. Not planning on getting rid of Pham's book though.

                        1. re: pitu

                          I just checked out "Pleasures" from the library (couldn't get "Into the Vietnamese") and made a couple of dishes last night.

                          Pham's Salad Rolls with Jicama, Peanuts, and Basil:
                          This was fantastic. The flavors balanced each other perfectly. Basically rice paper rounds filled with a little egg, lettuce, jicama/carrot saute, fried tofu strips, hoisin/chili paste sauce, chopped peanuts and thai basil. I served it with her soy-lime dipping sauce. This is definitely a repeater - even a crowd pleaser/party appetizer. I am happy to post a more detailed summary if anyone wants it. Really, really tasty.

                          Pham's Soy-lime dipping sauce:
                          Yum! Thai bird chilies mashed with garlic and sugar, then mixed with lime juice, soy sauce, and a little water.

                          Pham's Vietnamese Fried Rice: Simple but a great accompaniment.

                          (From Into the Vietnamese Kitchen): Thai Broccoli stir fried with garlic
                          This was pretty good, but not great. I thought the flavoring sauce was a little too much, if I made this again I would reduce the ratio of sauce to Thai broccoli. I did add some tofu to make it more of a meal.

                          Sweet endings - Pham's Fried Bananas with Coconut Ice Cream. Super easy, batter was light and tasty.

                          Let me know if you want a summary of any recipes - the salad (spring) rolls were definitely the best of the night.

                          1. re: megek

                            megek, cool. I never tried the fried bananas
                            some of my go-tos are
                            Hanoi shrimp cakes (works with all sweet potato too), the grilled whole shrimp with chili (I forget the name, there's a brief marinating), and the ginger steamed fish. That last one is soooo simple, sooooo good.

                            1. re: pitu

                              Thanks for the recs pitu. Last night I made another 1/4 recipe of the spring rolls, accompanied by the scallion noodles - really simple, just a few ingredients, but delicious - and spicy lemongrass tofu (for me) and grilled lemongrass shrimp (for the omnivorous bf - I think this is the one you recommend). Both the tofu and shrimp dishes were delicious as well. My bf hopes to try the steamed fish with soy, ginger and scallions before the book goes back to the library...

                              1. re: megek

                                yum, that's the one. You're welcome! I'll have to try it with tofu...
                                I'm sure the soygingerscallion thing would be great with tofu or seitan instead of fish.
                                And those shrimp cakes...half grated sweet potato, half shrimp in the original, but I've made them for parties with vegetarians (all sweet potato) and I like them just as well.

                                Anyone know what kind of sweet potatoes they have in Viet Nam?

                                1. re: pitu

                                  yes I will have to try the sweet potato cakes too! The spicy lemongrass tofu was actually a different recipe than the shrimp, it had sautéed onions/shallots/garlic, thai bird chilies, lemongrass, turmeric, soy/sugar/salt, and roasted peanuts + thai basil thrown in at the end. Great cold leftovers for lunch today.

                                  1. re: pitu

                                    Re: Vietnamese sweet potatoes -- our local Korean grocery sells ones that look like our regular red-skinned sweet potatoes, but they are much tastier than what you buy in the supermarket. If you have an Asian market in your neck of the woods you might want to check their produce department.

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      just to clarify
                                      my food co-op gets japanese sweet potatoes, as well as rubys and garnets . . . I'm familiar with what is available in the USA, but curious about what is used/grown in Viet Nam

                                      megek, that tofu sounds great! I love that book, but haven't cooked nearly enough different things from it...

                                      1. re: pitu

                                        I tried to search for info on Vietnamese sweet potatoes, and all I could find was this:

                                        "American sweet potatoes are not the same as Vietnamese sweet potatoes. The American sweet potatoes are moister. They're wet. Vietnamese sweet potatoes are dry and a different kind of sweet. There are Vietnamese white ones with purple skin and purple in the middle too."

                                        I wonder what "a different kind of sweet" means.

                                        1. re: megek

                                          the "japanese" ones we get are white, and I suppose you'd call them "a different kind of sweet"
                                          gonna have to see if Harold McGee covers this . . .

                            2. re: pitu

                              I'm bumping this thread because this week I finally made shaking beef salad
                              [out of Mai Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" since I never did get a copy of "Into The Vietnamese Kitchen"]
                              and was surprised to find it sooooooo simple
                              as well as incredibly delicious
                              I'm just about never inclined to cook beef, so this was an easy one *not* to try . . . but with late summer thai basil bounty still around, it's a good time to make it. I used local romaine lettuce instead of watercress for the salad because that's what I had - delicious.

                            3. Made the Cellophane Noddles with Crab and Black Pepper for dinner tonight: simple, elegant, and delicious. I used fresh lump bluefin crab meat, so the prep was super easy and quick. My husband did not care for the texture of the wood ear mushroom, so next time I'll leave them out and garnish the finished dish with finely shredded green onions.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pikawicca

                                Thanks for the report. Too bad your husband didn't care for the wood ear mushrooms; I personally think they're essential in this dish, but I love their chewy texture and grew up on them. As a kid, I thought they resembled bat wings.

                              2. Oh man, I was so thinking I wanted to start with Chinese cooking after this thread: and I even ordered Irene Kuo's book, but after reading all the descriptions on this thread, Vietnamese sounds gooooo-ood!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                  I am finally m going to make the Tamarind Shrimp tonight. Sauce is made and shrimp are peeled. Was not feeling well on Wed. coupld not get good shrimp yesterday but scored today. I will post photos. i just wish my own copy would arrive. It is coming along with Dunlop's Revolutionary Cooking. The weather is getting warmer and i am really into Vietnamese and Chinese right now.