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September 2008 COTM: "Vietnamese" Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table & Into the Vietnamese Kitchen ['Post Mortem' discussion open]

MMRuth Sep 1, 2008 05:48 AM

September 2008 COTM:

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham

and

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen

Welcome to the links thread for the September 2008 Cookbook of the Month. You may wish to bookmark this thread for future reference, as it contains links to all the other threads for these cookbooks.

Instead of having another thread for general discussion, recipe planning, links, and previous picks and pans, let's use this one. I'll copy over the links posted earlier, as well as some additional ones. Others are welcome of course to post more links. Here's the link to the voting announcement thread:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549161

Here are the links for the threads for the full length recipe reviews. I spent a lot of time looking at how the books were organized, whether there were overlaps of recipes, and generally thinking about how to organize the threads this month. After much deliberation, I decided to go with combining the books into each of the threads (rather than having different threads for the two books), which I think helps maintain the spirit of COTM of "cooking together", even though we are using two books.

I hope that what I've come up with isn't too complicated and is at least somewhat intuitive. I've put in more detailed descriptions in each of the threads to help guide what goes where, but, of course, at the end of the day, it's the cooking that counts, and if some reports get put in the "wrong" place, it's just not a big deal, I think. There are actually very few recipes that are in both books, for what it's worth. If you notice that I've missed something or that something doesn't make sense, please post about it here and I'll try to get it fixed today.

Sauces, Condiments, Garnishes, etc.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553824

Starters, Snacks & Salads
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553835

Soups
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553831

Rice, Noodles, "Banh" and More
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553833

Poultry & Eggs
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553819

Meat & Charcuterie
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553818

Seafood
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553820

Vegetables & Vegetarian Dishes
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553825

Desserts & Sweet Drinks
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553821

Happy Cooking!

  1. MMRuth Sep 30, 2008 11:21 AM

    Since we're at the end of the month, I'm taking up Jen Kalb's suggestion, asking folks to do a post mortem, and, if you've used both books, to discuss which one you preferred. Will try to keep this 'stickied' for a couple of days.

    12 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth
      The Dairy Queen Oct 1, 2008 01:44 AM

      MMR--where do you want us to do the post-mortem--here in this thread or in another thread elsewhere? (can't find it)

      Thanks,

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen
        MMRuth Oct 1, 2008 03:10 AM

        Here, thanks.

      2. re: MMRuth
        The Dairy Queen Oct 1, 2008 07:18 AM

        I have both books and love them both, but I do find there's a lot of overlap between the two books with very similar recipes with minor adjustments here and there and am not sure I actually need them both. I am slightly partial to Pham, perhaps because I acquired it first.

        I give the edge to:
        Pham: better writing/better stories. I like the context it provides
        Nguyen: better photos (vs. Pham's b&w)--just stunning, really
        Pham: has a recipe for pho, which I really wanted and really intend to try (soon!)
        Nguyen: has that fabulous charcuterie section, which seems fabulous, but which I will likely never use
        Pham--I felt like I had better luck with her pantry/ingredient descriptions
        Nguyen--the beef stewed with lemongrass etc. was described by my husband as "the best thing I've ever made him", so, hard to compete with that.

        Hard to say, really, but if I had to choose one book to keep and one book to cull, I'd personally probably keep Pham.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen
          LulusMom Oct 1, 2008 09:45 AM

          I have really loved this month, and so has my famly. I got both books from the library, but have already bought myself a copy of the Pham book. I agree with TDQ - the photos in the Nguyen book are amazing - just gorgeous. And I think it is a great book, but there is a simplicity to the Pham recipes that has worked really well for me. When we were first voting on what book/s to have for CotM, I remember someone describing these two books and saying the Pham book was sort of more Vietnamese home cooking while the Nguyen was somewhat fancier and more French. I assumed based on this that I'd prefer the Nguyen, but that isn't what happened. Don't get me wrong - I really think both are fabulous books, but my edge goes to Pham.

          1. re: The Dairy Queen
            pitu Oct 4, 2008 10:06 AM

            I continue to love the Pham book (and give it frequently as a present, with a bin of ingredients). I bought the Nguyen book, but got too busy this month to cook much . . . but I appreciate everyone's feedback that might drive me deeper into both of these books.

            deeeelighted that this month worked out so well for everyone!

          2. re: MMRuth
            Rubee Oct 1, 2008 02:09 PM

            Ironically enough, I've never really cooked a lot of Vietnamese food, most relying on mom and my aunt for my requests.

            What I really enjoyed and learned this month:
            With the layering of flavors, once the sauces and condiments are made, a lot of the recipes are really quite simple.
            I love the flavor profile of fish sauce with sugar and lime in just about everything.
            Meals come together quick because main ingredients are usually just a small amount of protein but a lot of herbs and raw vegetables.
            Lastly, Vietnamese is really a budget-friendly cuisine, especially picking everything up at the Asian store. Most pantry items last a long time and are inexpensive (for example, rice noodles/wrappers, fish sauce) and the majority of ingredients can be found fresh in the produce section.

            I love it, and mom has been really enjoying following along with this topic - she got a big kick out of the CH in Dubai who made the pho.

            1. re: Rubee
              MMRuth Oct 1, 2008 02:18 PM

              And did you have a favorite book? I'm still debating internally! I plan to start keeping ground pork, chicken breasts and shrimp in my freezer, so that I can quickly whip up some of these dishes without going to the store.

              1. re: MMRuth
                Rubee Oct 1, 2008 02:22 PM

                I only have Mai Pham's book, but have decided that after reading all the enthusiastic reports, I'm going to buy Nguyen's "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" too....

                1. re: MMRuth
                  Carb Lover Oct 1, 2008 10:35 PM

                  Why battle w/ yourself when you can get both books? :-)

                  I know that two Viet books is an investment, but I bet that many people have several Italian, French, Californian, vegetarian cuisine books, etc. Somehow when it comes to more "exotic" food, people limit themselves. I personally am proud that both of these books showcase overlapping and different facets of my native cuisine...a culinary language that I'm just getting to know myself partly due to this COTM project.

                  I own Nguyen's book and have Pham's from the library, but I'm seriusly considering buying Pham's after cooking several recipes from it with success. Both have their merits.

                  I see Nguyen's book as having more detail on technique and straying away from some of the Viet dishes seen in US restaurants. If one likes elaboration on technique, then this book will resonate. For those who find such details "fussy" and overly complicated, maybe not so much. Nguyen's book, in my mind, has a more scholarly depth and approach than Pham's.

                  Pham's book is written more concisely and personally w/ many practical recipes. Her recipes work and are easy enough to tweak to better match one's tastes. I like her book too and enjoy creating a meal that incorporates both of their ideas. Just tonight I made Nguyen's beef w/ Chinese celery and Pham's fried rice. Rounding it out w/ Nguyen's salmon soup left over from the previous night, we couldn't be happier at the dinner table.

                  I have two other Viet books (Authentic Vietnamese Cooking by Corinne Trang & Vietnamese Home Cooking by Didier Corlou). If I continue to cook from all four of these, I might be able to achieve the level of comfort and competence I feel in cooking other cuisines.

                  Viet home cooking is vibrant, relatively simple, and generally pretty healthful. I'm so glad that others were opened up to the "pleasures of the Vietnamese table" as well! Thanks for another great cooking month, all!

                  1. re: Carb Lover
                    MMRuth Oct 2, 2008 07:13 AM

                    Great analysis. I do have both, but was trying to figure out which I would recommend to someone only buying one, and I think I come down on the side of Nguyen, if only because of the beautiful and inspiring photos, as well as the photos of the ingredients - herbs, noodles, etc.

                    1. re: MMRuth
                      Carb Lover Oct 2, 2008 07:28 AM

                      Yes, the photos in Nguyen's book are beautiful, and the recipes are painstakingly tested. Andrea is a meticulous person who provides details and insights to engage the user and ensure that her recipes work. Of course, someone may not like a result due to taste differences.

                      When local Dungeness crab season starts here, I plan on making Nguyen's crab w/ cellophane noodles and Pham's wok-stirred crab again. They are both great recipes to showcase crab!

              2. re: MMRuth
                d
                dimsumgirl Oct 2, 2008 06:50 AM

                I have both books as well as an additional book by Pham and one by Corinne Trang. I find myself using the Andrea Nguyen one the most. I love the beautiful pictures and her precision in executing the recipes. I love her salad ideas and have made them as well as inspired me to develop new salads of my own. Definitely glad that I bought this book and do use the others as back-up references.

              3. d
                dimsumgirl Sep 28, 2008 10:11 AM

                FYI, Andrea Nguyen is heading up the Asian Food Beyond Borders culinary forum in San Francisco from October 10-12. Here's the link:
                http://www.asianculinaryforum.org/ACF...

                1. NYCkaren Sep 24, 2008 07:24 AM

                  I just want to say thanks to everyone for picking Vietnamese cuisine, even though I got started late and have only made a few recipes. I have the Pham book and I may get the Nguyen book eventually. In the meantime I can cook from her Web site. But without COTM I wouldn't have realized how accessible a cuisine this really is. Everything I've made has been delicious and not at all difficult. Now I'll have to go to some of the Vietnamese restaurants in the area to see how authentic my versions are!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: NYCkaren
                    LulusMom Sep 25, 2008 09:43 AM

                    NYCKaren, I"m sure my feelings are already glaringly obvious, but I too want to thank everyone (especially whoever initially had the idea to cook with these books) for picking them for CotM. We've totally enjoyed almost everything we've made, and it just blows me away how simple the prep is. I bought the Pham book (and may end up buying the Nguyen too) and I know I'll be cooking from it long after the month is done.

                    1. re: LulusMom
                      mirage Sep 25, 2008 12:40 PM

                      Another good Vietnamese cookbook is The Foods of Vietnam by Nicole Routhier. The three I have (Pham, Nguyen and Routhier) complement each other nicely.

                      1. re: LulusMom
                        greedygirl Sep 26, 2008 03:23 AM

                        I've noticed that with COTM, a book is normally suggested for several months running before it gets chosen. It's like people take a few months to mull over the options. That definitely happened with Vietnamese (I suggested it when I first joined, having recently returned from a trip to Vietnam), and it's also been the case with Batali, Flexitarian and Glorious Foods of Greece. Based on my extensive research, it's only a matter of time before we get to Cradle of Flavour!

                    2. jen kalb Sep 23, 2008 08:52 AM

                      Im wondering, can we have an assessment at the end of which book people preferred, by those who used both?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jen kalb
                        MMRuth Sep 23, 2008 08:58 AM

                        Sure - let's do a round up at the end of the month on this thread, so that we don't have too many going at once. Good idea.

                        1. re: MMRuth
                          Gio Sep 23, 2008 09:36 AM

                          I like this idea.... I find I'm using one more than the other.... I'll wait till the review.

                      2. Rubee Sep 20, 2008 12:52 PM

                        Found a great website about Vietnamese herbs. Helpful pictures too:

                        http://www.vietherbs.com/Viet_Herbs.html

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Rubee
                          Gio Sep 21, 2008 05:22 AM

                          Rubee:
                          At first glance that site did look terrific, but it froze my computer. I had to shut down & reboot. (>.<)

                          1. re: Gio
                            Rubee Sep 21, 2008 09:15 AM

                            Oh, I'm sorry about that Gio! I didn't have a problem.

                            1. re: Rubee
                              Gio Sep 23, 2008 09:35 AM

                              That's OK.. no harm done.

                        2. The Dairy Queen Sep 8, 2008 06:03 AM

                          Just catching up here. I hit up my farmers market yesterday and picked up some lemongrass, japanese eggplant, Thai chile, etc. I'm very excited about September COTM and can't wait to jump in.

                          Tonight I'm planning on making Pham's catfish in a clay pot, which calls for 2 TBSP of sugar combined with a bit of water, which you cook 5-6 mins until it starts to brown. After a couple months of half-heartedly following my diet plan, I'm recommitting, which means, no sugar, only Splenda. I've checked through the sauces thread and seafood thread but haven't found any mentions of substituting Splenda for sugar. Any advice for me on this matter? (Perhaps someone has posted about it and I missed it in my hurried attempt to catch up?) I'm assuming Splenda won't carmelize?

                          By the way, I was disappointed that neither Pham nor Nguyen has a recipe that calls for bitter melon, with which my farmers market was overflowing. Pham does discuss it in the ingredient section, at least. I found a recipe by Pham for "stuffed bitter melon" in this old article in the SF Chronicle about Asian vegetables that I plan to try later in the week. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article... Are there bitter melon recipes in either book that I've missed? Is it not genuinely a Vietnamese vegetable or did the authors just exclude it because they didn't think it would appeal to Western tastes or be readily available?

                          ~TDQ

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                            MMRuth Sep 8, 2008 06:21 AM

                            You are correct that Splenda will not carmelize. I think Pham recommends substituting brown sugar for the caramel sauce, which will of course give it a deeper flavor than Splenda, but I'd just go ahead and use a little Splenda if I were you.

                            1. re: MMRuth
                              Candy Sep 8, 2008 07:57 AM

                              I think Splenda is making a brown sugar now.

                              1. re: Candy
                                JoanN Sep 8, 2008 08:44 AM

                                The Splenda brown sugar substitute is half sucralose, half brown sugar, so ½ teaspoon is 10 calories and 2 grams of carbs. Sweet'N Low makes a brown sugar substitute that has 2 calories per teaspoon. I know a lot of people object to Sweet'N Low for many different reasons, including taste. But I use Sweet'N Low Brown on my oatmeal, although not for baking, and have no problem with it.

                                1. re: JoanN
                                  The Dairy Queen Sep 8, 2008 10:31 AM

                                  Thank you, everyone, for your (always helpful) comments!

                                  JoanN, thank you for the tip on Sweet N'Low brown sugar substitute. According to the Weight Watchers website, there is a product they list as "Sweet N Low Brown Zero Calories Sweetener" that is indeed, core! I will see if I can hunt that down.

                                  Unfortunately, the Splenda brown sugar substitute is not "core" (and therefore not a perfect fit for my diet plan) because, as JoanN says, it is half sugar.

                                  If I'm going to use artificial sweetener, I figure I might as well use the one that actually fits my diet plan, assuming, of course, it tastes ok. So, I will give the Sweet'N Low Brown a chance and see what I think. I hope I can find it at my local grocery store!

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    JoanN Sep 8, 2008 10:44 AM

                                    Only once did I ever find Sweet'N Low Brown at a grocery store. Now I mail order it, two boxes at a time. I keep it in a small, air tight plastic container and it keeps forever--at least from one oatmeal season to the next.

                                    1. re: JoanN
                                      The Dairy Queen Sep 8, 2008 10:54 AM

                                      Ooohh...good to know. I just got off the phone from my grocer and he doesn't have it. (He only has the Splenda brown sugar). It's too late for tonight's catfish, I think, but I see that Amazon carries it (in packs of 12!) so, I think I'll go ahead and order that so I have it handy for the rest of the month. While I'm willing to drive all over town for authentic Vietnamese ingredients because I think that's fun, I'm not as willing to do it for artificial sweetener... So, Amazon it is!

                                      ~TDQ

                            2. re: The Dairy Queen
                              m
                              MartinDC Oct 3, 2008 10:01 AM

                              When you caramelize sugar, you are altering the molecular structure, and the resulting substance has fewer calories -- the fewer the more burnt it gets. The purpose of the caramelized sugar is to add a depth of flavor, not sweetness. How much caramelization you allow will determine the level of sweetness. Splenda and brown sugar miss the whole point.

                              Much of vietnamese cuisine is adapted from french, where the browning of meat and vegetables was to add that caramelized flavor to the food (not to "keep the juices in" which is a myth). But browning food before cooking is not an extant practice in much of asia, so the vietnamese get that flavor by slightly burning the sugar instead. Interesting approach.

                              1. re: MartinDC
                                The Dairy Queen Oct 3, 2008 11:05 AM

                                You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were pulling my leg! That is fascinating, especially about the fewer calories the more burnt it gets! Thank you for sharing that. However, Pham herself did recommend brown sugar as an acceptable alternative to the caramel sauce, so I'm going to hang my hat on that. At least for now. :)

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                  p
                                  P. Punko Jan 8, 2009 12:37 AM

                                  Basically the useful energy of the sugar (the sugar molecules) is gone when it gets turned into just plain carbon (burning). I imagine a lump of charcoal wouldn't have many calories because your body likely wouldn't do anything with it. And caramel sauce is so good! :)

                            3. Rubee Sep 5, 2008 12:18 AM

                              Re: ingredients, here's a helpful link to the rice noodle brands that Andrea Nguyen recommends:

                              http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/featu...

                              I took pics of some of the ingredients/labels I picked up, including a couple fresh herbs.

                              The herbs are Vietnamese coriander "rau raum" on the left and on the right red perilla/shiso "rau tia tom"; Rooster ground chili paste (tuong ot toi) and La Bo De bean sauce (tuong hot); rice paper (banh trang).

                               
                               
                               
                               
                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Rubee
                                m
                                moh Sep 5, 2008 05:19 AM

                                Such great photos Rubee!

                                I'd love to know, for those of you who have seen both books, is one better than the other for reviewing the names of various fresh herbs and ingredients, with photos?

                                1. re: moh
                                  MMRuth Sep 5, 2008 05:37 AM

                                  Pham has several pages with drawings of the various herbs as well as a paragraph or two discussing each, offering a substitution at the end. I thought her discussion of the pantry ingredients was helpful and she offers brand suggestions as well. Few photos though. Can't wait to get home and start cooking.

                                  1. re: moh
                                    JoanN Sep 5, 2008 06:39 AM

                                    Nguyen has a full-pages four-color photo of the herbs, but not of ingredients (except for noodles). Her discussion of the herbs is very thorough, divided into easy and hard to find, giving alternate names, explaining how to store.

                                    The four-color photo showing various kinds of noodles also has detailed descriptions and includes brand recommendations.

                                    Lots of good info on her Web site, too. More detail; more photos.

                                    http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/essen...

                                    1. re: JoanN
                                      Candy Sep 5, 2008 08:18 AM

                                      Andrea also has a guide on how to pronounce many of the ingredients which I have found helpful.

                                      1. re: JoanN
                                        m
                                        moh Sep 5, 2008 02:48 PM

                                        Thank you MMRuth and JoanN and Candy!

                                        I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Pham book. I really like Nguyen's website!

                                  2. greedygirl Sep 4, 2008 04:26 AM

                                    I had a serendipitous meeting last night in my local Asian supermarket with a really nice woman of Vietnamese origin. I was perusing the herb section, and wondering what the various bunches of greenery were as they aren't labelled. I asked one of the shop assistants, but they are Chinese, with poor English skills. Another customer heard me say the words "rau ram", and helpfully pointed out which herb I needed. We then had quite a lengthy discussion about Vietnamese food, as it turns out she has a stall selling Viet food at a London farmer's market. Anyway, to cut a long story short she was very interested in our project and might join the boards so she can follow our progress! She also offered to do a demonstration for us, before I explained that we're actually all over the place, and mainly not in the UK. It was very helpful to have someone explain what all the different herbs are - turns out I can get most of them here, which surprised me.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: greedygirl
                                      JoanN Sep 4, 2008 05:02 AM

                                      Great story, gg. Thanks for sharing. I wonder. Might it be possible to video her? CHOW has plenty of how-to videos on the site. Perhaps we COTMers could petition for a Vietnamese herb presentation. I think I get more flummoxed by greenery than anything else.

                                      1. re: JoanN
                                        greedygirl Sep 4, 2008 05:37 AM

                                        That's a great idea! She has my e-mail address and hopefully will get in touch. i get very confused by all the herbs too. There were two different types of Asian basil at the market, for example.

                                      2. re: greedygirl
                                        Gio Sep 4, 2008 05:13 AM

                                        Isn't it wonderful to meet really friendly and knowledgeable people at the market? How lucky you were. Thankfully at our local Asian market everything is labeled, both in English and several Asian languages. However, most of the clerks and workers have no English skills.

                                        If a video is not possible perhaps photos and descriprtions of the herbs and other vegetables and fruit could be posted in a sticky thread????

                                        1. re: greedygirl
                                          LulusMom Sep 4, 2008 11:02 AM

                                          I'm very lucky in that one of Lulu's little friends in playgroup is half Vietnamese, and I've become friends with his mother, who has offered to help with ingredients if I need it. She's also very excited by how much I'm loving the food so far (but not as excited as I am!).

                                          1. re: greedygirl
                                            The Dairy Queen Sep 8, 2008 05:36 AM

                                            I see that greedygirl has embraced (perhaps unknowingly, but, successfully nevertheless) Andrea Nguyen's shopping strategy #4 from page 336 ITKK "Ask fellow shoppers or the store staff for help. Be reluctant to chat and you will stay in the dark."

                                            Brava!

                                            ~TDQ

                                          2. m
                                            moh Sep 3, 2008 06:19 AM

                                            Darn! I am waiting for my copy of Pham's book to arrive... soon I hope.

                                            1. Rubee Sep 1, 2008 11:24 AM

                                              Recipes from Pham's "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" on Epicurious:

                                              Vietnamese pho rice noodle soup with beef
                                              Vietnamese rice cakes in banana leaves
                                              Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc cham)
                                              Soy-lime dipping sauce (nuoc tuong pha)
                                              Chicken curry with sweet potatoes
                                              Grilled five-spice chicken
                                              Spicy Lemongrass Tofu

                                              http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=pleasures%20of%20the%20vietnamese%20table

                                              From Food and Wine:

                                              Chicken Soup with Jasmine Rice and Ginger
                                              Clay Pot Ginger Chicken
                                              Coconut-Curry Noodle Soup
                                              Pad See Yew
                                              Salmon Rice Bowl with Ginger-Lime Sauce
                                              Salt and Pepper Crab

                                              http://www.foodandwine.com/chefs/?che...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Rubee
                                                Rubee Sep 2, 2008 01:01 PM

                                                Oops - sorry for the redundancy MMRuth (just noticed you already had listed these links).

                                              2. JoanN Sep 1, 2008 10:37 AM

                                                Here's a link to Pham's Ginger Chicken that LulusMom raved about:

                                                http://community.seattletimes.nwsourc...

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                  JoanN Sep 4, 2008 10:24 AM

                                                  Sorry, guys. I led you astray here.

                                                  After making the recipe according to this link and rereading LulusMom’s original post, I realized something wasn’t quite right. A kind COTMer who has the Pham book checked this Seattle Times version against the original and discovered there are sufficient differences in both technique and quantities of ingredients to alter the outcome of the dish.

                                                  To make amends, I’m paraphrasing the original here:

                                                  1 2-inch piece fresh ginger
                                                  2/3 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts cut into bite-sized strips
                                                  2 tablespoons vegetable oil
                                                  2 teaspoons minced garlic
                                                  ¼ yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
                                                  1 teaspoon chopped red chilies (or dried chili flakes)
                                                  1½ tablespoons fish sauce
                                                  2 teaspoons granulated sugar
                                                  ¼ teaspoon salt
                                                  ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
                                                  ½ tablespoon Caramel Sauce or 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
                                                  2 scallions, cut on the diagonal into 2-inch lengths
                                                  6 sprigs cilantro, cut into 1-inch pieces

                                                  1. Cut peeled ginger into 1/8-inch slices and mince enough slices to make 1 tablespoon. Marinate minced ginger and chicken for 30 minutes.
                                                  2. Heat oil. Add garlic, onion, and chilies and stir 10 seconds. Add chicken, reserved ginger slices, fish sauce, sugar, and salt and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
                                                  3. Add chicken stock and Caramel Sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until sauce has thickened slightly, about another 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and garnish with cilantro.

                                                2. JoanN Sep 1, 2008 08:21 AM

                                                  My fish sauce journey (in response to MMRuth's request here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5538...

                                                  )

                                                  I had some fish sauce in the fridge that I'd been using for I don't know how long. It was very thick and kinda grayish. I used it to make Nguyen's Simple Dipping Sauce before I read her copy on just what fish sauce ought to look like. Mine most definitely was not the amber red liquid she described. I was too lazy to go to Chinatown that day, so I checked to see what they had in Fairway and found Roland brand fish sauce, which looked about right. I don't know what it was I'd been using, but this really made a huge difference in the flavor of the dipping sauce. Not as overwhelmingly salty, far more complex in flavor, a different--and more pleasing--texture entirely, and a lot prettier to look at.

                                                  Nguyen says that she developed and tested all her recipes using Viet Huong's Three Crabs brand fish sauce and a few days later I did go to (Manhattan's) Chinatown and found it at Asia Market on Mulberry between Bayard and Canal. I did a taste test comparing the Roland and the Three Crabs and must say I didn't notice a great deal of difference between the two. The Roland is a bit paler and the Three Crabs a bit saltier and with a stronger aroma--but only a bit.

                                                  The other brand Nguyen recommends is Flying Lion's Phu Quoc. I don't have Pham's book. What does she recommend?

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: JoanN
                                                    MMRuth Sep 1, 2008 11:14 AM

                                                    She recommends for dipping sauces (these are made in Thailand):

                                                    Viet Huong
                                                    Flying Lion Phu Quoc
                                                    Golden Boy

                                                    And she says that "the more pungent products such as Squid, Tiparos and Saigon are better for cooking".

                                                    She explains that "nuoc mam thuong" is "regular fish sauce" and nuoc mam kho is "cooking fish sauce".

                                                    Edit: She also mentioned nuoc mam nhi which she explained is the "first extraction" of fish sauce, with 35 to 38% protein, and which is much more expensive. She added that in the U.S., it's hard to tell which kind is which due to lack of labeling standards, but that higher priced bottles with lighter colored sauce are usually better.

                                                    1. re: MMRuth
                                                      JoanN Sep 1, 2008 11:28 AM

                                                      Thanks. That is interesting. Nguyen makes no distinction between "cooking" and "dipping" fish sauces.

                                                      1. re: JoanN
                                                        greedygirl Sep 2, 2008 02:06 AM

                                                        Pham also says that fish sauce made on the island of Phu Quoc is the best. My local Asian supermarket stocks a Vietnamese brand (can't remember the name) whic is manufactured in Phu Quoc so I bought that to use for dipping sauces. I also have a Thai one which I use for cooking.

                                                      2. re: MMRuth
                                                        Rubee Sep 2, 2008 11:52 AM

                                                        Great! I bought a new fish sauce the last time I stocked up. I just checked and it turns out to be the Flying Lion Brand from Phu Quoc. Here's a picture of the label:

                                                         
                                                        1. re: Rubee
                                                          greedygirl Sep 2, 2008 02:36 PM

                                                          I just checked and my Vietnamese fish sauce is Hung Thanh. The Thai one is called Ca Com, but bizarrely it also says Nuoc Mam Thuong Hang on the label, which I believe is Vietnamese for "high quality fish sauce". The Thai one is much darker than the Vietnamese one, which is more amber in colour.

                                                          http://www.hungthanhfishsauce.com.vn/...

                                                          (I really wanted to go to Phu Quoc island when we went to Vietnam in the Spring but just couldn't make it work with our itinerary. I regret not going now, not least because of the fish sauce!)

                                                      3. re: JoanN
                                                        p
                                                        P. Punko Sep 2, 2008 02:47 PM

                                                        We use Three Crabs brand and Tiparos. I do follow her suggestions sometimes about using the stronger fish sauce in cooking, or I use more of the weaker to make up the difference. The deal with fish sauce is it should really be used to taste. There is a lot of leeway there. One thing to note: it never really tastes that fishy when mixed with other ingredients, so don't fear it!

                                                        1. re: P. Punko
                                                          greedygirl Sep 3, 2008 03:51 AM

                                                          I think Tiparos was the recommended brand when I did a Thai cooking course in Ko Lanta a couple of years ago.

                                                        2. re: JoanN
                                                          bigjeff Apr 2, 2009 12:52 PM

                                                          JoanN, crosslinking a new thread about fish sauce recs, with this old thread:

                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598509

                                                          thanks again!

                                                        3. MMRuth Sep 1, 2008 05:53 AM

                                                          Some links posted by others in the other thread:

                                                          Pham:

                                                          Lemon Grass Restaurant
                                                          http://www.lemongrassrestaurant.com/cookbooks.htm
                                                          http://www.ichef.com/news.cfm?itemid=130692

                                                          Lemongrass Beef Recipe
                                                          http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/meat_lemongrassbeef.shtml

                                                          Pham's recipes on Epicurious
                                                          http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=vietnamese+grilled+pork+mai+pham

                                                          Pham's recipes on Food and Wine.com--pad see yew and chicken soup with jasmine rice and ginger
                                                          http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pad-see-yew
                                                          http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chicken-soup-with-jasmine-rice-and-ginger

                                                          Salad
                                                          http://www.recipesource.com/fgv/salads/21/rec2149.html

                                                          Dipping Sauce and Table Salad
                                                          http://www.mercurynews.com/recipes/ci_5377266?nclick_check=1

                                                          Andrea Nguyen's site:
                                                          http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/

                                                          There are over 40 recipes on Nguyen's site: http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/recipe.htm

                                                          Older thread that was helpful:

                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/392330

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: MMRuth
                                                            The Dairy Queen Sep 8, 2008 06:09 AM

                                                            Mai Pham wrote (writes?) an occasional column in the San Francisco Chronicle called "East to West" that could be a wonderful resource for those following along "online only" this month. I hope this link works, but if not, you can try an advance search at sfgate.com where you search their entire archives for the byline "Mai Pham" to bring up her pieces. There are a couple on Asian vegetables, herbs, cookware, etc. that could be of general interest this month, too, though I haven't delved into them much.

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                            http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/qws/as/...

                                                            1. re: MMRuth
                                                              oakjoan Sep 18, 2008 11:56 AM

                                                              I have a question about the Vietnamese cookbooks chosen this month and the participants' experiences with them.

                                                              I used to really love Vietnamese cooking but got quite tired of it (as did my husband) because of the lack of flavor variation. Everything we ate at restaurants seemed to taste the same - star anise, 5 spice powder, lemon grass and fish sauce were verrrry predominant and it seemed as if all dishes contained them. I think that it was also overkill on our part, as we were eating at a favorite restaurant (or getting take-out from there) for months and months and I think we O.D.ed.

                                                              Is this true of the current COTMs? I see all the enthusiasm for the books and recipes and it's contagious, but I can't get over the worry that it'll bring back those memories of those flavorings.

                                                              PS: This doesn't apply to banh mi, as we both continue to eat them with gusto.

                                                              1. re: oakjoan
                                                                JoanN Sep 18, 2008 02:20 PM

                                                                I've now made 11 recipes, 10 from Nguyen, 1 from Pham. And that's not counting sauces, dipping and otherwise. I've used 5-spice powder once, star anise and lemon grass never, and fish sauce just about every time.

                                                                There are quite a few recipes online. Why don't you just try one and see what you think. If it brings back bad memories, you can call out for pizza.

                                                                1. re: oakjoan
                                                                  Rubee Sep 18, 2008 02:21 PM

                                                                  While I agree that fish sauce is a predominant component of Vietnamese cooking, the other seasonings aren't as ubiquitous. As Mai Pham mentions in Vietnamese Cuisine: An Overview, the three main factors are fish sauce, "the high consumption of rau thom (aromatic herbs)", and eating meat and seafood "wrapped in lettuce or rice paper and dipped in sauce".

                                                                  If this helps, here's a list of dishes I made or have bookmarked to make. None contain lemongrass, and only the first two had star anise or 5-spice:

                                                                  Roast Duck and Egg Noodle Soup
                                                                  Grilled Five-Spice Chicken
                                                                  Condiments - Vietnamese Dipping Sauces, Marinated Chiles, Soy-Lime Dipping Sauce, Scallion Oil, Marinated Daikon and Carrots, Vietnamese Bean Dipping Sauce, Caramel Sauce, etc.
                                                                  Sweet and Sour Shrimp Soup with Fresh Herbs
                                                                  Hue Chicken Salad
                                                                  Cucumber Salad
                                                                  Roasted Eggplant with Scallion Oil
                                                                  Banana Blossom Salad with Chicken
                                                                  Cabbage Salad with Shrimp and Pork
                                                                  Green Mango Salad with Grilled Beef
                                                                  Vietnamese Spring Rolls
                                                                  Salad Rolls (goi cuon)
                                                                  Hanoi Shrimp Cakes
                                                                  Steamed Rice Cakes with Shrimp
                                                                  Rice Rolls with Shrimp and Wood-Ear Mushrooms
                                                                  Scallion Noodles
                                                                  Wok-Seared Noodles with Chicken and Mushrooms
                                                                  Saigon Crepes (banh xeo)
                                                                  Rice Noodles with Fresh Herbs
                                                                  Hanoi Noodles with Grilled Pork
                                                                  Rice Noodle Stir-Fry
                                                                  Noodle Pillows
                                                                  Grilled Shrimp on Sugarcane
                                                                  Bean Thread Noodles with Crab
                                                                  Vietnamese Fried Rice
                                                                  Ginger Chicken
                                                                  Shaking Beef (bo luc lac)
                                                                  Steamed Bass with Soy Sauce, Ginger, and Scallions
                                                                  Caramelized Garlic Shrimp
                                                                  Chili Clams with Black Beans and Basil
                                                                  Salad Rolls with Jicama, Peanuts and Basil
                                                                  Mustard Greens with Garlic
                                                                  Water Spinach with Tofu
                                                                  Twice-Cooked Eggplant with Garlic and Basil
                                                                  Chopstick Beans in Garlic

                                                                  Obviously a long list and I'll never make them all. This is probably less than half of the recipes in the book, so you can see you have a lot of options that don't contain star anise or five-spice powder or lemongrass (which my husband doesn't like either).

                                                                  1. re: oakjoan
                                                                    LulusMom Sep 18, 2008 04:50 PM

                                                                    I'm a little too worn out right now to count up how many of the dishes I've made, but I can say with great certainty that I've only made one with lemongrass, and only one with 5 spice (and I've made pretty many). Most (but not all) do indeed have fish sauce. I started this month off thinking that twice a week would be plenty from the books, but both my husband and I have found ourselves loving this food so much that we want more more more. Do I think if we kept eating this much of it over months and months I'd get tired of it? probably. But heck, I can't eat pizza two nights in a row (a food I love) and my husband thinks that is crazy. Both books are really very good (I'm especially fond of the Pham book, whereas JoanN is falling hard for Nguyen) and produce great results for very little work.

                                                                    1. re: oakjoan
                                                                      pikawicca Sep 18, 2008 04:55 PM

                                                                      You are eating at bad restaurants, IMO. Star anise and 5 spice powder are much more common in some Chinese cuisines, put in an occasional appearance in Vietnamese cooking.

                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                        oakjoan Sep 18, 2008 08:55 PM

                                                                        Well, I don't know about the bad restaurants. The one we used to frequent used to be a really popular place and apparently was quite famous. It started out mostly serving pho and then added many more dishes to the menu. I loved it because it was the only local place in Oakland that served fish cakes. Haven't been there in at least 3 years now. They actually had a dish called Five Spice Chicken.

                                                                        I can't believe that all the Vietnamese restaurants I ate in over a period of several years were bad. Maybe, as I said in another post, it was because we just got tired of the flavorings because we ate at Vietnamese restaurants so frequently.

                                                                        Thanks for all the info you guys. I'll have to try some of the recipes.

                                                                        1. re: oakjoan
                                                                          pitu Sep 30, 2008 06:38 PM

                                                                          how about Le Cheval in Oakland? TRY the salt and pepper squid or crab, and the watercress salad with tofu . . .
                                                                          (I miss Le Cheval all the time.)

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