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Sep 1, 2008 05:48 AM

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

September 2008 COTM:

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham


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:

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.

Starters, Snacks & Salads


Rice, Noodles, "Banh" and More

Poultry & Eggs

Meat & Charcuterie


Vegetables & Vegetarian Dishes

Desserts & Sweet Drinks

Happy Cooking!

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  1. Some links posted by others in the other thread:


    Lemon Grass Restaurant

    Lemongrass Beef Recipe

    Pham's recipes on Epicurious

    Pham's recipes on Food and see yew and chicken soup with jasmine rice and ginger


    Dipping Sauce and Table Salad

    Andrea Nguyen's site:

    There are over 40 recipes on Nguyen's site:

    Older thread that was helpful:

    8 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      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 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.


      1. re: MMRuth

        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

          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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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.)

            2. My fish sauce journey (in response to MMRuth's request here:


              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

                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

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

                  1. re: JoanN

                    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

                    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

                      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.


                      (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

                    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

                      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

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


                      thanks again!

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


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JoanN

                        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. 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


                        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


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Rubee

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

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