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Sep 1, 2008 06:54 AM

September COTM “Vietnamese”: Sauces, Condiments, Garnishes, etc.

September 2008 Cookbooks of the Month:

Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes for sauces, condiments, garnishes, etc. here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book or author and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. This thread includes:


Chapter 1: Layer After Layer (Essential Sauces, Condiments and Aromatic Herbs)


Chapter 12: Basics

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Caramel Sauce (ItVK, page 316)

    Since so many of Nguyen’s recipes call for Caramel Sauce, this was an obvious recipe to start with. It’s very easy to make, especially if you have experience with either caramel or a dark roux, but you do have to be watchful toward the end. She suggests about 20 minutes to get it to a dark tea color, but mine took only about 17 or 18. Her instructions on what to look for are very clear, though, so the timing wasn’t a problem. The resulting sauce is the color of black coffee, slightly viscous, and bittersweet. The recipe makes a cup and the first recipe I tried with it, Shrimp Simmered in Caramel Sauce, calls for only two tablespoons. But she says it keeps indefinitely in a kitchen cupboard. Is this going to be the chopped, salted chilies of ItVK? Looks promising so far.

    I was going to post my own photos, but discovered that the author’s Web site has an excellent series of photos that show you exactly what it should look like every step of the way. If you’re the least bit intimidated by the thought of trying this, check this out:

    3 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      thx for pointing out those caramel photos!

      1. re: JoanN

        I made this (p. 30) from Pham's book, after looking at the link above. Her method is actually much quicker, and doesn't require filling the sink. You put the sugar in a small sauce pan, cook for 2-3 minutes until it starts to brown, then stir for another minute or two until it is all dissolved and dark brown. Then remove from heat and stir in gradually the boiling water. After taking the caramel off the heat it continued to darken to almost black, with a reddish hue for a moment. No photos until I get my new laptop!

        1. re: MMRuth

          For those who don't have this book, the proportions are 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup boiling water. Now that I think about it, I may have added 1/2 cup boiling water, so I suspect my sauce is not quite as viscous as it should be.

      2. Light Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (nuoc cham lat), Pleasures of the VT, p. 26
        Marinated Chilies (ot ngiam giam), PVT, p. 38

        Hopefully heading to the Asian market tonight to stock up on Vietnamese ingredients, but had a package of chilis and so yesterday was able to make a couple of condiments.

        The Light Dipping Sauce is used for Hue specialities, including the Steamed Rice Cakes with Shrimp (p. 105) I plan to make. A stock is made with shrimp shells (I save and freeze these when shelling shrimp) and water, and then mixed with sugar, fish sauce, rice vinegar and chilis - I used one red, one green. She says this keeps for up to two weeks.

        I've made her Marinated Chilies a few times before - they're great to keep in a jar in the refrigerator. Sliced chiles and garlic cloves are blanched for 5 seconds, and then marinated in rice vinegar mixed with sugar and salt.

        1. Marinated Daikon and Carrots (cu cai ca rot chua), PVT, p. 38

          I made this because it's a key ingredient for one of my favorites - banh mi. Instead of slicing them per the directions, I used a Benriner mandoline to julienne the vegs. They're tossed with salt, rinsed and drained, and then pickled in rice vinegar and sugar.

          I was going to make her version of banh mi on p. 94 with its ground pork/five-spice sauce, but after picking up a roasted duck at the local Asian market, I decided to make duck banh mi for lunch. I bought some nice French rolls at the Asian market, toasted them, and then spread Japanese Kewpie mayo on both sides and layered duck and some crispy skin, thinly sliced cucumber, daikon and carrot, fresh cilantro, a sprinkling of marinated chiles (p 38), and drizzles of nuoc cham lat (p. 26). We both love any kind of banh mi. So good, I could have eaten three of these.

          8 Replies
            1. re: Rubee

              Rubee: The banh mi look great! Even the bread looks authentic. Did you get it at a Vietnamese market or what?

              I have another, more general, question here: How much 5 spice powder and star anise do the recipes call for? I mean, do most of them contain those spices? Those spices are the reason I have not really participated in this thread because both myself and my husband got thoroughly sick of that taste after overindulging by eating at a local place way too many times in too short a time. Since then, I have shied away from Vietnamese recipes calling for them.

              Banh mi, however, do not count in this ban...or is it this BANH?

              1. re: oakjoan

                I've made 7 recipes from ItVK and one from PofVK and not one has called for either five spice powder or star anise. And I haven't gone out of my way to avoid them because I like both a great deal. I know that ItVK has at least one recipe each that calls for these spices, but not much more than that. Take a look at some of the recipes linked to on the main thread. I think you'll see that use of those spices is fairly minimal.

                1. re: JoanN

                  Pham's pho calls for the star anise...


                2. re: oakjoan

                  I got the bread at an Asian market, and it was great for banh mi. I checked the ingredients and it didn't have rice flour, but still got nice and crackly-crispy when toasted in the oven. I'll definitely buy it again.

                  As Joan N mentions, there are many, many recipes that don't call for 5-spice, though I've made one so far (the duck soup). Concidentally enough, I'm making another dish using 5-spice tonight - Grilled Five Spice-Chicken. My husband isn't a huge fan, so for his pieces, I skipped the fresh ground toasted star anise at the end. I have a whole bunch of other recipes marked, however, and those are the only two that have 5-spice.

                  E used to like all Vietnamese, until I made a dish one night that was heavy on lemongrass. I overloaded him, and now he hates it. Ever since, he can pick out the smallest amount of lemongrass in a recipe, so any I make this month with that ingredient will be just for me.

                3. re: Rubee

                  Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua), Pg. 192, ITVK, Andrea Nguyen

                  This was a very quick basic pickle that has good sweet and spicy flavor with slight crunch. A simple recipe that consists of kneading thin matchsticks of daikon and carrot with a combination of salt and sugar. When the volume has been reduced and the strips are pliable drain in a colander and rinse, blot, return to original bowl. A brine is then poured over..

                  The brine ingredients are sugar, vinegar, and water. The vegetables sit in the brine for at least an hour. After that what is not consumed at the meal can be stored in the fridge for one month. So mine are sitting in a quart mason jar and will be eaten till they're all gone. I liked the simple flavor, but thought it was a little too sweet so I think I'll slice a few jalapenos and add them to the jar. Also, sliced onion would be another addition. Guess I'll play with this a while... They did work well and contributed another accent to Nguyen's Banh Mi on page 35 in which the pickles were used.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Gio if you remember, can you report back on how the flavours develop as you work through your jar?

                    Now you have me craving Banh Mi!!

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      I'll certainly try to remember, BC. We've had the pickles twice since making them and the first time, I think a night later, they seemed the very same as at first. The second time they seemed slightly softer. If my brain lets me, I serve them again tonight with a Grace Young chicken recipe I'm making.

                      ETA: Ahem... the roast pork recipe report for Banh Mi...

                      Char Siu Pork, Pg 142, ITVK, Andrea Nguyen

                4. Ginger Lime Dipping Sauce (Pham, 27) and Sweet Soy Sauce with Chilies and Lime (Pham, p. 30)

                  Made these to go with the whole poached chicken. Pham says she prefers the Ginger-Lime, but we liked the other better (both were good though). Very straightforward to prepare. I did have a big oops with the Sweet Soy sauce one ... realized when I started making this that I had no idea what sweet soy sauce is (she says to see page 31, but I didn't see a thing about it there, and when I tried looking at the ingredients chapter didn't find anything there either). I thought about using mirin instead, but then just used regular soy sauce and at the end added a bit of water and some light brown sugar until I liked the tastes, so maybe my sauce wasn't at all what she had in mind. But ... husband didn't find it sweet at all (I think he had no idea there was sugar in it), and in fact it is very nice and spicy. I used the chopping method instead of mortar and pestle. I'll make this soy sauce dipping sauce again, definitely. And I'm going to buy this book. I love it.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: LulusMom

                    I might make this at the weekend. I'm assuming sweet soy sauce is the same as kecap manis? Does anyone know for sure?

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      According to Cook's Thesaurus the substitute for kecap manis is equal parts brown sugar and soy sauce and the substitute for Thai sweet soy sauce is three parts soy to one part brown sugar so one would presume that Indonesian kecap manis is sweeter than Thai sweet soy sauce.


                      1. re: JoanN

                        Wow, so I figured it out correctly?! Kinda proud of myself, because that is almost exactly what I'd say the measurements came out as. Thanks JoanN!

                    2. re: LulusMom

                      I made these tonight and they were both a hit, although we preferred the sweet soy one. Both were fairly spicy, because I used Thai birds eye chillies and didn't remove the seeds. I substituted kecap manis for the sweet soy sauce, without any problems. Although it's supposed to be sweeter than the Thai version, I didn't find it too sweet at all.

                      It's a close call, but I think I prefer the Dunlop dipping sauces for poached chicken. Will probably make this again though.

                    3. Pham dipping sauces...all easy, all tasty, all depends on what you feel like eating
                      Ginger-Lime p.27
                      Soy-Lime p. 29
                      Chili-Lime p.30
                      I make which ever one of these I have the ingredients for, and whatever we feel like...mostly for pork or seafood or veg fried spring rolls (I get frozen ones from vietnam that have a soviet packaging from Hong Kong market in Sunset Park Brooklyn)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pitu

                        I made the Chili-Lime one last night to serve with the mussels - really loved it, quite spicy, though I only used jalapenos. I really like her method of creating a paste of certain ingredients in the mortar and pestle before adding them into the liquids, as I think it helps incorporate the flavors into the liquid.