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September COTM “Vietnamese”: Rice, Noodles, "Banh" & More

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 rice, noodle, banh and the other recipes found in the chapters listed below. 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 includes:

Pham:

Chapter 4: Mrs. Red's Rice Cakes (Rice Noodles, Cakes & Rolls)
Chapter 5: Inviting the Ancestors for Tet (Just the recipes for Perfect Steamed Rice, Vietnamese Fried Rice, and Vietnamese Rice Cakes in Banana Leaves)

Nguyen:

Chapter 8: Noodles from Morning Until Night (Other than Noodle Soup Recipes - please post on Soup thread)
Chapter 9: Indispensable Rice
Chapter 10: The World of Banh

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. From Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table:

    Sizzling Saigon Crepes (Banh Xeo) p. 117 is one of my favorite recipes from this book. Don't skimp on the oil when cooking. You'll need a nonstick or well seasoned cast iron skillet, as it will stick to stainless, which I learned the hard way. Absolutely fantastic combo of flavor and texture. Wrapping the crispy crepe pieces in green or red lettuce leaves makes it a little more manageable. Serve this with the table salad using perilla, basil, and rau ram or other vietnamese herbs. Their flavors add to the dish immeasurably. I've never tried it with mustard greens, and would love to hear if others have?

    Rice Noodles with Fresh Herbs, Lemongrass Beef on Cool Noodles, Hanoi Rice Noodles with Grilled Pork p. 119-22 (Bun dishes) are a summertime staple in our house. I like the bun Thap Chua brand noodles she recommends elsewhere in the book. I've actually not made these recipes with pork, but have used beef sirloin, and subbed bison, chicken thigh and breast in the marinades. I especially like the pork recipe with caramel sauce made with chicken thigh sliced and ground. My family really enjoys the combo of little patties and grilled sliced meat. I've made it with the brown sugar substitution she mentions, but it is absolutely worth the extra time to make a small amount of caramel. (Keep any extra on hand in the fridge.) I sprinkle toasted cashews or sesame instead of peanuts on these dishes because of a peanut allergy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: amyzan

      I love the bun cha recipe! I believe the author says to put it all together in a bowl. But I eat it separately like they do in Northern Vietnam. Just have your bowl of nuac cham and meats. Have a separate bowl for the rice noodles and a separate bowl for the greens. Take some rice noodles and greens and add it to the nuac cham and meats. When you're finished with that, do it all over. I find it keeps the greens fresher and crisper and the noodles more springy, and tastes better that way. And for those of you guys who tend to eat really quickly, it slows your pace down a lot.

      I've made it using both pork and chicken. Pork definitely tastes better but chicken is healthier.

    2. Pressed Rice Logs (ItVK page 239)

      You make a somewhat mushy rice using a bit more water than usual, knead the rice in a damp towel until it’s like a ball of bread dough, shape the rice into logs, then set the logs aside for an hour to cool and dry. Nguyen says that for her parents’ generation this is “an old-fashioned food that conjures up memories of home” and that her dad would make it for road trips and picnics.

      Sounded like fun and it was easy enough to make, but cold rice just doesn’t do it for me. I had hoped it would make a novel hors d’oeuvres-type dish to serve with drinks when paired with the Caramelized Minced Pork (which I reported on in the Meat thread), but not to be. No need for me to revisit this one.

      3 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        JoanN, after following your reports for months, I'm thinking that your house is *the best* place to have drinks ...

        1. re: LulusMom

          Uh oh! Ya got me!

          I happen to live in a “destination” part of Manhattan so friends will often drop by before or after whatever else it is they’re doing. Since having a dinner party can be both time consuming and expensive, “stop by for drinks” is a great way for me to try new recipes or share finds with friends more frequently.

      2. Vietnamese Fried Rice (POtVT P137)

        Wow! This was unexpectedly delicious. I had some leftover rice but we had unexpected guest so I sent Mr GG to the Chinese takeaway round the corner for some extra.

        It's a very simple dish. You melt butter in a wok or large pan and fry chopped onion and garlic briefly until fragrant. Then add tomato ketchup, fish sauce and a little salt and sugar and cook until reduced. Add the cooked rice and stir-fry for about 5 minutes until hot. Add chopped sring onion and heat through. Garnish with coriander (I used rau ram).

        What a delicious dish. You could really taste the butter, and the ketchup and fish sauce added a savoury sweetness that was very seductive. A very homely dish that we all loved and I will definitely make again.

        46 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          thanks for posting this, gg - the type of recipe I would have ignored - in a cookbook that I love love love

          1. re: pitu

            I was really surprised by how good this was. Very different to Chinese or Thai fried rice.

            1. re: greedygirl

              I second the thanks for this post ... I had overlooked the recipe myself. I really do find that the ingredients list on these recipes don't give you any idea of just how good they're going to be. I totally take back my previous comments about not wanting to eat Vietnamese every day ... I'm fighting myself not to do so! I'm loving this book just as pitu is. Mine is a library copy, but next time I put in an order at Jessica's bisquits, this is coming home too.

              1. re: LulusMom

                I'm looking forward to trying this - when I lived in Bangkok as a child, our cook always added ketchup to fried rice, and while I know a lot of CH purists decry it, it gives it a "special" flavor! I love GG sending her husband to pick up more cooked rice from the take-away place.

          2. re: greedygirl

            By the way, greedygirl, what did you serve with this, or was it the main course?

            1. re: greedygirl

              Vietnamese Fried Rice (com chien), PVT, p 137

              I had this bookmarked, but after GG's post, I moved it up the list. I agree - simple and quick, but this Pham "family favorite" was a favorite in our house too. I halved the recipe, but shouldn't have - we would have finished a serving for four since I kept going back for more. I seasoned with the fish sauce to taste, so used more than the recipe called for since I love the stuff. It was a great side dish to an on-line Pham recipe for Thai Cowboy Steak. I used just the marinade (cilantro, garlic, brandy, oyster sauce, and soy) for ribeyes on the grill:

              http://recipes.rimag.com/recipe.asp?i...

               
              1. re: Rubee

                I made this for dinner, and I have to say I was not enthralled, unfortunately. Now, I didn't have ketchup, so I used a good tomato paste diluted with a little vinegar. I think it definitely needed more fish sauce and/or salt, and I ended up adding a little soy sauce to my bowl. I did do a couple of other things, which I can see would dilute the flavors a bit - I added six shrimp about half way through, as well as about six slices of tomato (this was to half the recipe, by the way, though I did use two scallions). I also squeezed on some lime juice when it was done.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  This makes me nervous ... I'm making it for dinner tomorrow night for the first time (along with a grilled chicken from the same book). Normally wouldn't be too nervous, but I did the dumb thing and invited someone to dinner - hope she's not too picky.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    If you do make it, be sure to add the fish sauce to taste. I added much more than the recipe called for and really liked it that way.

                    1. re: Rubee

                      Definitely making it (along with an untried chicken recipe ... obviously lost my mind). We were talking last night about how incredibly good fish sauce is, and how it seems almost addictive. Smells horrible, but the taste ... Thanks for the tip. Will keep tasting.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        Yes, I'd say way more fish sauce - just added quite a bit with the leftovers for lunch, and it still wasn't enough. Also occurred to me that ketchup, which I didn't use, probably has quite a bit of salt. I'd be sure to serve it with a dipping sauce.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Hmmm, I replied to this post a couple of hours ago, but it obviously didn't take. I will def. add more fish sauce. Is there any particular dipping sauce you'd recommend with it? My favorite so far (only made 2) has been the sweet soy, and it makes sense to make a sauce given that I'm also making a grilled chicken dish from the book.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I think there is one that she recommends in the recipe for the fried rice, but I don't remember which it was and don't have it handy. I'm curious to know what you think about the dish.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              You're absolutely right - she mentions soy-lime dipping sauce in the headnote. If I have everything called for in that recipe (which is likely) I'll go ahead and make it. Thanks for the heads up - I'd missed that.

                2. re: greedygirl

                  Finally got around to the Vietnamese Fried Rice. Served as a side to the grilled 5-spice chicken (also in Pham). Thanks to Rubee and MMRuth, I added lots more fish sauce. She calls for 1/2 tablespoon, but i put in a full tablespoon and then shook the bottle over the cooking rice a couple of times. I loved it. After last night's meal my husband said to tell you all that he really loves these books and this food.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Awww. That's nice. I'm very appreciative that our husbands are so willing to explore such varied cuisines in the cookbooks of the month. E is enjoying this month's Vietnamese too, especially the Vietnamese Fried Bananas with Ice Cream last night! (Pham - PVT, p 208).

                    1. re: Rubee

                      No question - we're lucky to have such willing guinea pigs.

                      I hadn't even looked at the desserts section of the Pham book ... uhoh!

                  2. re: greedygirl

                    My turn to try Pham's version of fried rice! I was intrigued by the addition of ketchup so had to try it out! In sum, we loved this homey dish.

                    I had about 2 c. of leftover cooked rice so halved her recipe, but did add proportionately more fish sauce as others suggested. I did add one egg at the end (after tasting the final product) because I prefer egg in fried rice, and it added the perfect softness that I wanted. The ketchup works w/ the fish sauce and sugar to create an umami dance in one's mouth. Umami = happiness.

                    Served this w/ leftover beef w/ cauliflower (see meat thread) and stir-fried baby bok choy w/ a hint of sesame oil.

                     
                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      I think I need to try this again with ketchup!

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I think you definitely need to use ketchup!

                        Really looking forward to getting into Vietnamese again after two weeks of (delicious) Turkish food. I have never eaten so many aubergines in my life!

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Welcome back greedygirl. Hope you had a wonderful time. As you can see, you started a trend on the fried rice.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            We had a fabulous time, thank you, and it's not nice being back in rainy, grey England. I am consoling myself with Vietnamese food though!

                            I'm so glad everyone is trying the Pham rice. I haven't stopped raving about it and made extra rice tonight so I can make it again tomorrow.

                          2. re: greedygirl

                            I agree about the ketchup. It's essential to this dish. I used to eat Japanese omu-rice with ketchup as a kid all the time. So ketchup and rice is not that foreign to me.

                            Next time, I may cut back on the butter or try a combo of butter and oil. I found the butter taste to be a bit overwhelming. And I did use the proper amount of fish sauce as stated in the recipe and thought it was fine. But perhaps that's why I thought the butter was overwhelming in this dish because I didn't use more fish sauce.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              Tagging on my kudos for the fried rice. We loved the taste and will definitely be making it every chance I get. Served with a stir fry of leftover vegetables and ginger chicken. I totally forgot the dipping sauce, though.

                              1. re: Gio

                                I made the fried rice again last night, and didn't make any dipping sauce to go with, and didn't miss it at all. Love this rice.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  OK, I am going to buy some ketchup and make this for myself this week while my husband is in Haiti.

                                  BTW - re: the garlicky noodles w/ Maggi - where have people found the Maggi? I haven't had any luck yet, and won't be making it to the Vietnamese store this week.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    In the Boston area I've found Maggi in ordinary supermarkets.

                                    MM, I can remember my mother having a bottle in her pantry years ago. At the time I wasn't concertrating on cooking (or even food) so never gave it a thought. I don't really know what she used it in.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      By the way - I found the Maggi in the Vietnamese store - they had two, one made in China and one in Germany, and since I couldn't remember which one was recommended in the book, I just bought both. Still haven't checked the book ....

                                    2. re: MMRuth

                                      I'd never heard of the stuff, although when I did find it the bottle looked somewhat familiar. I found it at a local specialty foods store - they had 3 different sizes! While grocery shopping yesterday I gave a look in the sauces aisle and again in the asian foods section and didn't see it in either place, so I guess it isn't all that common here (in the south). I think you could sub soy sauce without much difference at all. Attached a photo, in case that helps you find it.

                                       
                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        maggi Seasoning Sauce

                                        INGREDIENTS: Water, salt, wheat gluten, wheat, and less than 2% of wheat bran, sugar, acetic acid, artificial flavor, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, dextrose, caramel color.

                                        maybe find it in a latin supermarket.

                                      2. re: MMRuth

                                        Have you bought that ketchup yet?? :-)

                                        I made the fried rice for the third time last night, and it seems to be a little different each time. I suspect it's because I eyeball most of the ingredients and have varying amounts of rice each time. Last night I decided to go all out and add some Chinese sausage to see what direction it would take it, but I must say, I prefer it without. I definitely like it w/ egg added at the end, but the sausage kind of distracted from the umami-goodness of the rice.

                                        I will say that I like to add a little more ketchup and fish sauce than Pham calls for, and I fry for longer than she suggests. I like my fried rice "well done" and kind of dry and crispy in some parts. Good stuff!

                                         
                                        1. re: Carb Lover

                                          I've made it several times as well and agree that it turns out a little different each time. I can't get enough of it!

                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                            Okay. I'm getting tired (read: envious) of reading about this. Don't have Pham and it's not online. Would someone please paraphrase the fried rice recipe for me? Add me to the list of those who don't have ketchup in the house, but I'll go out and buy it after all these glowing reports.

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              It's interesting that so many of you don't have ketchup. I keep it on hand because I have a child. But it's good stuff!
                                              I'm at work and I don't have the book with me or I would paraphrase the recipe. I don't rememember all the ingredients besides rice, onions, fish sauce and ketchup.

                                              1. re: NYCkaren

                                                The only thing I can think of that I make at home that we would use ketchup (which my husband ADORES) on is hamburgers and I don't make them too often.

                                                Recipe for JoanN:

                                                3 T butter
                                                1 tsp chopped garlic
                                                3 T chopped yellow onion
                                                2 T ketchup
                                                1/2 T fish sauce
                                                Salt to taste
                                                1 t sugar
                                                4 cups cold cooked rice (long grain)
                                                2 scallions, cut into thin rings
                                                5 sprigs cilantro, cut into 2" lengths

                                                In a wok or nonstick pan, melt the butter (moderate heat) and add garlic and onions - stir about 20 seconds (until fragrant). Then add sugar, salt, fish sauce and ketchup and simmer 2-3 minutes - sauce should reduce slightly. Then throw in the rice and stir fry 4-5 minutes - add scallions, cook another 2 minutes. She suggests to add water if the pan is dry. Garnish with cilantro.

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  I never used to have ketchup either, but I got a big bottle for the girl who looks after our cats while we're away and uses a lot of the stuff. It's going to be a pantry staple from now on though!

                                              2. re: JoanN

                                                3 Tbsp Butter
                                                1 tsp chopped Garlic
                                                3 Tbsp chopped Onion
                                                2 Tbsp Ketchup
                                                1/2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
                                                salt to taste
                                                1 tsp Sugar
                                                4 cups cold cooked Rice, pref. long grain
                                                2 Scallions in thin rings
                                                5 sprigs Cilantro in 2" lengths

                                                Saute garlic and onion 'til fragrant. Add next four ingredients. Slightly reduce by simmering. Stir in rice. When rice is hot add the scallions and cook another two minutes, still stirring. If it seems too dry to you sprinkle in a little bit of water. Garnish w/cilantro.

                                                1. re: mirage

                                                  Thank you, both. May not even wait until I have leftover rice to give this a try.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    I've been making the rice while I do other stuff in the kitchen - eat breakfast, read the paper, whatever, and that makes this so easy.

                                              3. re: greedygirl

                                                I'm having some leftover fried rice right this minute and it is heavenly ... I think my favorite combination was to serve it with the grilled 5 spice chicken.

                                              4. re: Carb Lover

                                                After I saw your first picture, it looked so good with the crispy edges on the rice, that I cooked my next batch "well done" too. I agree - I liked it even better that way. Thanks CL!

                                2. re: greedygirl

                                  My turn for this. Like pitu above, I would have skipped over this but for all the raves on the board. I really liked this, but didn't love it. But, there are a couple of factors regarding this and I'm going to re-make it.

                                  1) I served this with leftovers (homestyle pork with peppers from RCC and boiled cauliflower with ginger lime dipping sauce). The rice worked well with the cauliflower/sauce but not so well with the pork. the flavors didn't go well at all.

                                  2) I have allergies from HELL so my taste buds are slightly off.

                                  3) I didn't read the board prior to making the dish so I didn't up the fish sauce. I also didn't up it because of my out of whack taste buds.

                                  BTW, I made a half portion and used the same amount of scallions. I also used a small shallot in place of the onion. Also, one packet of ketchup is about 1 teaspoon. I really liked how the ketchup and other ingredients simmered and then lightly coated the rice. I also eyeballed most ingredients except for the ketchup.

                                  I will re-visit this dish and will serve with appropriate side dishes.

                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                    I'd say you probably needed a bit more ketchup as well. Glad you enjoyed it though - it's become one of my favourite things.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      Damn - I keep forgetting to buy ketchup!

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        I did use 3 packets of ketchup = 1T which is enough for half the recipe. I was really surprised that one packet contained so little ketchup.

                                    2. re: greedygirl

                                      I finally made this for lunch yesterday, using ketchup! I made the rice in the am and stuck in the fridge. It was much better than before, but still didn't completely wow me. Another 'hound pointed out to me that it might be because of my childhood memories of fried rice in Bangkok, which included ketchup, but also bacon and tomatoes. I may try adding those to this recipe and doing some tinkering! I squeezed some lime juice on, which I liked.

                                    3. Scallion Noodles (Pham pg. 115)

                                      These were surprisingly bland. Saute a bunch of sliced scallions and shallots with oil. Add cooked, drained noodles to it with soy sauce and salt. I added more soy sauce because there wasn’t that much flavor. A big disappointment.

                                       
                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        OY Vey! (¬_¬)
                                        I had planned this for tomorrow night. Hmmmmm..... perhaps I can add minced garlic & ginger??? Some garlic chili paste???? Saute in peanut oil??? Anything???...... SOS.....((+_+))

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I've made these scallion noodles and have really liked them. Maybe, use the green onion/shallot mixture, but use this technique?

                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/531375

                                          http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/coo...

                                          I've only made it with the dried shrimp but I can see how it would be tasty without it as well.

                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            Thank you for the links, BB!! I feel better about this recipe now,
                                            I'm taking eveyone's advice, up & down thread, and will report back.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              NP. I forgot to write, in the Pham recipe, I don't think there is enough oil or soy. I did add more soy but it didn't really help. But, I really like that global gourmet recipe and have made it a number of times. It's similar in ingredients but there is so much more flavor to this dish. As to how much the dried shrimp contributes to that, I can't say, but other posters have stated that it also tastes great without the shrimp.

                                              Lastly, hot pepper or sauce never hurts either.

                                          2. re: Gio

                                            I have made it and enjoyed it quite a lot, but always add chili paste (mashed thai bird chili, garlic, and a little vinegar), hoisin, and cilantro. Simple accompaniment.

                                          3. re: beetlebug

                                            Scallion Noodles (mi kho hanh), p 115.

                                            I made these too, and agree with BB. I was also suprised that they didn't have more flavor, even with extra soy sauce. I used nice fresh scallions too. Pham does mention that this is originally a Chinese dish using scallion-infused oil.

                                            However, I served this as a side dish for Grilled Five-Spice Chicken (p.147) with Soy Lime Dipping Sauce (p. 29). We ended up spooning the dipping sauce on the noodles and that gave them a nice punch of flavor.

                                             
                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                              We made this last year and I remember we liked it - we served it with the Crab dish on p. 166 (which is excellent, by the way), so maybe that influenced our taste buds! Or maybe that is just a particularly good combination (one that Pham recommended.)

                                            2. Hanoi Rice Noodles w/Grilled Pork - Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, p. 121
                                              Chapter 4, Mrs. Red's Rice Cakes

                                              We enjoyed it tonight, but I wish it was warmer out - this would be a terrific hot weather meal. Using previously made caramel sauce, it is another very quick supper.

                                              My only quibble was the added salt. I usually omit salt when a recipe has this much fish sauce (in the marinade and in the sauce used for serving), but mindlessly threw it in, as the recipe directed, and it was a little bit too salty.

                                              Definitely will make this again when the weather is warm.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: mirage

                                                I've been omitting salt in her recipes that call for fish sauce - and then have tasted and didn't think I needed to add any more.