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Feb 8, 2012 09:36 PM

Vietnamese for Valentine's -- Favorite Recipes?

Hi Hounds!

For Valentine's Day, operaboy and I will be cooking our dinner together. We'll be making Vietnamese summer rolls, and I still need a couple other dishes to round out the meal. I found a couple of Charles Phan's dishes on Food&Wine's website that looked good, but I was wondering if anybody had any amazing, tried-and-true Vietnamese dishes they thought would be good for our V-day dinner!

A couple requirements -- we are gluten-free, and we don't eat pork. Other than that, everything is fair game. Living in San Francisco, I've got access to all manner of herbs and produce, and tracking down obscure ingredients shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions! I'm looking for actual recipes that you've made and loved.

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  1. Rice noodles beef pho plus either oysters or a Vietnamese style steamed fish. Indochinese kind of salad on the side.

    1. ban xeo (Vietnamese crepe), you could do lemongrass chicken. Also, when I went to my Vietnamese friend's BBQ, his mom made this dish called Banh was really good. It was like a rice pancake with shrimp/mung bean topping, covered with fish sauce. At the BBQ I ended up mostly eating this dish! Sorry, I'm not aware of any good recipes, but I figured it would be a good lead for something somewhat novel to try. It seems to be gluten free though.

      Edit: Here's the wikipedia article on Banh Beo
      My friend's mother made it with mostly mung bean on top, and I think she also used dried shrimp, but it looks like the toppings are however you like them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chowda

        Cool! I had no idea these crepes were gluten-free. Found Charles Phan's recipe online:

        While I don't think crepes are quite the right thing to go with summer rolls (starch and more starch), I am definitely bookmarking this to make them in the future. Thanks!

      2. I recently remembered how much I like this dish and have made it a couple of times in the past few weeks. Apart from making the caramel, which you can do ahead of time, it's mindlessly simple -- always a plus. The ingredients make the dish so try to find good shrimp and fish sauce. In SF, you should be able to find the relatively new Red Boat brand locally which I think is worth seeking out. I've seen variations with additional vegs like chile, ginger, onions and/or shallots but I prefer it with just garlic, or garlic and shallots only.

        Shrimp Simmered in Fish Sauce (Tôm Rim)

        1 tb vegetable oil
        1 clove garlic, minced
        1/2 lb raw shrimp, shelled, tails on
        1 tb fish sauce
        4 ts granulated sugar
        2 ts Caramelized Sugar
        Sprinkling of ground black pepper

        Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a high flame. Fry garlic briefly. Before the garlic browns, add the shrimp and toss to coat with oil and garlic, then add the remaining ingredients -- fish sauce, sugar, caramelized sugar, and pepper. Stir/toss shrimp once or twice, turn the heat down to medium and cover the saucepan. Continue to cook a few minutes until shrimp are just done (4-5 minutes). Shake the pan or give the shrimp a quick stir once or twice while cooking.

        paraphrased from Ngo & Zimmerman, The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam

        NB: Most of the liquid in the final dish comes from the shrimp itself, as it cooks. When you're done, there should ideally there should be just enough sauce to coat the shrimp. If there's still too much liquid once the shrimp are cooked, remove them quickly with a slotted spoon and reduce the liquid by itself. Then return shrimp to the pan, toss to coat with sauce, and serve. You can garnish with scallions, cilantro, or whatever you prefer.

        To save myself typing in a recipe for it, here a couple of links to web pages with recipes for the caramel sauce which is used fairly often in VN cuisine: , . It keeps a very long time at room temperature in a tightly closed bottle.

        Edit: If you've never made caramel before, taste it before you use it. It will have a definite bitter edge, but unless you inadvertently burn it, it shouldn't be unbearably bitter. If that happens, start over or it'll ruin the dish.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MikeG

          Sounds really good! Do you do anything else with the caramel sauce?

          1. re: operagirl

            Sometimes I use it in general cooking to add a little color (like commercial "gravy enhancers"), but there's also a whole category of simmered/braised Vietnamese "kho" dishes. I haven't made many of these and don't have any specific ones to offer, but Google brings up a bunch of different recipes: . (And for that matter, I've seen bottles of commercial caramel in Korean grocery stores, but I don't know what they use it for.)

        2. I know chicken seems ordinary, and the recipe seems simple...but this Andrea Nuygen recipe for grilled chicken (via Kim O-Donnel, formerly of Washington Post) is darn tasty.

          1 Reply
          1. re: 4Snisl

            Wow, that sounds great. I'll file it away for use in warmer months -- thinking about charcoal-grilled chicken in this drizzly weather is such a tease! :-)

          2. Fried catfish...superhot oil, so the skin is as crispy as a chip and the flesh is super creamy. Eat with rice paper, greens, and either fish sauce or whichever sauce you love. I love adding the picked vegetables to it, too.
            Or you can go the grill your own proteins and make your own rice paper wraps. My Mom used to marinate thin slices of marinated beef and shrimp, and we would cook it on an electric griddle with lots of butter (a la 7 courses of beef style). I haven't had that in years...and it was fun.