Friday, October 8, 2010

Ferdie learns Vietnamese: Basics, Herbs, Roots & Bits - Part 1 of 3

by Simon Fernandez (@ferdiesfoodlab)


Well I don't know about you folks but walking into a Vietnamese shop if you're not Vietnamese (and you've never been in) it's a little bit daunting. Specially if all that's going to happen is you walk with a bag of funny shaped vegetables of unknown tastes and textures!!! Yikes! I'm outta here.

Anyway I'm pretty at home with most of the occidental bits and pieces but further east hmm, not so sure. ('cept Japan that is) What the hell is a Mooli anyway? I mean it looks suspiciously like Daikon to me!! ; )

So here goes green things first!

Thai Sweet Basil  (Rau Hue)
This in all sorts of dishes, either sliced up or as a garnish, we use this in pho, summer rolls, has a distinctive aniseed, relatively strong flavour specially compared to regular basil. (that we use in our pea soup, one favourite dished post coming soon I promise!)
Now you'd be forgiven when you get to shop for saying which mint was I after again?
Reminds me of Resevoir Dogs, I could never remember which was which, or how many there were!!

; ) You've got to be careful though because Fish mint will give you a slap, whereas Cockscombe mint will aromatise you - yes that is a real word! (honest)

Mints: 
Mint (Normal Mint!)
Yep! Get it at any supermarket or good vegetable shop. I love to freshen up our summer rolls with a good wedge of this, balances out the pork belly and the other meats and when combined with the dipping sauce wowza!
Mint
Cockscomb Mint (Kinh Gioi) This a light aromatic mint with delicate lemon zestyness about it, Le (Uyens mum) made a Bun Bo Hue (hot and spicy beef noodle soup) for me one night. The key flavours are that of the lemon grass in the broth, and the Cockscomb mint in the garnish. It has delicate lemony flavour which is quite simply a stunning combination. We've since put it on the menu.
 

Hot mint (Rau Ram) or aka Vietnamese Mint aka Vietnamese Corriander
Quite a strong flavour minty yet meaty.
Looks nothing like normal coriander, larger leaves will have a slightly purple tinge around the edge slightly bitter, pungent flavour. We grow this in our back yard with no problems, we got it from a herb seller in Columbia Rd market (where we got our lemon grass actually).
We use this in our summer rolls, and chicken salad.
Hot Mint aka Vietnamese Corriander

And at this point thing get really confusing because this bad boy has quite a few aliases. It's known as Vietnanese Corriander (took me a while to realise this), also known as Laksa leaf, and Cambodian Mint!!! What the hell have you been up to to have so many aliases, hmmm? Late breaking news easiest just to call it 'Rau Rum'.

Fish Mint (Dap Ca)
This is rather an acquired taste and when I first took a bite I did wonder what on earth it could be good for, but used sparingly it can add a depth and a little je ne sias quoi to the flavour! Err . . . gone all Dell boy there scuse me!
Fish Mint
Vietnamese Spring Onion (Hanh La)
I've sat these next to a bunch of european spring onions for comparison, they taste nothing like each other despite their similarity to chives, you find them in Vietnamese pancakes which are lovely!!
In fact had some of those on Tuesday night. Tried them in Vietnamese stall for that authentic understanding of what to aim at.
 Lemon Grass (Xa Cay)
A fantastic fragrant flavour, can be used as bruised or sliced sticks to infuse into a broth, or finely chopped to add to meat pastes, salads or sauces  
We use this in: bun bo hue, pho, beef in vine leaves, prawn salad...to name but a few.

Lemon Grass Leaves
We have lemon grass in the garden, and it's leaves also have similar but more delicate flavour and can be used in salads and to make infusions. It does have quits course strands running through though and needs to be finely chopped or you end up chewing on a big ball fibber like a ruminating cow!! Probably why it's not gone main stream!!! ; ) Smells lovely!! (sorry no photo note to self)

Corriander
Well where would be be without it I say, this has a gorgeously refreshing, but like a lot of things opinion is divided on this one some people find is flavour a little too strong for them!! They is crazy brother!

Vietnamese Parsley
Tastes like a crunchy coriander but more potent. Used sliced up in in noodle soups like Pho as a garnish.
Vietnamese Parsley
Pandan (La Dua)
Long leaf looks like a pond leaf but it actually comes from a tree. It's a sweet leaf used to make tea and for  for desserts - blended into cakes and jellies. This ones a new one to me, bumped into it in a Dried Logan Berry and Lotus Seed dessert.
Pandan Tree Leaf


Stir Fry and Garnish Vegetables
Pak Choi (also known as Bok Choi or Peking Cabbage), Choi Sum, similar but greener and with a longer stem, make nice additions to a stir
Flowering Pak Choi
Pak Choi
As you can probably tell from that rather brief coverage of the choi family, I think a cor blimey, I'm exhausted is due! But there's no garlic or fish sauce on this list!!?
to be continued . . .

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