Tag Archives: vietnamese

Pho sure!

Is there anything more satisfying than a humongous bowl of pho?
Maybe there is, to you, but I sure love sinking into this fragrant soup filled with amazing aromas, crunchy bean sprouts and fiery chilies.

2010-08-22 11.02.32I was first introduced to pho at a little hole in the wall Vietnamese place here in Florida. This place is authentic (and people do swear by its magical powers and great, cheap food) with Buddhas strategically placed and Vietnamese TV on in the background.

I had the vegetarian pho, and what struck me especially was the little side dish of condiments – basil, bean sprouts, chili peppers, lime) that signaled you to place them gently atop the finished soup, creating a masterpiece. It’s almost too pretty to eat!

When I get a hankering, I make my own at home (see above pic). It’s not hard. I love my river rice noodles, so those are very important. You can add anise, black pepper, garlic, and what not to a good veggie based broth. Add tofu (or leave it out), green onions, sliced mushrooms, gently simmer. Then you can begin adding your pretty condiments. Pho is adaptable to whatever you have on hand – it’s a lovely, gentle, forgiving soup. ūüôā

It’s summertime, and the canning is easy

Canning and pickling¬†is ‘in’ again. How do I know? When I see Facebook posts from several of my friends about how they have discovered the joys of putting fruit or veg in a jar and covering it with a water-vinegar -sugar-blend. Yep, this ancient practice is back with¬†a vengeance, and like any hip new trend, it latched its way on to me.

So: the other evening I was inspired by a) Pinterest and b) a craving for Vietnamese food, and decided to make do chua, or Vietnamese pickled veg. The do chua usually consists of simply carrots and daikon, but I only had carrots on hand, so I ran with it.

I have pickled other things before (cucumbers! How original!) but I’m curious to see how my half-batch of carrots turns out. Maybe with it ¬†I can throw together my homemade version of banh mi, my most beloved sandwich in the world.


This is how we roll

…roll vegetarian egg rolls, that is. My friend T had us over to her house for an “egg roll making party,” which also included cat-and-dog petting, some knitting, and lots of gab. T was making a big batch of the rolls for some ladies with whom she has upholstery class.

We used Filipino wrappers, which are usually made into lumpian prito, a Filipino roll.  T chose these because her Vietnamese mother always used these particular wrappers instead of the traditional Chinese-style egg roll wrappers. They come frozen in the Asian markets, and I think there are about 50 wrappers to the pack.

T had the day before sauteed ¬†a bunch of veggies: carrot, eggplant, onion, and cabbage to use in the rolls. ¬†She decided to make the rolls vegetarian because she’s been thinking about switching from a meat & veggie diet to one that is completely plant -based. I applaud her thinking!

M rolls like a pro.

The veggie mixture

As we all sat at her dining table, R and I watched and knitted as T and M filled and rolled the rolls….lots and lots of rolls! We conversed about shopping, men, pets…and knitting, of course. Yeah, your typical ladies’ gathering!

T’s pets – two kitties and a dog – sensed something was afoot: namely, people food! Ginger, the yellow lab, eventually insinuated herself underneath the table for a nap when she realized she was not to take part in this party! Egg rolls and puppy dogs don’t mix!

Sad Ginger.

A quick fry in some peanut oil, and the rolls began to appear…ready for eatin’. T got out the Chinese hot mustard and we all had a sample. Super yum! You know egg rolls, that heady mix of “fried” and “I’m eating veggies, so it’s kind of healthy” – yeah, it was like that. So bad, so good, so bad, so very very good…

As always, T is very generous, and encouraged us all to take some un-fried rolls home. I grabbed six and fried them up a few days later, dipping them in some soy-based Vietnamese all-purpose sauce. Outstanding!

Cooking parties are awesome. Next time, T suggested we have a pasta-making party….I can’t wait to see how that goes!

The final result.

Faux pho

Pho! Ever since my first bowl, I’ve been in love. The closest Vietnamese restaurant to my house is about 12 miles away. I know, I know, not so far. But I’m not always able to make it over there. What’s a girl to do? Make homemade pho, of course.

It might be faux, but it's pretty good pho.

At the market they sell little packages of pho broth (vegetarian, luckily). I gently cooked the rice noodles in the broth, added a few cloves, Vietnamese soy sauce, and garlic powder to kick it up, and then simmered tofu cubes and mushrooms in the noodle-broth for about 10 minutes. On the side: bean sprouts, hot peppers, and basil (I had no Thai basil – a shame, really – so I had to opt for regular basil from my kitchen plant).

Result? Yummers. Yeah, not as good as in the restaurant – but passable and tasty. Works for me!

Banh-ed for life

Veggies on steroids.

Totally addicted to these sandwiches, I am. (Did I just sound like Yoda there?) Ever since I had my first banh mi, I’ve been enraptured by their simple combination of ingredients (not to mention the tantalizing rolls the ingredients settle in).

My dear buddy T understands the obsession, and she helped me along by gifting me two banh mi rolls from a local Asian bakery that¬†I didn’t even know existed. For twenty-five cents each nonetheless! ¬†So I put in motion my second attempt to construct a homemade sandwich.

First in order was finding a daikon radish. Publix, Aldi, Wal-Mart…none of these carry them. I made a trip to my local Asian market to grab one. Thing is, they are so huge! Monstrously huge!¬†While I was there, I grabbed a bag of equally-Brobdingnagian carrots. They smelled so earthy and fresh…not like your ordinary wimpy regular store-bought carrots.

I chopped some cilantro, grabbed a hot pepper from my (so-called) garden, and got to chopping.  Put everything in a plastic container (saving the assembly for later), and was ready to go. Banh-in-a-box.

Add  Vegenaise mayonnaise to the roll, and sprinkle the whole thing with a little bit of salt and black pepper.

I think they turned out okay. My son (who has also become a banh mi addict) pronounced them as tasting “just like the ones we always buy.” High five to me, I guess, for replicating it as best as I can, for any compliment foodwise coming from the uber-picky little bugger is to be appreciated!

Thanks too, to my friend T who found the rolls, and I’m saving a trip to that bakery for another post.

Spring Rolls Have Sprung!

Another of my latest obsessions (and I am a girl of many) are Vietnamese spring rolls. I fell in love with them for the very first time about a month ago, when my father and I tried out a local Vietnamese restaurant that came highly recommended by a friend. I’d always been intrigued by the delicate, almost transparent wrappers and the healthy goodies tucked inside. Until the restaurant, I’d never actually tasted one before, so, along with my noodle salad, I ordered up a pair.

Until I’d trawled my local Asian market to find the wrappers, the idea of actually making these on my own had eluded me. Then, bingo: I happened upon a package of rice paper wrappers (banh trang). Yay! All I needed to do was to moisten the buggers, stuff with whatever my heart desired, and wrap. And eat. Prepping them was a lot easier than I thought; but deciding what to wrap in there was the hard part!

For my first attempt, I filled them with baby spinach, tofu, peanut, bean sprouts, green onion, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper (when I ran out of fresh Thai bird peppers.) I managed also to find Vietnamese soy sauce for that authentic dipping experience. Wow! They are so addictive and healthful! And a package of wrappers goes a long way. I’m not certain how many are in a package; I’d venture to guess around 30 or so.
With warm weather coming up, these would make a stellar appetizer for your next garden party, paired with some smooth miso soup topped off with green onions. Serve a nice iced green tea, or for the adults, a refreshing Vietnamese beer.

Banh Mi Baby

I really, really, really want to try the banh mi sandwich, but I don’t eat meat, and it has pork in it (here, at Hoa-Lan market). Are there any places at all that can make a vegetarian version?

Scenes from an Asian supermarket

Southeast Asian conflict

Funny Chef brand fried instant noodles:
Vietnamese, but “made with Japanese technology.”

Tasted pretty good:
…but not as spicy-hot as most of the Thai noodles I’ve had.