Thursday 5 April 2012

Good Morning Vietnam

I can't seem to get enough of Vietnamese cooking at the moment.  I know I was banging on about it a couple of weeks ago when I made Pho Ga but since then I have added a couple more dishes to my repetoire. I think it is partly the Vietnamese use of mint which I am finding so appealing at the moment. Nothing says Spring to me like mint.  I don't know if it is its connection with Easter Lamb or the fact that it is one of the first sights of spring in my garden. From a completely barren wasteland it appears, year after year, from nowhere and before I know it I have a abundance of fresh green shoots with an aroma that is so utterly clean, like a new start. It is like Spring!

I don't actually like mint when it has been cooked.  It can be a little too reminiscent to toothpaste, but use it fresh like they do in the Middle East and in Asia and it is a different thing all together. Both of my recipes this week are just bursting with freshness and zing and guaranteed to wake you up after a sluggish winter and drag you kicking and screaming into Spring if the freezing weather has not managed to already.

First up, my Banh mi, a fabulous Vietnamese sandwich. It is so popular now a days that there is a whole website devoted just to the Bahn Mi sandwich, how to make it and where to eat it. It actually just means bread in Vienamese but since French colonisation it refers to a particular hybrid of French bread but less crusty and more sub like.  It is then filled with amongst other things roast pork, pate, chilli, mayonnaise, pickled carrot, mint and coriander. There is even a Breakfast Bahn mi, filled with bacon and eggs.  I am not actually a huge fan of roast or grilled pork, so when I discovered a Bahn mi with meatballs, I couldn't wait to give it a try.  I left the chilli out of my meatballs so that the kids can eat them too, so it makes a fantastic family lunch or supper, especially when it is warm enough to cook the meatballs on the barbecue.

My second recipe is for a Vietnemese Beef Salad.  This is just a really lovely fresh way to serve steak with a delicious vibrant salad.  Once again, a lovely recipe for the barbecue, but maybe wait until Summer. 

Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich)

For the Hot Chili and Garlic Mayo:
300ml Olive oil / sunflower oil, or a blend of the two
2 large egg yolks
1tsp Mustard (Dijon is my favourite)
Juice of half a lemon
3 fat cloves garlic
1 tablespoon hot chilli sauce (such as Sriracha)

For the Meatballs:
600g minced outdoor bread pork
3 garlic cloves
Large knob of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 stick of lemon grass, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (Nam Pla or Nuoc Cham)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the Pickled Carrot:
2 Carrots, pealed and julienned on a mandolin
1 daikon (Japanese white radish), pealed and julienned on a mandolin Optional
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

For the sandwich:
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
Sunflower oil
Lettuce (I use baby gems)
Handful of fresh mint
Handful of fresh Coriander
Fresh lime

Hot Chili Mayo:
Thoroughly mash the garlic and a little salt into a paste. I use the side of my knife or you could use a pestle and mortar. Put the egg yolks in a small bowl with the mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk well until thoroughly blended. Add the oil very slowly, to the egg mixture, whisking well after each addition. When all the oil has been incorporated, check seasoning and add lemon juice and chilli sauce to taste.

For the pickled Carrot / Daikon
Mix all ingredients and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.

For the Meatballs:
Whiz up the garlic, ginger and lemongrass with the fish sauce with a hand blender or in a small food processor, until you have a smooth paste. In large bowl, mix the mince with the paste, the spring onions and the salt and pepper. Using moistened hands roll the meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Fry gently in a little oil in a frying pan until golden brown and cooked through. Alternatively cook on the barbecue.

To assemble the sandwiches:
Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. If using the barbecue, lightly char-grill. Spread with hot chili mayo. Pile in the lettuce, pickled carrot, meatballs and herbs. Add more chilli sauce if you like.

Vietnamese Beef Salad

500g sirloin steak, all fat removed
60ml sunflower oil, for frying

For the beef marinade:
2 sticks lemongrass, bashed and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp palm or caster sugar

For the dressing:
2 tbsp palm or caster sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 red chilli, de-seeded
2 garlic cloves
1/2 half tsp salt

For the salad:
100g rice vermicelli noodles
170g cos or baby gem lettuce, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
70g cucumber, cut in half, de-seeded and cut into chunky 1/2 cm half-moons
Small handful Thai basil leaves (if available)
Handful picked coriander leaves
Handful of Fresh mint leaves
100g bean sprouts
100g roasted salted peanuts, lightly crushed
3 banana shallots, very thinly sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

Blitz all the marinade ingredients with a hand blender to form a paste. Rub the paste all over the beef and set aside for a couple of hours at room temperature or in the fridge over-night. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Whiz up all the ingredients with a hand blender until smooth.

Heat an couple of inches of vegetable oil in a saucepan. When hot add the thinly sliced shallots and fry until golden brown. Stir regually and do not burn. Remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. (Alternatively you can find ready fried onions in Asian Supermarkets)

Now prepare the salad. Cook the noodles as instructed on the packet, drain and rinse under cold water. Toss the lettuce, carrot, cucumber, basil, coriander and bean sprouts in a large bowl. Add the chilli, the noodles and the dressing and mix well.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan or wok. Season the beef with salt and then sear the beef on each side for a minute or two. Then cook further until rare. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for a few five minutes or so. Slice thinly and scatter over the salad. Finally sprinkle over the fried shallots and the crushed peanuts.Serve at once.



  1. Wow, wow, wow! The second I saw your photo of the Banh Mi Xiu Mai I was drooling and then once reading your post saw the Beef Salad as well! Both look completely delicious!! I've never had a Banh Mi but it has been on my list to try for ages as it looks so amazingly good - now I have no excuses and will give this meatball version a go! Thanks - Fantastic! : )

  2. Thanks Lynds. I worked hard last week with the two recipes but what is great is that they both have all the same ingredients, so you get to use everything up. Thanks again for your lovely comment.

  3. Both recipes look so fresh and delicious. I think I'm going to have to investigate more Vietnamese food as I also love fresh mint.


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