Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Vietnamese Night

Week 4 into our World Vegetarian Cookery tour. Last night we cooked too much for for the number of people we had in the class. I quickly scoffed my dessert and regret not savouring it later. A friend just returned from a trip to Vietnam and did some cooking classes. When I looked at her list, three of her dishes were on the menu last night, what a coincidence! Or maybe they are the quintessential Vietnamese recipes.

Rice paper rolls


Filled with fresh, crunchy vegetables and a mix of mint and coriander, perfect for hot weather!

Serves: 8

Preparation: 15 minutes, plus rolling time

Cooking Time: 2 minutes


Chopping board, knife, mandolin or grater, large bowl, small plates or bowls to hold prepared ingredients, damp tea towel, clean bench space, bowl for dipping sauce


16 large rice paper sheets

100 grams rice vermicelli (cooked, rinsed and cooled)

1 small green papaya, peeled and shredded (substitute carrot if unavailable)

1 small Lebanese cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks

1 cup bean sprouts, washed and dried with paper towel

1 cup Enoki mushrooms

½ cup crushed roasted nuts (peanuts or cashews)

8 lettuce leaves (soft variety like oak leaf)

32 large mint leaves

32 coriander leaves

32 Thai basil leaves

Large bowl of hot water with to soften rice paper sheets

Dipping Sauce

½ cup tamarind paste (no seeds)

½ cup mushroom soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small bird’s eye chilli (optional)

A little water to dilute to taste (optional)


1. Prepare all fillings and dipping sauce before commencing the rolls

2. Place a rice paper sheet in the bowl of hot water and rub till softened

3. Place softened rice paper on a damp tea towel

4. Place 2 mint leaves on the middle of the sheet

5. Add a lettuce leaf, a bit of rice vermicelli, papaya, cucumber, sprouts and a sprinkle of nuts

6. Top with 2 coriander and 2 Thai basil leaves

7. Starting with the bottom, fold up and over the filling

8. Fold in the two ends

9. Finally, roll over allowing the rice paper to stick to itself to close

10. Continue till you have made 16 large rice paper rolls

Serve straightaway with a bowl of dipping sauce. If you must store them line container or plate with damp tea towel. Seal well with plastic wrap or a lid so they don’t dry out.

OPTIONS: The filling can be whatever you have on hand: green beans, asparagus, marinated spicy tofu. It needs to be cut in matchsticks and be no longer than 15cm or it can tear a hole in the thin wrappers.

Eggplant Salad


Soft and luscious eggplant with a salty and tangy sauce.

Serves: 6 as part of a meal

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Equipment: large pot of boiling water, chopping board, knife, large bowl, medium bowl, colander, whisk


3 eggplants, smallish

½ cup coriander leaves


2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons white vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons sesame oil


1. Boil a large pot of water and add the whole eggplants, return to the boil and then lower heat

2. Simmer for around 10 minutes till softened and skin has turned brown

3. Remove eggplants and drain in a colander

4. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and cut each half into 3cm pieces, place in large mixing bowl

5. Place all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, mix well with a whisk till emulsified

6. Pour dressing over the eggplant and toss to combine well

7. Garnish with coriander leaves, serve warm with steamed rice.

Tofu tomato and chili


Serves: 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, wok, slotted spoon, bowl,


200ml vegetable oil
500g silken tofu, drained and cut into 5cm cubes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped red Asian shallots (or red onion)
1 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

100 ml water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
3 spring onions cut into 5cm lengths
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 coriander sprigs, to garnish


1. Pour the oil into a wok and heat to 180°C, or until a wooden chopstick dipped into the oil bubbles rapidly.

2. Carefully add the tofu, cooking it in two batches to ensure the oil stays hot, and deep-fry until crisp.

3. Turn the tofu to brown other side and then remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper to drain.

4. Transfer the deep-frying oil into a deep bowl to cool, leaving about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok.

5. Add the garlic, Asian shallots and chilli to the wok, and stir-fry for 1 minute or until fragrant.

6. Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar and mushroom soy sauce.

7. Stir and allow the tomatoes to break down.

8. Add 100ml water to the wok, bring to the boil.

9. Reduce the heat to a low simmer for 10 minutes.

10. Add the crisp tofu, spring onions and black pepper, folding it all together, and simmer for no longer than 1 minute as you want to keep the crisp texture of the tofu.

11. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.

coconut cream caramel 2


A French influenced Crème Caramel, serve warm or cold.

Serves: 6 as part of a meal

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Equipment: saucepan, wooden spoon, wok with steamer and lid, 6 x moulds, zester, whisk, serving plates or bowls, sharp knife or palette knife to turn custards out.


420 gram tin coconut cream

420 grams caster sugar

100 ml water

200 ml full cream milk

6 eggs


1 tablespoon lime zest for garnish

2 ½ tablespoon toasted shredded coconut for


1. Place 250 grams caster sugar into a medium size saucepan, add 100 ml water. Stir briefly.

2. Bring to a boil and cook till golden, do not stir caramel at this stage!

3. Pour caramel into 6 moulds, swirling to coat the base and sides evenly. Allow to cool

4. Heat a water in bottom of a wok with a steamer basket set inside

5. Break eggs into a mixing bowl and lightly whisk eggs

6. Add 170 grams caster sugar and mix well till frothy

7. Stir in the coconut cream and milk

8. Pour the mixture into the moulds, place into steamer

9. Cover the steamer and steam for 40 minutes at low temperature

10. Remove from steamer and cool before serving

11. Using a palette knife turn out custards onto serving plate/ bowl

12. Garnish with lime zest and toasted coconut