Of all the places I have travelled (not that I am very well travelled) Vietnam has to be the most inspiring. A veritable food lovers paradise. It’s food culture changes as you venture north to south. A rich tapestry of culinary influences from the very French to the Thai, Czech, Chinese and Cambodian.
Banh Mi deliciousness; french baguette, pate, caramelised spicy pork, pickled daikon and the one thing that is found wherever you travel there, mountains of fresh leaves and herbs. Giant bowls of fragrant herbs that would make anything taste exquisite. Lime and pepper dip, a revelation. Coarsely ground black pepper and a wedge of lime to be squeezed over the pepper. Literally the simplest most flavoursome thing I have ever tasted. Served with freshly grilled whole red snapper. Thinking about it transports me right back to Hanoi.
We spent a month in Vietnam on our honeymoon travelling from the very north in Sapa near the Chinese border right down to the island of Phu Quoc which Cambodia may or may not claim to own! It is safe to say I left a little part of myself there. Before we travelled there I had a huge interest in asian cuisine but after spending a month eating everything put before me it cemented in me a greater passion for all things hot, sour, salty & sweet.
We ate giant crabs, kilos of tiger prawns, chillies to beat the band and the odd chicken foot. Bia Hoi in Hanoi and several passion fruit trees worth of rum cocktails in Hoi An. It is most definitely somewhere I will return to and has influenced my cooking more than anywhere else.
In reminiscing I decided to make some summer rolls in an effort to warm myself from the inside out and pretend if only for a short while that I am back there.
For the rolls you will need:
Rice paper wrappers
1 cucumber julienned
1 carrot julienned
Ginger finely chopped
1 red chilli finely chopped
Coriander, Mint, Chives torn and mixed together
Cooked, peeled, deveined prawns sliced in half
Cooked and cooled rice noodles
Place rice paper wrapper on a plate and using a pastry brush and warm water, brush the rice paper all over on both sides.
Starting with the edge nearest to you place a mound of the herbs followed by cucumber, carrot, chilli, ginger & noodles on top. Arrange 4 halves of the prawn with pink side down next on the rice paper 2cm away from the noodles and herbs. Start rolling the paper up and when you get to the prawns tuck the edges in and continue rolling. You can tuck a few chives in halfway leaving some of the stalks sticking out one end of the roll after you have tucked the edges in.
For the spicy peanut dipping sauce you will need:
3 stalks of lemongrass bruised
1 tbsp light miso paste
2tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp of chilli flakes
1 cup of water
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp of sugar
Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the lemongrass and garlic. Fry for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the lemongrass. leave to cool.
For the Ginger Chilli Dipping sauce you will need:
Juice of 1 lime
1 small red chilli finely sliced
1 tbsp of grated ginger
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 cloves of garlic minced
Mix all of the ingredients together, stirring to ensure sugar has dissolved.