I LOVE Vietnamese food, more specifically, Southeast Asian food (Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian). These dishes are always bursting with flavor and the use of aromatics/spices are limitless. I was born in Vietnam and came to the U.S. at the age of 5. Since then, I have visited the motherland 3 times, the latest time being the most memorable as I was able to share the experience with my then 5 year old daughter. It was a last minute trip to visit my grandmother, who unfortunately passed away 2 weeks prior to my arrival. Nonetheless, it was amazing to visit not only my family but to explore the country- visiting the rambutan farm, sand sledding, eating endless tropical fruits that usually costs a fortune in the states, and just reconnecting with the culture.
The French took over Northern Vietnam in the 1850-1900s, changing much of the population from Buddhism to Catholicism and Chinese characters to Latin letters. Along with religion and language comes the introduction of food. Typical breakfast can consist of French baguettes (bánh mì) dipped with condensed milk, or French baguettes with sunny side up eggs, paté, cucumbers, pickled carrots/daikon, cilantro, and soy sauce. This is usually not found in a restaurant but on the side of the street in a cart or directly in front of someone’s house. Other options for breakfast include Pho or some type of soup. Growing up, dinner usually consisted of a protein (Vietnamese people can eat everything from tofu to pork), a side of either stir fried vegetable dish or vegetable soup, and eaten with white rice. Condiments on the side may include pickled veggies, fish sauce with chili peppers, or soy sauce with Siracha.
Braised Chicken with hard boiled eggs (Gà Kho)
Side note: This recipe is usually made with Pork (Thìt Kho), but I adjusted this recipe to chicken as a personal preference. You can substitute with Tofu also, just note cooking time may change.
2 Tbsp oil
1 Medium sweet onion, chopped
1 lb of chicken thighs or combination of breast and thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp of fish sauce
1tbsp Chinese Five Spice powder
1 cup of coconut water
1 cup of water
8 hardboiled eggs
salt and pepper to taste
Scallions to garnish
In a bowl, add chicken, soy sauce, fish sauce, and Chinese Five spice powder, let sit for 5-10 minutes. Add oil to a medium sized pot on medium heat. When hot, add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, stir until evenly distributed, about 5 minutes. Add coconut water and water until it is covering the chicken, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes with lid on. Add hardboiled eggs, making sure it is covered by the sauce, and cook for another 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, finishing off with scallions for garnishing and served with white rice.
Napa Cabbage Soup with Shrimp
1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp oil
1 medium head of Napa Cabbage, cut into 1/2 inch strips
8 tbsp of mushroom seasoning (may substitute with broth, don’t add water)
8 cups of water
1/2 bunch of scallions, chopped. White and green part separated
salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine shrimp, mushroom seasoning, and white part of scallions, let marinate for 10 minutes. Turn stove on medium, add oil. When hot, add shrimp mix and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add mushroom seasoning and water (or broth if substituting), bring to a low boil. Add Napa cabbage and green part of scallions, salt and pepper to taste. Shut off stove and cover until ready to eat. Serve with rice.