About the recipes

About the recipes

By
Andreas Pohl, Tracey Lister
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742701578
Photographer
Michael Fountoulakis

Vietnam’s most famous contribution to world cuisine is undoubtedly the spring roll. But much variation can be seen in this seemingly simple dish. With its cool and drizzly winters, Hanoi’s cigar-shaped spring rolls are a hearty and filling affair, stuffed with a rich crab-and-pork mixture and fried until crispy. In Hue, spring rolls are served with a filling of sweet potatoes, wrapped in fresh rice paper, and topped with prawns—calling back to the early sixteenth century, when Portuguese traders introduced New World foods such as sweet potatoes to central Vietnam. And in the south, where the food is sweet and tropical, spring rolls are filled with fish, pineapple and cucumber.

The variations in the humble spring roll along the route from Hanoi to the Mekong Delta are a fine example of a food culture that is proud of its regional heritage.

Vietnam is a long and skinny country and the legendary ‘Highway 1’ runs along its entire length. The 2200 kilometre stretch of road connects the northern town of Lang Son, on the Chinese border, with Ca Mau, which is close to Cambodia in the south. We like to think of KOTO as a culinary Highway No.#1, with an added detour into the Central Highlands. The recipes provide a dish-by-dish journey through this fascinating country, from the Chinese-inspired cuisine of the north to the royal cuisine of the centre and the tropical fare of the south.

The book divides Vietnam’s fifty-nine provinces into seven main food regions. The north is represented by the highlands, and by the nation’s capital, Hanoi. There are two chapters about the centre of Vietnam: the first about the narrow stretch between the old imperial city Hue and the ancient port of Hoi An; the second about the coastal lowlands, with its beach resorts in Nha Trang and Phan Thiet. The journey continues to the Central Highlands, around the township of Dalat, and to Vietnam’s economic powerhouse, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The last recipe section is set in the Mekong Delta, south of Ho Chi Minh City.

A Vietnamese meal does not consist of entrées, mains and desserts. Instead, all dishes are served at once and placed in the centre of the table, for diners to help themselves. The recipes collected here are a mixture of old favourites like beef noodle soup, pho bo, and less common dishes such as eel filled with pork and lemongrass. Where necessary, the recipes have been slightly adapted for the Western kitchen, with ingredients that are readily available in most Asian supermarkets. Many recipes contain recommendations for complementary dipping sauces; the recipes for these additions are collected in a separate section on sauces and side dishes. In addition, special ingredients are described in the ‘Vietnamese pantry’ chapter at the end of the book. While the Vietnamese have a fondness for sweet snacks between meals, Vietnamese home cooking does not feature many desserts. For this reason, we have not included any sweets. Traditionally, a Vietnamese meal finishes with a fruit platter and some tea.

The best way to use these recipes is to ‘pick and choose’ interesting combinations of flavours from different regions. Unless otherwise stated, the recipes are designed for a dinner party or family meal for six people, based on a selection of four to five dishes: two meat or fish dishes, together with vegetables and a salad, as well as steamed rice. Alternatively, two or three dishes could be chosen for a more intimate meal for two.

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