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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnamese cuisine’

Friends and Pho

In Food, Media, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on May 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Is there any better way to spend a lunch hour than slurping pho with a favorite friend? Today, my friend Lizzie (author of awesome new blog, Tomboy Style) and I hit Pho Cafe on Sunset for some steaming bowls of Vietnames pho—beef soup with rice noodles, basil, lime, bean sprouts and peppers. I like to get the #13 with free-range chicken instead of beef, and a side of Silver Lake hipsters in requisite knit caps on a sunny LA day:

Pho Cafe also serves a mean iced coffee with condensed milk.

Perfect fare for discussing our home office routines, namely what Lizzie listens to while she works. For the inside scoop, head on over to Herman Miller’s LIFEWORK blog, which today features Lizzie’s home office and play list. Rock out.

Photo by Lizzie Garrett Mettler

Wrap Party

In Food, Recipes on October 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

spring rolls

My sister, Claire, makes a mean version of a Vietnamese spring roll. She makes it look easy, but I’m not going to lie, there’s a LOT of prep involved. Last night Claire julienned the hell out of carrots and cucumbers; chopped cilantro and mint; sautéed shrimp, garlic and Thai chiles; soaked cellophane noodles and rice paper; and spiced it all up with a healthy douse of Sriracha chile sauce. I observed and absorbed, and then annoyed her by snapping photos instead of helping to assemble. But what are big sisters for?

Here is an approximation of Claire’s method.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

2-3 cloves minced garlic

Butter, for sautéeing

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

20-24 shrimp, uncooked

Thai chiles, chopped

2 ounces bean threads (cellophane noodles), soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, drained

Sriracha chile sauce

1/2 cup julienned carrots

1/2 cup julienned cucumbers

1/4 cup bean sprouts

4 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4 cups hot water

10-12  6-inch dried rice paper rounds

Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shrimp and thai chiles; sauté until shrimp are just cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

shrimp sauteeing

Add Sriracha to drained cellophane noodles, to taste. We added a lot to spice things up.

bean threads

Pour hot water into large pan or pie dish. Dip 1 spring-roll sheet in water 5 seconds. Remove from water; place on wet towel to blot, and then on cutting board to assemble.

Sprinkle cilantro and mint on round, then heap noodles, carrots, cucumbers and bean sprouts on wrapper and spoon 2 shrimp with chiles on top.

spring roll filling

Fold in ends of round like a burrito. Roll into cylinder, and place on plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

spring rolls

Serve with peanut dipping sauce and/or Sriracha. I like to dip the spring rolls directly into the Sriracha to kick up the heat. And call me crazy and unseasonal, but a coriander-forward gin like Aviation mixed in a gin and tonic with a splash of lime is a pretty fine accompaniment to the meal!

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

In Food, Recipes on June 30, 2009 at 8:29 am


Vowing to make use of the prolific Vietnamese cilantro in our herb garden, last night I took a page out of Mai Pham’s book Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table to make this Hue Chicken Salad (ga bop). I was apprehensive about serving it to my husband on several levels, not the least of which had to do with the fact that this dish has zero guilt factor, which all too often correlates to zero pleasure. Not to mention that “we’re having salad for dinner” doesn’t usually elicit an enthusiastic response. Additionally, Vietnamese cilantro is quite pungent, sort of like cilantro on steroids so it’s a love it or leave it flavor. The herb is also enjoyed by Vietnamese Buddhist monks to stave off sexual urges, also like steroids, and assist in their celibate lives. But I digress.


Above is the Vietnamese cilantro—or rau ram as it’s known in SE Asia—which has taken over our herb bed. I love how fragrant and pretty the leaves are. I let Tiny G play with a sprig in the garden while I was picking herbs to bring inside. Much to my surprise, my husband TOTALLY flipped over dinner and has requested that it go into regular rotation. It’s so flavorful, with a bit of heat from the chilies and exotic intensity from the rau ram.

But I may have told a teeny white lie about serving a guilt-free dinner. Mai Pham’s excellent and healthy recipe follows with a slightly less angelic suggestion from yours truly. The recipe virtuously has you boil half a chicken in salted water. She suggests serving ga bop on a bed of butter lettuce leaves. I ended up reserving two cups of the water from the chicken to make basmati rice, which adds to the sin factor with a hint of chicken fat, but gives just the right note of depth to the rice.


(Adapted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, by Mai Pham)

Sea Salt

1 organic chicken leg and breast, scored for faster cooking
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 small yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, rinsed (about ½ cup)
2 Thai bird chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped or to taste
1 cup loosely packed rau ram (Vietnamese Cilantro) leaves or mint leaves
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup basmati rice
Fill a pot with 2 quarts water and bring to vigorous boil. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt and chicken and bring water back to  boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from  heat and let the chicken sit in the pot, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Reserve two cups of boiling liquid for rice.

While chicken cools, bring two cups broth to boil. Add 1 cup basmati rice, return to boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Keep covered and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.


In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, onions, chilies, rau ram and oil and toss gently.


Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken. Hand shred the meat into ¼-inch thick strips and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar and gently massage into the chicken. Gently fold into onion and rau ram mixture. Serve over rice.

Lunch for $15 or Less: Blossom Restaurant

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on April 14, 2009 at 8:10 am

The latest in my quest for lunch under $15 while on jury duty downtown…


Week Three on jury duty, and so far my favorite meal downtown has been at Blossom Vietnamese on Main between Fourth and Fifth. I’m always excited to have a bowl of pho, the Vietnamese specialty of rice noodles in beef broth with thinly sliced beef. Blossom’s is particularly fresh and flavorful, and the beef seemed to be better quality than one often encounters in pho situations. Along with the sliced beef and noodles in the broth were fresh cilantro, scallions, and thinly sliced yellow onions.


Each order of pho is accompanied by a plate of bean sprouts, jalapeños, fresh basil and a wedge of lime, all of which I added to the broth. I have to say, this is one of the better bowls of pho in recent memory. I also ordered a ginger limeade, which is super spicy with fresh ginger. I could drink those all day long.


Two women at a neighboring table had an order of spring rolls and said they were great. I’ll be back for sure. Oh, and the total was $11.47, $3.50 of which was for the drink. Not exactly a bargain where pho is concerned, but definitely worth it.