Viet­namese iced cof­fee mar­ti­nis

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Fish sauce

This condi­ment, made from salted an­chovies, is ubiq­ui­tous in this part of the world. Don’t be put off by its pun­gent aroma – it brings a salty umami­ness when used spar­ingly. Look for Viet­namese-branded fish sauces, which are slightly milder than their Thai coun­ter­parts. Red Boat – made on the is­land of Phu Quoc and from the first press­ing of the an­chovies – is the ‘ex­tra-vir­gin’ of fish sauces (avail­able at red­boat­fish­sauce.co.uk and ama­zon.co.uk). Hung Thanh Phu Quoc is an award-win­ning fish sauce, with a higher con­cen­tra­tion of an­chovy com­pared to other brands (avail­able from

Thai basil

Sim­i­lar to Euro­pean sweet basil in flavour, al­though pack­ing more punch and spice. The main dif­fer­ence is its ro­bust­ness – it keeps well in the hu­mid heat of Viet­nam, where sweet basil would have wilted long ago. This trans­lates into cook­ing too: stirred through soups and cur­ries at the end, it re­tains its flavour and struc­ture (avail­able from large su­per­mar­kets and

Rice noo­dles

Of­ten mak­ing up the starch el­e­ment on the ta­ble, any dish with ‘bún’ in the name means there’ll be noo­dles on the plate. Look out for dried rice ver­mi­celli noo­dles – we like Mama, which are flat­ter in shape and great at soak­ing up flavours (avail­able from large su­per­mar­kets and

Sugar

Don’t be put off by the amount in these recipes – they work due to the care­ful bal­ance of South-East Asian flavour pro­files – hot, salty, sweet and sour. What sets Viet­namese food apart from oth­ers in the re­gion is the sweet­ness be­ing slightly more promi­nent but still care­fully bal­anced with lime, chilli and lots of fresh herbs. A love of sweet­ness is ob­vi­ous in Viet­namese iced cof­fee – con­densed milk is tem­pered with eye-open­ingly strong cof­fee.

Bird’s-eye chilli

These fiery pep­pers make up in heat what they lack in size. Used spar­ingly they can add lit­tle pops of spice along with a fruity flavour. They are most com­monly found in Viet­namese dip­ping sauces, so you can choose how to add those bursts of heat to your food (widely avail­able in su­per­mar­kets).

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