In his latest book, Yummy Easy Quick Around the World, Matt Preston celebrates speedy international cooking – including the classic Vietnamese dishes on these pages.
Enjoy quick and tasty Vietnamese eats from Matt’s latest cookbook.
THE FIRST Yummy Easy Quick book was all about super-tasty and super-simple recipes for dinner that minimised the amount of time you spent in the kitchen. This book takes the same approach but whisks you around the world.
This is not some dull, cheffy tome loaded with tedious, time-consuming and dusty techniques dating back to a time when your nonna’s nonna had to spend all day in the kitchen to make dinner, but a book that shows you how to fake unique flavours from around the world, so you can knock up a tasty and thoroughly convincing pad thai or a samosa pie in less time than it takes to find the local takeaway menu or scroll through your choice of takeaway app.
Authentic and authoritative this book is not. Really, the title of this book should be ‘Faking it’, because you’ll soon realise that by combining certain key ingredients, a dish quickly starts to take on the unique feel of one or another corner of the world… so when family or friends ask what’s for dinner, you can proclaim Chinese, Indian, French, Italian, Mexican or… Vietnamese.
This is an edited extract from Yummy Easy Quick Around the World by Matt Preston (Plum, RRP $39.99). Available from October 30.
“WELCOME TO HANOI’S BUN CHA – LITTLE BURGERS WRAPPED IN LETTUCE WITH RICE NOODLES.”
BUN CHA SERVES 4
500g pork mince 2 garlic cloves, crushed 2 lemongrass stalks (white part only),
fifinely chopped 3 tsp fifish sauce 1 egg, lightly whisked 1 bunch coriander, leaves picked,
stalks fifinely chopped 3 spring onions (white and dark-green
parts only), thinly sliced into ‘coins’ 1 tbs peanut or vegetable oil 200g rice vermicelli noodles 1 iceberg lettuce, leaves separated 1 bunch mint (use Vietnamese mint if you
can get it), leaves picked 100g bean shoots Nuoc cham (see Vietnamese crispy
pancake recipe, p 107), to serve
Preheat oven to 140°C (120°C fan-forced).
Combine the pork, garlic, lemongrass, fifish sauce, egg and 1 tbs of the coriander stalks in a bowl. Finally, add the spring onion (you add this last as you want the coins to be crunchy little surprises in the patties). Shape into walnut-sized balls, then gently flflatten into 2cm-thick patties. Place on a tray and chill for 15 minutes to fifirm.
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Take care not to overcrowd the pan so the oil stays hot. Add about 6 patties at a time and cook, turning occasionally, for 3 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Don’t overcook them, as they will continue to cook in the residual heat – we’re not after sawdust here. Place the cooked patties in a baking dish and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles following the packet directions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.
To serve, divide noodles among serving bowls. Top each bowl with a few patties. Serve the remaining patties in the middle of the table, along with piles of lettuce, mint, bean shoots and the coriander leaves.
To eat, take a lettuce leaf and add some mint, coriander, bean shoots and noodles. Top with a patty. Wrap and dunk in the nuoc cham dipping sauce.
“THE FILLING VARIATIONS FOR THIS DISH ARE ENDLESS. I HAVE CHOSEN THE VIRTUOUS ROAD.”
BANH MI MAKES 4
In all my long life I’ve never been banhed from a pub, but casinos are another matter entirely. Sadly, they didn’t banh mi as a young lad for counting cards or being a part of some sexy
Ocean’s 11- type syndicate – I’ ll have Julia Roberts’ role please – but because we snuck into an accounting firm’s function and ate all their sushi.
Note for Ed: We also flirted outrageously with all the women, helped ourselves to bottles of Champagne, and were generally hotter and more fun than the accountant partners – those were the days! Looking back, I think the cardinal sin we committed was the last one… but let’s not put any of that in this introduction.
Ed: Very wise, Matt. Deleting as we speak.
4 long white bread rolls 11/ 2 tbs good-quality whole-egg
mayonnaise 80g store-bought chicken liver pâté Ground white pepper 400g barbecue pork, thinly sliced 2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced diagonally 2/ 3 cup (90g) pickled carrot and daikon (see below) 4 bird’s eye chillies (if you like it hot, or long red if you prefer it milder), sliced 1/ 2 white onion, thinly sliced 1/ 2 bunch coriander, sprigs picked Juice of 1/4 lime or lemon A few drops of Maggi seasoning
PICKLED CARROT AND DAIKON (MAKES 400G)
2 large (about 350g) carrots,
cut into 5- to 6cm-long matchsticks 1 small (about 350g) daikon radish,
cut into 5- to 6cm-long matchsticks 3 tsp sea salt 80g caster sugar
1/ 2 cup (125ml) rice wine vinegar
For the pickled carrot and daikon, place carrot and daikon in a large bowl, add half the salt and toss to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes to soften. Rinse and pat dry with paper towel. Combine sugar, 1/3 cup (80ml) boiling water and remaining 11/ 2 tsp salt in a bowl and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Stir in the vinegar.
Pack the carrot and daikon into sterilised jars and pour over the pickling liquid. Set aside for 1-2 hours, then they are ready to eat. The pickles will keep in the fridge for several weeks.
To make the banh mi rolls, split the bread rolls in half lengthways, but don’t cut them all the way through. Spread a heaped teaspoon of mayo on 1 cut side of each roll and pâté on the other. Season with white pepper. Divide all remaining ingredients among the rolls, layering and stuffing, until they are brimming with ingredients, then eat!
VIETNAMESE CRISPY PANCAKES (BANH XEO) MAKES 6 PANCAKES
1 cup (200g) rice flour 1 tsp ground turmeric 1 tsp caster sugar
1/ 2 tsp sea salt 1 x 400ml can coconut cream 1 cup (250ml) soda water 8 spring onions, white part very finely
chopped, dark-green part thinly sliced 3 x 250g chicken breast fillets 3 tsp vegetable or coconut oil 2 handfuls bean shoots 2 Lebanese cucumbers, cut into thin
5cm-long batons 2 long red chillies, thinly sliced 150g pickled carrot and daikon (see Banh mi recipe) 1/ 2 bunch each coriander, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, mint and shiso
1 red bird’s eye chilli, (more if you like it hot, or use a deseeded long red chilli if you don’t), chopped 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped 1/ 3 cup (80ml) fish sauce, plus extra if needed
1/ 3 cup (70g) caster sugar 1 tbs lime juice, plus extra if needed 1 tbs lemon juice
Combine rice flour, turmeric, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the coconut cream, then stir through the soda water and the white part of the spring onion until combined. Place the batter in the fridge for 30 minutes to thicken slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the chicken and bring water back to the boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, then remove from the heat and set aside for 11 minutes or until poached through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Rest for at least 10 minutes, then shred the chicken.
For the nuoc cham, place the chilli and garlic in a mortar and pound with a pestle to form a paste. Transfer to a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and 2 tbs water, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Season with more fish sauce or lime juice until it hits that sweet spot – which varies from person to person. Set aside.
To make the pancakes, swirl 1/2 tsp of the oil around the base of a 26cm frypan and heat until the pan is super hot. Don’t be tempted to add more oil, otherwise the batter won’t adhere to the side of the pan and crisp up. Wipe out any excess oil.
Working quickly, place 1 ladle of batter (about 2/3 cup [165ml]) in the pan and swirl pan so the batter goes a little way up the side (the edge of the pancake will be thinner than the middle) Cook for about 3 minutes, then use a spatula to work around the edge and slide the pancake gently onto a baking tray, taking care not to break it. Place in the oven to keep warm and repeat with remaining oil and batter.
Arrange the chicken, dark green part of the spring onion, bean shoots, cucumber, chilli, pickled carrot and daikon, and herbs on a serving platter. Serve with pancakes and nuoc cham.
SALT & PEPPER SQUID SERVES 4-6 AS A STARTER
1 heaped tbs sea salt flakes 1 tsp freshly ground white or
black pepper 1.2kg (about 6 medium) squid with
tentacles, cleaned Vegetable or rice bran oil, for deep-frying 1/3 cup (50g) plain flour 3-4 long red chillies, thinly sliced
1/4 bunch coriander, leaves picked 2 lemons, cut into wedges
Lightly grind the salt so you don’t get big flakes on the squid, which will make it too salty. Place in a bowl with the pepper and mix to combine. Set aside
Cut the squid hoods in half lengthways and tentacle into pairs. Cut any super-long tentacles in half. Pat dry with paper towel. Use a sharp knife to score the inside of the hoods in a small crisscross pattern without cutting all the way through, then cut each hood into 4cm tiles.
Fill a wok or deep-fryer with 8cm oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (a cube of bread will turn golden in 90 seconds when the oil is hot enough).
Tip the flour into a bowl or zip-lock bag. Add the squid and toss to coat, shaking off the excess. Add the squid to the oil in batches and cook for 1 minute or until crisp and golden. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper mixture.
Arrange the cooked squid on a serving plate, tumble over the chilli and coriander, and take to the table immediately. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and serve with the remaining wedges on the side.
RICE PAPER ROLLS MAKES 8
50g rice vermicelli noodles 2 tsp sunflower oil 8 x 22cm round rice paper wrappers (from selected supermarkets and Asian food shops) 8 small perilla or shiso leaves (leave out
or replace with coriander) 16 Thai basil leaves 15 Vietnamese mint leaves
(use mint if you can’t find this) 2 iceberg lettuce leaves, finely shredded
into lengths no longer than 5cm 1 Lebanese cucumber,
cut into matchsticks 1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks 12 medium cooked peeled prawns, sliced in half lengthways (or chopped into 1.5cm pieces if that’s too fiddly)
HOISIN DIPPING SAUCE
1/3 cup (80ml) hoisin sauce 1 tbs peanut butter 2 tsp rice wine vinegar 1 tbs mirin, warmed, or hot water 1 tbs salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
(optional) 1 long red chilli, deseeded, finely
Cook noodles following packet directions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place the noodles in a large bowl, then use scissors to snip long strands a few times. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat lightly.
For the hoisin dipping sauce, combine the hoisin and peanut butter in a bowl. Add rice wine vinegar and mirin or water, and stir until the viscosity of thickened cream. Add a little more water if needed. Spoon into a small serving bowl and sprinkle with peanuts (if using) and chilli.
The jeopardy comes in the rice paper rolling. If you soak the rice paper too much, it will be tricky to handle and the rolls could burst; if you don’t soak it enough, it could tear and will be tough to eat. Don’t worry, I will walk you through it.
Dunk 1 wrapper in a bowl of cold water for about 10 seconds to soften slightly, then lay on a clean surface or a sheet of baking paper. Place a line of herbs along the top one-third of the wrapper. Don’t take the filling right to the edge of the rice paper or you won’t be able to enclose it properly. Build a small bank of noodles along the bottom one-third of the wrapper, then top with a line of lettuce, cucumber, carrot and prawns.
Carefully roll the wrapper over the noodles to encase the filling. Fold in the outside edges and roll up firmly to enclose. Repeat to make 8 rolls. Serve with the hoisin dipping sauce.
TURMERIC CHICKEN THIGHS SERVES 4
8 chicken thigh fillets, excess fat trimmed 1 tsp sea salt Coriander leaves, to serve 2 red bird’s eye chillies (if you like it hot, or long red if you prefer it milder), thinly sliced 1 lime, cut into wedges
1 tsp black peppercorns 60g palm sugar 5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 5cm each knob of turmeric and ginger,
peeled, finely grated 4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded 21/ 2 tbs finely chopped lemongrass
(white part only) 1 heaped tbs finely grated galangal 2 tbs peanut oil 1 tbs each fish sauce and light soy sauce
For the marinade, place the peppercorns in a mortar and use a pestle to pound until crushed. Add palm sugar, garlic, turmeric, ginger, kaffir lime, lemongrass and galangal, and pound until a paste. Stir in the oil, fish sauce and soy sauce until well combined.
Tip the marinade into a large zip-lock bag, tray or bowl. Add the chicken and massage to coat. Use gloves or coat your hands in oil to prevent your hands from being stained yellow from the turmeric. Cover and set aside to marinate for 1 hour. Preheat oven 220°C (200°C fan-forced). Place the chicken and marinade in a baking dish and spread out in a single layer.
Sprinkle with the salt and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through. The chicken will be tinged with gold from the turmeric and the edges should be a little charred. Scatter over the coriander and red chilli. Serve with lime wedges.
Salt & pepper squid. OPPOSITE: rice paper rolls (recipes p 108).
@mattscravat Banh mi and (left) pickled carrot and daikon (recipe p 107). Join Matt in Sydney on Tuesday, October 30 at Three Blue Ducks Rosebery for a delicious. Icon Series dinner celebrating his new book. Head to threeblueducks.floktu.com for tickets and more information.
Vietnamese crispy pancakes ( banh xeo)