Vietnamese recipes to try at home
If your New Year's resolution involved being more adventurous in the kitchen, hold on to your toques -- Charles Phan is opening up his highly anticipated first cookbook, "Vietnamese Home Cooking," for you courageous, budding culinarians.
Phan is the acclaimed chef and owner of The Slanted Door, a modern Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco, California.
"These dishes all have memories for me and my family and have become favorites for one reason or another. Don't be afraid to experiment with different cuisines at home, these are all very easy to make, " Phan said. "Go a step further with our wine or cocktail suggestions and everyone will think you're a professional and might not want to leave."
Five Vietnamese Recipes to Try At Home: Charles Phan
Editor's Note: The wine pairings are by Chaylee Priete, the Wine Director of The Slanted Door Group. And, the cocktail suggestions are by Erik Adkins, the Bar Director of The Slanted Door Group.
1. Fried wontons with spicy sauce
"I grew up eating wontons either with soup or as snacks like this one. They are crunchy, yet delicate. They are great for guests of all ages. I added spicy sauce as a kick, and those who like spiciness can ask for more."
Wine pairing suggestion: Jakoby Pur 2010 Riesling Kabinett (Mosel, Germany)
This is purity (no pun intended) incarnate. The length, zip and minerality of the wine doesn't overpower the wontons while the small amount of residual sugar cleans the palate and urges you to eat more. A father and son team (Pure Jakoby) making crystalline Rieslings.
Cocktail suggestion: French 75 (Cognac or gin, lemon, sugar and sparkling wine)
This cocktail is essentially a Collins lengthened with sparkling wine rather than soda water. The acidity and the bubbles really cut through fried food. There is a hint of sweetness that will take some of the heat off from the spicy sauce.
2. Spring rolls
"My mom's creation of homemade mayo makes them moist and irresistible. It fills up better if your guests are super hungry. Of course, don't forget the peanut sauce."
Wine pairing suggestion: Dr. Nagler Sekt Brut NV (Rheingau, Germany)
The spring rolls are bright fresh, crunchy and full of zippy mint. Choose a wine that matches all that freshness. This sparkling wine composed 100% of Riesling is the perfect aperitif and match. It's dry and minerally with a great liveliness to refresh the palate, but it doesn't overpower the summertime freshness of the rolls.
Cocktail suggestion: Bumble Bee (Jamaican rum, lime, honey, egg white)
This frothy, funky and honeyed cocktail can handle the enormous flavor of the spring roll's peanut sauce.
3. Shrimp and sweet potato fritters
"This is the best of both worlds. You have fried yam (an American favorite -- think French fries!) and fried shrimp (an Asian favorite -- think tempura!)."
Wine pairing suggestion: Wind Gap Pinot Gris 2010 (Sonoma, California)
Unlike many skin-fermented wines, this is soft and lush and without any harsh tannins. A gorgeous rose color with notes of unripened nectarine, it perfectly complements the natural sweetness of the yams.
Cocktail suggestion: Hotel Nacional Special
This is a lush Daiquiri variation from the National Hotel in Havana. We use a fruity Haitian rum, pineapple syrup and apricot brandy. This cocktail pairs well with the sweet shrimp and yams.
4. Hue dumplings
"These dumplings are like mung beans gummy bears. The texture and the sweetness of mung beans with the sauce make this snack my family's favorite. Serve them warm by putting one on each soup spoon with flavored soy sauce."
Wine pairing suggestion: Bermejos Malvasia Seco 2011 (Canary Islands, Spain)
My favorite part about these dumplings is the delicacy of their texture -- silky and slightly chewy in contrast with the surprisingly sweet mung bean interior. The Bermejos Malvasia from the Canary Island of Lanzarotte is rife with minerality, a touch of carbon dioxide and a bit of implied sweetness that you would get from a just picked pineapple or guava.
Cocktail suggestion: Blanc and Blue Martini
This is a classic martini with four parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth and 1 part blanc vermouth, orange bitters and lemon oil. Blanc vermouth is a sweet white vermouth that adds body to the cocktail while the dry vermouth adds a nutty quality. This is a subtle and delicate drink that pairs well with the slippery and chewy texture of the hue dumplings.
5. Mama's meatballs
"If meats are essential for your party, you will be very popular with this dish. I like to hand chop the meat because great texture is essential for this dish. You can roll them into small, bite sizes to serve alongside crunchy bread or baguettes."
Wine pairing suggestion: Leitz 2010 Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spätlese (Rheingau, Germany)
The lush texture of this wine -- fall golden apples, wet stone and citrus blossom -- cuts right through the richness of the pork and the density of the spice, finishing with Johannes Leitz's signature acidity.
Cocktail suggestion: Carter Beats the Devil (Reposado tequila, mezcal, lime, agave, bird's eye chili tincture)
This drink is named after Carter the Great, a notable 1920s era, Oakland-based illusionist. His greatest trick was Carter Beats the Devil. This drink is bright, smoky and spicy. The smoke and spice compliment the rich, fatty texture of the meatballs and the acidity keeps the palate primed for more food.
Hoi An Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Serves 8 to 10 as a snack or appetizer
For the tomato sauce
2 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tsp minced garlic
4 Thai hot chiles stemmed and minced
2 Tbsp rice wine
2 pounds ripe tomatoes (such as Roma or Early Girl), cored and diced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp fish sauce
50 square wonton wrappers (1-pound package)
For the wontons
Pork-and-shrimp wonton filling
Cornstarch, for dusting
Canola oil, for deep-frying
To make the tomato sauce, in a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until light golden brown. Add garlic and chiles and cook, stirring occasionally, 45 seconds more, until aromatic. Stir in the rice wine, tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat so the mixture is at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes, to blend the flavors.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the fish sauce. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Keep warm. (The sauce can be made a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated; reheat before using.)
To form the wontons, place a wonton wrapper on a work surface. Lightly brush the edges of the wrapper with water and place 1 teaspoon of the ground pork in the center. Top with a second wonton wrapper, pressing to enclose the filling and form a square, like a ravioli. Force out as much air as possible as you seal the edges to prevent the wontons from puffing up when you fry them. Transfer the finished wontons to a baking sheet or large tray lightly dusted with cornstarch. Repeat until you have used up all of the filling.
Pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches into a wok or high-sided pot and heat over high heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and place near the stove. Place a second rimmed baking sheet alongside. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
When the oil is ready, add one-third of the wontons to the oil and fry for 3 minutes, until deep golden brown and crisp. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain briefly, then transfer to the second sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining wontons in two batches, always allowing the oil to return to temperature between batches.
Arrange the wontons on a platter and serve immediately, accompanied by the tomato sauce. Dip the wontons in the sauce and eat.
Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls
Makes 10 rolls, enough to serve 10 people as an appetizer
10 ounces dried rice vermicelli
15 medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 ounces boneless pork shoulder
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup shallot oil or canola oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
30 fresh mint leaves
1 head red leaf lettuce, leaves separated
10 (12-inch) rice paper rounds
Bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice vermicelli and cook until they are tender yet still have some bite, according to package directions. Drain the noodles, rinse them under cold running water until cool, then rinse under very hot running water before rinsing them a second time under cold running water. This cold-hot-cold rinse prevents the noodles from sticking together and breaking. Set the noodles aside.
Refill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes, until bright pink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise and set aside.
Return the water to a boil and add the pork. Decrease the heat so the water is at a simmer and cook the pork for 20 minutes, until it is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and poke it with a chopstick; the juices should run clear. Let cool completely, then cut against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices. (The meat can be cooked a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Slice just before using.)
To make the shallot mayonnaise, put the egg yolk in a bowl, and set the bowl on top of a dry kitchen towel. Pour the shallot (or canola) oil into a measuring cup. Whisk the yolk well, then begin adding the oil, one droplet at a time at first, until the mixture thickens. Continue to add the oil, drop by drop and whisking constantly, until the mixture is well emulsified and thick. Add the remaining oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until all of it has been incorporated. The mayonnaise will be very thick. Whisk in the salt and set aside.
Put the shrimp, pork, lettuce, mint and mayonnaise within easy reach of your work surface. Fill a large bowl with very hot water. Working with 1 rice paper round at a time, dip it into the hot water until pliable. This will take only about 5 seconds. Remove the round from the water and spread it flat on the work surface.
Lay 1 lettuce leaf over the bottom one-third of the rice paper round, flattening it to crack the rib. Spread a generous teaspoon of the mayonnaise over the lettuce, then top with 3 mint leaves, arranged end-to-end, and a few slices of pork. Top with about 1/2 cup of the noodles.
Fold in the left and right sides of the rice paper, then lift the bottom edge up and over the filling. Tightly roll the rice paper away from you one turn, enclosing the filling completely. Arrange 3 pieces of shrimp, cut side up and end-to-end, in a row on the rice paper, then roll another turn to enclose the shrimp. Continue rolling as tightly as possible, tucking in the sides, until you have formed a compact cylinder. Place the roll on a platter or baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep moist. Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling ingredients. The rolls can be made up to 2 hours in advance. Refrigerate them, covered with the damp towel, until serving.
Just before serving, cut each roll crosswise into thirds and arrange on a platter. Serve with peanut sauce (recipe below) in small bowls for dipping.
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup sweet (glutinous) rice
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 cloves garlic
1 Thai chile, stemmed
3 Tbsp red miso
3 Tbsp ketchup
3 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp vegetarian stir-fry sauce
1 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Rinse the rice in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear, then transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Then uncover, fluff with a fork, and let cool to room temperature. Alternatively, the rice can be prepared in a rice cooker.
In a food processor, combine the cooled rice, peanuts, garlic, chile, miso, ketchup, canola oil, sugar, stir-fry sauce, lemon juice, and sesame oil and process until the mixture is a fine paste. Thin with water (about 1/2 cup) until the texture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
Shrimp and Sweet Potato Fritters
Makes 18 fritters; serves 6 as a snack
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts only
1 egg lightly beaten
1 cup soda water
1/4 cup ice water, or as needed
18 medium-sized shrimp preferably from the Louisiana Gulf, peeled and deveined
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 by 1/4-inch batons (about 5 cups)
Canola oil, for frying
18 large red lettuce leaves (for serving)
6 mint sprigs (for serving)
18 perilla leaves (optional)
1/2 cup flavored fish sauce (for serving; recipe below)
In a bowl, combine the flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, turmeric, cayenne, scallions, egg, soda water and ice water and mix just until blended. The batter will be a little lumpy; do not overmix. The texture should be like a slightly thin pancake batter. Add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if it is too thick.
Place the shrimp in a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and the black pepper, and toss to mix. Pour 1/2 cup of the batter over the shrimp and toss to coat. Add the sweet potatoes to the bowl holding the remaining batter and stir to mix evenly.
Pour the oil to a depth of 1/2-inch into a cast-iron frying pan or wok and heat over high heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels, and place a large wire rack on a second baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 250°F.
When the oil is hot, place 5 battered sweet potato batons, side by side, in the oil, taking care to keep them close together. Place 4 or 5 more sweet potato batons on top, perpendicular to the first layer, creating a platform for the shrimp. Make 2 more sweet potato platforms alongside the first platform. Fry the sweet potato platforms for 1 minute, then top each platform with 1 battered shrimp. Spoon a small amount of hot oil over the shrimp to anchor them to the sweet potato batons.
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the sweet potatoes are golden brown on the first side. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, carefully turn each fritter and cook, shrimp side down, for 1 minute more, until the batter is just set on the second side.Using the tongs or slotted spoon, carefully transfer the fritters to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain briefly, then move them to the wire rack and slip them into the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining sweet potato batons and shrimp, always allowing the oil to return to temperature between batches.
Arrange the lettuce, mint and perilla on a platter. Pour the flavored fish sauce (recipe below) into small bowls for dipping. Transfer the fritters to a second platter and season lightly with salt. To eat, wrap a fritter in a lettuce leaf with the herb leaves and dip into the fish sauce.
Flavored Fish Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced
In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar or lemon juice, and Â½ cup water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic and chiles and stir to combine. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 week if made with vinegar or up to 2 days if made with lemon juice.
Hue Rice Dumplings
Makes about 80 bite-size dumplings; serves 6 to 10 as a snack or appetizer
For the filling
6 Tbsp dried mung beans, soaked in cold water to cover overnight
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup fried shallots, minced
1/4 cup shallot or canola oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
For the dough
2 cups tapioca starch, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup rice flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp shallot oil or canola oil
For the flavored soy sauce
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 Thai chiles stemmed and minced
Pour water into a wok or stockpot and set a two-tiered bamboo steamer in the wok or on the rim of the stockpot. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer. Line the steamer with a round of parchment. Cover and bring to a boil over high. Drain the mung beans and spread in parchment-lined steamer. Cover and steam until pale yellow and soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate until cool.
Put the sesame seeds in a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the cooled mung beans, fried shallots, 1/4 cup shallot or canola oil, salt and sugar and pulse until well blended. Set the filling aside.
To make the dough, in a small saucepan or a kettle, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch, cornstarch, rice flour, sugar and salt. When the water is boiling, gradually add it to the flour mixture while stirring constantly. Then add the other 1/4 cup shallot or canola oil and knead it into the flour mixture with your hands until a smooth dough forms. The texture will be sticky and gooey, like taffy or melted mozzarella.
Dust a work surface with 1 tablespoon tapioca starch. Transfer the dough to the floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth and soft, dusting the surface with additional tapioca starch as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. It will have the texture and appearance of modeling clay. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and cover them with plastic wrap.
Remove 1 portion of the dough from under the plastic wrap, leaving the others covered. Dust your work surface with tapioca starch and, using your palms, roll the dough back and forth on the work surface into a log 13 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cut the log crosswise into 13 even pieces. Cover the pieces with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough portions, making sure to cover all of the pieces as they are cut.
Lightly oil 2 rimmed baking sheets. To fill the dumplings, lightly flour your fingers with tapioca starch and, working with one piece of dough at a time (keeping the rest covered) roll the dough into a ball. Gently press the ball into a round about 2 inches wide.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the center of the dough round, fold the round in half, and pinch the edges together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces and filling. As the dumplings are formed, place them on the prepared baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap.
Meanwhile, arrange as many dumplings as will fit in a single layer in each parchment-lined bamboo tier, spacing them so they don't touch. Return the water to a boil, then cover and steam. Cover and steam the dumplings for 6 to 8 minutes, until translucent and slightly shiny.
While the dumplings are steaming, make the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, the vinegar, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the garlic and chiles.
When the dumplings are ready, remove the bamboo tiers from over the water and, using chopsticks or your fingers, carefully transfer them to a warmed large platter. Drizzle the dumplings with shallot or canola oil and serve the flavored soy sauce alongside. Repeat the steaming process with the remaining dumplings, replacing the parchment rounds for each new batch.
Makes about 48 2-inch meatballs
For the sauce
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, finely hand-chopped (see below), or coarsely ground pork shoulder
4 cups chicken stock or water
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp ground annatto seeds
2 cups finely chopped shallots (about 5 large shallots)
2 cups finely diced yellow onions
1 cup stir-fry sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
For the meatballs
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, finely hand-chopped, or coarsely ground
1 1/2 cups finely diced water chestnuts or jicama
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup finely diced shallots
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts only
cup fried shallots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
To make the sauce, in a large, wide, high-sided pot, combine the pork and 2 cups of the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat so the liquid is at a steady simmer and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming any scum that forms on the surface. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Set aside.
Return the empty pot to the stove top, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, until lightly toasted. Add the red pepper flakes and annatto and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds more. Add the shallots and onions and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until softened.
Add the stir-fry sauce, ketchup and soy sauce and stir to combine. Pour in the pureed pork mixture and the remaining 2 cups stock and mix well.
Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, then decrease the heat until the liquid is at a steady simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Using your hands, gently but thoroughly mix the ingredients together. Take care not to overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough. Form the mixture into loosely packed balls about 2 inches in diameter.
Add the meatballs to the simmering sauce. The meatballs can be crowded in the pan but they should all be below the surface of the sauce. Cook, without stirring, for 45 minutes, until they are cooked through. Do not let the liquid boil, or the meatballs will break apart. To test if the meatballs are ready, retrieve a meatball and cut it open; it should no longer be pink in the center.
Remove from the heat and serve right away. Or, if you're making the meatballs in advance, let cool and then reheat them fully in the sauce before serving. Cooling them in the sauce will prevent them from drying out.
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