Vietnam

I visited Vietnam in 2002 during my world tour and it was one of my favourite places, despite probably the longest, most uncomfortable journey I endured getting there. We left Vientiane in Laos at around 8pm, in a crammed full bus with no air con and tiny bench seats, and arrived in Hanoi 34 hours later. The roads were bumpy to start and got progressively worse, so much so you had to stand up every 10 minutes or so to help ease the bone shaking. Thanks to a landslide at the usual border crossing, we had to take a 10 hour detour and after a 3 hour wait at the Vietnamese border and changing to an even smaller, more crammed bus we eventually arrived. Travelling around Vietnam back then was generally best organised through tour operators via set routes and site seeing landmarks. It was possible to travel independently however it was much more expensive so I had booked a full 3 week tour taking in the key highlights.

There is so much to see and do in Vietnam but among my favourites were Halong Bay (a stunning area of limestone karsts and scattered isles), the hill tribe villages of Sapa, Ho Chi Minh’s Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes (now called the War Remnants Museum), shopping in Hue and Hoi An and Mui Ne beach.

I was spoilt for choice with the huge array of Vietnamese dishes available. It is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. A typical family meal would include bowls of rice, meat, fish or seafood, a clear broth or soup and dipping sauces. Recipes I considered were Pho Bo or Ga (noodle soup with beef or chicken), Bánh canh (thick rice noodle soup), Bánh bao (steamed bun dumpling), Gà nướng sả (grilled chicken with lemongrass), Súp măng cua (asparagus and crab soup) and Bánh mì (vietnamese baguette). Having tasted them many times in Vietnam, I decided to make Goi Cuon (salad rolls) which had a lovely fresh taste.

Rating: 8/10

Serves: 2 (makes 6-8 spring rolls)

Prep time: 45 minutes + 20 minutes marinating
Cook time: 5-6 minutes

280g pork shoulder or loin steaks, thinly sliced
1 garlic cloves, crushed
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (if sauce is thick, add about 1/4 cup warm water to reach desired consistency)
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped (or more if you want more heat)

To assemble the salad rolls
6 – 8 rice paper wrappers
Lettuce
Cucumber, cut into long slices
Fresh coriander
Bean sprouts

In a plastic bag combine the pork, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, sugar, pepper and oil and marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes or more
On a grill or BBQ cook the pork for about 2-3 minutes on each side
In blender, combine all the ingredients for the hoisin peanut dipping sauce
In bowl of warm water, dip each rice paper wrapper for about 3-5 seconds (depending on rice paper thickness). Take care not to over soak your rice paper wrapper
Place on work surface and allow rice paper to soak up water and become gelatinous and pliable (about 30 seconds to 1 minute, again, depending on the thickness rice paper)
On the top 1/3 side closest to you, lay lettuce on the bottom for added strength to the wrapper, then place meat, coriander, cucumber and beansprouts
Roll up the salad roll about 1/3 way through, then fold in the sides before rolling up fully
Serve with hoisin peanut dip

 

Sapa Vietnam
Sapa, Vietnam

Mui Ne beach
Mui Ne beach, Vietnam

Lanterns in Hoi An Vietnam
Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam

Halong Bay Vietnam
Halong Bay, Vietnam

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