Cooking Vietnamese

I took a second cooking class at Saigon Culinary Arts. This time with Lee, who says he’s the cook back in his Florida home. (I hate to tell him it was partly a ruse so his wife, Carolyn, could go shopping!). We had a wonderful time and got to eat our creations, too! We were stuffed.

Lee and I ended up back at the Saigon Culinary Art Center for a new cooking lesson. This is our chef Mia, who taught just the two of us.
Lee and I ended up back at the Saigon Culinary Art Center for a new cooking lesson. This is our chef Mia, who taught just the two of us.
These are our spring rolls, stuffed with chopped pork, shrimp and crab. We dampened the rice paper wrappers with sugar water to make them golden and crispy, but our cook said beer was even better.
These are our spring rolls, stuffed with chopped pork, shrimp and crab. We dampened the rice paper wrappers with sugar water to make them golden and crispy, but our cook said beer was even better.

Fried Spring Rolls, Cha Gio
• 30g crab meat, minced
• 40g shrimp, minced
• 30g pork, minced
• 15g dried wood ear mushroom, rehydrated and minced
• 40g sweet potato, grated fine (or turnip, taro)
• 1t chicken powder
• 1t sugar
• ½ t black pepper
• 1t each, chopped spring onions and shallots
• 3-6 rice paper wrappers
• Mixture of sugar water, coconut juice or beer to wet the rice paper with your fingers
• Soybean oil for deep frying
Use 1 heaping teaspoon per rice paper wrapper
Dipping sauce
• 1T sugar
• 1T lime juice
• 1T fish sauce
• 1t minced garlic
• ½ t chopped red chili
Serve with lettuce leaves, fragrant herbs, fresh rice noodle and dipping sauce

This is the sour fish soup. It gets it's sour taste from tamarind and lime juice, but we added sugar and pineapple to balance it.
This is the sour fish soup. It gets it’s sour taste from tamarind and lime juice, but we added sugar and pineapple to balance it.

Sour soup with shrimp, Canh chua thom va tom (makes one serving)
• 70g of shrimp, fresh peeled (we used fish)
• 1T cooking oil
• 1 t chopped garlic
• ¼ pineapple, cubed
• 1 small tomato, peeled and cut into cubes
• ½ t sugar
• 1t chicken powder
• ½ t each salt and pepper
• 1T chicken broth
• 1T lime juice
• 1T sour tamarind (more lime if you can’t find)
• Water, if needed
Garnish, just before serving:
• Fragrant herb, minced: long coriander, mint, Thai basil, cilantro
• Bean sprouts
• 2 slices of red chili or red pepper
• Fried, chopped garlic
Heat oil. Add garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Add tomato and pineapple. Stir in sugar, chicken powder, salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, lime juice and tamarind. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and bring to a boil again. Adjust seasons (may need sugar or water, especially). Top with herbs, sprouts and chilies. Serve.

Caramelized fish in a clay pot was amazing, particularly the sauce. The single hot pepper, which was not chopped, added a tremendous amount of heat. This dish was served with steamed rice.
Caramelized fish in a clay pot was amazing, particularly the sauce. The single hot pepper, which was not chopped, added a tremendous amount of heat. This dish was served with steamed rice.

Caramel Fish in clay pot, Ca kho to (makes 1 serving)
• 100g boneless fish
• 1 ½ t caramel syrup (sugar cooked in water until it thickens and darkens)
• 1t chopped shallot
• 1t chopped spring onion
• ½ t chopped chili
• 1t sugar
• 1T Fish sauce
• 1t chicken powder
• ½ t pepper
• ½ cup water
• 1T soybean oil
Marinate fish in oil, caramel, fish sauce, sugar, chicken powder, pepper, chili and onions. 20 minutes.
Bring fish to simmer. Stir occasionally until sauce dries. Add water. Put on the lid and let simmer until done.
Garnish with spring onion and chilies and serve with steamed rice

I'm an official Vietnamese cook, now! We ended our meal with a sweet soup, made with mung beans and coconut milk.
I’m an official Vietnamese cook, now! We ended our meal with a sweet soup, made with mung beans and coconut milk.

Cooking Class at The Saigon Culinary Art Center

The large classroom/dining room was for another group, but it was very colorful.
The large classroom/dining room was for another group, but it was very colorful.

2/18/15
A lovely, private cooking class with just three of us. We had pho ga (chicken noodle soup), grilled pork, rice (in rice molds, my favorite part of the meal), a colorful salad and fresh pineapple for dessert. Tasty, healthy and enough food I may not eat the rest of the day.

Our chef was 26 years old and from Sapa, but he's moved his family here to Ho Chi Minh City, working at the International Hotel 5-6 days a week and teaching 2 days a week for the last 6 years. "No time for girlfriend. No money for girlfriend. Yet!" he smiles.
Our chef was 26 years old and from Sapa, but he’s moved his family here to Ho Chi Minh City. He’s managed it by working at the International Hotel 5-6 days a week and teaching 2 days a week for the last 6 years. “No time for girlfriend. No money for girlfriend!” And then he smiles, “Yet!”

Making the soup gets a bit complicated, but I can share the salad recipe:

I even made the little carrot roses!
I even made the little carrot roses!

Vegetable Salad with pork and shrimp
Shred or julienne:
• Carrot
• White onion
• Cucumber
• Red pepper or chili pepper (seeds removed)
• Tomato (we didn’t use any)
• Mint
• Cilantro and/or basil
• Pineapple

Top with 2 boiled and peeled shrimp and a few slices of cooked pork. These have been marinated in:
• 1T sugar
• 1T lime juice
• 1T fish sauce
• 1t chopped garlic
• 1t chopped chili

Dressing (mix until sugar is dissolved):
• 1T sugar
• 1T rice vinegar
• ½ t salt
• Black pepper
Serve with shrimp crackers, top the salad with crushed peanuts and garnish with basil leaves and carrot flowers.

Putting the finishing touches on the pho ga (chicken noodle soup).
Putting the finishing touches on the pho ga (chicken noodle soup).
The rice molds were great and easy. Just wet everything with water, work quickly and the rice won't stick.
The rice molds were great and easy. Just wet everything with water, work quickly and the rice won’t stick.
We marinated the pork for 20 minutes before grilling in something similar to the salad dressing plus additional lemongrass and garlic. Tasty! It's topped with lightly sauteed spring onions. And the rice came out in a firm cake.
We marinated the pork for 20 minutes in the salad dressing with additional lemongrass and garlic. It was then quickly grilled. Tasty! It’s topped with lightly sauteed spring onions. And the rice came out in a firm cake.
dessert!
dessert!

Sunday lunch at Pho Dai Loi #2

What’s the perfect lunch for a dreary Sunday? Vietnamese PHO! And one of my favorite Atlanta spots to get it is Pho Dai Loi #2. The soup comes piping hot and fast. The place is clean and the prices spectacular. What more could you want to chase away the blues? Want to know more about Vietnamese food? Check out my Introduction to Vietnamese Cuisine, available on Kindle. There’s even a bonus section about where to get it in Atlanta.

Located on Buford Highway in the Saigon Plaza, near Dresden Rd. If you go, you won't be the only non-Asian in the place, but you can still count on authentic cuisine.
Located on Buford Highway in the Saigon Plaza, near Dresden Rd. If you go, you won’t be the only non-Asian in the place, but you can still count on authentic cuisine.
Need a jumpstart on the morning? Try a café sua da, Vietnamese iced coffee. Some assembly is required. It starts with finely ground, French roast that drips directly into the cup. Make sure to stir well so you mix the sweetened condensed milk into the coffee before pouring it over ice. Rocket fuel on a dark morning.
Need a jumpstart on the morning? Try a café sua da, Vietnamese iced coffee. Some assembly is required. It starts with finely ground, French roast that drips directly into the cup. Make sure to stir well so you mix the sweetened condensed milk into the coffee before pouring it over ice. Rocket fuel on a dark morning.
The rest of the meal comes quickly. This is the small bowl of dac biet pho (mixed soup) and contains eye of round, roast pork, tripe, tendon and rice noodles in a rich broth. The rare eye of round is thinly sliced and will finish cooking in the hot broth.
The rest of the meal comes quickly. This is the small bowl of dac biet pho (mixed soup) and contains eye of round, roast pork, tripe, tendon and rice noodles in a rich broth. The rare eye of round is thinly sliced and will finish cooking in the hot broth. The “greens” on the left are added a little at a time to improve the soup’s flavor. They include sawleaf, Thai basil, fresh mung bean sprouts, jalapeño and lime.