A sunny day in Saigon cooking a Vietnamese Feast with Tiffany in her home where she sells Japanese ceramics, home decor and accessories.
It’s the kind of home that gives you the same warm fuzzies you get when you visit your mum, the fragrance of flowers and aromas from the kitchen filling your heart and making your tummy growl. Both Vietnamese and Japanese culture permeate through the apartment with piles of rare plates, bowls and pots stacked high in corners of every room, sprawled across the floor and filling the hallways.
Along with her customers, Tiffany shares her home with 2 adorable cats, 1 fall-over-your-feet cute puppy, and her husband, Ánh, who she met when he came to sing at her cafe (did I mention that he was runner up on Vietnamese Idol?!) and three short months later they said “I do”.
“I’m very lucky. My husband supports all of my crazy ideas” Tiffany tells me as we discuss their many creative ventures. The loved-up duo have together created successful cooking videos for a variety of online magazines. The idea to sell imported Japanese ceramics came with the influx of emails from viewers asking where they could purchase the same kitchenware used in the videos. Everyday, customers pour into Tiffany’s apartment and spend hours weaving through the piles, peaking high on their toes or looking under tables on their hands and knees, all to find a special treasure to take home.
After we visit a local market to gather ingredients ,Tiffany floats around the kitchen and effortlessly puts together an impressive Traditional Southern Vietnamese feast of Pork and Green Bean Soup, Caramelized Fish Cakes and Stir-fried Beef with Bamboo shoots.
Perfect for a dinner party or Sunday lunch, all of the recipes are quick and easy to prepare, just add steamed rice!
PORK AND GREEN BEAN SOUP (CANH ĐỖ XANH SƯỜN NON)
Put pork pieces into a medium sized pot over medium heat and then cover with water. Add the green beans. Simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes or until the pork is tender and almost falling off the bone. Constantly keep the water level covering the pork, add water if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cook for 10 more minutes. The pork should be tender and the lentils soft. Garnish with coriander.
CARAMELIZED FISH CAKES (CÁ THÁT LÁT KHO TỘ)Ingredients for fish cakes 20g dill 300g fish flesh, scraped from the skeleton so as almost a paste (in this case we use bronze featherback – a fish in family Notopteridae found in South and Southeast Asia) 2 tablespoons fish sauce 1 teaspoon white sugar 1/2 teaspoon pepper Ingredients for clay pot 2 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons fish sauce 1 cup of water 2 Asian shallots, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons caramelized sugar syrup To Cook
Combine all fish cake ingredients in a bowl and using the back of a spoon, press and squish the fish and combine ingredients to form a paste. Put the paste into a piping bag.
Heat enough vegetable oil in a frying pan to shallow fry (about 1/2 cm high). Squeeze 1 inch length fish cakes from the piping bag into the frying pan. Shallow fry, turning once until golden brown. The fish cakes should expand to about double in size. When golden brown, remove carefully and drain on paper towel.
Add the fish cakes to a small clay pot over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and the sugar syrup.
Fill the clay pot 2/3 of the way high with water. Bring to the boil. Sprinkle the sliced shallots on top of the fish cakes. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and is nice and sticky on the bottom of the clay pot.
STIR-FRIED BEEF WITH BAMBOO
Ingredients2 cloves garlic, minced 1 Asian shallot, minced 300g very thinly sliced beef 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 teaspoon of sugar 2/3 teaspoon pepper 300g fresh sliced bamboo shoots To Cook
Marinate the beef in all of the ingredients except for the bamboo for 30 minutes. Stir-fry the beef in a wok over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Remove from the wok. Stir-fry the bamboo in a wok over medium heat for 2-minutes. Season with 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Return the beef to the wok and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Serve all dishes with steamed rice