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Monday 10 May 2010

London Cooking Club - "From Hanoi to Saigon - A Vietnamese Voyage"

"From Hanoi to Saigon - A Vietnamese Voyage"

For our third London Cooking Club evening a few weeks ago, we decided to host a Vietnamese themed event inspired by two of my favourite cookery books "Secrets of the Red Lantern: Stories and Recipes from the Heart" and “The Songs of Sapa” by Pauline and Luke Nguyen.

We were pleased to have some new members joining us for the evening – Louise, Alain and Veronique, my sister Patricia, Betina, my Brazilian friend Sidnei, and Linda.

We were also delighted to have Hoa with us, a Vietnamese student who helped us to prepare and serve most dishes as well as telling us some interesting stories about the food we were about to try.

All recipes were taken from the above two books with each person contributing at least one dish and accompanying wine. It was a fun evening with a great atmosphere as we all participated in the cooking and tucked into some amazing Vietnamese food.

The recipes were surprisingly easy to follow and only a few unusual ingredients were required which were purchased at Longden Supermarket on Hackney Road.

To start the evening, Dr G prepared “Bi Cuon” (soft rice paper rolls with pork loin and scented roasted rice powder). The meat was marinated in sugar and fish sauce, boiled until the sauce was reduced and caramelised and then cut into fine strips. Shredded pork skin was added to the meat, and then seasoned with garlic, oil, sugar and ground roasted rice among other ingredients.

The pork mixture was rolled tightly in rice paper with lettuce, perilla, basil and mint leaves and served with a dipping fish sauce. This was a deliciously refreshing dish and a nice alternative to the more popular “goi cuon”. Hoa showed us how to roll them, and we all had a go at preparing our own. It was a great way to start the evening and to get people participating and talking to one another.

To accompany the rolls I prepared “Goi Du Du” (green papaya salad with prawns and pork). I would not have attempted this without purchasing one of those Vietnamese vegetable peelers on my recent trip to Vietnam (virtually impossible to julienne a whole papaya without one). I love the combination of shredded green papaya, mint, perilla, pork and prawns in this salad, making it one of my favourite dishes in Vietnam.

This was followed by Linda’s “Bun Bo Xao” (wok tossed beef and lemongrass on vermicelli noodles).

The beef had a delicious wok-charred flavour and a strong scent of lemongrass, and it accompanied the cold rice vermicelli and other ingredients perfectly. I loved the balance of hot, cold, sweet and savoury elements of this dish. Linda was a little hesitant about cooking this but she made a great success of it.

Our Vietnamese guest Hoa prepared “Suon Ram Man” (pork spare ribs braised in coconut juice). I was pleased that she had decided to prepare this as I had never cooked with young coconut juice before – the meat was marinated in a mixture of garlic, oyster sauce, sugar and fish sauce, deep fried and then braised in coconut juice. The meat was incredibly tender and having absorbed the sweetness of the coconut juice, it tasted delicious.

Veronique and Alain cooked a splendid dish of lemon grass and chilli chicken called “Ga Xao Xa Ot”.

The chicken, whilst cooking, absorbed the flavours of the lemongrass, chillies and other ingredients, remaining tender and succulent. This was a simple but delicious dish served with Jasmine rice.

Patricia and Betina made what I think was one of the most successful dishes of the evening, and one I cannot wait to try again – “Thit Kho Trung” (caramelized pork leg and whole egg with chilli and pepper). The meat was coated in hot caramel and cooked in stock, fish sauce and sugar for about 45 minutes before whole boiled eggs were added. Thirty minutes later, the meat was melting in the mouth, tasted sweet and utterly scrumptious. A real winner.

To accompany the main dishes, Louise cooked us a delicious dish of “Ca Tim Nuong” - char-grilled aubergines with prawns, roasted peanuts and shallots.

For dessert Patricia and Betina made “Che Khoai Mon” (Black sticky rice with taro and sweetened coconut cream). I enjoyed the nearly chocolaty quality of this dessert - the creaminess of the dark sauce coming from both the starch of the taro and the coconut cream was exquisite.

As in previous London Cooking Club meetings, most people were meeting for the first time that evening but still a shared sense of fun, camaraderie and above all, love for good food prevailed. I would like to thank all the guests for being so kind and for the effort they put into cooking all those delicious dishes and for sharing them with us.

Our next meeting will be in June 2010 and the theme will be “Ottolenghi” inspired by the cookery books “Ottolenghi The Cookbook” and “Plenty”. Please visit our Facebook page “London Cooking Club” or e-mail me if you would like to take part.


  1. Just a quick hi from Hanoi. Your post came up on my daily Vietnam searches.

    What, no bun cha?

  2. What a fantastic evening, I'm now starving, having read that and enjoyed the pictures!

  3. That pork dish sounds fantastic - keep me posted about your Ottolenghi session I would love to come

  4. @ Steve - hello there, really liked "Our Man in Hanoi" blog, it is great. Interesting to see that you were involved with KOTO, I went to their restaurant and cookery school in Hanoi on my last visit in February 2010. Thanks for stopping by.

    @ Kavey - thanks, unfortunately I was so busy making sure everyone was ok I forgot to take a lot of pictures like for the rolls, etc.

    @ Gourmet Chick - hi Cara, the pork dish was one of my favourites, and we would be delighted to have you with us for the Ottolenghi evening!

  5. AHHH! Really wish I was there! All looks so fantastic and I think what you are doing with these themed nights is a great way to have a dinner party, meet new people and friends and share recipes and methods!


    Love LELUU xxx

  6. Gosh my mouth is watering now, everything looks and sounds wonderful (especially, of course, the host!)

  7. How lovely Luiz! What a gorgeous idea. I adore good Vietnames food, the only place I have found any in London is at Fernandez & Leluu. Clearly your place does quite well too. :)


  8. That all sounds and looks fabulous esp the Goi Du Du!

    Btw, your first commenter Steve - he's on twitter as @ourman - nice bloke :)

  9. @ Fernandez and Leluu - I wish you had been there too Uyen, it was a lovely evening and I got to meet some very interesting people too!

    @ Hugh Wright - you are such a charmer, and a man of very good taste I see!! ;0)

    @ Niamh - thanks Niamh, I am loving these dinner parties at home, they are so stress free and it is also a great opportunity to meet other foodies. We will be holding an "Ottolenghi" evening in June if you are interested.

    @ Meemalee - thanks Mimi, I will check him out on Twitter, I liked his blog too.

  10. What a superb array of dishes. I'm drooling all over the keyboard.

  11. What a wonderful banquet - it certainly sounds as though you have the hang of rolling those fresh rolls. I particularly like the sound of the pork and egg.

    What did you do to prepare the pork skin? I've been hearing about this quite a lot and haven't really seen how it's prepared.

  12. @ Greedy Diva - thanks Carly, we are having our Ottolenghi evening in June, get in touch if you would like to participate.

    @ The Grubworm - hi the pork skin was the trickiest bit. The first time I made this i immersed it in fresh lukewarm water for a few hours, and it worked quite well but it was a bit worrying as at one stage i thought it would never soften. It did after hours of soaking. The second time I tried to soak them (after our Vietnamese evening), I tried to be a little clever and immersed them in boiled water - it went limp and out of shape very quickly whilst still remaining a bit crunchy which was not very good. So i recommend soaking in lukewarm water in the morning for the evening, or overnight for lunch.

  13. Looks such great fun Luiz. I shall definitely get in touch about a future one.

  14. Wow, your sister's Thit looks fantastic! I can't wait to try it. Mr Truffle

  15. Oh wow, I have been waiting long for this post! :) Thank you Luiz for organising the event that night! It was so nice meeting you all. I kept telling all my friends how impress I was with the quality of the food that I ate at your place! Especially with the fact that most of you only cooked Vietnamese dishes for the first time.

    All the best wishes. I'm so sad I can't join on the Ottolenghi evening. :(


  16. @ Joshua - hi mate, I am sorry i just remembered now I was supposed to send you some pics for Viajantes! I will do that tomorrow. Thanks for commenting, our next event will be in June, I will let you know the date as soon as i decide on it.

    @ Mr Truffles - thanks, my sister's pork and egg dish was indeed one of the best of the evening.

    @ Hoa - such kind words Hoa, we all put a lot of effort into it, and specially you who helped us throughout. The evening would not have been the same without you. Thanks!

  17. I honestly think this was the best dinner party/concept I have ever been to/participated in!

  18. Thanks Louise, it was lovely that you could make it! Lx

  19. Luiz, Everything looks so professionally made! I think I would be too intimidated to join you guys in the kitchen. Can I be the official taster? You never know who might have it in for you or one of your guests! ;)

  20. @Thewinesleuth - sure you can be our official taster my dear, you are always welcome at any capacity! Lx


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