My next few segments on CBC Edmonton (radio) are going to be about travelling through food. If you are like me, and a million other people, you might be getting a little tired of cooking the same ol’ same ol, day after day, week after week. In an effort to combat that, I’ll be sharing some fun ways to mix things up a bit including recipes, and tips and tricks on how to travel without leaving your home (because basically, that’s what we’re up against right now, folks).
I love, love, LOVE Vietnamese food. I had my first bowl of pho at a restaurant called Vientiane in Edmonton around 1983. Since then, I’ve probably eaten pho a couple of thousand times. In 2019, I was able to finally travel to Vietnam where I spent morning, noon and night eating everything I could get my hands on.
This morning, I spoke with Tara McCarthy about some of my favourite dishes. You can listen to the on-air segment here.
I could’ve talked for hours, but time constraints allowed me to only talk about these four (and I beg your pardon for the spellings—I couldn’t find Vietnamese names for all of them):
- Chả giò (Crab and shrimp-filled spring rolls)
- Pho, specifically Phở Gà (chicken noodle soup)
- Pomelo and crab salad
- Nước chấm (nuoc cham) dipping sauce
It’s the rice paper spring roll wrap that makes the difference here. You can make these at home, in fact, Kathryn Joel of Get Cooking Canada often has these on list of things to make during her classes on Vietnamese cooking, and if you have the time and the space, go for it! But if you want to fast-track the experience, these ones from Lucky 97 Supermarket in Edmonton, are a good stand-in.
On the topic of grocery stores: I always get Lucky 97 and 99 Supermarket mixed up. The first one is 10725 – 97 Street. It’s quite big and has North American foods as well (Dempster bread, Dairyland milk, Campbell soup, etc). The latter is at 10768 – 99 Street. It’s smaller but is more Asian ingredient focused. There’s a tiny one called Hiep Thanh at 10718 – 98 Street that I like going to but it’s 1/5 the size of 99 Supermarket. The two largest stores, T & T (various locations) and H-Mart (Calgary Trail South) are excellent stores to find all the ingredients you need, as well.
Poaching the chicken in a water flavoured with aromatics (star anise, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, salt) not only infuses the chicken wth flavour, but it produces a wonderful broth as a bi-product.
Put the chicken in a pot with the aromatics, pour in enough water to cover by an inch, bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Take the chicken out, cool a bit, then shred it to be used in your pho. Strain the broth and use the liquid for the broth. I love this recipe from www.recipetineats.com
Pomelo and Crab Salad
This recipe is based on the one from the Nam Hai Cooking Academy outside of Hoi An. I didn’t have that exact recipe on hand for this post, but the one from Luke Nguyen, author of The Food of Vietnam is almost the same (minus the shrimp). Assemble the ingredients – peel the pomelo, break apart the crab, julienne the veg, wash the herbs, slice some lime. Then, fry shallots, crush some peanuts, assemble the ingredients, dress with nuoc cham and plate.
Nước chấm (nuoc cham)
The ubiquitous Vietnamese dip/dressing/every day table sauce. You can’t have Vietnamese food without it, and it’s super simple to make. Follow these steps from Serious Eats and you won’t go wrong.
If you love Vietnamese food but don’t want to cook at home, Edmonton has some fantastic Vietnamese restaurants. My personal favourites are XO Bistro, Pho Boy, Pho and Bun, and King Noodle. If you want to order Vietnamese food, please support these restaurants and pick up the food to avoid the extreme fees charged by third party delivery services. (*please note the dates of the posts regarding the aforementioned restaurants. Not sure of their status due to COVID-19).