Tag Archives: Vietnamese

Saigon Bistro: Like the Worst Banh Mi Ever

17 Aug

Saigon Bistro
507 S Weller st (inside the Uwajimaya food court)

I love banh mi; they are one of my top 3 favourite foods. I’d heard that Seattle has great Vietnamese food (and was eager to compare it with Melbourne, which has a thriving Vietnamese community) so I set about finding a great banh mi to replace my beloved Lee Lee’s and Nhu Lan. There’s a standard filling that I always get – I don’t know the official name but it’s basically various pork cold cuts.

The service was fast and friendly. I felt guilty about using my debit card for such a low purchase ($2.85 plus tax I think) so I took a chance and bought two. Worst gamble ever. =(

Well not really, cos I only lost $6 (and gained knowledge!) but you can imagine my disappointment after I had cradled my banh mi on the commute home, eagerly anticipating the shattery crunch of my first bite.

Behold, the worst banh mi in the world.

Texture-wise it was just like regular bread – maybe slightly crunchier than normal, but without that really distinctive banh mi texture. I confess to poking it a few times in disbelief.

And the fillings were so bland!  There was no glorious combination of mayo/lard, pickled vegies, Maggi, chillis, and coriander (here they call it cilantro). I don’t remember there being capsicum (here they call them bell peppers), but I’m looking at the photo and that green thing looks kind of capsicumy. Maybe that’s the cucumber?

Also they really skimped on the fillings – the roll was a lot emptier than every other banh mi I’ve had (and yes, I do realise I’m being all “the food was terrible, and such small portions”) but the stingy fillings really just highlighted how awful the bread was.

It was pretty much a plain salad roll. I guess it was OK for under $3, but I didn’t want a plain salad roll; I wanted a banh mi – the KING of sandwiches. This is what I get for going to a place that doesn’t specialise in banh mi.

(And now imagine me thumping my fist down and looking solemnly into the distance)

Never again.

Saigon Bistro @ Uwajimaya on Urbanspoon

Pho Dzung (The Cow and the Chicken)

28 Jul

Pho Dzung
208 Victoria St, Richmond

Mum took me out for lunch on Victoria street in Richmond this afternoon. We went to Pho Dzung, her favourite pho place (partially, I suspect, because it’s right near the car park). I’ve never known what it was called until now – I’ve just always mentally referred to it as “the cow and the chicken place”.

Pho Dzung represents everything that is good about ethnic places – cheap prices, good food, and efficient service. Prices have gradually increased over the years, but they’re still very reasonable. I remember when I was  a kid and you could buy pho for $5 and banh mi for $2. It’s now $9.50 for the pho and $3.70 for the banh mi (for some reason I thought it was $5.50 for the banh mi, but Cat assures me that is incorrect).

I ordered the number 1, and mum ordered a combination of 1 and 5. Mum and I used to order a side of spring rolls to split, but I eat a lot less than I used to. (Also look at the number 6 beverage. Milk soda with egg yolk??)

They seemed slightly stingier with the meat than normal, but maybe that’s because I ordered a small instead of the medium I used to get.

At first I had a bit of a panic. “Where are the chillies??” I wondered. But they were just hidden beneath the lemon. Phew.

If you’ve had pho before, then you pretty much know how it goes, and Pho Dzung does it particularly well. Delicious broth, a bunch of noodles, flavoured with the chilli, lemon, thai basil, and bean sprouts. I could have done with a bit more Thai basil, but it’s not a big deal.

I drink all the broth because it’s so delicious that it seems like a crime to let it go to waste. I always feel deceptively full afterwards, and half an hour later I’m peckish again. I really should have ordered the crispy spring rolls.

I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own pho, but I vaguely remember Pat telling me that it stinks up your house for ages. I wonder if Pho Dzung will let me just buy the broth.
Pho Dzung Tan Dinh on Urbanspoon

Spicy Hoisin-Garlic Sauce

18 May

On a whim I decided to make some Vietnamese salad rolls. I stuff them with butter lettuce, noodles (though my last couple of batches I’ve just subbed extra lettuce), carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts, Vietnamese mint, coriander, and garlic chives. They are a bitch to wrap – I still don’t really have the hang of it, and my rolls tend to collapse as soon as I take a bite out of them. Since I bought the extra big packet of rice paper rolls (curse my stinginess – there are like … hundreds in there!) I have a lot of opportunity to practice I guess.

I remember the first time I ever had a salad roll was at some sort of function, and I didn’t realise I had to dip it in the sauce, and it was so bland and crap that I stayed away for a long time. So when I made my own rolls I was conscious that the dipping sauce would really make it. So I went to my trusty Into the Vietnamese Kitchen from Andrea Nguyen, which had a simple enough recipe for hoisin garlic sauce.

It makes about 1 1/2 cups. Her version requires chicken livers but I couldn’t be bothered mincing livers so I went with the vegetarian version with peanut butter.


  • 2 TBSP creamy salted peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP plus 1 cup water
  • 1 TBSP canola or another neutral oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried red chile flakes
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 6-8 TBSP hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (optional, though highly recommended)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 1/2 tsp water
  • 2 TBSP unsalted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted


  1. Whisk together the peanut butter and the 2 TBSP water.
  2. In a small saucepan combine the oil, garlic and chile flakes over medium-low heat. When the oil is sizzling and pale yellow, add the tomato paste, breaking it up with a fork. When the oil is bright yellow-orange, pour in the 1 cup of water to stop the cooking.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and whisk in the peanut butter mixture.
  4. When the sauce begins to boil, whisk in 6 TBSP hoisin sauce. Let the sauce cook for 1 minute and taste, adding more hoisin if necessary.
  5. Add the fish sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and then cook for 30 seconds or until thickened.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool, uncovered, to concentrate the flavours and thicken further.
  7. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and sprinkle the peanuts and sesame seeds on top. (I forgot this step)

Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 1/2 cups sauce: 637 calories, 58% fat, 9% protein, 33% carbs 

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad

31 Jan

Chilli. Coriander. Fish sauce.

I’ll pretty much eat anything with that holy trinity of deliciousness. So luckily this recipe from Taste hits all three. It’s a fabulous light dinner, and it’s perfect hot weather food, especially if your chicken is already cooked. It’s refreshing to have a cold salad for dinner, and since this one is packed with noodles and chicken, it’s more substantial than eating leaves.

I’ll have to look through my Vietnamese cookbook for a more authentic version, but this one is pretty awesome. I’ve already tweaked the proportions from the original recipe and I’ll probably keep on tweaking, depending on what I have in my fridge at the time.

I’m thinking of doubling the sauce (so it would be 4x the original quantity) because the sauce is where all the flavour comes from, and it’s lip-smackingly good. The recipe is very flexible – next time I think I’ll try it with skin-on chicken breast for more fat, and no noodles for fewer carbs.

I also think it would be better served in a big bowl, since it’s a bit hard to mix everything together on a plate. There were bits of carrot all over my kitchen bench.

My version serves 2.


  • 2 chicken breast fillets
  • 150g rice stick noodles
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 4 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 2 TBSP sweet chilli sauce (or if you want it spicier, a couple of bird’s eye chillies)
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 100g (2 cups) finely shredded Chinese cabbage
  • 1 carrot, peeled, coarsely grated
  • 4 green onions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed fresh coriander leaves
  1. Place chicken in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer chicken to a plate. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Coarsely shred chicken and place in a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Stir with a fork to separate. Drain well.
  3. Place vinegar, lime juice, sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce and oil in a screw-top jar and shake until well combined.
  4. Add the noodles, cabbage, carrot, green shallot, mint and coriander to the chicken and gently toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing and gently toss to combine. Divide the salad among serving plates and serve immediately.


Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 serve: 625 calories, 16% fat, 40% protein, 44% carbs
(if you omit the noodles it’s 357 calories, 29% fat, 67% protein, 4% carbs)

Ghetto Banh Mi

6 Jan

Awhile back I wondered, if I could only eat three things for the rest of my life, what they would be (not taking into account nutrition and calories). It took a lot (OK 5 minutes) of soul searching, but this was my eventual list:*

  • Fish and chips
  • Pepperoni pizza
  • Salmonella buns

When I was a kid mum would take me and Cat to Victoria street in Richmond and we would go to LeeLee’s bakery and gorge ourselves. All I knew these rolls by was what mum called them – “yue lan mian bao” (Vietnamese sandwich). And then there was a salmonella outbreak in Victoria street which made the news and I was all like “hey I eat those sandwiches!” so Cat and I started calling them salmonella buns. It took another 10 years before I discovered that everyone (except the Vietnamese) calls them banh mi.

Unfortunately my salmonella buns are few and far between, because even though Richmond is geographically quite close, I’m too lazy to head there just for the rolls. But about a month ago I discovered how to make my own!

Well they’re not proper salmonella buns, but the rough flavour profile is there.

It’s only slightly more work than a regular sandwich, and worlds better. It does require a bit of forethought though, and you need to have some pickled carrots and daikon radishes on hand. This is the Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle from Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.


  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 500g daikons, each no larger than 2″ in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water


  1. Place the carrot and daikon in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 tsp of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl. Stop kneading when you can bend a piece of daikon so that the ends touch but the daikon does not break.
  2. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Transfer them to a large jar for storage.
  3. To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar and water, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

In the photo I used marinated grilled chicken for my protein. Sometimes I use leftover roast chicken or turkey slices, depending on what I have on hand. The marinade recipe I got from an online forum (you may have to be a member to view, not sure):


  • 2 TBSP oyster sauce
  • 1 TBSP fish sauce
  • 2 TBSP minced lemongrass (about 1 stalk)
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • sriracha (chilli garlic sauce) to taste


  • Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and marinate chicken for half an hour.
  • Grill over high heat, 4 minutes a side.

James likes the taste of this marinade, but is not overly fond of cooking it on the barbecue since the sugar makes it stick to the grill.

The other necessary elements:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Maggi Seasoning
  • Coriander
  • Bun

And the nice but not essential parts:

  • Cucumber
  • Spring onion

The bun is supposed to be quite important – it’s supposed to be shattery on the outside and soft on the inside, but to be honest the bun isn’t a huge part of it for me. I’ve used ciabatta and plain white rolls, and they’re both fine. I think I actually prefer the soft rolls, since they’re easier to eat. And after a couple of days, crusty bread gets a bit stale and hurts the roof of my mouth.

I like to use copious amounts of mayo, maggi and coriander for that “wooh! Flavour party in my mouth!” feeling, but you can adjust to taste.

James detests salmonella buns (he doesn’t like the copious amounts of lard or whatever it is they use – homemade mayo?) so he was convinced he wouldn’t enjoy this. I had to force him to take a bite, and he kind of got this surprised look on his face. And he went for a second bite when I offered it to him. =D

I don’t think salmonella buns will ever make James’ top 3, but I’m pleased that I was able to take a sandwich that he dislikes and turn it into something he requests!


* In case anybody is curious, James’ list was lamb vindaloo, chocolate cake, and supreme pizza. I remember asking Cat as well, and her preliminary list included 2 kinds of pizza, and James was like “Cat is stupid! She should just get supreme and pick bits off!”


Oh Book Depository, how you lure me in …

16 Nov

You know how I wanted Momofuku and Bourke Street Bakery? Well Book Depository is offering 10% off vouchers, so that pretty much made the decision for me.

Except I ended up buying 5 books in total. /shameface

In preparation for my Book Depository purchase I was looking up cookbook reviews, and I told James about a couple of them. Some reviews complained that Momofuku had too much swearing in it, and also a review for Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? pointed out that there were some unrealistic suggestions in the book, such as owning two dishwashers. But anyway, I told James I was going to buy some books:

James: Oh yeah. The book about swearing at two dishwashers.
Kaye: You’ve conflated the reviews for two different books.
James: Conflated isn’t even a real word!
Kaye: Yes it is. It means to combine.
James: I find it highly unlikely there would be two words for “combine”.

Anyway, here are the books I ended up buying.

image from Book Depository

image from Book Depository

image from Book Depository

image from Book Depository

image from Book Depository

After the discount it came to $136.53 for the lot. Hopefully they will keep me occupied for awhile.