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Easy Asian Dishes for Beginners, Part II

Credit: Pexels Edited by A. Azizi

Roar writer Dinh Nguyen shares his recipes for easy Vietnamese dishes in this second instalment of ‘Easy Asian Dishes for Beginners’.

When I was a kid living in Vietnam, there was no better feeling than arriving home after a long day to a piping hot bowl of whatever my mum had whipped up ready for me to sink my tiny face into. The pleasant aromas that always filled the house whenever my mum was in the kitchen inspired my love for all things food. Moving over 10,000 kilometres away has certainly not been easy, but I soon found out that replicating the tastes of home is an easy pick-me-up. Here are two of the easiest recipes that’ll bring Vietnam to you.

One thing to note, these recipes heavily rely on arguably the most quintessential ingredient in Vietnamese cooking, the fish sauce. The pungent, yet homely (if you grew up with it), sauce adds a lovely note of umami into any dishes. My mẹ always says “Fish sauce is the backbone of all dishes,” seriously, that woman will add fish sauce to spag-bol if she could. Now onto the first recipe:

Thịt Kho Trứng (Vietnamese caramelised pork and egg)

(50 minutes – 1 hour)

Thit Kho Trung

This is the definition of comfort food. No frills, easy to make and the ingredients are easy to find. It will take a little while to cook, but you won’t have to do much most of the time. Pop Netflix on and just keep an eye on the bubbling pot from time to time.

What you’ll need:

  • 500 grams of belly pork
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (I highly recommend Squid Brand, available in most grocery stores)
  • Shallots
  • 3 cups of water

Steps:

  1. Hard boil your eggs (this should take around 10 minutes). Once cooked, peel the eggs and put them aside.
  2. Cut the belly pork into bite-size pieces of around 5 centimetres. Transfer them into a bowl, toss in pepper, fish sauce, salt and finely, minced shallots.
  3. Place the pot onto the hob and set it at medium heat. Toss in sugar and a dash of water. You’ll have to constantly stir the sugar here as it caramelises. Keep stirring until the sugar turns into a dark amber colour, at which point you should add the rest of the water to prevent it from burning.
  4. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, at which point add the marinated pork into the pot, along with the eggs, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes, or at least until the meat is tender and the water has reduced by two-thirds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve this on a bed of fluffy white rice. Remember to spoon in some of that delicious sauce. Bon appétit!
Bún Bò Nam Bộ (Southern beef noodle)

(20 minutes – 30 minutes)

Bun Bo by jpellgen (@1179_jp) on flickr

Now there’s a bit of history behind this mouth-watering noodle dish. It is believed to have originated during the Vietnam War, at a street-side eatery where the Communist North troops passed through on their way to South Vietnam, hence the name Nam Bo (Southern). Here you’ll also learn one of the mother sauces of Vietnamese cuisine, the nước chấm.

What you’ll need:

For the noodles:

  • Rice vermicelli noodles (I recommend getting them from Longdan)
  • 300 grams of rump steak (Or any cheap cut you can find, the marinade will make the meat tender anyway)
  • A head of sweetheart lettuce
  • 1 whole carrot
  • A bunch of coriander
  • A handful of toasted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic

For the nước chấm dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • Chopped bird eye chillies (If you’re up for it)

Steps:

  1. Slice your beef into small, thin strips. Marinate the beef in soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and pepper.
  2. Shred your veggies (lettuce, carrot, coriander) into strips. 
  3. Mix the fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, water, garlic and chillies to make the dressing, and set it aside.
  4. Put a pan on high heat and add some oil. Toss in the beef and stir fry for a few minutes until it’s cooked.
  5. In a big bowl, add in the veggies, then the noodles, and finally the beef on top. Sprinkle in some toasted peanuts and spoon in plenty of the dressing, mix it all up like a salad and enjoy.

These are a great first step into the wonderful and diverse world of Asian cuisine. Tune in next time for more recipes!

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