Unlike some of the more complex flavors I’ve cooked the last few weeks (Burma, Laos), Vietnam keeps it simple, most dishes bottling up the flavors of cilantro, ginger, lemon grass, garlic, limes, fish sauce, cinnamon and anise in various proportions to create a flavor completely unique. Influenced by China to the north and Thailand to the south, Vietnam combines the best of both worlds.
While much of these Southeast Asian countries can claim some European influence thanks to extensive colonization, it’s worth mentioning the heavy French influence on Vietnamese cuisine since their hold on the area remained until as recently as 1954. Signature Vietnamese dishes such as the bahn mi (pressed sandwich on baguette) and even pho (see below) showcase this influence, from the crusty baguette and hearty beef stock.
After I got bit by the “visit Asia” bug in Nepal, I really wanted to go biking in Vietnam. Tomato and Lettuce, however, were not convinced this was a good idea. Come on, guys…tell me this doesn’t look fun…(ignoring the fact that Tomato would undoubtedly fall in..)
Accidental tangent. The point of that was to say that I have not been to Vietnam, and my exposure thus far to Vietnamese cuisine has been limited to trips up to Argyle Street here in Chicago for bowls of steamy pho, or hoity-toiting it up at the French-Vietnamese bistro Le Colonial. Since the food has always had been a bit of a draw for me, I’m psyched to get cooking this week.
Here’s what we got: