When Charles Phan opened his now-legendary restaurant, The Slanted Door, in 1995, he introduced American diners to a new world of Vietnamese food: robustly flavored, subtly nuanced, authentic yet influenced by local ingredients, and, ultimately, entirely approachable. In this same spirit of tradition and innovation, Phan presents a landmark collection based on the premise that with an understanding of its central techniques and fundamental ingredients, Vietnamese home cooking can be as attainable and understandable as American, French, or Italian.
With solid instruction and encouraging guidance, perfectly crispy imperial rolls, tender steamed dumplings, delicately flavored whole fish, and meaty lemongrass beef stew are all deliciously close at hand. Abundant photography detailing techniques and equipment, and vibrant shots taken on location in Vietnam, make for equal parts elucidation and inspiration. And with master recipes for stocks and sauces, a photographic guide to ingredients, and tips on choosing a wok and seasoning a clay pot, this definitive reference will finally secure Vietnamese food in the home cook’s repertoire.
Infused with the author’s stories and experiences, from his early days as a refugee to his current culinary success, Vietnamese Home Cooking is a personal and accessible guide to real Vietnamese cuisine from one of its leading voices.
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About the Author
Charles Phan is the executive chef and owner of The Slanted Door family of restaurants, and the author of IACP award-winning book, Vietnamese Home Cooking. He received the James Beard Award for Best Chef California in 2004, and in 2011, was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food in America. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and their three children.
Read an Excerpt
When I was a kid, a cook would set up a green canvas army tent behind my family’s general store in Ðà Lat. He made only one dish: crispy egg noodles with seafood. I would go there frequently after school (we lived over the store) while I was waiting for my parents to finish work. I’d sit on a low stool waiting for my order, listening to the sizzle of liquid hitting the hot wok and the monsoon rains battering the tent, the air thick with the smell of browning noodles. It’s one of my first food memories.
Vietnam is full of snackers who are never far from a quick bite. Because the country is lacking in entry-level jobs, and because there is a huge market for food cooked outside the home (most home kitchens are poorly equipped or very cramped), people start their own ad hoc businesses, including food stalls. The entrepreneurial spirit drives cooks to the streets, where they master the art of making a single dish: sticky rice, banana fritters, green papaya salad. The cooks employ every technique—deep-frying in jury-rigged pots set over open fires, stir-frying in big woks over high flames, steaming in giant lidded bamboo baskets balanced atop rickety propane burners—to make snacks that are served and eaten on the spot. Even talented home cooks don’t make these dishes at home. Yes, space is at a premium, but an attitude persists too: why try to make something at home that you can so easily and cheaply purchase from someone who has perfected the recipe? Since we don’t have the luxury of a steamed-bun vendor or stand on every corner here in the United States, making these snacks at home is the only option.
Unlike the subsequent chapters in this book, which explain a single technique, the unifying element of the recipes in this chapter is that they’re some of the most popular foods that you’ll find sold from stalls in cities and small towns throughout Vietnam.
Street food offers a direct connection between the cook and the eater. Part of what makes the food so appealing is that it’s superfresh. You’re literally watching the dishes being made, start to finish, in front of your eyes. It is Vietnam’s answer to fast food, only it is far more interesting, varied, and well prepared.
Unlike a full-service restaurant, street vendors usually make only one or two items. That means they’ve spent their entire careers perfecting their recipe, customizing their equipment, sourcing the best ingredients. After trying an excellent bite from a vendor, I’ve often asked for the recipe. Not a single cook has ever given me one. The recipe, and the practiced technique, is as much a commodity as the food they’re selling you.
The three common denominators that help identify the best vendors: they’re usually stationary, serve a single dish or one ingredient prepared in a few different ways, and they’re always crowded.
In Vietnam, the foods you buy from street vendors aren’t categorized as hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, or main courses, though some items are traditionally served at certain times of the day. Rice porridge (page 20) and soup are found in the morning and are rarely eaten after lunch. Sweets stalls might open for only a few hours each evening. A soup vendor might pop up for a few hours during the morning commute, then pack up until the next day.
We serve many of the recipes in this chapter at The Slanted Door, where they’re some of the most popular items on the menu. Those favored Vietnamese street foods inspired the first dishes we served when we opened in 1995, and they have remained on the menu ever since. Some, like the fresh spring rolls (page 44), are easy. Others, like the filled rice-paper packets called (page 62), require some practice to perfect. As the Vietnamese vendors know well, mastery comes only from repetition. I think you’ll find the flavors so compelling that the labor will be worth it. Once you get the hang of a few of these recipes, you’ll probably find yourself making them a lot. Without the chaos, the heat, and the noise, it’ll never be exactly like eating on the streets of Vietnam, but the food will still be delicious.
These quick pickles are the perfect foil for rich foods. They are often served alongside fried things and are always piled on top of meat-filled bánh mì sandwiches. If you like, use julienned daikon (see page 204) in addition to carrots.
• ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
• ¼ cup sugar
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ cup peeled and finely julienned carrots
Makes ½ cup
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Add the carrots and let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving. If not using right away, cover and refrigerate for up to a week. Drain the carrots well before before using.
Table of ContentsPreface
Pho Gá: Chicken Noodle Soup
Pho Bò: Beef Noodle Soup
Wonton Noodle Soup
Bún Bò Hue
Bánh Canh: Pig’s Knuckle Soup
Cháo: Chicken Rice Porridge
Simple Fish Soup
Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup
Crab and Corn Soup
Green Papaya Salad with Rau Ram, Peanuts, and Crispy Shallots
Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls
Halibut Vermicelli with Dill and Pineapple-Anchovy Sauce
Bánh Xèo: Crepe with Pork and Shrimp
Bánh Bèo: Steamed Rice Cakes with Mung Beans and Shrimp
Bánh Cuón: Rice Crepes with Pork and Mushrooms
Daikon Rice Cake with Spicy Soy
Black Bean–Glazed Pork Spareribs
Bánh Nam: Banana Leaf–Wrapped Rice Dumplings
Black Cod with Lily Buds and Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Chicken Steamed Buns
Vegetarian Steamed Buns
Pork Steamed Buns
Ground Pork with Salted Fish
Hue Rice Dumplings
Lotus Leaf–Wrapped Sticky Rice
Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger, Scallions, and Soy
Chicken with Lily Buds and Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Duck Legs with Bamboo, Virginia Ham, and Shiitake Mushrooms
Soy-Braised Pork Belly with Ginger and Star Anise
Catfish Clay Pot
Pork Clay Pot with Young Coconut Juice
Lo Soi Braised Pork
Lemongrass Beef Stew
Caramelized Lemongrass Shrimp
Braised Branzino with Tomatoes and Pickled Mustard Greens
Yuba Dumplings with Miso Broth
Broccoli with Beech Mushrooms and Roasted Chile Paste
Bok Choy with Baby Shiitake Mushrooms
Spinach with Caramelized Shallots
Gulf Shrimp and Sing Qua Stir-Fry
Squid with Tomato and Pickled Mustard Greens
Black Bass with Yellow Chives and Bean Sprouts
Scrambled Eggs and Pork
Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste
Bo Luc Lac: Shaking Beef
Beef Bavette with Tomatoes and Thick-Cut Potatoes
Wok-Fried Noodles with Beef and Bok Choy
Crispy Egg Noodles with Seafood
Mix-and-Match Wok-Fried Noodles
Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade
Pork-Stuffed Squid with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Clams with Crispy Pork Belly and Thai Basil
Grilled Whole Fish
Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
Grilled Five-Spice Chicken with Tamarind Sauce
Spicy Mango Salad
Rice Clay Pot with Chicken and Chinese Sausage
Roasted Eggplant and Leek Salad
Vermicelli (Bun) Bowls
Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro, Scallions, and Lime
Simple Grilled Shrimp
Sweet Potato and Shrimp Fritters
Squid with Pineapple and Toasted Garlic
Fragrant Crispy Duck with Watercress
Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
Lacquered Quail with Sichuan Cucumber Pickles
Hoi An Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Sweet and Sour Fish
Turmeric-and-Beer-Battered Soft-Shell Crab
What People are Saying About This
Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking captures the very heart of Vietnamese food: fresh, pure, full of life, and vibrant with flavor. His beautiful pictures, stories, and recipes make it completely irresistible.
—Alice Waters, chef, author, and proprietor of Chez Panisse
The great appeal of Charles Phan’s cooking at The Slanted Door has always been its vivid purity of flavor. It isn’t necessarily simple food, but there’s not a soupçon of trickery or gratuitous filigree involved. In his long-awaited, warmly written first cookbook, Phan reveals the secrets of his approach to the great and varied food of his native Vietnam.
—Colman Andrews, editorial director of TheDailyMeal.com
A truly magical and illuminating journey into the cooking of Vietnam, with recipes so thoroughly brilliant they will not only allow you to better understand the cuisine of that country, but they will also make you a better cook, Asian or otherwise.
—James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur, author of Cradle of Flavor
Like the best cooking is, Charles Phan’s food is deceivingly complex. With this book, Charles shows you how to unravel that code and make delicious Vietnamese food at home.
—David Chang, chef/owner of Momofuku