Archive for the 'Vietnamese cuisine' Category

Travel with Mai Pham, (pronounced "My fahm") a chef, cookbook author and Vietnamese food authority, through the street-food stalls of Hanoi and the floating markets of the Mekong.

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Our culinary adventure in Vietnam ends in Ho Chi Minh City, still informally known as Saigon. Ingredients and cooks from all over the country converge on this hustling city, the country’s largest, and despite Saigon’s wealth of sophisticated restaurants, there may be no more enjoyable place to eat in town than at the Ben Thanh Market. At its no-fuss food counters, diners can feast on steamed rice rolls or bun cha, (Boon Cha) grilled pork with rice noodles.

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Fusion food is nothing new. On the streets of Vietnam, sidewalk vendors sell a popular sandwich that reflects the country’s history in every bite. Banh mi, (Bahn Mee) Vietnam’s version of a baguette sandwich, shows the obvious influence of both China and France, countries that had a long presence here. Stop at a street cart some afternoon and treat yourself to a traditional banh mi. Made on an airy baguette spread with mayonnaise—that’s the French legacy—the banh mi includes a variety of Vietnamese charcuterie, depending on the maker and the customer. Chinese-style roast pork is customary, but a French-style pâté scented with star anise may be an option, too. Secret sauces are often part of the ritual, with the Vietnamese contribution last: crunchy onions, sliced chilies, fresh herbs and pickled vegetables. Without them, it’s not banh mi.

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The slender, serpentine profile of Vietnam extends nearly 1,000 miles from north to south, but measures just thirty miles across at its narrowest. Bordered by China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west, this lengthy country can boast an astonishing range of landscapes and climates. In the chilly north, near the China border, tribal people inhabit spectacular mountains known as the Tonkinese Alps (TAWN-Kin-Ease). In the cool central highlands, coffee plantations thrive, while in the tropical south, banana trees lurk in the lush jungle valleys and miles of pristine beaches draw vacationers to the coast.

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It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Vietnam runs on rice. The humble grain is the country’s most important crop, and the major source of calories in the diet. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest rice exporter, after Thailand, a huge achievement for such a small country. Vast rice paddies blanket the nation, from the terraced highlands of the north to the fertile river valleys of the Mekong Delta. Rural people still work these verdant fields by hand, sowing, weeding and harvesting the grain according to nature’s schedule, in a cycle that defines their way of life.

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In the early morning hours, on side streets and street corners, Hanoi’s hard-working cooks begin setting up their pho stations. A soup, a meal, a national treasure—pho is a widespread addiction. Many Vietnamese start the day with a steaming bowl of this divine noodle soup. Often mispronounced, but immediately appreciated, pho is pronounced like “fur” with a soft “r.” Once the broth is prepared, it takes only seconds to assemble—and not much longer to eat. Truly, pho is a fast food that even a dietitian can love.

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From the vivid street markets of Vietnam, perfumed with tropical fruits…to sun-warmed Sicily and the coastal town of Trapani, where seafood couscous is the signature dish…the world of food takes us places beyond imagining. For a chef, every journey brings new tastes, new ingredients, new skills and inspiration. The more we see, the more we grow. Travel with Mai Pham, a chef, cookbook author and Vietnamese food authority, through the street-food stalls of Hanoi and the floating markets of the Mekong. Meet Ciccio Sultano, Sicily’s acclaim Michelin-starred chef and your guide to the finest Sicilian ingredients. Witness the preparation of an elaborate caponata, the Sicilian eggplant dish, at the hands of chef Carmelo Chiaramonte. Then see another expert’s approach at a farmhouse inn near Siracusa as one of the island’s best home cooks makes the dish her own way. Fasten your seat belt for a whirlwind tour of the world’s best tables. “Savoring the Best of World Flavors: Sicily and Vietnam” is the third edition of The Culinary Institute of America’s World Culinary Arts DVD Series: a first-of-its-kind DVD reference library documenting the “gold standards” of world cuisine. In this edition, we’ll explore the markets and hidden kitchens of Vietnam and Sicily, with local food authorities providing background and history, while leading chefs demonstrate key techniques in step-by-step detail.

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