Luke Nguyen inspired Split King Prawns

A few years ago I was gifted Luke Nguyen’s France cookbook which has some great cross-cultural French and Vietnamese recipes in it.

My version of this recipe is easy and great for entertaining if you do the prep beforehand as it just requires quick shallow frying at the end,

Splitting and flattening the king prawns before marinating them allows the flavours of the marinade to be absorbed by the prawns.

The addition of fish sauce to the marinade brings out the “prawnness” in the prawns when they are cooked, and using butter as well as oil to fry them in makes them super tasty.

In my simpler version, I don’t have some of the “fancier” ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves and perilla leaves which are a bit harder to get hold of. I substitute parsley or coriander to garnish, and add lime juice at the end. I also don’t bother to make the suggested vietnamese dipping sauce which is made from more fish sauce and lime juice as the juices from the pan are great with the extra lime juice added at the end.

Hope you like it!

Prep time including marination: 50-60 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutes
Ingredients:

1 kg green/raw king prawns
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 lemongrass white part only finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2-3 red chillies chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
Parsley or coriander to garnish

Method:

1. Remove heads and veins from prawns but leave shells on. Split prawns down their backs using a sharp knife but make sure you don’t cut all the way through. You want to butterfly them so they can be flattened in their shells.

2. Put prawns flat with shell side up in a dish or tray and place baking paper over them and weigh them down to flatten. Leave in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile make the marinade by crushing the lemongrass, garlic and chilli to a paste in a mortar and pestle or blender.

4. Combine paste with fish sauce and then coat both sides of the prawns in the mixture and leave to marinate for 20-30 minutes. (The prawns might close up a bit again when you do this.)

5. Heat oil and butter in a non-stick pan and add prawns cut side down first to cook over high heat, for 1-2 minutes pressing them down with a spoon or spatula to flatten them. Turn over and “scorch” the shells.

6. Squeeze over lime juice, transfer to serving dish with pan juices, sprinkle with garnish and serve with a salad and bread to mop up the delicious juices.

Vying for the best: Ms Vy’s #Cooking Class, #Hoian

I’ve been meaning to write about our fabulous market tour and cooking class that we did on our visit to Hoi An late last year.

There are a wide number of cooking classes and tours offered in Hoi An and we chose Ms Vy’s for it’s reputation and ease of access…it was walking distance from our hotel, the Anantara Resort. We chose the half day Holiday Masterclass which includes a market tour as well as tastings and demonstrations in Ms Vy’s market restaurant before the class.

Ms Vy is also the founder of the well known Morning Glory restaurants in Hoi An and has written the highly successful Taste Vietnam cookbook, as well as opening the Home of Hoi An restaurant in Melbourne, Australia.

We met up with the group of about 20 tourists at the restaurant to then board a boat for a trip down the river to the Hoi An market. We were split into 2 smaller groups for the market tour.

Here we were shown and explained the different seafood, vegetables, herbs, meat, poultry and even cooking utensils on sale. Whilst we had actually walked through the market earlier on our way to the restaurant, having a knowledgeable guide to introduce us to stall holders and their produce was great. We even got to taste the different herbs on sale and visit the butchery section which is a far cry from what we are used to in Australia! (mind you, it was all super clean and super fresh)It was great for photos and videos took s we were with the guide at stalls that had been pre-arranged to visit rather than feeling self-conscious about taking photos without permission.

We then returned to the restaurant where we cooled down with an icy cold drink, before being given a tour around the market restaurant “stalls” which showcase how different noodles are made, unusual ingredients such as tripe, pigs brain, snails, silkworms and frogs are used in Vietnamese cooking. We had the chance to sample these delicacies if we wanted and also to get hands-on having a go at making noodles. This was a fun and different aspect of the cooking class not offered by others.

After this we were taken upstairs to a very well set up cooking school, where we were given our own cooking stoves, equipment and ingredients to learn how to make cabbage and shrimp roll soup, ban Xeo pancakes, green mango salad and green mango salad.

The large mirror over the main stove at the front of the class meant we could all follow the demonstration by the Chef teacher, and her clear instructions and her jokes made the class lots of fun.

Our favourite was learning how to make the delicious Ban Xeo pancakes, including the tip to just buy the packet mix at home from Asian grocery shops to meal it really easy to make at home.

The experienced chef teaching us was excellent and of course we got to enjoy our efforts by eating it all.

We were given the recipes and a special Vietnamese chopping utensil as a special gift.

The entire experience went for about 5 hours from 8.30-1.30pm and was very well run. Great way to learn a bit more about Vietnamese cuisine, as well as a great market tour.

Here’s a link to their website:

https://tastevietnam.asia/vietnamese-cooking-classes-hoi-an

Hoi An’s Miss Lien Thao tops street food stakes

We found numerous recommendations for Miss Lien Thao’s street food stall on Trip Advisor and online so headed out from Hoi An’s bustling old quarter, across the Japanese Covered Bridge to find out for ourselves.

The area across the bridge is known as An Hoi island and is where the night markets full more stalls selling cheap souvenirs, touristy bars and restaurants are located. We walked along the Hoai riverside which is all lit up with lanterns and light installations, away from the hustle and bustle to find a quieter row of street food stalls tucked at the end of the point.

Here locals and streetwise tourists were tucking in to delicious local food at local prices. Miss Lien Thao herself welcomed us warmly and we were immediately seated at the end of a long communal eating table, sharing with another Australian family who were already tucking in to delicious looking dishes.

The menu is enticing and we wanted to try local specialities…so ordered white rose dumplings, fried “open wontons”, beef noodles, stir fried chicken and sweet battered pork. Everything was absolutely delicious. Definitely a place to go back to.Our Australian neighbours said the whole fish was very good too.

The chilli jam which is made by Thao is also highly recommended and adds a sweet hot kick to the dishes.

It was a fun night watching the family helping out at the stall and the children running around having fun, and entertaining the guests.

All up with beers the meal was excellent value for money and a great experience.

Here’s a link to the Trip Advisor reviews for address and details:

https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Restaurant_Review-g298082-d4547223-Reviews-Lien_Thao-Hoi_An_Quang_Nam_Province.html

Flavours of Hoi An at Home

After enjoying our dining experience at Home Finest in Saigon so much recently, we couldn’t resist dining at their sister restaurant Home Hoi An.

Much more casual but still upmarket, the great news is that the menu, whilst including some of the nationwide favourites like Pho, includes Hoi An specialities with a focus on fresh seafood including crab, squid and prawns.

We started with deep fried seafood spring rolls. We were expecting standard rice paper rolls but were surprised instead by a delicious concoction of seafood encased in crumbs and deep fried to perfection, served with a delectable dipping sauce. The presentation in miniature hanging baskets was also superb.

For mains we opted for the grilled beef in piper lalot…thinly sliced beef grilled to perfection and wrapped in betel leaves with a topping of fried shallots, a Vietnamese speciality which we had not yet tried. We also had pork spareribs in black peppercorn claypot. We enjoyed both dishes but once again wished there were more of us to try some of the other specialty dishes from Hoi An that are featured on the menu.

Once again no room for dessert unfortunately but you can be assured there are tempting items such as homemade tropical fruit ice-cream and roasted pineapple!

As with Home Finest, here in Hanoi Bao and his team deliver the goods with warm and attentive service and fabulous food.

Situated in the middle of the night time action on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Home Hoi An is a great place to stop for dinner as you explore the vibrantly lit streets that are night time Hoi An.

Easy to book on line and make sure you do as it is rightly busy and popular.

https://www.homehoianrestaurant.com

Brash and buzzy: Vietnam House, Saigon

Australian Luke Nyugen’s Vietnam House restaurant in the very centre of busy Ho Chi Minh City is an assault on the senses with bold Art Deco interior design featuring vivid colours and a buzzy atmosphere. It feels exactly right where it is located in the heart of the CBD surrounded by the glitz of the high end designer shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci and 5 star hotels.

The menu features Nyugen’s unique take on Vietnamese food that reflects the influences of growing up in Australia and his time spent in France through the use of imported herbs and ingredients, such as Wagyu beef, dill and salmon.

We began with the much talked about soft spring rolls with sesame seared salmon and salmon caviar. The addition of the salmon caviar added delicious bursts of flavour to this entree and the flavour of the salmon went really well with the dill in the rolls.

For mains we tried the much talked aboutBraised Wagyu Beef cheek in coconut juice, Phu Quoc green pepper, carrot, shallot served with Vietnamese baguette, and Grilled 5 spices free range chicken, fresh herbs, baby leek & thien ly flower.

The baguette served with the Wagyu beef was perfect to mop up the delicious and almost delicate sauce with the beef. I thought the beef needed to be cooked slightly longer because it wasn’t as tender as I would have expected and was still slightly chewy. The taste of the dish was very good and the carrots and potatoes stewed alongside the beef carried beautiful flavours. A side dish of vietnamese mint, lime and chillies gives diners the opportunity to add flavour to their taste.

The free range grilled chicken was absolute perfection though, perfectly spiced and juicy with flavour. The thien ly fowers with baby leek were an ideal combination – these edible flowers are sweet and taste like crunchy peas and are traditionally served lightly stir-fried in Vietnam.

Unfortunately we had no room to try dessert as much as I would have loved to try the Pandan Creme Brûlée or the Vietnamese Coffee Flan.

Overall it was a lovely dinner with a few rough edges including rather run of the mill service. A proper welcome to the restaurant and an explanation of the food concept would help new visitors or those unaccustomed to Nyugen’s style to better appreciate the menu.

I would still rate the experience highly as 4/5 and would go back to try those desserts next time I’m in town.

Home Finest, Saigon – a fine find indeed!

Managed to get a last minute booking into this highly recommended restaurant on TripAdvisor. It’s currently No 1 for Vietnamese food in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon and we can certainly attest to it’s well deserved reputation.

Set in a stunning modernist French Villa and with classic interior design of dark wood/black furniture, white walls, glass and plants everywhere, the restaurant draws you in from the moment you arrive.

Service is warm and welcoming. Anna who looked after us was very knowledgeable about the wine list and menu. She also told us a little about the villa and the local neighbourhood which was very interesting.

The food though is definitely a stand-out. We started with a deliciously hot-sour seafood soup, which was tart and tangy but mellower than a Thai Tom Yum, served elegantly in a coconut. We accompanied this with crispy pork and prawn wontons, served with a divine dipping sauce.

For mains we settled on stir fried duck with local basil and grilled eggplant with spring onion salsa with some plain rice. Both dishes were delicious with perfectly balanced flavours and complemented each other well. The crunchy peannuts in the eggplant dish really worked well with the silky texture of the steamed eggplant. (Anna made sure she checked with us at the start if we had any allergies. There is also an excellent vegetarian selection on the menu.)

We finished the meal by sharing the grilled banana rolls with sticky rice and delicious. Coconut cream sauce.

Going with a group to be able to sample more of the delectable menu is highly recommended …or just keep going back!!

Thanks again Anna and the team for a truly delicious dinner. We are looking forward to trying out Home Finest’s new restaurants in Hoi An and Hanoi as we continue our Vietnamese eating adventure.

Check out all details here: http://www.homefinestrestaurant.com