The feast begins

Vietnamese Feast Menu – Chef Paul ‘Uncle Ho’ Cullen

DATE: Saturday 14 December 2013

VENUE: Seymour Mansions

Attending Aunties: Paul and Dorcas, Julie and Paul, Irene and Kevin, Maureen and Peter, Chris, Andrew, John, Christine, Di and Sam

Paul rolling salmon and veg 'nem'

Paul rolling salmon and veg ‘nem’

Auntie Chris peeling ginger and galangal

Auntie Chris peeling ginger and galangal


NEM THIT LUON— fried rice paper rolls with minced pork, wood ear mushroom and bean thread

NEM — cold, hand rolled with smoked salmon and herbs

NUOC MAM CHAM — simple dipping sauce for nem, made with rice vinegar, fish sauce and lime juice

CHA CA — ling fillet marinated with galingale and turmeric, then fried with fresh dill and spring onions

PHO CA — Vietnamese noodle soup made with fish broth and fresh salmon fillet

BUN CHA — grilled marinated pork, rice noodles, fresh herbs and pork broth

TOFU in TOMATO SAUCE — marinated with garlic and galingale, then cooked with fresh tomatoes

EGGPLANT — salad with daikon, carrot, bean sprouts and crisp fried shallots, rice wine dressing

CHE HANOI — tapioca pearls, black grass jelly, fresh fruit and sweetened coconut cream

Maureen and Chris roll some 'nem'

Maureen and Chris roll some ‘nem’


Mes amis,

Yes, we are back from our month away in Vietnam and full of enthusiasm for the cuisine.  We had wonderful experiences of the food, the language and most of all the Vietnamese people.  It’s a brilliant country full of young folk with tremendous brio and enthusiasm.  I learned a lot in a short time, eating everything from fertilised duck eggs to writhing silk larvae, but I won’t burden you with those, even in jest.  I will try to pass on some of the lovely tastes of the more approachable foods we learned there and particularly the techniques native to Vietnamese cooking.

I think that the best of a day spent on this is a worthwhile exercise, but you’ll decide yourself whether a visit to two markets (Salamanca Market and a side trip to Wing On in Sandy Bay) in the morning suits your schedule.  Either yes or no, then please join me for a long afternoon of gentle food prep at Seymour Mansions from about 1:00pm and an enjoyable social feast from 6:00pm.  What time you lob into this program depends on your level of interest in Vietnamese cuisine and your capacity to absorb alcohol and still wield a sharp knife.

Here are some things we learned to like and cook:

NEM – of several varieties, these are Vietnamese ‘spring rolls’ of two main tribes:  there are the tasty fried nem cua and nem thit luon and then the gossamer-soft cold nem rolls with fresh herbs, prawns, tofu and veg.

CHA CA – indigenous Hanoi dish of fried fish with turmeric and dill.  Not one you’ll see in the Women’s Weekly cookbooks.  I learned this one in a bar.

BAN CUON – I’m not sure I can reproduce this feather-light steamed rice batter roll with dried shrimp, mushrooms and pork, but I’ll have a go.  How it’s made is fascinating.

BUN CHA – what the frankfurter is to New York, bun cha is to Hanoi.  Grilled pork, good broth, rice vermicelli and herbs.

PHO BO – don’t try this at home.  Long cooked beef broth with tendon and star anise, served with fresh herbs and noodle.  OK, do try this at home.

TOFU in TOMATO SAUCE – well, just what it says it is, but in Vietnamese style.

More than this, there are the several good salads and vegetable dishes we learned to eat and the Vietnamese dipping sauces that make the most of a cuisine largely eaten with the fingers.  I’ve even brought home a bottle of the fabled first-pressing Phu Cuoc fish sauce (this is to fish sauce as Dom Perignon is to cask Moselle) to impress your taste buds.

CHE HANOI – this is kind of like strolling up Lygon Street and choosing an ice cream to finish the night off.  Many flavours, many ingredients.  Sweet.  Cold.  Nice.

Chef Paul leads the 'aunties' in preparing the Vietnamese feast

Chef Paul leads the ‘aunties’ in preparing the Vietnamese feast

What to Bring?

  • an apron
  • your favourite sharp knife (sharpening available on site)
  • a cutting board just for you
  • a mortar and pestle, if you have one
  • * a couple of torchons or tea towels
  • $10 a head to tip in the market purse

Let me know if you’re into the market tour (around 10:00 am), otherwise I’ll see you at Seymour Mansions (thanks, Andrew!) around 1:00pm.

ANH DI,  DURNG NGAI.  (Don’t Worry, Just Eat).

Xin Chao,

Paul & Dorcas

Salmon and veg 'nem'

Salmon and veg ‘nem’

Auntie John and the brilliant vegie grater

Auntie John and the brilliant vegie grater

Auntie Paul pounding curry paste

Auntie Paul pounding curry paste

Auntie Christine chopping shallots

Auntie Christine chopping shallots

Deep-frying tofu

Deep-frying tofu

Paul giving Andrew's little kitchen a thorough workout

Paul giving Andrew’s little kitchen a thorough workout

Aunties hard at work, slicing and dicing for our Vietnamese feast

Aunties hard at work, slicing and dicing for our Vietnamese feast

Sliced and diced

Sliced and diced