From grilled-pork banh mi to chicken meatballs in lettuce wraps, here are some delicious Vietnamese recipes.
Food & Wine
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Spiced Beef Pho with Sesame-Chile Oil
The rice vermicelli soup pho is a staple all over Vietnam and this spicy beef version is the specialty of Hanoi. At home in Connecticut, Marcia Kiesel often eats it for breakfast, as the Vietnamese do. "It's a perfect meal and an invigorating way to start the day," she says. She's tried innumerable phos but considers the recipe from Binh Duong, her co-author on Simple Art of Vietnamese Cooking, to be the best. Inspired by the pho served at Ana Mandara and the Hideaway, she tweaks Duong's recipe by adding an escarole garnish.
In this version of a Vietnamese dish, individual piles of cucumber, fresh herbs, and grilled chicken are arranged on a platter of vermicelli and bean sprouts. Tangy nuoc cham sauce is poured over all. As each diner takes a portion, the components intermingle.
Luke Nguyen grew up in Australia and learned to cook at his Vietnamese parents' restaurant. He later opened his own restaurant, The Red Lantern, in Sydney. On his first visit to Saigon 11 years ago, he had this simple sandwich filled with peppery pork and hoisin sauce.
Bold flavors star in this Vietnamese salad—acidic lime juice, hot pepper, salty soy sauce, and cooling herbs. The combination of mint and cilantro is typical and refreshing, but you can use only one herb, or leave them both out completely if you prefer.
Chef-owner Andy Ricker, who takes annual trips to Southeast Asia, first tried fish sauce wings at a roadside stand in Saigon seven years ago. He scribbled down his guess at the ingredients on a paper napkin, which he carried with him until Pok Pok opened.
Lemongrass-Barbecued Pork with Rice-Vermicelli Salad
Mai My Lin, one of the chefs Marcia Kiesel met at the Nha Trang night market, prepares an aromatic and pungent marinade for grilled pork with two quintessential Vietnamese ingredients—lemongrass and fish sauce. The real surprise here is Mai's zesty Carrot and Daikon Pickles, which are amazing with the smoky grilled meat.
Silken tofu blended with lemongrass and lime juice is a terrific dairy-free stand-in for mayonnaise in this riff on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Adam Erace sometimes makes the sandwich with local scrapple (a hash of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and shaped into a log or loaf).
At school in Vietnam, Charles Phan and his classmates would buy these chewy rice-paper rolls, filled with crunchy jicama and sweet shrimp, from enterprising street vendors who set up their stalls in the playground at dismissal time. Phan loves the neatness of including the sauce in the roll rather than serving it alongside, but he often makes extra for those who insist on dipping.
Joyce's Vietnamese Chicken Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps
Small Bites by Jennifer Joyce takes the popular restaurant trend of small plates and turns it into a fresh style of entertaining. Joyce's party recipes are clever but extremely doable: She gives chicken meatballs a heavenly sticky glaze, for instance, by rolling them in sugar before baking.
Banh cuon ("rolling cake") are tender rice-flour crêpes filled with a luscious mix of pork and mushrooms and topped with fried shallots. Marcia Kiesel steams the stuffed crêpes in big batches on a baking sheet in the oven to get them on the table more quickly.
Crispy Vietnamese Crêpes with Shrimp, Pork and Bean Sprouts
When Charles Phan, the chef and owner of San Francisco's Slanted Door, samples banh xeo (a.k.a. "happy pancakes") at other Vietnamese restaurants, he often finds that they aren't crisp enough. Phan thinks the perfect crêpe should be lacy thin and crackly crisp. After years of obsessive experimentation, he recommends refrigerating the batter overnight, so the starches have time to relax, then cooking the crêpes in a nonstick pan.
Every morning in Nha Trang, Marcia Kiesel topped yogurt with these bananas steeped in warm, bittersweet coffee syrup; they're also delicious over vanilla ice cream for dessert. Make sure the bananas you choose for this recipe are ripe but still firm, so they don't get mushy.