Phil's International Flair

Spring is rapidly approaching. Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair! This month's theme is a visit to the cuisine of Vietnam. I have to admit that I have developed a taste for Vietnamese food throughout recent years. This month, I present a few of my favorites that exemplify the basic style of Vietnamese cooking.

Rice noodles are used extensively in Vietnamese cuisine. These noodles are inexpensive and easy to prepare. They can be boiled for a few moments, or soaked in hot tap water for about 20 minutes before serving. Rice noodles can be found in your local Oriental market or in the International section of most major supermarkets. Rice noodles can be found in a variety of shapes, similar to egg noodles. The recipes in this month's column will use the vermicelli type noodles, however you can substitute any other shape of noodle in the soup recipes.

The recipes presented this month are from my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook. Feel free to email me at with your comments and requests. Be well, and good eating!

Now, on to the recipes!

A Taste of Vietnam

Rice Noodle Seafood Soup

This soup is versatile, quick to prepare, nutritious and tasty. You can serve this as a low-cal meal in itself, or as an introduction to a more elegant meal. Any of the main ingredients can be modified. For example, if scallops aren't available, use some crab meat or imitation crab. If some vegetable ingredients aren't available, substitute something else, or leave it out.
  • 1 pkg. vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 can chicken broth plus 1 can water
  • 4 large raw prawns, shelled and sliced into chunks
  • 4 large scallops, quartered (or 4 oz. small bay scallops)
  • 1 small can peeled straw mushrooms
  • 1 can baby corn (whole baby corn on the cob, not kernels)
  • 1 head baby bok choy, chopped
  • 3 spears asparagus, sliced
  • 1/4 lb. bean sprouts
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Soak the rice noodles in hot tap water for about 20 minutes. In a medium sized pot, heat the chicken broth and water. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the prawns and scallops and reduce the heat to a simmer. When the shrimp turn pink, add the mushrooms, corn, bok choy and asparagus. In serving bowls, place bean sprouts and then cover with the rice noodles. Add the green onions and cilantro as a garnish in the soup, and serve in the bowls with the sprouts and rice noodles.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Spring Rolls

These are wonderful as appetizers or as an introduction to a very good meal. If fresh bean sprouts are not available, use fresh lettuce sliced into shreds about 1/8 inch thick. These can be dipped in peanut sauce or eaten as is.

The rice paper is found in the same place you would find rice noodles. The rice paper is really the same as rice noodle, only formed into a sheet, usually circular.

Enjoy!

  • 8 sheets rice paper
  • 8 large steamed prawns, sliced lengthwise
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup cilantro sprigs
  • Mint leaves
  • Shredded carrot (optional)
  • Rice noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
  • ¼ cup fish sauce

To make spring rolls, first prepare the rice paper as follows: Dip one sheet of rice paper into a pot of hot water until it is pliable and soft. Lay the rice paper sheet on a flat surface, like a cutting board, and spread the rice noodles in a line across the sheet. Put the sliced shrimp, sprouts, cilantro, mint and shredded carrots on top of the noodles. Fold the end of the sheet over the top of the fillings and roll into a cylindrical shape. Fold the ends shut and place on a platter for serving. Repeat the process until all of the ingredients are used. Serve with peanut sauce or plum sauce.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Grilled Pork with Rice Noodles and Vegetables

This recipe is truly simple and extraordinary. I think of this dish as an oriental burrito. It is simple to prepare and delicious at the table. I hope you enjoy this one.
  • 2 tsp. garlic
  • 1 tsp. ginger, sliced
  • 4 tsp. lemon grass, chopped
  • ½ lb. pork, sliced thin, marinated
  • Crushed roasted peanuts
  • 1 head green or red leaf lettuce split into single leaves
  • Rice noodles, soaked in hot water for about 20 minutes
  • 1 sliced or shredded carrot
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • Bean sprouts
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • 1 sliced cucumber
  • 1 large white radish, shredded (optional)
  • Fish sauce for garnish

The garlic, ginger and lemon grass can be put through a blender or food processor with a little water to make the marinade. Marinate the sliced pork in the garlic, ginger and lemon grass for about 1 hour before grilling. Grill the pork to taste and arrange on a platter. Top with crushed peanuts. Arrange lettuce leaves and other vegetables on the serving platter and serve at the table.

Each person then takes a leaf of lettuce and fills it with noodles, vegetables and meat, and then tops it with a little fish sauce. Roll the lettuce leaf like a burrito and dig in! This is definitely finger food, and tasty to boot.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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