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Culture Features

12 Vietnamese Dishes That Everyone Should Try In Their Lifetime

You may remember Connie Bang-Co Aboubakare, also known as @occomestibles, the influencer who took us on a trip to Southern California’s Little Saigon and all the amazing Vietnamese restaurant foods highlighted during the tour of her Chomping Grounds.

Connie was a recent guest on the Foodbeast Katchup podcast and spoke about her origins as an influencer and how she had to learn to cook Vietnamese food once she got married. What set her apart from many food bloggers is that she photographs the Vietnamese meals she would make for her husband and sons and fills her feed with them.

Vietnamese food has always been a beloved cuisine here at the Foodbeast office and while many of us have tried it, there are always those few dishes that not too many know about, but wish they had sooner. Towards the end of the episode, host Geoffrey Kutnick asks Connie what were some essential dishes she could not live without, to which she replied with quite a few Vietnamese options.

Looking at all the different dishes in her feed really inspired us to dive into Vietnam’s rich cuisine.

Thanks to her Katchup visit, we’ve compiled a comprehensive Foodbeast list of all the amazing Vietnamese dishes everyone should try at least once in their life.


Cá Kho Tộ (Braised Claypot Fish)

 

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One of the first dishes Connie mentions, that she can’t live without, is a braised claypot fish dish called Cá Kho Tộ. Catfish is cooked in a braising liquid of sugar and fish sauce within a clay pot in a process referred to as “kho.” Because the dish is so rich in flavor, it’s typically served with plain white rice and vegetables. It’s one of the more common dishes she would make for her family, and looking back, my mom would make this about once a week as well.

Bánh Xèo (Savory Crepes)

 

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A while back, Connie also hosted a Foodbeast Kitchen live stream that highlighted her love of Bánh Xèo, another item she mentions in the podcast. Essentially, Bánh Xèo are thin Vietnamese crepes that are cooked with flour and turmeric powder and filled with fresh meats such as shrimp, chicken, or pork, as well as fresh vegetables. You can eat them directly with fish sauce, or rip them up and roll them into a spring roll.

Cơm Tấm (Broken Rice)

An inexpensive comfort dish, Cơm Tấm translates to “broken rice.” What originated as a street food item, you would typically find grilled meats on top of broken white rice, a steamed egg cake, julienne pork, and pickled greens.

Bánh Bột Chiên (Fried Flour Cake)

A hearty breakfast dish, Bánh Bột Chiên translates to fried flour cakes. Cooked with fried eggs and green onions, the dish is popular in both Vietnam and China. The flour is cut into thick rectagular strips, and served with a tangy soy sauce that the cakes can be dipped into. There is also a turnip cake and radish cake variation that can be cooked in the same way.

Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm (Fish Sauce Fried Chicken Wings)

One of my personal favorite Vietnamese dishes, Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm is mores an appetizer than a meal — unless you’re me and double up on orders. Not too different from how Cá Kho is made, the chicken wings are fried and coated in a glaze made from sugar and fish sauce. Sometimes, fried garlic is also added to the mix.

What I love most about fish sauce chicken wings are that every restaurant has their own take on them, and you can easily get yourself a few wings for relatively cheap.

Bánh Bột Lọc (Savory Tapioca Dumplings)

 

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Made with tapioca flour, the dumplings are stuffed with shrimp and pork, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed. Once cooked, Bánh Bột Lọc is served with a sweet and spicy fish sauce and fried shallots. From Central Vietnam, the dish is eaten as an appetizer to a full meal. Foodbeast producer Theresa Tran mentions this as one of her favorite Vietnamese dishes, although it will take about 15 of them to fill her up.

Bún Riêu (Pork and Crab Soup)

 

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One of the more popularized Vietnamese dishes, Bún Riêu is a soup made with pork, crab, shrimp paste, dried shrimp, egg, rice vermicelli and lots of tomatoes. This leads to a super robust and umami flavor compared to the more classic Pho dish. After pho, this is one of the more popular Vietnamese soup dishes around.

Bánh Khọt (Savory Pancake Bites)

 

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Bánh Khọt, mini savory pancakes, feature pretty much the same exact ingredients as the more popular Banh Xeo, but comes in a sort of cupcake form. Because of this cooking method, the texture comes out much more different giving it a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. Unlike Banh Xeo, the proteins of Bánh Khọt are cooked on top of the dish rather than inside. Not unlike a gourmet cupcake.

Gỏi Cuốn (Spring Rolls)

 

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One of the lighter Vietnamese dishes, spring rolls are served cold with fresh greens, prawns, pork, and rolled together with rice paper. Gỏi Cuốn can typically be enjoyed with a peanut flavored dipping sauce, or a simple fish sauce that’s mixed together with chilis. Easy to eat either as a snack or even for a long road trip in the car. Just make sure not to spill any fish sauce.

Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)

 

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Tart and savory, this Vietnamese dish is typically served with rice. Made with a catfish base as well as tomatoes, pineapple, okra, beansprouts, and Vietnamese herbs. This is one of the dishes you wouldn’t typically find at a Vietnamese restaurant, but rather from the kitchen of a Vietnamese household. During the podcast Connie also mentions that this is one of her essential dishes that she likes to make at home.

Ốc Len Xào Dừa (Stir Fried Snails w/ Coconut Milk)

 

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A common street food in Vietnam, Ốc Len Xào Dừa roughly translates to stir fried snails in coconut milk. While the dish itself sounds pretty intimidating, the flavors that go into this dish make it a top contender for Foodbeast producer Theresa Tran. Made with coconut milk, lemongrass, Vietnamese coriander, chilies, and sea snails, you would find the Ốc Len Xào Dừa at street food carts throughout many Vietnamese cities.

“You can give me a cup of that broth and I’d drink it,” Tran says. “Also trying to get the snails out is pretty fun too.”

Phở (Rice Noodle Soup)

 

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One of the most iconic Vietnamese dishes, you can’t go wrong with phở. An elegant broth made from either chicken or beef, phở utilizes the flavors of charred ginger, onions, and other vegetables over a long period of time. Sure it’s on everyone’s list, but phở is so prolific to Vietnamese culture that you kind of just have to add it to the fold. Both Connie and myself enjoy beef pho, with strips of brisket that you can dip into a mixture of sriracha and hoisin sauce.

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Culture Opinion The Katchup

Whistle Blowing Cultural Appropriation In Food Today Lacks Context And Nuance

I love cooking food from other cuisines. It’s one of my life passions to spend years learning the nuances, history, and traditions behind a cuisine, and then attempting to replicate it on my own. I never call what I make “authentic,” but it gives me a hint of what’s out there in the world of food that I have yet to try.

With this mentality in mind, the uptick in news about culturally appropriating restaurants has made me question my hobby a bit. Is it right for me to cook dishes of other cuisines when I’m not of that ethnicity and background? It certainly seems like that may be the case, as the keyboard warriors of food social media have pointed out to many restaurateurs that do the same.

I’ve always struggled to find what that right answer may be, but a Southern California churro shop owner posed with that same question recently has helped me identify a potential solution.

Jed Cartojano, owner of The Loop Churros and popular foodie Instagram account @dailyfoodfeed, spoke in depth on the subject on Foodbeast’s The Katchup podcast. Cartojano, a Filipino, had been in the midst of some controversy when he was accused of cultural appropriation, for being an Asian who owned a churro shop in Southern California.

“Kinda disappointing when it’s Asians running a churros joint,” the accuser wrote on Instagram. “Probably can’t even pronounce the rolling “R” in it right.”

Cartojano clapped back with ease, though, since churros have been a part of Filipino cuisine for nearly 500 years. In fact, churros arrived in both Mexico and the Philippines about the same time. Spain, where the churro originally hails from, colonized both countries in the early 15th century, and the churro has been integral to each cuisine since.

That point was made clear in Cartojano’s full discussion with podcast hosts Elie Ayrouth and Geoff Kutnick. In essence, not only was he not culturally appropriating churros, but he was also helping to open up Southern California to a world of Filipino-driven churro and dessert creations locals may not have experienced before.

Calling what Cartojano does “cultural appropriation” is far off base. That claim, however, has been used quite often in recent times to attack restaurants where the owner’s ethnic background may not match up with the cuisine. However, just because that is the case doesn’t mean that cultural appropriation is happening.

It’s hard to give the term “cultural appropriation” a clear definition, given how global trade, conquest, and migrations have caused the blending of cultures and cuisines countless times. The most flagrant instances, however, occur when someone attempts to profit off of another culture by exploiting others or proclaiming that they’re the authority on that cuisine.

A blatant example of what this phenomenon looks like comes from the infamous Kooks Burritos. A few years ago, a couple of female white entrepreneurs took handmade tortilla recipes from an abuelita, gave her no credit, then took over a Portland taco truck to sell their takes on breakfast burritos that used the exploited recipes. Kooks got such severe backlash from their insensitive interview where they revealed their backstory that they were forced to shut down within a few days.

More recently, Andrew Zimmern painted himself in an interview as the “savior of Chinese food” in the Midwest while promoting his new Chinese restaurant, The Lucky Cricket, in Minnesota. He drew sharp criticism for calling the local Chinese fare “horseshit” and saying that he could bring a more authentic take to the region, especially given the migrant families that were already there serving their traditional Chinese favorites. His words (and restaurant) fell flat on both accounts, based on reviews that have come in so far, and even Zimmern has regretted the words he said.

Those examples, however, could just as easily have been great stories on how to treat another food’s culture. If Zimmern hadn’t painted himself as the “savior of Chinese food” in the Midwest, and instead used his new restaurant as purely a showcase of the foods he fell in love with during his epicurean travels, then one would easily surmise that he wouldn’t have received any backlash in the first place. As long as appropriate tribute and attribution is given to the cuisine you’re cooking, there should be no reason for someone to come after you for “cultural appropriation.” Foodbeast’s own Reach Guinto describes that perfectly in his take on the subject below:

If you’re confident in your ability to give proper respect to the origin cuisine, while also effectively infusing your own story and passion into it — with it of course being delicious — THEN YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU POPPIN’. A good chef cooks from the soul and incorporates their experiences into their cuisine.”

This can be applied to what Cartojano does with The Loop Churros as well. He’s giving Southern California a representation of what Filipino-style churro desserts can be like, while adding his own creative visual flair and style that makes the treats pop off on Instagram. There’s always going to be the haters whenever a video shows Asians running a churro shop, but if you take the time to learn the true history of various foods, you can see what makes Cartojano’s concept so special and valued.

So, can we cook food from other cuisines? Absolutely, long as you give the appropriate credit, respect, understanding and attribution to those you learned from but still take the time to make it your own. For people like me that love to explore other cuisines, that means holding true to what we’ve discovered about the dishes we’re making, but being humble enough to credit others for the deliciousness that we’ve created for ourselves and those around us.

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Cravings Culture Features FOODBEAST Opinion

The Unsung Vietnamese Dish That Everyone Needs To Try ONCE

When I hear people talk about Vietnamese food, it’s usually pho or banh mi. The occasional spring roll or savory crepe may also be mentioned. Each item is delicious, by all means, but far too hyped. It bums me out that there is one dish that hardly anyone ever talks about: com tam.

Com tam, translates to broken rice in Vietnamese. At its core, the broken grains of rice are served with a grilled protein and fish sauce, accompanied by a plethora of flavorful additions. A popular dish in Vietnam, broken rice is very cheap (undesirable leftovers from the rice milling process) making it a favored street food item.

Like Filpino silog dishes, there are different ways you can enjoy the broken rice dish. You can order it with thit nuong (grilled pork), ga nuong (grilled chicken), or tau hu ky (fried shrimp wrapped in bean curd skin). Other tasty additions like trung hap (a steamed egg cake), bi (thinly shredded pork), or a fried egg are possible. Nearly every version of the dish is garnished with mo hanh (scallions in oil), dua chua (pickled greens) and served with canh (broth to cleanse the palate).

Com tam can be enjoyed by its separate components, or mixed together in a euphoric spoonful of flavors and textures.

When I think of Vietnamese comfort food, my mind instantaneously goes to com tam rather than other popular dishes of my culture like pho or banh mi. Again, still delicious.

My First Time

My earliest memory of the dish was at my grandparents’ house, in a time before I reached double digits in age. I was watching an episode of The Busy World of Richard Scarry, when my grandmother came into the living room. She handed me a plate of rice and meat and told me to eat.

Not wanting to take my eyes off whatever shenanigans Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm got into that week, I grabbed a spoonful and ate without a glance. Immediately, the first thing I noticed was that the rice tasted sweeter than usual. I asked my grandma what I was eating and she replied, “Com tam.”

“What’s that?” I asked, in Vietnamese.

She explained that it was a dish made with broken rice, served with different kinds of meat. She had marinated some pork chops and grilled them earlier that day to serve with the rice. Combined with the sweet fish sauce (and the fried egg my grandfather shortly threw on), com tam cemented itself as a dish I’ve loved since the very first bite.

Decades later, there’s still yet to be a Vietnamese dish that comforts me so easily.

com tam

Here’s my go-to com tam dish:

A bed of broken rice, grilled pork, and a fried egg topped with tons of scallions in oil. I could take or leave the pickled greens.

First, I pop the egg – the white-hot yolk smothering rice like molten steel over a reformed T-800. Next, it’s a spoonful of fish sauce over the golden rice. I fix myself a bite piled with as many components I can fit onto a spoon and brace myself for what comes next. Rice, egg, meat, sauce, and onions come together like multicolored lions forming a veritable Voltron of flavor in my mouth.

I feel like I can take on the entire galaxy after crushing a plate. Or take a really long nap. Probably the latter.

Here’s a little secret: my favorite com tam joint is only a few miles from the Foodbeast office. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and I fear it may also be the reason I eagerly took a job here, being so close to such a wondrous place and all. I guess we’ll never really know though.

com tam

Costa’s First Time

Fellow Foodbeast, Constantine Spyrou (Costa for short), had never experienced broken rice before. Hearing me talk so lovingly about the dish, he decided to visit a food truck on campus that served broken rice. His experience at the food truck, although delicious, was pretty different from the traditional dish.

Letting my initial disappointment that this was his first broken rice experience subside, I messaged Costa that I was taking him to my secret spot for lunch.

Here are his thoughts after trying the real thing:

While [the food truck] was good and I enjoyed the texture, it was nothing compared to going to an authentic broken rice spot. You need the full experience there to fully enjoy it. You need the broth to entice your tastebuds, the toothsomeness of the rice mixing with the fish sauce and the egg yolk, the different types of meats, and the pickled cabbage to cleanse the palate. With the truck, I just got rice and meat. Having that fish sauce to soak up is paramount to getting the most out of your experience. To me, the food truck was a solid introduction, but going to an authentic spot was the full immersion I needed to really fall in love with com tam.

As we drove back to work, a sheepish smile rested on my coworker’s face. The normally chatty Costa was a quiet and full. He was happy.

Where to find com tam?

Most pho restaurants usually offer a similar dish, albeit with regular rice instead of broken. The key is finding the word “Tam” next to the rice. I highly recommend going to a restaurant that specializes in com tam, rather than one that specializes in another Vietnamese dish but carries it on the menu. Being the flawed, selfish human that I am, I can’t empart my favorite spot just yet. Eagle-eyed lovers of Vietnamese food in Orange County, however, may be able to recognize the plates from the photos.

Perhaps in a few years, when someone shouts “Let’s get Vietnamese food!” the first thing that comes to mind will be my favorite broken rice dish. Until that day, I’ll do my best to laud this lesser known comfort dish to anyone and everyone asking me for recommendations.


Other Vietnamese foods to try

If I haven’t already lost your attention at this point, there are tons of other amazing Vietnamese dishes out there. My friend and food blogger Connie (@occomestibles) recently did a tour of all the best Vietnamese eats in Orange County. If you have some time, I highly recommend you checking out that video.

Categories
Cravings Humor Video

Watch These Guys Attempt A Human Sushi Roll

The dudes from Good Mythical Morning are no stranger to fantastic food experiments. Their human nacho challenge is a cheesy example that they have no trouble covering each other in food for the entertainment of millions of fans.

In one of their most recent videos, the fellas decide to turn Link into a human roll of sushi.

As the co-host strips down to his underwear, Rhett covers his partner in all the essential ingredients that go inside a sushi roll as well as complimentary condiments. The foods dumped on Link’s human sushi roll includes rice, cucumbers, avocados, wasabi, ginger, spicy mayo, crab meat, soy sauce, all while he lays on top a customized nori bed.

They then proceed to roll Link, and all the ingredients, together into a sushi roll. Needless to say, it looked extremely painful. Check out the video to see the painstaking process behind a human sushi roll.

Dunno why, but despite this video, I’m really craving some sushi.

Categories
Culture Video

Watch These Kids Try Vietnamese Food For The First Time

Vietnamese food was everywhere for me growing up. With a large Vietnamese family, I got to try so many dishes, desserts, and drinks that the cuisine became like a first language for me as a kid. That’s why it’s always so fascinating for me to see how other people react to trying the dishes of my culture for the very first time.

In one of HiHo Kids’ latest videos, a group of little kids try the delicious cuisine from Vietnam for the first time. Iconic Vietnamese dishes include pho (rice noodle soup), banh xeo (savory sizzling pancake), ca kho to (braised claypot catfish), and soda sua hot ga (egg soda).

Check out their hilarious reactions to trying these dishes for the first time. Man, it makes us nervous how much Sriracha that one kid threw into their pho. Pretty sure his mouth caught fire.

I’m also pretty bummed they didn’t include my all-time favorite Vietnamese dish, com tam (broken rice), in this video. I guess kids can only eat so much food in one sitting.

Categories
Cravings Culture Video

We Need To Talk About How The Wasabi You’re Eating Is Most Likely Fake

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Foreigners who are into Japanese food but haven’t actually been to Japan may want to check this short video that reveals a shocking secret about imported wasabi. While the clip simply explains why real wasabi is quite rare and difficult to find, it also points out one surprising fact in its title: “The Wasabi You Eat Probably Isn’t Wasabi”

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The video, produced by All Nippon Airways in partnership with video network Great Big Story, explores the delicate art of wasabi cultivation, according to RocketNews24.

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Filmed in the Hotaka countryside in Nagano Prefecture, the production showed farmers from the Daio Wasabi Farm explaining how to cultivate a plant dubbed as the “hardest to grow”. Its delicate cultivation process makes the plant very expensive and rare to find outside Japan.

Overseas, it is usually substituted with horseradish dyed with green food coloring.

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One can always visit Japan and buy the Wasabia Japonica plant. To release its flavor, however, requires grinding the plant on a shark-skin grater. Its complex, sweet flavor combined with its unique spicy twist is not hard to miss.

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The plant also requires 13-18 degrees Celsius (55 – 64 degrees Fahrenheit) spring water, a particular amount of shade and sunlight, and a year-and-a-half in the soil to grow perfectly.

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This means that unless you are in Japan or are provided with authentic Japanese cuisine, it’s highly unlikely you have eaten actual wasabi at all. Many people have actually missed out on the true flavor of the rare plant and have been eating horseradish all along.

Written By Ryan General | NextShark

Categories
Culture Hit-Or-Miss Video

‘Velveting’ May Be The Secret To Cooking Great Chinese Food At Home

If you’ve ever tried to recapture the magic of Chinese food at home, but fell just a tad short from the perfect dish, there might just be a reason for that.

According to GrubStreet, there’s actually a technique most people don’t know about that’s supposed to bring out the best possible flavor in Chinese cooking. No, it’s not MSG.

Called velveting, the technique is said to make the meat in Chinese food soft and tender.

To try this, you’ll need some egg white, cornstarch, and rice wine. Just marinate your meat in the mixture and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes. Then, blanche the meat in boiling water or hot oil for about thirty seconds. Finally, remove from the heat and start cooking your proteins in the way you would before that extra step.

It makes us wonder what other ancient cooking secrets of the world are out there. Our carne asada tacos have been missing that extra ‘umph’ of flavor. And don’t get us started on our sub-par tonkotsu broth.

I’m gonna have to try this velveting technique out over the weekend. For science. Chinese take out really adds up, y’know.

Categories
Cravings News

Bon Appetit’s Controversial ‘Pho Is New Ramen’ Video Removed After Massive Backlash

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A video launched on Bon Appetit that left the Asian community livid. Tyler Akin, owner of Stocked. in Philadelphia, was featured in Bon Appetite Magazine’s latest food video. The nearly two-minute video was an interview with Akin explaining the “proper” technique to eat the popular Vietnamese noodle dish pho, which he believes is on a trendy rise.

After a little more than 24 hours on the website Bon Appetit removed the video altogether, both from their Facebook and YouTube channels.

While we’re scrambling to find some footage for you guys, here’s the deets:

The chef claims that adding hoisin sauce or Sriracha, two staples iconic to the dish, would ruin the broth and that he doesn’t mess around with it. Patrons are supposed to try spoonfuls of the broth first before thinking of reaching for the black and red bottles. Ironically, the chef soon adds that he’ll drown that broth in as much lime juice as he can get his hands on.

Still, as someone who grew up eating Pho for nearly three decades, there’s really no wrong way to eat it. The beauty of the dish is that it’s just broth and noodles, with toppings and condiments served on the side. This lets the you create a dish that’s best for you and your taste buds.

Akin also calls pho the new ramen pretty early into the video. Never mind that the dishes are completely different and from two separate cultures. We can’t help but think of this scene from the King of the Hill:

We’re sure Bon Appetit’s intentions were well, but the Facebook video drew some heated comments from Asian followers regarding the cultural insensitivity of the content. Some of them were just savage, with Facebook users threatening to come into Akin’s restaurant and dousing his establishment with hoisin and sriracha.

With more than one million views, the video went viral, forcing Bon Appetit to go back and clarify the meaning of their article, before just removing it altogether hours later.

This led to backlash on the magazine’s Facebook timeline:

Sorry guys, you know as well as anyone the Internet is unforgiving. Especially when it comes to food.