Cookbook Challenge: Week 17, Vietnamese

Recipe: Vietnamese chicken salad
From: AWW’s Kitchen

Second recipe: Vietnamese creme caramel
From: Ballymaloe Cookery Course

The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is Vietnamese and I considered making pho, but when I saw that the recipe started with “roast your beef bones for 1.5 hours” and continued with “cook your stock for 4 hours” I couldn’t be bothered going through with it! Perhaps if we had spent the weekend at home, but life is rather busy at the moment and I didn’t have the time to spare. That and pho costs $8 a bowl up the road in Footscray….. and I doubt that I could do it better. (Did anyone else make pho? I applaud you if you did!)

Vietnamese chicken salad

Instead, I made a Vietnamese chicken salad from AWW’s Kitchen. I don’t know how authentic it is (not very, I suspect) but it was delicious. One of the good things about doing this Cookbook Challenge is that it has encouraged me to make recipes I wouldn’t normally make. I’m sure that if it hadn’t been for Vietnamese week, I would never have made this recipe. But it’s such a good salad that I’m going to add it to my salad rotation!

The salad consists of poached chicken, pickled carrots, onions and bean sprouts, and then cabbage, Vietnamese mint, coriander, and a fish sauce and lime dressing. It’s all crunchy and fresh, and I loved the tangy sweetness of the pickled vegetables. The herbs were fantastic in it, giving the salad a fresh pepperyness. I highly recommend trying this recipe!

Vietnamese creme caramel

For dessert, we had Vietnamese creme caramel. It was just like a regular creme caramel, except the caramel was made with palm sugar, and there was coconut milk in the custard.

It was a nice variation on the French dessert, with the coconut milk giving a faint coconut flavour. I did find it a bit eggy though, and (since I’m being critical right now) I should have pushed my caramel further. It wasn’t quite caramel enough, but it was hard to tell the state of caramelisation with the palm sugar when I was cooking it. To be honest, plain old sugar would have done the trick just as well.

I enjoyed the theme for the Cookbook Challenge this week since I hardly ever cook Vietnamese food. The theme for next week is “BBQ”… hopefully the weather stays nice!

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: See the round up at My Food Trail.

Vietnamese chicken salad

Vietnamese chicken salad

Adapted from AWW’s Kitchen

500g skinless chicken fillets (I used thigh)
2 shallots, peeled
2cm knob of ginger, peeled
1 large carrot (180g)
1/2 cup (125ml) rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons caster sugar
4 stems of spring onion, washed and sliced into small pieces
1 & 1/2 cups (120g) bean sprouts
2 cups (160) finely shredded cabbage (I used wombok)
1/4 cup firmly packed Vietnamese mint leaves
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh coriander leaves
1 tablespoon crushed roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons fried shallots

For the dressing (you could get away with making half this amount)

2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed

In a medium saucepan, place the shallots, ginger and water (enough that you think will cover your chicken). Bring the water to the boil and put the chicken into the pot. Bring the water back up to a boil, and then cover the pot and turn the heat off. Let the chicken sit in the water for 10 minutes, and then return the pot to the heat and bring it back up to a boil. As soon as it comes up to a boil, turn the heat off, and let the chicken sit in the poaching liquid for at least another 10 minutes. The chicken should be cooked at this stage – take it out of the liquid and shred it coarsely. Discard the liquid.

Meantime, cut the carrot into matchstick sized pieces. In a large bowl, add the vinegar, salt and sugar, and stir to combine. Add the carrots to the vinegar mixture and let it sit for five minutes. Add the spring onions, and let it stand for another five minutes. Finally, add the bean sprouts and leave it for three minutes. Drain the pickled vegetables, discarding the liquid.

Place the pickled vegetables in a large bowl with the chicken, cabbage, mint and coriander.

To make the dressing, add all the ingredients into a screw top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss to combine, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the nuts and shallots.

Vietnamese creme caramel

Vietnamese creme caramel (Due Kem Caramen)

From Ballymaloe Cookery Course

Serves 6

110g palm sugar or golden caster sugar
100ml water
225ml water
225ml coconut milk
4 eggs
50g golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence

6 ramekins

Put the sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. After the sugar has dissolved, brush the sides of the pot occasionally with a wet pastry brush, and cook the sugar until it is a rich brown caramel.

Pour the caramel into 6 ramekins, swirling it around so that it coats the side a little as well as the bottom. I find it easier to do each ramekin at a time, otherwise the caramel sets too quickly for swirling!

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

In a different saucepan, heat the milk and coconut milk until it starts to bubble around the edges. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the caster sugar and vanilla essence. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Strain the milk and egg mixture into a jug, and then pour it into the ramekins. Place the ramekins into a tray with boiling water to half way up the side of the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until just cooked (mine were cooked after 35 minutes).

Remove from the oven and cool. To serve, run a knife around the edge of each one and dip the bottom of the ramekins into hot water. Invert on to individual plates.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

We went to the Footscray Lunar New Year Festival recently – Chinese New Year is tomorrow, but the Festival was held a couple of weeks ago. It was a hot and windy day, so we showed up at Footscray early in an effort to beat the heat.

We did a quick lap of all the stalls, and then decided we would have yum cha and then return to the Festival. We headed to our usual yum cha haunt – Dai Duong.

Yum cha in FootscrayYum cha in Footscray

We pretty much ate all our usual stuff. The first two things we had were pork buns and radish cake. Alastair ate both the pork buns, so I don’t know what they were like, but the radish cake was good.

Yum cha in FootscrayYum cha in Footscray

Bro said yes to a basket of tripe. The tripe was really good – lovely flavour and not too chewy. I know most people don’t like tripe, but it’s really so good! We also had some pan fried pork dumplings. I love these with red vinegar.

Yum cha in FootscrayYum cha in Footscray

Next up was a basket of steamed dumplings – I think these had prawn and garlic chives. They were fantastic. The wrappers were smooth and thin, and they had big pieces of prawn in the filling. We also had beef cheong fun, which were fine.

Yum cha in FootscrayYum cha in FootscrayYum cha in Footscray

Yum cha isn’t over until Bro has eaten a basket of chicken feet (normally a whole basket by himself) whereas I don’t leave until I’ve eaten an egg tart. There were only two egg tarts per plate, so we had to get two plates so everyone received one. I got to eat the extra one. Wahoo! Alastair finished off with a bowl of dessert tofu.

Read about a previous visit to Dai Duong here.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

After filling up on yum cha, we went on a walk through the festival and took some photos. Unfortunately we were too full to eat anything! Waah! There was lots of grilled stuff going on.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

More grilled stuff.

Footscray Lunar New Year FestivalFootscray Lunar New Year Festival

I was full, but still bought a drink – this was a basil seed drink with what I think was grass jelly. It was kind of strange. The seeds sort of looked like tadpoles!

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival
Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

There were lots of dodgy looking rides and games.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

Some kids looked like they were having fun on the rides, but I don’t know if I’d trust my life on them!

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

The MFB had a tent, and they were giving out paper models of fire engines – complete with road cones and little paper firemen! Squee!!

Footscray Lunar New Year FestivalFootscray Lunar New Year Festival

We arrived just in time to see the firecrackers being lit, but unfortunately there was a crowd and I couldn’t manage to get a photo. Afterwards there was a lion dance. A stall was also selling funky balloons.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

Some more drinks on offer.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

And more grilled stuff – corn, betel leaves and meat on skewers.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

There was also dried squid hanging up for sale.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

This was a big pile of betel leaves stuffed with beef.

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

And egg cakes (I think! Someone correct me if I’m wrong!)

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

I have no idea what this was, but it was GREEN. And HIGH. How could I not take a photo??

Footscray Lunar New Year Festival

Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day! We aren’t doing anything for CNY (I haven’t even cleaned the house – gasp!) but we are going out tomorrow for a late lunch/early dinner. More later. I hope everyone has an auspicious and love filled day!

Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival 2009

Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival

There’s a new year coming – Chinese/Lunar New Year! Celebrations have started around Melbourne to ring in the Year of the Ox, which officially starts on 26 January (which also happens to be Australia Day this year). There were festivities in Footscray the other weekend that I missed, but which Towser from Spot4Nosh has blogged about. And yesterday, there was a festival in Victoria Street, Richmond.

Victoria Street was closed to traffic between Hoodle and Church Streets, and along its length were food stalls, rides, random knick knack sellers, performances, and information stands. Food wise, it was Vietnamese, and there was lots of deep fried stuff, grilled food, and skewered items, with most stalls offering similar things.

Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival
Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival

Top left: Beef in betel leaves being grilled.
Top right: Corn on the cob!
Bottom left: Rice cakes (?) being cooked.
Bottom right: Bananas in sticky rice. I haven’t tried these yet, and got too full for one! It’ll have to go on my “to eat” list next time.

Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival
Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival

Top left: Chive cakes.
Top right: Skewers, skewers, skewers!
Bottom left: More skewers!
Bottom right: Sugar cane. Bro and I shared a cup of sugar cane juice, but we wanted straight sugar cane juice like we’d had in Hong Kong. The juice was mixed with something citrusy (cumquats?) and just wasn’t the same.

Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival
Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival

Top left: Dried squid for sale.
Top right: Random pork sausage on a stick.
Bottom left: Deep fried Mung bean cake thing topped with a prawn.
Bottom right: Inside you could see the mung beans. It was soft and fairly flavourless.

Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival
Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival Victoria Street Lunar New Year Festival

Top left: Deep fried prawns on a stick.
Top right: Beef in betel leaves. My favourite item of the day. I could’ve eaten many of these sticks! Fortunately I restricted myself to one.
Bottom right: Pork jerky in different flavours. I didn’t buy any (I’m not sure my teeth could handle it yet) but I do like this jerky far more than is healthy.
Bottom right: Egg rice cake with a sweetish, fish saucey, vinegary sauce that I poured over. The rice cakes themselves didn’t have much flavour, although Bro said that they had a fragrance that put him off (he thought almond, I thought perhaps coconut). And BOY, you should’ve seen how much oil some the vendors were using to cook these.

Yesterday turned out warmer than I was expecting, and the sun and heat meant we soon wilted. Plus the oiliness and deep fried factor of most foods, also meant that it wasn’t long before we couldn’t face eating yet another unhealthy item (unusual for Bro and I, but there you have it). At least we have another year to recover!

Disclosure: I didn’t take as many photos as I wanted to. However, we went to the Vic Street Lunar New Year Festival a couple of years ago (before I started blogging) so I have supplemented this post with some of those photos. Sneaky!

Hien Vuong Pasteur

Whenever we have visitors, we mostly let them sort out their own sightseeing. I love this city, but I find it hard to think of interesting “touristy” things to do. Unlike other cities that have several must-see sights, Melbourne has charms that grow on you over time.

While we’re not good with the sightseeing agenda, we do have a food agenda. This is a list of must-eat items that our visitors need to experience. On the list are things like: dumplings at Camy, a hot chocolate at Koko Black, perhaps a claypot at EC pot (I need to go back and write a post on this place!), a parma, and a big bowl of pho.


On a recent visit to Footscray, we decided to try a different pho restaurant. We walked past one that was packed with customers, always a good sign, so we took our chances and went in. The restaurant was decked out in the usual style – brightly lit with mirrored walls, menu written on the wall, and inexpensive tables and chairs. There’s also two large plasma TVs mounted on the walls, providing something else to focus on apart from your reflection (which was a tad distracting).


The bowls of pho come in three different sizes – small for $6.50, medium for $7.50 and large for $8.50. The rice noodles and meat come swimming in a beef soup that has so much flavour, this is now our pho restaurant of choice. The one pictured here is a large – the Boys were hungry that night!


Apart from the 20 different styles of noodle soup, there’s also the usual spring rolls and pork chops on rice and vermicelli. I believe this bowl of vermicelli was $8 (the price isn’t written on the walls). It was a huge bowl of noodle, and while the sauce wasn’t as tasty as in other places, it wasn’t bad.


I had actually ordered it because I had a hankering for some crunchy spring rolls – and didn’t spot the springs rolls on the menu until after I ordered. I was a tad envious of the Boys with their bowls of pho.

four colour drink

The one disappointment is the tea tastes a bit strange. It may be due what they use to clean the thermoses. Both times we visited, the tea had an overwhelming taste and smell of detergent. But with three colour drinks cheaply priced at $2, and a big bowl of soup to drink after you’ve finished scavenging every last meat and noodle scrap from the bowl, who needs tea?

Update: they seem to have fixed the strange tasting tea! It has been fine in subsequent visits.

Hien Vuong Pasteur
144 Hopkins Street
Melbourne , VIC 3011
Phone: 03 9687 9698

Hung Vuong


There’s a number of reasons that I like cheap Asian food joints. One of those reasons is, well, it’s cheap. Sure, I enjoy going to fancypants restaurants and blowing money on a meal, but I can’t afford to do that all the time, so cheap = good. Another reason I’m fond of the cheap Asian places, is how fast you get your food. As soon as you put your order in and sit back, food starts to arrive. So that’s all good, but unfortunately it’s not without a compromise. The main compromise you make for cheap and quick is that generally the décor is a bit lacking….

When I say lacking, I actually mean a teensy bit gross! The tables might be sticky, and the chairs wobbly. But never fear – there ARE cheap Asian places where you don’t need to compromise.

Hung Vuong is one of many Vietnamese restaurants along Hopkins Street in Footscray, but their point is difference is that it doesn’t look like it was last decorated in the 80’s. It’s bright, with a large mirror lining the wall on one side of the restaurant and a large window at the front. The chairs and tables are non wobbly, and sitting on the tables are the obligatory condiments, thermos of tea as well as chopsticks, spoons and napkins. The menu is very limited – your food choices are rice paper rolls, spring rolls, broken rice, vermicelli and phở. In fact, the drinks menu seems longer than the food one! Not that limited choices is necessarily a bad thing. It means that you can decide on what you want to eat in 1 minute, have your food arrive in 5 minutes, and the bulk of your time there can be spent slurping up your noodles and chasing out any scraps of food in the murky soup.

I particularly love the special beef phở – a mix of sliced beef, tripe, beef sausage, tendon and brisket with flat rice noodles in a rich beef broth. Buuuut, if you’re not into offal there is normal sliced beef as well as a chicken option. As with other places, the phở comes with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, fresh chilli, Asian basil and lemon and you can add them to your liking. I also like to add some of the chilli sauce that sits on the table – not the one that’s in the bottle, but the one in the small container that has a hint of shrimp paste. That stuff is so awesome.

The rice paper rolls are better at other places, so if you’re hungry, I would recommend ordering a large phở instead. A large one will cost you $9 and you won’t regret it.


Also good is the vermicelli. You can choose from pork, chicken, prawn, or spring rolls. I like their vermicelli because it’s not just a big bowl of noodle with a tiny bit of other stuff. You get pickled carrots, lettuce, Asian basil, cucumber, and chopped nuts along with the meat and a little bowl of vinegary sauce with a touch of fish sauce.


Avocado smoothie and three colour drink

The thermos full of tea might satisfy you drinkwise, but if you do feel like something a bit different there are other options. If you’re feeling like something sweet, almost to have as a dessert, go for the three colour drink. This is a drink with red beans, green jelly and coconut milk with crushed ice. There’s also several fruit smoothies such as an avocado smoothie, which is avocado blended with condensed milk. I like avocados but have only ever had them as in savoury dishes and found it very, very rich, very buttery and unbelievably thick. It’s filling so don’t order a large phở and an avocado smoothie unless you have a huge stomach. Just go the large phở instead. Like I said before, you won’t regret it!

Hung Vuong
128 Hopkins St , Footscray
Phone: 9689 6002

Hung Vuong on Urbanspoon