Mention that you are planning on visiting Vietnam and anyone who has been there will wax lyrical about the insanely delicious cuisine, the dishes you should not miss, and what to look out for when it comes to street food.
Wishing to ensure that their guests do not miss out on this authentic slice of Vietnamese culture, The Anam recruited half-a-dozen mothers of its own staff who twice a week serve up a feast of classic Vietnamese dishes for guests, as if they were cooking for their own families. Dishes include grilled beef in betel leaf, Hue-style beef noodle soup and crispy Vietnamese pancakes, complimented by fresh crunchy salads and other yummy treats (sample recipes provided overleaf).
The team of “Mamas” doing the cooking include Nguyen Thi Phuong (pictured), Ngyuen Thi Nhiem and Vo Thi Xuan Huu, whose children are employed full-time by the resort as front office shift leaders and in engineering administration. They have no formal training as cooks, as The Anam’s founder and owner Pham Van Hien reminds us: “They didn’t go to culinary school, and carry no fancy titles. But oh how they can cook.”
The Mamas, take great delight in sharing their favourite home cooked dishes with resort guests, and are keen to pile your plate high with the fragrant tasty delicacies they have prepared.Authentic village food served with smiles and nods – it’s these special touches that will remain in our memories forever.
The Mamas regularly plate up healthy and delectable Vietnamese fare at cooking stations by the terrace of the resort’s Lang Viet Restaurant overlooking Long Beach’s white sands and turquoise waters beyond.
Grilled Beef in Wild Betel Leaf
A fresh combination of grilled beef wrapped in aromatic and wild betel leaves
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a pan over moderate heat. Add the garlic and onion and stir until softened, about two minutes.
Transfer to a bowl.
Add the lemongrass, peanuts, turmeric, sugar, fish sauce, salt and ground beef. Mix with a fork until well blended and sticky, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside for 30 minutes.
To make the rolls, place one heaped tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of a pepper leaf.
Using your fingers, shape the meat into a cylinder about two inches long and three-quarter inches wide.
Wrap the leaf around the meat but leave the sides open. (If necessary, use two leaves.) When done, place the roll seam side down.
Make the remaining rolls the same way. Thread five rolls onto each bamboo skewer, positioning the rolls so they touch one another at the seams. Set aside until ready to cook.
Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over low heat. (Make sure the pan is large enough to accommodate the skewers. If not, shorten the skewers.)
Add the beef rolls and cook until the meat is done, about 5-7 minutes total. Do not overcrowd the pan. Reduce the heat as necessary to keep the leaves from charring.
Transfer the skewers to a platter. Remove the skewers and serve the rolls with Table salad and Vietnamese dipping sauce.
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
3 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound coarsely ground beef
30 large “la lot (pepper leaves) or red perilla or grape leaves
4 (6- or 8-inch) bamboo skewers
table salad for serving
Vietnamese dipping sauce for serving
Vietnamese Crispy Pancakes
Vietnam is one of the world’s great food destinations, and this recipe for banh xeo – savory shrimp pancakes – exemplifies the country’s fresh flavours and bountiful seafood. Originating in Ho Chi Minh City, these crispy delights are enjoyed up and down the Southeast Asian country. Feel free to use a variety of seafood if you prefer instead of all shrimp. Sliced squid and firm whitefish also work very well in this recipe. You can also use thinly sliced, cooked pork for a variation. Banh xeo pancakes cook very quickly, so be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready.
First, make the sauce by mixing the first four ingredients until the sugar dissolves, then add the garlic and chili pepper. Set aside.
Sift the banh xeo flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and add the sugar, salt, egg, coconut milk and ¾ cup water. Mix until smooth, and then add the green onions and combine.
Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a medium-size frying pan over high heat. When hot, ladle one-third-cup batter into the center of the pan – you should hear a sizzling sound. Working quickly, rotate the pan until the batter evenly covers the base. When you see bubbles start to form on the uncooked side of the pancake, cover and cook for one more minute.
Remove the lid, and top the pancake with shrimp, fried shallots, bean sprouts and green onions. Cook for two minutes, or until the bottom of the pancake is crispy and golden.
Remove from the pan and fold the pancake in half. Repeat this process until all the ingredients are used up.