From Sumatra we head over to Vietnam, with a little stop off in Scotland for some Haggis…
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam or just plain Vietnam as we would know it is a country in South-east Asia and is also the Easternmost country, with approximately around 90 million residents and being the 13th most inhabited country. Vietnam is translated to “Southern Viet” and was fist adopted by Emperor Gia Long in 1802 and then again in 1945, under Ho Chi Minh, with the birth of The Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
To the North of the country is China, Cambodia to the South-west. To the South-east and across the South China Sea is Malaysia (where we have visited), and Laos is situated to the North-west. Since 1975 when we saw the reunification of North and South Vietnam, the capital has been Hanoi.
For over a millennium, from 111 BC to 939 AD, Vietnam was very much part of Imperial China. However, in 939, following victory in the Battle of Bach Dang River, the Vietnamese became independent. The country/realm prospered as the nation grew politically and geographically into South-east Asia, being ruled by successive Vietnamese Royal Dynasties until around the mid 19th century when the Indochina Peninsula was colonised by the French. In the 1940’s there was a Japanese inhabitance and following this the Vietnamese fought the French rule with the first Indochina War, which resulted in the French being banished in 1954. Following this period Vietnam was divided politically, North and South and the conflict between the North and South became very intense which resulted in The USA intervening (The Vietnam War). The war eventually ended in 1975 and North Vietnam were victorious. However, both sides came together and were ruled under a communist government, but still were politically solitary. By 1986 the government had put some political and economic restructuring and reorganising in place, which began to see Vietnam set a path leading towards an incorporation into the rest of the worlds economy and by year 2000 had founded diplomatic relations with other nations and now their growth, economically, has been probably among the highest in the world.
The cuisine of Vietnam takes into consideration all the drinks and foods of Vietnam and is a mixture of five basic tastes in the overall meal. Each dish has a distinguishing flavour which mirrors one or more of these five flavours. Fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, rice, shrimp sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce are among basic ingredients that are used. Also Vietnamese people use ginger, mint, long coriander, Vietnamese mint, lemon grass, cinnamon, birds eye chilli, basil leaves and lime.
Vietnamese cooking is very much considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, because of the use and reliance of fresh ingredients and minimal use of dairy or oil and the fine balance between the meats used, fresh herbs and the careful use of spices to reach a final taste.
With this in mind, Ian was left in charge of our dinner and, as always, will be delightful… As I walked through the door the aromas of the dish he was preparing was amazing. I could smell the lemon grass he had used along with the warming flavours of start anise and cinnamon, along with the sweet smell of the already sautéed shallots.
Ian had looked at the suggestions I had sent him – from my day job – for dinner, but opted to use a book we already had that is a variety of Far Eastern food. I believe we have used it before when we were in this part of the world… It is “Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cooking” and Ian opted to cook “Thit Bo Kho” – which translated is Aromatic and Spicy Beef Stew. I have tried to find this particular recipe on the www… but can’t, but am sure you can find a version of the same dish if you wish to recreate it.
We perhaps don’t associate stews with the East, but it has been documented by Madhur Jaffrey that this dish is Vietnams “Boeuf Bourguignon” and in Vietnam this stew is either eaten with rice or hunks of crusty French bread….so Ian opted for….Noodles !!!!!