Last weekend, my Aussie mother-in-law showed me her photos from her Vietnam trip. Amongst the scenery shots of Hoi An and Ha Long Bay were the photos of food. The food, she said, was lovely and healthy, though the soup that was brought out with each meal was ‘very bland’.
While the tour guides had been very careful to explain the stories behind the sights, they had not bothered to explain the method to Vietnamese dining. Soup is usually brought out in a large communal bowl. Instead of serving it at the start of the meal as an entree, it is poured over rice and served with a salty dish (i.e. stir fry). There is also a dipping bowl filled with fish sauce for the bland bit of tofu that you’ve fished out of your soup.
Explaining this to my mother-in-law made me reminisce over the family meals Mum cooks. Mum doesn’t reinvent leftovers like I do. Instead, she batch cooks her food and then dishes it out over several nights. To counteract the sameness, she spices it up with different side dishes: dried, salted fish, a quick stir fry or a casserole.
So, to get over my bout of homesickness, I cooked rice and made some sweet and sour soup. The night after, we ate the leftovers with a brussel sprouts stirfry*:
Sweet and Sour Soup
1 shallot/onion, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
500mL Chicken stock
Seafood of choice (I used squid, but diced fish fillets work too!)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Vinegar, pepper, fish sauce, and sugar to flavour to taste
- Fry onion with oil in a pot until onion starts to sweat.
- Add celery and cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in chicken stock. Once stock starts to boil, add tomatoes. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down.
- Add seafood, and cook for another 5 minutes. Once seafood is cooked, flavour to taste with vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, and pepper. The soup should be a balance of sweet, sour, and salty. Serve with rice and beanshoots (optional).
Brussel Sprouts Stir Fry**
400g brussel sprouts, quartered
2 rashers of bacon or Chinese sausage, diced or thinly sliced
Handful of cashews
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Soy sauce to taste
- Fry the meat in oil in a wok or frying pan for a couple of minutes.
- Throw in brussel sprouts and a couple of lugs of oyster sauce. Add cashews.
- Take off heat once brussel sprouts are just cooked (do not overcook as they go soggy). Season to taste with soy sauce. Serve with rice.
*I didn’t have enough brussel sprouts, so I threw in some cauliflower as well to bulk up the meal.
**Frying with a fatty, salty, processed meat is the only way to eat brussel sprouts. Their bitter, wasabi taste combined with fat and salt is amazeballs. If stirfries are not your thing, you can combine brussel sprouts with prosciutto, sultanas, and almonds.