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Vietnam: Fact Sheet

The flamboyant Peta Mathias hits the gastronomic road again with Taste Takes Off - a revamped overseas version of Taste New Zealand. New Zealand's footloose TV foodie explores the flavours, the style and the sights of 10 destinations around the Pacific. Peta's lived the food traditions of the world and each Taste Takes Off travels to a country seeking out the people and stories behind the flavours.

Peta travels to Hanoi, a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and a bustling, vibrant old quarter and also to Hoi An, a picturesque old fishing town mid-way along the country's coast. Vietnam is a country that is verdant and fertile, and where French traditions mingle with Chinese. Its dishes are fresh and green and its national dish, pho, is a beef broth soup overflowing with clean tasty ingredients.


Hanoi Street Food
Dec 19th Market
Lang Market Garden
Hanoi Sofitel Metropole Cooking School
The ubiquitous fish sauce Nuoc Mam
The Hoi An fish market
Guest Chef is Chef Hai who cooks at his very stylish Red Bridge Restaurant.

Madam Mai at The Metropole Hotel
Each Morning in Hanoi's elegant Metropole Sofitel Hotel you'll find chef Madam Mai.  If you want to learn about Vietnamese food there's no better way than to book a cooking lesson with this knowledgeable woman. The lessons always begin with a trip to Hanoi's most famous market, the Dec 19th.

The Metropole Sofitel Hotel
150 Ngo Quyen Street
Tel: 84 4 826 6919
Fax: 84 4 8266920

Madame Mai's Recipes:

Hanoi deep fried spring rolls

Papaya and carrots marinated in salt, sugar and vinegar
Pork shoulder
Sweet turnip
Black mushrooms
Onions and spring onions
Vermicelli noodles
Rice paper

Cut carrot and young papaya into slices and marinate in a mixture of salt, sugar and vinegar. Mince the pork, chop the sweet turnip and onions and mix all these ingredients together with egg. Place in individual pieces of softened rice paper and make into rolls.  Seal the ends of the rolls with a paste made with flour and water. Deep fry and serve on a bed of salad leaves and herbs with a Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Marinated Pork grilled in Bamboo

Pork shoulder

For marinade:
Fish sauce
Spring onion
2 bamboo tubes, string and banana leaves

Make 4 tablespoonfuls of caramel sauce with the sugar and some water. Slice the pork shoulder and then marinate for 30 minutes in the caramel source with sliced spring onions, chopped ginger, fish sauce and chilli. Cut bamboo in half lengthways. Place a banana leaf inside each half of the bamboo tubes and fill with the marinated meat mixture. Join the two halves together, tie with string and grill for 20 minutes.

To serve:
Open up the 2 halves and serve with rice or noodles, coriander and a light fish sauce

Peta Cooks
Bananas grow everywhere in Vietnam but it's often not the fruit that is used. Peta prepares a salad using banana flower, with roasted peanuts and a spicy Vietnamese sauce.

Banana Flower Salad

Make the dressing first:
2 tbsp nuoc mam (fish sauce)
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 chilli, finely chopped

Mix these together and leave to meld flavours.

1 fresh banana flower
1 lemon
3 star fruit
150g cooked pork, finely sliced
150g cooked chicken, finely sliced
1/4 cup roasted chopped peanuts
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
1 cup bean sprouts
1 big handful of coarsely chopped 'ram' herbs, which could be Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, coriander, mint, basil.
Extra chilli, peanuts, sesame and herbs for decoration

Fill a large bowl with water mixed with the juice of the lemon. Remove the tough outer layers of the banana blossom and discard, along with the undeveloped "baby" bananas inside. Carefully pull away the next several layers of leaves, regularly cutting into the stem to make it easier to break them off (the aim is to keep the leaves whole if possible). Lay several leaves on top of one another and slice the leaves crosswise into thin strips. To keep the leaves from turning black, place immediately in the acidulated water, turning occasionally. Continue in this fashion, releasing the leaves discarding the undeveloped bananas and cutting the leaves into strips, until you reach the "heart". Cut this centre in half lengthwise, remove as many babies as possible, and slice the remaining leaves finely. There are probably only about 200g of sliced flower left at this point.  Soak remainder of the flower in the lemon water for 30 minutes.

Rinse the flower in a colander under running water until the water becomes clear then put back in the bowl with fresh water. Slice star fruit and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Leave for 10 minutes then dry with kitchen towels. Drain the banana flower and toss in a large bowl with the other ingredients and the sauce.

To serve:
Serve salad immediately in a large bowl or little bowls and sprinkle with a little chilli, peanuts and sesame. Decorate with sprigs of herbs.

Chef Hai & The Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School
In the lovely old city Hoi An we meet, popular local chef, Hai. Chef Hai is one of a handful of restaurateurs breaking new ground by taking the best of traditional Vietnamese cookery and adding new twists. His stylish new restaurant and cooking school The Red Bridge is the perfect venue. 

Contact: The Red Bridge Café and Cooking School
Thon 4, Cam Thanh, Hoi An,
Tel: 84 510 933222


Seafood curry soup served in whole coconut

Shrimp and squid
Coconut milk
Carrot, green bean, peas, potato
Shallots and white onions
1 tsp curry powder

Slice the vegetables and boil for 3 minutes and strain. Stir-fry the shallots and onions then add shrimp and finally the squid. Add water and fresh coconut juice, bring to the boil and add vegetables. Season. Add coconut cream, curry powder, cook lightly and add cornflour. Pour into whole coconut, steam for 3 minutes to warm coconut skin and serve.

Caramelised mackerel in clay pot

Spring onion
Fish sauce
Spring onion
Brown sugar

Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a pan and fry fish. Add water and the rest of the ingredients. Place in clay pot and simmer for 20 minutes or until the fish takes on the flavours.

Additional Information:
Travel specialists Adventure World assisted the Taste Takes Off team with their Vietnam arrangements. Adventure World is a niche travel company with an in-depth knowledge of less traditional tourist destinations. For more information about their products and tours contact Adventure World at:

Adventure World Travel
Tel: 64 9 524 5118
0800 ADVENTURE (0800 238 3688)
PO Box 74008 Market Road Auckland


Lonely Planet's Vietnam World Food Guide
Noodle Pillows by Peta Mathias