Thursday, 28 July 2011

Guest blogpost - Same Same but Different

After the amazing success of Elizabeth's blogpost on Swillington Farm meat boxes I'm delighted to share with you a follow up to it from the lovely @RachATheMachine.

A (slightly belated) follow up to @artemisfoul1812 ‘s guest blog on @swillingtonfarm ‘s new monthly meat box scheme. We just received our second meat box and I have to say that I am totally sold on the concept. On a practical note, it helps us to budget, health wise it ensures that we stick to consuming only a healthy amount of meat. The quality of the produce, knowing it’s ethically sourced, combined with the challenge of finding and creating new recipes using whichever cuts you happen to get that month is a foodie’s wet dream. With the surprise ingredients, it’s all a bit ‘Ready Steady Cook’.

Since my trip to Vietnam I’ve been keen to re-create some of the dishes I had on my travels. When I found that we had beef frying steak in our first meat box I immediately earmarked it for one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes.

Here it is accompanied by a starter…..

Same Same but Different

Unless you have visited Vietnam it’s likely that you have never been fortunate enough to experience this amazing cuisine. There are after all only three (as far as I can tell) Vietnamese restaurants in the North (Sheffield’s Pho 68, Manchester’s Vnam CafĂ© and Newcastle’s Little Saigon). Though it shares the hallmarks of its more popular Asian neighbours, China and Thailand; fresh flavours, stir-fries, the use of soy and fish sauce, with rice and noodles the most common accompaniments, Vietnam has plenty to offer in it’s own right, from their breakfast speciality Pho (pronounced ‘fur’), a noodle broth dish with thin strips of meat and vegetables, to perfectly seasoned barbequed meat and hearty hot pots. The French influence means that traditional Vietnamese dishes can be found served in fresh baguettes as street food. It’s a light cuisine, combining a number of different herbs with fresh vegetables to achieve flavour rather than hot spices. Owing to it being a Buddhist country there is a lot on offer for vegetarians.  

If you want to eat Vietnamese in Leeds then you are going to need to cook it yourself. Here is a starter and a main, from two different regions, for you to try. Though obviously this is a Western concept, in Vietnam the dishes would be served together, but getting these two on the table at similar times would be quite a challenge! Both are based on a recent visit to Vietnam.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I picked up this recipe at the Red Bridge Cookery School in Hoi An, a city in the central region, of which this type of spring roll are specific to.


Prawns - chopped up small (just sub with veg if you don't want the prawns. Pork or beef can also be substituted)
2 thinly sliced spring onions
Bean sprouts
Topping mix - mint, coriander, Vietnamese basil (Thai basil is fine), carrot (all finely chopped)
Packet of rice paper

Get started by prepping everything in advance. Personally, I’m not normally big on doing all my chopping before I start cooking, I normally just get stuck in, but you have to do this quickly so it’s necessary. Prep the prawns, veg and topping mix. Chop the prawns and beat the egg and a tiny amount of milk together. It’s easiest to have two bowls, one with the combined veg mix and one with the combined topping mix. The rice paper will also need soaking but be careful not to overdo it. Once ready lay out on a chopping board.

In a small frying pan (it needs to be the same size if not smaller than the size of the rice paper) heat the oil. Add the prawns, spring onions and bean sprouts and fry over a high heat for a few mins, until softened.

Add the egg to the pan with the prawn mixture so that a very thin layer is covering the surface of the pan (the thicker it is the harder it is to roll). It needn’t cover the top of the veg and prawns. Once the omelet is completely cooked through flip it over and fry for a few seconds on the other side. Remove from the pan and place centrally on the rice paper. Add the topping mix to the centre then roll.

Rolling the spring rolls will take some practice. As the pictures show, I haven’t yet mastered it. It will help immensely if the omelette is smaller than the rice paper, for which you will need a tiny frying pan. I got mine from Peter Maturi on Vicar Lane for £4.

Griddled Beef, Rice and Stir-fried Greens

In Vietnam they serve this over an outdoor grill. They bring out the grill which is like a mini wooden BBQ with a mesh top and the marinated meat on a plate which you but on the BBQ yourself using your chop sticks. If in Vietnam, you are most likely seated close to the side of the street whist the world zooms past on scooters. Here is an adapted for indoors version. If you do choose to it on the BBQ (which I’d recommend if you can), accompany it with cold vermicelli noodles, cold veggies and dipping sauce. The perfect combo for a hot summers day!

Rice – get the rice on the hob. When it’s almost cooked, set it to one side with the lid on to steam it. Then…..

For the Stir-Fried Greens:
Sesame seeds
Garlic (finely sliced)
Ginger (finely sliced)
Pak Choi
Cabbage (chopped)
Soy Sauce

Start off by dry toasting the sesame seeds then set to one side. Get the wok with some oil in it on a high heat. In Vietnam veggies are either uncooked or briefly stir -fried so be careful not to over-do it. First, fry the garlic and ginger (approx 1 min) then add the broccoli (approx 2 minutes), finally; add the Pak Choi and Cabbage (approx 2 minutes). Just before serving add sesame seeds and one or two splashes of soy sauce, stirring in thoroughly.

While the greens are cooking get the griddle pan on a very high heat with oil in it. Once the greens have been cooked….

For the beef:
Frying steak cut into small strips
Vietnamese or Chinese Five Spice
Soy Sauce
Garlic - crushed
Ginger – grated
Lime (juice)

Marinate the beef, in advance of cooking by mixing together the oil five spice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and lime into a paste. Leave to marinate for at least half an hour.

Heat the oil in the griddle pan on a high. Add the beef one strip at a time, cooking for 15 seconds on each side (adjust accordingly to your preference). I used the same technique as for cooking scallops: adding each one, one at a time, once they have all been added go back through them again in the same order turning them over, and back again taking them all off one at a time. You’re done!

Serve with…. Pretty much all of the cities in Vietnam new brew their own lager but they taste pretty much the same as other Asian lagers, so wash it down with the likes of Tiger or Asahi.

Finally, if you are wondering about the title, it’s a rather ubiquitous self-mocking phrase used in Vietnam (and Cambodia and Thailand so I’m told). 

Foot note: Ingredients – Sourcing locally for this meal.
You should be able to get all the ingredients for these dishes from the supermarket but if you want your pennies to stay local, here’s where we got ours from…..

Eggs from at Out of this World (across from the Corn Ex)
Meat from Swillington Farm
All South East Asian ingredients from the Chinese supermarkets
Herbs and other veggies from Leeds Kirkgate Outdoor Market (at a bargain price!)

An absolutely fantastic follow up - I can't wait to have a go at the beef dish, I think that will make it on to next week's menu - I don't know if I'm brave enough to try the spring roll, I'm terrible at omelettes! 


  1. Great stuff, this is giving me a Vietnamese food craving something rotten. I really, really wish someone would open a Vietnamese restaurant in Leeds. Can vouch for both Vnam Cafe and Little Saigon, both worth a visit.

  2. I've never eaten Vietnamese food before, so i'm looking forward to trying this!

  3. Mmmm, that beef dish sounds fabulous! And I love the idea of getting a meat box - must go and investigate.


  4. Sounds delicious. Well written & loved the pictures Vietnam comes to Leeds @ last!

  5. I can't wait until we make this again!! :-) the veg were flipping lovely too


I love getting comments :)