this is a food-loving family – so there’s nothing better to us than a great meal for quality bonding. and while you’re more likely to catch us scoffing down food at a pretty alarming rate (and amount), sometimes you gotta get workin’ before you start eatin’.
our first cooking class as a family, this was a prelude to dinner (in the next post!) – we arrived to see the ingredients all laid out, chefs and translators at the ready. this was a communal lesson for all the residents at the lodge, and a pretty easy one at that. we got to fold egg-enriched dumpling wrappers around seasoned minced meat for boiled-or-soupy dumplings, roll some mung bean paper around slivered-vegetable-and-mince for spring rolls, and watch the chef demonstrate a version of sweet-and-sour pork.
we got to learn a new method of wrapping meat dumplings – known as wantons in my part of the world – basically you fold the square wrapper in half diagonally, and seal the edges for a triangular pouch around the filling, before folding the bottom two corners of the triangle in to form an ingot-like shape. these were boiled/fried by the chef later, and were plenty tasty with a well-seasoned filling. the spring rolls were simpler, a straightforward fold-the-sides-in-then-roll-and-tuck, but those wrappers were something special – made of mung beans, these fried up to a crisp shatter. the sweet and sour pork was good too – pretty run-of-the-mill since we get pretty good renditions in singapore, but there were perky fruit flavours from the fresh and chunky pineapple.
they passed out recipes at the end of the lesson, so I’ve reproduced it here for you in case you’d like to make these at home – they are pretty quick and easy, and while folding and rolling might seem tedious, it’s a small step for good food!
fried wantons/wanton soup
20 wonton sheets – use the yellow, egg-enriched squares
150g minced pork
0.5 tsp bouillon powder (I’d sub fish sauce or something tasty for this)
pinch of pepper
0.5 tsp sugar
20g green onions – use the green bits
- mix everything – except the wonton sheets – together and pinch the sheet together in your favourite manner (I’ve described what we were taught above). use egg wash for sealing edges. if you’re new to this, just egg-wash the edges, fold in half and you’ll have a simple, but no less tasty, dumpling. beware of being overtly greedy with the filling – the skin will likely be overcooked in the time it takes to safely cook more filling.
- if you’re frying the wantons, prepare a thick paper towel on a separate plate to absorb any excess oil from deep-frying. if you’re boiling these, you’ll need a pot of plain water for boiling the dumplings, and another pot of tasty soup to serve the wantons in – an easy option is to use stock cubes. if you want to be a little more authentic, you can make a clear broth by boiling 300g of pork bones in 1l of plain water for 30 minutes, before seasoning with some sugar and condensed bouillon if necessary.
- heat some oil till shimmering and deep-fry the wantons until golden brown. alternatively, boil the wantons until the skin is nearly translucent and the filling is firm and cooked.
chả giò (spring rolls, or literally fried minced pork)
16 mung bean wrapper sheets
20g fresh shitake mushrooms/wood ear fungus, soaked at least 30 minutes
200g minced pork
seasoning: condensed bouillon, shallot, pepper and sugar
- sliver the carrot and wood ear fungus thinly. fold into the minced pork, and season well.
- roll teaspoonfuls of filling in the mung bean wrapper tightly – this is to make sure it doesn’t unravel before being fully cooked. repeat until all the ingredients have been used – if you’re as obsessive as I am, you can weigh your mixture and divide it equally amongst the wrappers.
- cook until golden brown and crispy in preheated soya bean oil (really any sort with a high smoking point will do).
sweet and sour pork
200g diced pork
seasoning: condensed bouillon, pepper, green onions
1 heaped tablespoon of wheat/rice/corn flour (they recommend a mix of wheat and rice flour)
200g tomatoes, quartered and seeded (throw the seeds into the sauce!)
(they used lychees too, so throw in a handful of drained syruped ones if you have them! so good)
100g white onion
20g spring onions
20g celery stalk
2 cloves garlic, chopped
seasoning: 1/3 cup water + 1 tbsp white vinegar + 1 tbsp tomato ketchup + 1 tbsp oyster sauce + 1 tsp condensed bouillon + 1 tsp sugar
- dice the vegetables to approximately the same size so they cook in approximately the same time, about a 2cm dice.
- season the diced pork. dip the cubes into an egg wash before tossing it about in the flour. fry in boiling oil until golden brown, then place on paper towels to drain while preparing the sauce.
- heat some oil with the garlic in a pan until the garlic starts browning. add the pineapple and cucumber, then the seasoning mixture. continue heating on high until the liquid starts to boil, then add the tomatoes, celery and onions until cooked. when the gravy has reduced, add the fried pork and spring onion, stirring to coat the pork. season to taste.
more on the mekong lodge found on the heading out for food page, if you scroll down to vietnam | mekong delta.