Authentic Vietnamese Ingredients

 

 

 

Authentic Vietnamese Ingredients

 

Annatto seed

Annatto seeds are the dark reddish-
brown seeds of the “lipstick plant” and
are commonly used as a coloring agent.
Usually the seeds are fried in oil to extract
their brick red color, then discarded.
Commonly available where Caribbean
foods are sold.

 

 

Garlic chives

Asian chives or garlic chives have long,
flat green leaves and are smaller than
regular chives, resembles flat spring
onions. They have a far more emphat-
ic, garlicky flavor than Western chives.

 

Banana blossoms

Banana blossoms are the unopened
male flowers of the banana plant—a
purple-red inflorescence tinged with
yellow at the base which hangs at the
end of a clump of developing bananas.
Tasting like artichokes, the hearts of
these flowers, which have been stripped
off their purple petals, are a popular
salad ingredient in some Southeast Asia
cuisines, especially in Vietnam. Fresh,
canned and dried banana blossoms
can often be found in specialty stores
outside Asia, particularly those stock-
ing Vietnamese and Thai ingredients.
Choose a firm, large blossom with an
even color and check that the outer
petals are not wilted. To prepare the
blossom for cooking, remove the coarse
outer petals to reveal the creamy white
heart. Quarter the heart lengthwise with
an oiled stainless steel knife to avoid
the sticky sap from clinging to it. If not
cooking immediately, soak in cold water
or rub with lemon or lime juice to avoid
discoloration. Simmer the cut heart in
plenty of lightly salted water until tender,
about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, cool then
pull out and discard the hard filaments
inside each cluster of yellow stamens
as they have an unpleasant texture.

 

 

Banana leaves

Banana leaves are used to wrap food
for steaming or grilling. The moisture
and flavor of the banana leaf makes a
difference to the texture and flavor of the
food, but if you can’t find fresh or frozen
banana leaf, use aluminium foil. Before
using to wrap food, the leaves should
be softened for easy folding, either by
soaking in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes
or briefly heating over a low flame

 

Chayote

Chayote is a type of squash that looks
like a light green cucumber, having an
oval shape and a small white seed. It
is also known as mirliton or christophene.
A good substitute is zucchini.

 

Asian Basil

Basil is often used as a seasoning and garnish in Vietnamese cooking.
Several types of basil are used and the most common one is Asian Basil
(known as horapa in Thailand), which is similar to European sweet basil. It is
used liberally as a seasoning and sprigs are often added to platters of fresh,
raw vegetables. Similar, yet paler in color, and with a distinctive lemony fra-
grance, lemon basil is used in soups and salads. Holy basil has distinctive
purple-reddish leaves and a mint-like zesty flavor and is used for stir-fries.
Lemon basil and holy basil are not widely found outside the region. Basil
doesn’t store well, so buy it just before you intend to use it. European sweet
basil can be used as a substitute for all varieties. Basil has a strong flavor,
so don’t use more than the recipe states.

 

Chilies

Chilies have become an essential culi-
nary item in almost every Asian country.
Many different varieties are used. The
Asian finger-length red chili is moderately
hot. Dried red chilies of this variety are
ground to make chili flakes or ground
red pepper. Tiny bird’s-eye chilies are
extremely hot. They are also available
dried. Whether sliced or minced, the
seeds are usually removed.

 

 



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