With fluorescent lights bleaching the steel surfaces and plumes of scented smoke rising from shing copper pots, this could be anyone of the bustling kitchens in Hanoi’s high end restaurants. But at KOTO (which stands for Know One, Teach One), creating tantalising dishes is only one of the restaurant’s aims. The other is to provide training, employment and housing for 100 local "street children". Enjoy one of the most vibrant recipes from the restaurant:
Caramel pork 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 2 eschalots, peeled and chopped 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper 150 ml fish sauce, plus extra to taste 1 kg port belly Vegetable oil for frying Boiled rice to serve Pickled bean sprouts (see following recipe) to serve Caramel sauce 220 g caster sugar Juice of ½ lime
Place garlic, shallot, pepper and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce in a bowl and stir to combine. Slice pork into 2 cm strips and place in a shallow tray. Pour marinade over and marinate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 160 degree Celsius and place a clay casserole in the oven to warm. To make caramel sauce, place sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a heavy based saucepan over a low heat. Bring to the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue to boil and when mixture starts to colour, swirl the saucepan. After 2 4 minutes, when caramel turns a deep brown, remove from heat and quickly but carefully add lime juice and 375 ml water; the hot caramel may spot. Return to heat and swirl sauce pan to combine. Remove from heat and cover until required. Heat a small amount of oil in a wok or frypan over a high heat and sear pork, tossing frequently so it colours evenly and does not stick. Add caramel sauce, remaining fish sauce, 400ml water and bring to the boil. Place wok contents into heated casserole, cover and cook in oven for 1 hour or until pork is tender. Taste for seasoning, add a dash more fish sauce if desired and cook, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes. Server with rice and pickled bean sprouts. Serves 6 as part of a banquet.
Pickled bean sprouts ½ cup rice vinegar 2 teaspoon sea salt ¼ teaspoon caster sugar 500 bean sprouts 1 telegraph cucumber, peeled and cut into 5 cm batons ½ pineapple, peeled an d cut into 5 cm batons 1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Place vinegar, salt and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until sugar dissolves, then cool to lukewarm. Place remaining ingredients in a bowl, pour pickling liquid over and lightly toss to combine. Stand for 30 minutes and serve. Serves 6 as accompaniment.
Rock ling with turmeric, dill and rice vermicelli 3 cm fresh galangal *, peeled and roughly chopped 1 long red chilli, deseeded 2 tablespoons ground turmeric 1 tablespoon caster sugar 3 tablespoons fish sauce 800g rock ling (or other firm, white fleshed fish such as barramundi or gemfish) Vegetable oil for deep frying 2 large handfuls dill sprigs 12 spring onions, thickly sliced 200 rice vermicelli ½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped Thai basil leaves to serve Coriander leaves to serve Classic dipping sauce (see following recipe) to serve
*Galangal is a knob like rhizome from the same family as ginger, available from Asian food stores and select greengrocers.
Place galangal, chilli, turmeric and sugar in a mortar and grind with a pestle to form a paste. Add fish sauce and 2 ½ tablespoons of water and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove skin and bones from fish and cut into 3cm chunks. Pour marinade over fish and refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove fish and pat dry with paper towel. Preheat a grill or barbecue to a high heat, cook fish on both sides until lines appear, but remove before fish is cooked all the way through. Heat oil in a large frypan over a high heat, add a third of the fish and deep –fry for 3 4 minutes, turning once. Add a third of the dill and spring onion and toss until jilted. Remove fish and herbs with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Pace vermicelli in a large saucepan, cover with boiling water, stand for 4 5 minutes, then stir gently to separate. Drain and refresh vermicelli under cold water, then cut with scissors into manageable lengths. Place some vermicelli in 6 serving bowls, top with fish and herbs, scatter peanut over and serve with accompaniments. Fry remaining fish and herbs in two batches and encourage diners to continue piling vermicelli and fish into their bowls. Serve with classic dipping sauce. Servers 6 as part of a banquet.
The great variety of dipping sauces plays an essential role, supporting the Vietnamese principle of five flavours in every meal: bitter, sweet, sour, spicy and salty.
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Annabelle Bui has great passion for Vietnam history, culture and Vietnamese cooking recipes. She has travelled from north to south Vietnam to collect Vietnamese vibrant cooking recipes, understand Vietnamese culture and experience great travel destinations. Visit http://www.uniquevietnam.info