Tasting Vietnam: Flavors and Memories from My Grandmother’s Kitchen, written by Anne-Solenne Hatte, features 60 classic recipes paired with incredible family memories, photos, and stories. A few highlights include Bún Chả (Grilled Pork), Tôm Nướng (Pan-Fried Shrimp), Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crepes), Bắp Cải Xào Cà Chua (Sautéed Cabbage with Tomatoes), and Chè Chuối (Tapioca Pearls with Banana). I will also be sharing her grandmother’s recipe for Chả Giò Thịt Heo (Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Rizzoli in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Anne-Solenne Hatte is a Franco-Vietnamese model and actress. She put together this cookbook to immortalize her grandmother’s stories and recipes and share them with future generations.
Tasting Vietnam was originally published in French in 2019 as La Cuisine de Bá and is now available in English through Rizzoli! The book is so much more than just recipes. Anne-Solenne fills the pages with memories and the life of the woman behind the food, her maternal grandmother- Bà Ngoại in Vietnamese.
Her grandmother’s story begins in the 1920s in Vân Nội (now a part of Hanoi), Vietnam, then her words take you through the journey to Huế and Saigon. Her family with nine children left Vietnam on September 9th, 1962 for Washington D.C. and finally settled in France (Mer, then Orléans) in 1964. The recipes accompany her grandmother’s notes on every part of the story.
The chapters are divided based on the region during Bà’s life: Northern Vietnam, Central Vietnam, Southern Vietnam, USA, and France. At the end of the book, the contents are listed with the individual recipes and page numbers for easy reference.
The photography is provided by Pierre Monetta. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a half to full-page photo of the finished dish. The pages are also scattered with a gorgeous collection of family photos to truly show the lives of the family behind the cuisine.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in Vietnamese and English. Each recipe includes tips, prep/cooking/resting time, and serving size. Having a basic knowledge of Vietnamese ingredients will be helpful.
Chả Giò Thịt Heo (Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls)
I was so excited to see a recipe for Chả Giò Thịt Heo (Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls) in Tasting Vietnam! It has long been one of my favorites, but I have not had much experience making them at home.
Anne-Solenne’s grandmother made the Chả Giò Thịt Heo to win over members of the American government during a dinner party and they are indeed quite impressive. The flavors were absolutely fantastic.
Chả Giò (nem rán in Northern Vietnam) are fried Vietnamese spring rolls with a delicate rice paper and a savory meat vegetable filling. They take some time to prepare, but the flavors are so incredibly worth it.
Soak the wrappers just long enough to become pliable. The hotter the water, the less time this will take. For me, it is usually around 10 seconds. You want the wrappers soft enough that you can fold them without breaking, but not so soft that they fall apart or don’t fry correctly. If this is your first time working with rice paper wrappers, have a few extra just in case (in the beginning, I always managed to tear at least a couple).
Once you have dipped the rice paper wrapper in the water, work quickly to roll the filling.
Take care not to overfill the wrappers or they will be difficult to roll up completely. For 6 1/4 inch (16 centimeter) wrappers, Anne-Solenne recommends about 2 teaspoons (20 grams) of filling. Wrap tightly to avoid any air bubbles forming (these tend to puff and pop open while frying).
Only place up to five of the spring rolls into the oil at a time and keep them from touching, especially in the beginning. The wrappers tend to stick together.
To serve, fry the Chả Giò a second time (don’t skip this!) until lightly golden and pair with lettuce, mint, cilantro, and homemade Nước Chấm (a sweet and tangy thin spring roll dipping sauce).
Fish sauce (Nước Mắm) is a condiment created by slowly fermenting fish (generally anchovies) in a salt water mixture, then pressing to produce a thin liquid. It has quite the strong smell, but provides a savory flavor. Brands from different countries will vary a bit in taste and quality. It can be found in some larger grocery stores and markets with Southeast Asian ingredients.
Rice paper wrappers (Bánh tráng) are flat wrappers made with rice flour and occasionally tapioca starch. They are dried and very brittle, so soak in warm water briefly before folding. I have been able to locate rice paper wrappers in markets with Vietnamese and Southeast Asian ingredients.
Dried wood ear mushrooms (Nấm Mèo, Black Fungus) can be found in the pantry section of markets with Southeast Asian ingredients either whole or in strips (I used strips for easy dicing). They don’t have much flavor on their own, but add a wonderful springy, crunchy texture. Soak the mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 30 minutes, before using.
I also made Cháo (Rice Porridge), Chè Trôi Nước (Sticky Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup), Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee), and Thịt Băm (Caramelized Ground Pork).
The Cháo (Rice Porridge) was such a wonderfully comforting recipe for the recent rainy days we have had here in Los Angeles. Two types of rice (white and glutinous) are simmered in plenty of water for nearly an hour until thickened, then served with chopped beef tenderloin, shallots, fresh herbs, and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.
One of my absolute favorites was the Chè Trôi Nước (Sticky Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup). A glutinous rice flour mixture is formed into small balls, then cooked and served in a sweet ginger syrup with candied ginger and sesame seeds.
There are a couple of drink recipes in the book and I especially enjoyed the Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee). Hot water is poured over ground coffee inside a phin, then served cold with condensed or evaporated milk.
Anne-Solenne has a caption at the top of the Thịt Băm (Caramelized Ground Pork) recipe stating “Kids love it!” She was indeed right, at least with my two. This has been their favorite so far. Ground pork is cooked in a homemade caramel syrup with shallots and Nước Mắm (fish sauce) until well coated. It is served immediately with scallions or cilantro.
Tasting Vietnam is a wonderful choice for those interested in Vietnamese cuisine, especially paired with stories from a family behind the recipes. There is an incredible variety of quick and easy meals that come together in less than 30 minutes to more intricate dishes with a little more prep involved.
Having a market with Vietnamese ingredients will be helpful in locating items such as rau ram (Vietnamese cilantro), Nước Mắm (fish sauce), Chinese egg noodles, bird’s eye chiles, cardamom, star anise, lemongrass, duck, pork belly, Thai basil, glutinous rice flour, tia to (Vietnamese perilla), dried shrimp, banana blossom, and pandan leaves.
Chả Giò Thịt Heo (Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls) Recipe
Chả Giò Thịt Heo (Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls)
Chả Giò Thịt Heo (Vietnamese Pork Spring Rolls)
- 1/2 ounce (15 grams) dried vermicelli noodles I used mung bean thread noodles/cellophane noodles
- 1/4 cup (5 grams) dried wood ear mushrooms
- 1 small onion (3 1/2 ounces, 100 grams)
- 5 1/2 ounces (150 grams) ground pork shoulder
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) shredded carrots
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) nuoc mam fish sauce
- 1/3 teaspoon (2 grams) fine salt
- 3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) freshly ground black pepper
- 15 rice paper wrappers (6 1/4 inches, 16 centimeters) in diameter
- 4 1/4 cups (1 liter) sunflower oil
- A few lettuce leaves
- Fresh cilantro
- Fresh mint
Spring Roll Dipping Sauce:
- 2 cloves (6 grams) garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) nuoc mam fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) rice vinegar or lime juice
For the filling:
- Soak the vermicelli and mushrooms separately in warm water for 30 minutes.
- Coarsely cut the vermicelli and finely dice the mushrooms.
- Peel and thinly slice the onions.
- In a bowl, mix the ground meat with the shredded carrots, onion, noodles, chopped mushrooms, and beaten egg.
- Season with the nuoc mam, salt, and pepper.
For the spring rolls:
- Boil water and pour into a large bowl. Soak a clean cloth in the water, wring it out, and lay over a table or large tray.
- Soak the rice paper wrapper in the hot water and lay out over the cloth.
- Make a 3/4 ounce (20 gram) ball of filling, about 2 teaspoons, and place it centered at the bottom of the wrapper.
- Partly roll up the wrapper tightly around the filling and flatten the sides to remove any air.
- Fold the sides over and finish rolling. Repeat the process to make fifteen rolls.
Cooking and finishing:
- Heat the sunflower oil to 210˚F (100˚C) in a saucepan.
- Lower five rolls at a time into the pan, then gradually increase the heat to 300˚F (150˚C) without touching or moving them until they turn light golden. Then remove and drain off excess oil in a colander or on paper towels.
- Before serving, deep-fry again at 350˚F (180˚C) in the same oil for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the color, then drain.
- Serve with a lettuce leaf, fresh cilantro, mint, and spring roll dipping sauce.
To make the Spring Roll Dipping Sauce:
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Heat 1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (100 grams) water, add the sugar, and wait for the mixture to cool.
- Mix in the nuoc mam, vinegar, and minced garlic (I also added a few red chili slices).