Vietnamese food writer and photographer Uyen Luu tells us about her favourite foods and flavours, and shares a recipe from her latest cookbook, Vietnamese: Simple Vietnamese Food to Cook At Home.

How has Vietnam's history influenced its food story?

“The occupation of the French for 100 years had [a] huge impact on the Vietnamese cuisine, from written and spoken language, to the vast array of baguettes on every street corner.

“Café culture is not only aspirational but a necessity for busy motorists sipping on the most gorgeous bitter and sweet beverage. Even the famous pho noodle soup is thought to have been inspired by the pot-au-feu [French beef stew] – made the Vietnamese way.

“The lasting French influence is deeply [ingrained].”

What ingredients do you always have at home?

“A premium bottle of fish sauce and soy sauce is always in the cupboard along with a variety of noodles and a 10kg bag of jasmine rice.

“If I have ginger, lemongrass, shallots and garlic with a couple of lemons or limes, I can always turn anything we have into [something] Vietnamese.”

Growing up, what was your favourite traditional food and why?

“Apart from the Vietnamese food is so delicious, I loved all traditional foods that my mum made, from pho to family style rice meals.

“I grew up eating Bun bo Hue [noodle soup], made by my grandmother who had a stall in her front room, every morning at breakfast. They always remind me of the tastes I love from Vietnam because we had to leave all our family behind when we came to the UK.

“Traditional Vietnamese food was all we had left of home.”

What are your top tips for a successful rice paper roll?

“Buy a good quality rice paper, just dip the sheet and never leave it to soak. Dry all your ingredients well so that the paper does not break later on.

“Make a great balanced dipping sauce and keep your rolls air-tight if serving later.”

If you were to entertain guests who were new to food from Vietnam, what would you cook for them and why?

“I would introduce them to pho. It’s the most balanced in flavour, texture and goodness and everyone loves it.

“I would also do a Vietnamese salad, usually with papaya but it’s not a must. Any crunchy vegetables will do, with torn poached chicken.

“The fish sauce dressing in this is a true and typical flavour of Vietnam – sweet, sour, salty, umami, hot and bitter.

“Plus the textures of softness and crunchiness amongst the raw and the cooked ingredients make this a magical culinary experience.”


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