Au Revoir Vietnam

The party’s over but what a party. After Hué the gastronomads and I spent a few hot days in Hoi An, possibly the cutest, prettiest town in Vietnam. When I first visited Hoi An in 2002 I met a young woman called Ms Vy who taught me my first Vietnamese cooking class. Back then she had a couple of restaurants and now she has five in Hoi An, a big cooking school and a hotel. She basically runs Hoi An, travels the world and looks just the same all these years later.

Fashionable Vietnamese women cover every part of their bodies so the sun never damages them – hats, masks, socks and gloves. They are so concerned about cleanliness that they wear big aprons over their clothes while riding their motor bikes.

In Saigon we had a fantastic breakfast street food tour, a fantastic art tour (even the non art lovers were riveted) and a fantastic last night blow-out at a new French restaurant. This included dancing dragons, jazz, raw eggs with truffles and cognac because this is Saigon and you can do anything here. If you said, I would like to have cocktails in a bunker, they would say, what time Madam and do you want chilli peanuts? During our tour we often ate green papaya or mango salads which are desperately refreshing and flavoursome. We are now all in love with fish sauce.

Green Papaya Salad (Goi Du Du) – serves 4

If you can get hold of a Vietnamese double bladed knife, it is ideal for these salads. You make many cuts down into the papaya with a Chinese knife then slice with the double-bladed knife. You must use a green papaya, it won't work with a ripe one.

one green papaya, peeled and julienned
one small carrot, peeled and julienned
3 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp nuoc mam fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp chopped fresh chilli
1 tsp grated garlic
1 cup of roasted chopped peanuts
2 tbsp finely sliced red onion
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped basil

  1. Make the marinade by mixing together the lime juice, nuoc mam, sugar, pepper, chilli and garlic. Toss the papaya and carrot in this then put your hand over the salad and drain excess liquid off. If you leave it sitting in the marinade, it will go limp.
  2. Mix in half the peanuts, the onion and half the mint and basil.

To serve: Place the salad on a plate and top with the rest of the peanuts, mint and basil.