About

About

Welcome to my blog! I am a writer, photographer, food/ prop stylist and film maker. You can find recipes, photos, blog posts, films and videos here.

Please follow me on instagram @loveleluu & subscribe here for blog posts. Thank you so much for visiting this page x

Food Styling & Photograhy

My Photography Work

My Book

Supper Club

Supper Club

The supper club is held in my home in London Fields, Hackney. It is like a dinner party in the tradition of a Vietnamese feast with homemade Vietnamese food.

Classes

Classes

Vietnamese food is about the balance of flavours, of sweet, salty and sour – there is no measuring device that can ever match your own taste buds.

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Love Your Greens, Oranges, Yellows, Reds…

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“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”*

There isn’t much need for me to drone on about how vegetables are so good for us – everyone else has already said it! My mum has bought me up with 70% vegetables on the table and 30% meat or fish because that is the way its traditionally done in Vietnam. Perhaps not because its just good for you but mainly because its also cheaper and also good for you. But loving my veg has never been an easy feat in Western cooking because it is done so differently to the Vietnamese way – which is high heat, cook fast and eat.

Vegetables are flash fried quickly so that it retains texture, shape and taste or blanched right before serving to flavour broth, keeping all the essential flavours and nutrients within the dish, then eaten. Broth from most vegetables that has been boiled is kept as a drink. Nothing is wasted.

My favourite ways of cooking vegetables, using my Leisure stove and oven:

1. Roast or Grill

Tips:

Wash and cut vegetables to bite sized pieces and place on a baking tray. Using a pastry brush, paint the surfaces of the vegetables with coconut oil, left over fat from a roast or duck/ goose fat. Season with salt and pepper or any spices you fancy then roast in the conventional oven or grill. Times will vary according to what you are cooking and how much of it so keep an eye out.

Soft vegetables like aubergines, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, tenderstem will take less time and root vegetables like carrots, parsnip, beetroot will take a little longer.

You can always make a dressing for them, from your favourite pesto to a simple soy sauce dressing.

Serve with a roast, with steamed or fried rice, in a noodle soup with broth, mixed in a stir-fry.

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In this picture, grilled and stir-fried vegetables with vermicelli.

2. Stir-Fry

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Picture above: Stir- Fried Flat Rice Noodles With Omlette, Leeksm Peas, Carrot & Chilli as featured in The Observer Food Monthly

Stir-Fry Tips:

Prep vegetables to bite sized pieces.

Make a sauce, for example, soy, mirin, sake and maple. Or just just soy sauce, oyster sauce or fish sauce.

Make sure your wok or frying pan is hot, add coconut oil, butter or cooking oil then fry the hard vegetables first, moving the pan vigourously with the sauce for about a minute before adding soft vegetables and continue to fry until the vegetables are tender, still with a little bite.

Here is a fast and ultra delicious quick recipe for a stir fry, using a premium quality fish sauce. It is great with home made pasta – click here for my recipe

Stir Fried Kale & Leek Pasta/ Noodles Recipe

120g leek (which is equal to about 1 small leek or half a large leek)
250g kale (half a bunch)
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/4 tsp dried chilli
11/3 tbsp butter
11/2 tbsp fish sauce
150g dried noodles/homemade pasta

Method

Finely slice the leek into 5mm rings and wash under running water to remove any grit.

Destem the kale, and cut into 1cm strips.

Place a frying pan on a medium heat and add the oil.

Sweat the leeks with the dried chilli for 3 1/2 minutes.

Add half the kale and 1 tbsp of fish sauce and fry for a minute stirring regularly.

Add in the rest of the kale and continue to move it around the pan to stop it from sticking and burning, for another 3 1/2 minutes.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, and drain.

Tip the noodles into the pan of kale and leeks, add 1/2 tbsp of butter and mix until the noodles are well coated.

3. Raw Salad

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 Raw Salad Tips

Wash and dry hard fruit and vegetables such as carrot, kohl rabi, beans, cabbage, apples and pears and finely slice or julienne with a knife or julienner to retain freshness, crunch, texture. Vegetables can be prepped way a head and dressed when ready to serve.

Avoid using a food processor because the vegetables will become limp and wet.

Always soak apples and pears in lemon water to keep them from oxidising.

Serve with or without chicken or seafood.

Use a pair of kitchen scissors to coarsely cut herbs before serving to prevent them from bruising.

Vietnamese Dressing Recipe

Mix together in a jar (keeps for about a week in the fridge), mug or bowl and then massage into the salad. Avoid making too much which will drench the salad. Pour a little at a time.

Serves 4
2 birds-eye chillies (de-seeded and finely chopped)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
1.5 tbs sugar
2 tbs cider vinegar
2 tbs premium quality fish sauce (Three Crabs)
3 tbs crushed/ blended salted roasted peanuts

Vietnamese Chicken Salad Recipe here

4. Poach With Broth

Food Styling & Photography By Uyen Luu www.uyenluu.com

Poaching Tips:

For a delicious and healthy soup, it is important to master poaching them by making a good broth to start with. Use seasoned vegetable, chicken, pork or fish stock (sometimes combining stocks is very tasty).

If you don’t have time, it is ok to use a stock cube too. Most vegetables will flavour the broth in addition to being cooked in it.

Add premium fish sauce or soy sauce to season. Add ginger or lemongrass to build depth, heat and zest.

Add hard vegetables to the broth first, then softer leafy vegetables and finally when the heat is turned off and you’re ready to serve, mix in chopped spring onions and/or desired herbs.

Serve with ramen, rice noodles or steamed rice. Usually vegetables soups are palate cleansers and a major part of family meals with lots of other sharing plates.

You can also create a hot pot in the middle and add vegetables as you go, drinking up the broth that is ladled into your bowl whenever it is desired.

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Vegetarian Pho Recipe as featured in The Saturday Telegraph, April 2015

5. Steam

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Steaming Tips:

Its always good to have a steamer in the kitchen, one of my essentials. I have a metal one but bamboo ones in different sizes are also great!

It is probably faster and easier to steam something rather than boiling it. Add the vegetables (at different stages if you have a selection) when the water has come to the boil. It takes minutes and you don’t have to drain it.

Serve with a dressing, extra virgin olive oil, butter or serve plain because sometimes you just fancy plain!

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*Michael Pollan. “In Defence Of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”

All photography and styling by Uyen Luu apart from The Observer photograph.

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This photograph by Issy Croker for Suitcase Magazine

The Best Treat To Yourself: Homemade Fresh Pasta

Food Styling & Photography By Uyen Luu www.uyenluu.com

Food Styling & Photography By Uyen Luu
www.uyenluu.com

There is nothing like making your own fresh pasta and until I had the Kitchen Aid Pasta Maker I thought it was quite fine to eat my favourite brand of dried commercial pasta. But this has revolutionalised my love of pasta (and I already really love it). Honestly, there is nothing simplier and more delightful than eating fresh pasta. With the kitchen aid kneading the dough and the pasta maker spinning all by itself without you having to use any elbow grease, the only thing you have to do is pull together the dough ingredients and feed it though the pasta maker.
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I use the basic Italian ingredients and portions for pasta which is a lovely free range egg to every 100g of “00” flour and a seasoning of salt into the Kitchen Aid bowl.
Using the dough hook, spin this on the lowest setting for about 10 minutes or until the mix is combined.  Then rest it for about 30 minutes in the bowl and knead again for a further 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, clear a clean work surface to place your pasta on, you will need lots of space.
After this time, divide the dough into one inch pieces and feed each one several times (about 6 – 8) into the pasta maker at setting number 1, folding in half each time. Set aside on a floured surface, sprinkling every piece with flour so that it doesn’t stick.
When each piece has been through setting 1, feed it through setting 2, 3, 4 and if required 5 once and set aside again making sure it is all evenly floured. Repeat with the others.
Then change to the required pasta cutter, spaghetti or fettucine and feed through and hang on clothes hangers or roll loosely onto a chopping board or surface.
The pasta will dry out and I can save it for the entire weeks meals. I cook the pasta for about 5 mins from boiling salted water.
You can make a variety of pastas using spinach or herbs like basil and experiment to your hearts content. Here is my version of wild garlic pasta – it is so delicious with butter and some more wild garlic pesto.
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 Wild Garlic Pasta
serves 4
400g Tipo ’00’ Flour
4 large eggs
a generous pinch of salt
60g wild garlic, washed and very finely chopped
In a small bowl beat the eggs and chopped wild garlic together.
Sift the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer, then add the eggs and salt. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough for about 10 minutes on a low speed until the mix is combined and smooth.
Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
Return the dough to the mixer and knead for a further 20 minutes.
Split the dough into four pieces and using the KitchenAid pasta attachment set at the widest setting and run the pasta through. Repeat as above.
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You can find my recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese/ Ragu in my book My Vietnamese Kitchen which is a favourite amongst the Vietnamese in Saigon today.

Recipe: Bún Xào Singapore

singaorenoodles

As published in The Saturday Telegraph Magazine April 11th 2015

SERVES
2

INGREDIENTS
For the cavolo nero chips:
100g cavolo nero
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
a pinch of pink Himalayan or rock salt

For the noodles:
175g dried rice vermicelli (1.2mm thick)
oil for frying
½ a bird’s eye chilli, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
70g purple sprouting broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1½ tsp curry powder
2 tbsp fish sauce
100g cooked prawns
a pinch of sugar
20g garlic chives, chopped
10g mint, roughly chopped for the omelette
3 free-range eggs
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 shallots, chopped

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 250C/gas mark 9. De-stem the cavolo nero and cut into 6-7cm slices. Pour over the melted coconut oil and massage through the leaves until they are completely covered. Sprinkle with salt. Spread in a single layer over a baking tray and cook for 5-7 minutes, until crisp and a little brown around the edges.

Prep all the ingredients in advance of the stir-fry so that nothing gets overcooked. Soak the vermicelli noodles in hot water for four minutes, until partially softened, drain and rinse well under warm tap water.

For the omelette, in a small bowl beat together the eggs, sugar and soy sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large frying pan gently fry the shallots with a dash of oil over a medium heat for about one minute, until lightly browned, then pour the egg mixture over the shallots, and fry until set. Remove from the pan and set aside.

For the noodles, wipe out the frying pan, place it back on a medium heat, pour in a tablespoon of oil and fry the chopped chilli and shallots together for a minute, until soft. Add the broccoli and continue to fry gently for a further four minutes. Then add the noodles and curry powder, mixing well. Break the omelette into chunks and add to the pan with the fish sauce, prawns and sugar, and continue stir-frying for a further 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and serve sprinkled with the garlic chives and mint, with the cavolo nero chips.

 

thanks to Wholegood for supplying the gorgeous veggies. Aria London & Kana London for the plates

Pork belly, pomelo and pomegranate salad recipe

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As published in The Saturday Telegraph Magazine April 11th 2015

SERVES
2-4

INGREDIENTS
400g pork belly, skin on
1 green eating apple, cored and cut into 5mm slices, soaked in water with lemon juice, and drained after five minutes
¼ pomelo, peeled and the segments deskinned
2 rainbow carrots, very finely julienned
6 stems of mint, leaves only, finely sliced
the seeds of ½ a pomegranate

For the dressing:
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp fish sauce
the juice of ½ a lemon or lime
1 whole bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped

METHOD
Bring a pan of water with a heaped teaspoon of salt to the boil. Carefully place the pork in the water and poach with a lid on for 35 minutes, or until the juices run clear – if the juices are pink, return to the hot water for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the water and leave to stand. When the pork is cool enough to handle slice thinly.

Mix together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and set to one side.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the apple and pomelo with the carrot, and scatter with the sliced mint leaves and pomegranate seeds. Layer over some of the pork slices and the dressing. Serve immediately.

Book Review: Eat Clean: Wok Yourself to Health by Ching He Huang

Review by Uyen Luu as published in The New York Journal Of Books

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For the calorie counter, nutrient tallier, and health conscious spod, Eat Clean sums each recipe per serving with decimals of calories, protein, carbs, sugars, fat, saturated fat, fiber, and sodium.

Huang’s recipes are a lovely fusion of Western and Eastern fast and easy dishes that can be achieved by combining ingredients on a chopping board or cooked with a wok.

The salads look great, like Three Strands Egg & Potato Salad, Raw Chinese Leaf Rainbow Coleslaw, and Fresh Laotian Style Sashimi. Appetizing wok dishes such as the Korean Bibimbap with Quinoa looks appealing and a good idea of Hot and Sour Courgette Noodles with Sichaun Fragrant Oil are definitely on the list of things to cook along with Smoked Tofu with Dinosaur Kale.

There are wonderful inspirations for vegetable dishes. Huang encourages that we should maintain a 80/20 vegetable/meat diet to be healthy, which is good for our wellbeing, body and mind.

Most dishes and pictures throughout the book look nourishing, nutritious, and lustrous, perhaps because the photographs focus on the “eat clean” feel of the dishes. In each recipe, Huang talks about why the ingredients in each dish is good for the body because of the minerals it contains or how it is packed with vitamins. She persists on about super-foods, which is the affluent dieter’s dream, and how you should always buy organic.

In her introduction, Huang tells us about her bowel symptoms because she suffered an allergic reaction to prawns. She then discovered that it is the sulfites that can naturally occur in things like seafood, wine, and nuts but that it is also used as a preservative. She then decided to “cleanse” and tells us all how and why we must eat organic, consume no alcohol, caffeine, or GM products, keep low on sugar and wheat, and not smoke.

Huang discusses the alkaline diet and how certain foods like meat, fish, diary, grains, most nuts, sugar, shellfish, and processed foods are all acid-forming foods that increase the pH of the body. Whole fruits and vegetables are alkalizing, which helps the body heal and re-balance.

She speaks about the yin and yang principles—very interesting in Chinese and South East Asian food and life philosophy—but she doesn’t explain much about it in full detail. Each of the more than 100 recipes have good quantities of vitamins and nutrients, which is great for those obsessed by them.

“Create Your Own Mantras” such as “Health Is Wealth, “Cherish Time,” “Love Life,” “Exercise & Meditate”—all while facing your fears. What Huang recommends are all true, of course, great mantras to stick on the bathroom mirror. Eat clean. Buy organic. She’s right.

Congee For The Soul

Romas Foord for the Observer

Romas Foord for the Observer

Click here for my recipe: Seabass Congee with Kale, Dill & Ginger from The Observer Food Monthly-

As featured in The Huffington Post

Want chicken soup for the soul? Give congee to your soul! 

Congee is all about well-being and vitality. When eaten, it really feels like it heals all that is bad in the world. It is comfort food like being in bed on a miserable day with a warm, soft cosy blanket and your favourite TV show. Its like something you get from your grandmother or your mother.

Anyone at any level in the kitchen can achieve a congee. Everyone should learn about congee, cook it, enjoy it as often as possible and tell one and all how great it is.

We always make too much rice, don’t waste it! Add a small bowl of left over rice, perhaps scraps from a roast, forage a fridge and use up any herbs and vegetables going to about 6 cups of chicken stock and you’ve got one quick, healthy and delicious meal under 15 mins.

What is congee?
Light, delicate, easy to digest and soothing, congee is a rice based soup, similar to porridge or risotto. It is a favourite among many Asian countries ranging from Japan (okayu) to China (jook), Vietnam (cháo) to Myanmar (hsan byok), India (kanji) to Indonesia (bubur). Every country, region or person will make congee according to how they like it. There are no rules, it is hard to go wrong and you decide how simple or extravagant you want to go.

How to make congee
Simmer cooked rice in water or seasoned broth until the rice grains have expanded to your liking. It can be consumed thick or watery. Its up to you! To make a utterly delicious congee, it is important to use a good quality stock- using free range meat and bones from poultry, pork or good quality fresh fish and seafood. A good broth is the secret to an excellent congee.

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Chicken congee with sprout top, pork floss, fried shallots, ginger & dill – Photography by Uyen Luu

Pimp it up
Season with a little bit of rock sugar, premium fish sauce or soy sauce and depending on how you’re feeling, garnish with an abundance of fresh herbs and a pinch of black or white pepper. Add a little minced pork or chicken, slices of cold cut ham, pork floss, caramelised shallots, fish cakes,eggs, green leaves, root vegetables or pickles. The congee is your blank canvas, your oyster.

Add texture
Tally up favourite ingredients like crunchy pickles, fried onions, crispy fried ham or wontons. I love mine with fish fingers too.

When is congee eaten?
An exquisite congee, rich with fresh and vibrant flavours is great for breakfast or a late night supper. But when you’re feeling under the weather, a plain and simple congee is the thing most South East Asians will whip up without a doubt because its much better to endure something warm, gentle and merciful on the stomach.

The body needs to be recovering, not digesting. Congee helps with all the fortifying goodness of chicken, fish or vegetable stock. Adding finely chopped ginger helps cleanse and aids digestion. Gifting someone a bowl of congee is one of the best things you can do to help someone get better. In many countries, hospitals will serve patients congee, like your mother would.

Great baby food
After breastfeeding, babies are brought up on congee because of its soft, oozy texture. It is a platform to slowly introduce flavours, meat and vegetables into their diet before they can eat solid foods. Adding bone broth and mashed vegetables provides babies with all the nutrients like calcium for strong growth.

From rags to riches
Congee is considered a poor man’s meal (and never eaten in times of celebration like at the start of lunar new year because it symbolises poverty and hardship). Those who can not afford to buy a lot of rice have to make do with only a little – expands one portion of rice to serve at least four. Any additions to the congee, like ground pork configures to a small modest amount. It is a frugal and un-wasteful way of eating without much sacrifice on the palate.

However, congee is such a loved peasant dish because of its many health benefits as well as its flavoursome qualities, congee can also be be luxurious, for example, duck congee or lobster and scallop congee which are favourites at a Vietnamese table with invited guests.

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Photography by Clare Winfield
Duck Congee recipe from My Vietnamese Kitchen here

Congee is great for you. Taste the healthiness. This is what eating well is all about.

You can find congee recipes and many more in My Vietnamese Kitchen by Uyen Luu, published by Ryland Peters & Small

Follow Uyen Luu on Instagram @loveleluu