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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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

8 Ways to a Lucky & Prosperous New Year Of The Goat

tet2Photography by Uyen Luu

(As published in The Huffington Post)

When I was very little, my mother installed many serious superstitions in me about the (Chinese/ Vietnamese) lunar new year – Tết. Rules and tradition must be followed for the reason that whatever happens on the first day of the moon’s cycle will reflect the outcome of the whole new year.

Whether you will have a good year or a bad one depends on all your actions at the start of day one! Every year, I find myself following the symbolic traditions. I don’t want to risk having a bad year so I celebrate by following as many of the rules as I can and eat and eat and eat as much as my belly can fit with my family and those I love.

1. EAT LOTS 
No matter how poor we were, living on the brink of poverty, my mother would have saved enough money to buy enormous amounts of fruit, ranging from satsumas, oranges, pineapple, pomelo, apples, pears to grapes. They would be arranged nicely on the alter with Mary & Jesus, along with Buddha, burning incense standing in a bowl of rice grains and pictures of my deceased grandparents.

But most importantly, a range of traditional new year dishes are prepared then placed on the table and offered to her late parents in prayer and worship. This takes as long as it does for the incense to burn out. It is a quiet moment to reflect on the past year and appeal for new wishes for a happier and brighter new year.

Traditional Vietnamese dishes such as a delicious fatty pork belly braised in coconut water with eggs (thịt heo kho trứng) is a must have. – Recipe here.  The prized cut of slow-cooked fatty pork is sweet, savoury, soothing and melts in the mouth. It is eaten with rice, as rice symbolises strength and prosperity.

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Pork belly braised in coconut water with eggs (thịt heo kho trứng) recipe adapted from My Vietnamese Kitchen, photography in book by Clare Winfield, published by Ryland, Peters & Small.

Along with the pork, there’d be fried noodles symbolising longevity, a whole duck representing fidelity and happiness, a whole fish alluding to make your dreams come true, a chicken salad embodies coming together as a family, fresh salad rolls and the entire works of feasting food.

2. Offerings To Ancestors
It is very important to always remember your ancestors because it is those who lived before us have paved the way and created us. Every good family would want them to have a wonderful, happy and prosperous after life. Ancestors such as parents or grandparents are remembered daily at dinner time, the food in front is always offered to ancestors so that they are not hungry in the next life.

banh chungPhotography by Uyen Luu

The Vietnamese like to make (or buy) bánh chưng which is a large square cake (representing the earth which was thought to be flat) or cylindrical (representing the heavens). It is made from sticky rice, mung bean paste and pork belly encased in banana leaf. The tradition has been kept since it was introduced to a king around the 17th century. It became his favourite, delicious and modest offering to the gods. It is important to have one of these on the altar.

My recipe for bánh chưng here

3. Out With The Old, In With The New

The day before the new year, make sure every nook and cranny of the home has a spring clean. This gets rid of any bad luck from the previous year. Tidy up and discard anything thats broken. If its broken, fix it. Wash your hair the day before too. Don’t clean on the first day as you’d be wiping away any good luck.

4. Clean Slate
Pay off debts or collect your dues; settle conflicts and quarrels with friends and family. It is important to forgive. Start afresh as you mean to be well and happy in business as well as in personal relationships.

5. Green Up Your Gaff
Go to the flower market or your<a href=”http://www.graceandthorn.com” target=”_hplink”> favourite florist</a> and fill your home with blossoms and lucky plants such as orange/ satsuma, pussy willow and bamboo. Flowers in bulbs like daffodils or hyacinths symbolises growth and prosperity.

6. Werk It
Buy new clothes and look your best on the first day of the year. Wearing red symbolises good energy, happiness, luck and fortune to you and everyone who lays eyes on you.

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7. Red Envelops
Stuff money into red envelops and give them to friends and relatives’ children, your parents and siblings to offer luck. Even if its something little, it symbolises your shared blessings with others.

8. Eat Some More
Gift friends and family bánh chưng, fruit like oranges for wealth and sweet dessert for fertility.
Celebrate a new start, a fresh beginning and toast to peace, wisdom and togetherness.

Please follow Uyen Luu on Instagram here  @loveleluu

Pancake Day Inspiration: Bánh Xèo

As previously published in The Huffington Post: The Best Pancakes Are Bánh Xèo: No Diary, No Gluten, No Egg, No Sugar, No Guilt – Coconut Crepes

070_RPS1637_viet_crepe_5476Banh Xeo recipe from My Vietnamese Kitchen by Uyen Luu here
Photography by Clare Winfield, published by Ryland Peters & Small

There is so much talk nowadays about the need for things to be “healthy” gluten free this and sugar free that which lends a great hand to the South East Asian cuisines where the food is “healthy” already without meaning to be, without trying to be, without any sacrifice or disguises.

The Vietnamese, Thai & Cambodians eat a delicious crêpe as a snack (bánh xèo in Vietnamese. It translates as sizzling cakes from the sizzle in the pan). It is mainly enjoyed in the evenings with a few beers and a horde of friends.

Bánh Xèo
The light, crispy and delicate crêpes are usually filled with pork, prawns and beansprouts however clams, scallops and an array of seafood offerings are also favourites. The batter is made from rice flour, coconut milk, coconut water (or regular water), spring onions and turmeric – which gives its yellow eggy colour. It is a canvas in which you can add anything you like to it.

The filling is usually fried off for a minute or so in a very hot but small frying pan. Then a thin layer of batter is poured over and swivelled around to cover all the surfaces of the pan then covered with a lid immediately for all the ingredients to be steamed and cooked. After another minute or so, the lid is then removed so that the batter can become golden and crispy. It is then folded over and served immediately.

How to eat bánh xèo
To eat the crêpe, you will need an abundance of lettuce leaves, herbs such as mint, perilla, coriander, chives and so on. A slice of crêpe is placed on a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, then rolled up with lots of herbs and dipped into a fish sauce-based dipping sauce (There is sugar in my nước chấm recipe but if you have to, you can substitute it with raw honey or maple syrup)

Eat with friends
These crêpes are perfect for a dinner party, summer barbecue or Pancake Day. Get a couple of table stoves out and make them at the table. Arrange herbs and raw ingredients on the table for everyone to cook their own.

Coconut oil
Although the crêpes are gluten free and you eat them with plenty of salad and herbs, they can still be a little naughty because they are fried in a lot of oil. I’ve found a way to make them less unruly by using Extra Virgin Vita Coco Coconut Oil. It has many medicinal properties known to be really good for you, helps your body burn more fat as well as being a good cleanser of harmful things in the body. What a bonus to making pancakes taste even better than they already do.

Try these sweet crêpes for breakfast, dessert or snacks
Coconut Crêpes with Maple and Blood Oranges by Uyen Luu – recipe here

These use coconut water, coconut milk and coconut oil. You can be all gluten-free, diary-free, egg-free, sugar-free and vegan without meaning to be when you are serving these crêpes inspired by the Vietnamese bánh xèo.

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Photography by Uyen Luu
Handmade spoons, plates and bowls by Ana Kana
Marble board & tea towel by Aria London

My Recipe: Phở Bò

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Adapted from My Vietnamese Kitchen

How to eat Pho like a Vietnamese:
Breathe in the beautiful scented broth then taste, unadulterated by any condiments. Next squeeze on some lemon or lime and add your favoured condiments and garnishes and mix with chopsticks and a spoon. Pile all the ingredients onto your spoon and slurp away, bringing the bowl to your mouth and drinking every last sip of broth.

You can go without most of the garnishes but using the right type of noodle is very important. It is essential to use flat rice noodles. In Vietnam, you can order extra noodles. Don’t forget, this is a breakfast dish and therefore lots of carbohydrates are required to keep you going for the day.

A choice of garnishes should be on the side with lemon/lime wedges. You should never serve the soup with the lime wedges inside the bowl or put your squeezed pieces into it.

Tear herbs such as sawtooth and basil into the bowl of soup, adding pre blanced or raw beansprouts if desired and fresh chillies to your level of hotness.

Phở Bò – Beef Noodle Soup

pho ingredients

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Riding The Carousel

Uyen Luu10 Carousel JamesOJenkinsI have the chef bug. I loved my week at Carousel at the beginning of 2015. Carousel is a restaurant which has a continuous change of the best chefs from all over the world taking residence for a couple of weeks at a time in London’s West End, Marylebone.

When she planted the idea and suggested I do a short stint there, Melissa Hemsley had to endure my backwards and forward eagerness and reluctance. I am not a chef, I kept saying, I don’t know if I can do it! Being a chef is so different from being a home cook! Plus I was in acute distress at the idea of people coming to eat my food and judge it. What if I just muck everything up? What if something happens and everything I have built will fall apart?

Nights of fear and apprehension plagued my sleep.

Feel the fear! Said Melissa. And do it! Do it anyway!

Ok, I said, biting the bullet. I’ll do it.

Uyen Luu12 Carousel JamesOJenkins

Uyen Luu9 Carousel JamesOJenkins

Being a chef, (only for a week) was one of the most tiring times of my life, even though I had a couple of chefs helping and a KP and my assistant Jenny Brown (and thanks to Rosie Birkett for 2 nights help too). It was exhausting and laborious. It is work for strong, robust people with stamina and strength of youth and vigour.

At home, I would make things in small batches, at Carousel, I learnt how to make army batches in massive pots and pans that weighed ten fold of densities I am used to. I watched Rebecca crack 50 eggs, she doesn’t mess around, she makes things in mammoth sizes as well as multitask the constantly ignited flaming stove.

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