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

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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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.

Carousel LondonRead More

Carousel Presents Uyen Luu

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I’ve never worked in a restaurant before, never mind being a chef in one. But I thought I would follow a bit of my friend Melissa Hemsley‘s way in 2015: “FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANY WAY!” Its about time I stop hiding out in my East London home kitchen. Because of Melissa’s recommendation to Carousel, (who are a permanent residence in Marylebone – they have new chef residence for short periods of time), I decided to face a whole week of cheffing. I am slightly terrified even though I know I am going to really enjoy it.

When I watch Masterchef, I just think, I can never do that and I don’t want to be anything I am not which is “cheffy” cooking via sous vide or with nitrogen and weird gadgets. I just want to cook, the way my mum cooks, the way my grandmother cooked – with fire and water.

 

So here goes:

Chicken Stock Congee with Chopped Chicken, Dill, Sprout Top and Pork Floss

Summer Rolls with King Prawns, Green Mango, Perilla, Cockscomb, Coriander and Mint with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce
Seared Tuna on Watercress and French Bean Salad, Butter and Pistachio Fish Sauce Dressing and Crushed Salty Chips with Wasabi Mayo
Pigs Trotter and Lemongrass Noodle Soup with Beef, Lemongrass, Banana Blossom, Morning Glory and Vietnamese Ham
Avocado and Coconut Ice Cream Cake with Pandan Chiffon Cake layers, Lime Curd, Chocolate, Shavings, Avocado Custard, Crushed Meringue and Star Fruit
Please book with Carousel here
Here are some photos of my menu testing – hope you can make it. Do say hi to me in the kitchen xxx
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