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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.



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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This is an adaptation of the original post written for TantrumXYZ, courtesy of Airbnb here
In this post, there are many extra recipes!

From foraging to feeding fussy eaters, food writer Uyen Luu provides recipes + inspiration from her foodie trip to Siena

I am the type of person who loves to travel to a destination specifically for the food it has to offer. I find great tranquility in cooking and I take great enjoyment in food shopping on holiday – whatever the season. For me, pleasure is food shared with others. Now that I have a young family, (my daughter is currently just under 2 years old), cooking is strongly weaved through our daily lives and meal times are milestones of the day, even on holiday.

We recently went to Tuscany with some friends. Sunshine, splish-splashing in the pool and good food was our entire agenda. We stayed in a gorgeous 4-bedroom Airbnb villawith a swimming pool, about 30 mins outside of Siena.

The villa had a swimming pool overlooking the endless groves of olive trees, luscious vineyards and lavender bushes spreading wildly under the golden heat. The major selling factor was also the many great dining spaces the villa boasts. Since having our daughter, we have had less time to spend with friends, and so big communal meals were always going to be a big part of our trip. We could take our pick of where on the property to eat, from the most romantic and breathtaking of places: under the tall, protective pine trees; underneath arches of thorns and roses next to the swimming pool and beside the giant perfumed fig trees. Inside the house, the kitchen was great for breakfasts, and the roofed balcony and various living spaces for snacks and feasts by candlelight and cicada cries. This was a perfect place for our new family to spend precious time with friends, especially with the bottles of wine left for us by the Airbnb host, who also owns a vineyard.

If you love cooking and feeding as I do, ideas for Italian-inspired recipes can be endless and I loved spending time in the cool kitchen, slicing melons and making fresh pasta. The kitchen had the most amazing view and such great contrasting light. I could seriously romanticise and be there all day looking out of the window, writing a novel and cooking meals for the family, if it weren’t for all the children running around! It had everything that we needed from big plates and platters for feasts, to pots and pans for cooking it all. The only missing thing was a pasta machine. We even found a second fridge for drinks which was great. If you love cooking on holiday, don’t be afraid to ask your host beforehand to detail exactly what equipment there is, just so you can make the right choice for you.

Food-wise, I firmly believe you wouldn’t miss meat if you just decided to cook all sorts of beautiful Italian vegetables and enjoy them with the simple pasta. Making fresh pasta is better but perhaps too time-consuming for all apart from the most dedicated foodies, so having it from the packet is just as good.

For me, there is no time or inclination to ever count calories or drink kale juices, especially not on holiday. Make cake, buy cake, eat cake and do what brings the family utmost pleasure.

Tuscan-inspired holiday recipes

Simple tomato pasta

Get hold of one or a variety of delicious red plum tomatoes. Fry with shallots/onions, garlic, chillies if you like them, and a splash of white wine, then season with salt and pepper. Add a couple of spoonfuls of water from the pasta pan, and reduce with butter or olive oil. When the pasta is cooked, I mix it all together and serve with torn basil and a fresh grating of parmesan. On some nights, we just used the sauce from a jar, just as good.

Roast vegetable trays

Lay your favourite cut vegetables on a baking tray and drizzle olive oil, season with salt and pepper and herbs. Choose vegetables with similar cooking times (which you can guess by the hardness/softness of each item) to roast together. If leaves are put in with butternut squash, for example, then the leaves might burn before the squash cooks.

My favourite pairings are fennel and aubergine; squash, olives and beetroot; courgettes & tender-stem broccoli. Add a whole or half bulb of unpeeled garlic, hardy herbs like mouthwatering rosemary and sage. Or make a fresh basil or parsley olive oil dressing to toss everything together in once it is cooked.

Tray roasts are also a great way of using up vegetables on the last few days when you have to eat all the fridge contents. Be inventive with ingredients and use what’s available. Sometimes the nicest things are the simplest things.

My spaghetti vongole recipe

One of my favourite meals of all time is a plate of glorious spaghetti vongole. Sweat out some onion, cherry tomatoes, add garlic, then clams and a generous amount of good quality white wine, chopped parsley, chillies (optional), a couple of ladles of pasta water, and salt and pepper, then leave on the lid for a few minutes until all the shells are open. Mix with grade-5 spaghetti. Done. Heaven!

Read More

Noodling Around in The Guardian Cook

My cover feature: The Guardian Cook Sat 15th July 2017

It makes the hard work of being a parent worthwhile and utterly thrilling when I see the shine of delight on my daughter’s face when she eats something she enjoys.

Olive is 21 months old and she likes saying “hmmm” when she eats. At six months, she was traditionally weaned on Vietnamese rice porridge, then we introduced fruit, vegetables, meat and fish to her bowl. She now has some firm favourites: avocado – spooned out of the shell, tenderstem broccoli, grilled asparagus, fragrant chicken pho … Every day, I fear she will change her mind and refuse her greens.

Her first introduction to “cooking” was sitting on the kitchen counter, picking and smelling herbs while I prepped food – like the hardy garden mint that tickled her enchanted nose and made her giggle.

Over the summer, she has been greeting our multiplying herb pots in the garden. With song and conversation, she waters the perfumed lavender tree and bashes the rosemary – because hitting it makes the smell linger in the air. Olive points her tiny fingers at the unripened green blueberries and says: “Wait.” She bumbles around with the big green watering can, avoiding the loitering spiders and buzzing bees; she picks strawberries and raspberries with her daddy then excitedly delivers them to me, like prizes, one by one. Later, we eat them with yoghurt and honey.

Olive loves texture, shapes, and hints of colour, like yellow buttons of sweetcorn, green balls of peas, ruby gems of pomegranate. Giving her the chance to touch and eat the things she finds interesting helps me learn what she likes. She loves slurping noodles or making a satisfying quenched sound after a big drink of water. She adores eating with her parents, sitting on a grown-up chair around the table and feeding the dog under it.

Please visit The Guardian here for toddler friendly recipes for all the family to enjoy too

Photography by Elena Heatherwick




(This feature was originally published at Momentum Magazine – John Brown Media. It is re published here with permission)

Across Vietnam, noodles are a staple. But how they’re prepared and what they’re served with varies according to the climate, history and personality of each region

What’s better than the moment when you receive a steaming, aromatic bowl of noodles? Is it when you add the garnishes and that squeeze of lime that somehow always ends up on your face? Or is it that blissful moment when you finally get to eat the noodles, when it’s just you and the noodles and no one else?

In Vietnam, noodles are the thread of daily life. From flat rice noodles (bánh ph?) in the morning to rice vermicelli (bún) in the afternoon, from rolled noodle sheets (bánh cu?n) as a quick street snack to thick, plump cylindrical noodles (bánh canh) at the end of the night, all kinds of noodles are enjoyed as a staple. But how they’re prepared and what they’re paired with varies greatly, and often depends on what’s available within the various regions of the S-shaped country.

In the cooler north along the Chinese border, people tend to eat simpler meals with purer broths. They’re not as flamboyant with herbs, condiments and garnishes like those of the tropical south where vegetation is in abundance. Northerners prefer their food either salty or plain; southerners prefer it sweet and vivacious; and those from the center love it hot, zesty and peppery.


Beef pho_Uyen Luu
Beef pho was first created during the French colonial period as a Vietnamese interpretation of beef casserole

The world-famous ph? bò (beef pho) is actually an interpretation of a French dish. Legend has it that during French colonial times (1887-1954), a street vendor just outside of Hà N?i was one of the first to gather discarded marrow-rich bones, cartilage-rich oxtail and other undesirable cuts of beef. He poached them with a concoction of spices left by the Chinese (cloves, star anise, black cardamom), essentially creating a watered-down beef casserole. But being Vietnamese, not French, he had to have it with noodles.

When the communists ruled the north after the revolution in 1954, many northerners fled south and brought the much-loved ph? with them. In the south, where the land was much more fertile and the people loved to be extravagant with flavor, ph? changed drastically and developed its own signature depending on where it was prepared. Southerners also like their bánh ph? noodles much thinner and with more of a bite—thinner noodles let more air circulate, thus making the slurp of broth or sauce more indulgent and satisfying.


Hue Banh Cang Ca Loc
Bánh canh cá lóc is a comfort food for people of Central Highlands

The Central Highlands city of Hu? was once the capital and is still brimming with history from its past dynasties. Here, food is meticulously prepared although the people are generally poorer and tend to make do with whatever ingredients they can get their hands on. Bun bò Hu? is a famous and delicious breakfast bowl of lemongrass beef and pork noodle soup that’s served with the fattest rice vermicelli—sometimes measuring more than 1.8mm. Somehow it only tastes right with thicker noodles, which were meant to keep Hu? residents fuller for longer.

In the mid-morning, afternoon or after supper, bánh canh cá lóc is a popular local snack. This humble but mouthwatering lemongrass and marrow-rich snakehead fish (similar to catfish) soup comes with hand-rolled noodles and plenty of herbs, heat and zest. Soups in this region are often served with unpeeled, whole quail eggs and ch? Hu?—a famous and much sought-after paste of cinnamon, pepper and steamed pork wrapped in a banana leaf.


Phan Thiet Banh Canh
Bánh canh Phan Thi?t is a great summer dish with a spicy kick

Drive down the coast from Hu? to the southerly fish-sauce-making seaside town of Phan Thi?t (my mother’s hometown) and the food takes on its own quirky personality. Instead of adding rice vermicelli to summer rolls, locals add shredded pork skin coated in roasted rice powder, which mimics noodles in its appearance and (slightly chewy) texture.


The famous street noodle soup bánh canh Phan Thi?t is a great top-up after an evening meal, designed to keep hunger at bay and make for a sound sleep. The broth is either made from pork knuckles and trotters or with fish or crab, and is served with pork or dill fish cakes plus an array of seafood and condiments. It is wonderfully sweet and fresh with lime and fierce with chilies too. The dish is usually slurped from a spoon because its short, thick and transparent hand-rolled tapioca noodles fit right into it.


Saigon Bun Thit Nuong Blue
The unmistakable fragrance of bún th?t n??ng comes from a mix of perilla, mint and coriander

Download Uyen Luu’s recipe for bún th?t n??ng

The Sai-Gonese prefer the non-noodle components of a dish to shine—like a piece of grilled pork, caramelized by sweet sticky sugar and smoked over charcoal with savory, pungent fish sauce. The treacle aroma of bún th?t n??ng (rice noodles with chargrilled meat) hovers around Sài Gòn every afternoon as skewer after skewer sizzles then drops onto bowls of fresh fluffy bún. They are then layered with an abundance of herbs such as perilla, mint and coriander, which are used with an assortment of salad leaves and crunchy pickles for color and garnish. Finally, n??c ch?m: that ultimate dressing of sweet, sour, salty and hot fish sauce that makes this noodle dish the supreme fast food of Sài Gòn.

No matter where you are in the country, noodles are here, there and everywhere. In a rapidly developing world, where fast food is infiltrating from the West, Vietnamese cuisine is still very much cherished by its people: from those in the rice paddies to those in the high-rise cities and seaside resorts. Not only are noodles vital to the diet, the dishes made with them represent place, celebrate culture and preserve tradition.

Download the recipe below and take a stab at making bún th?t n??ng at home. Share your food shots with us at #momentumtravel!

Photos: Styled and photographed by Uyen Luu

– See more at: http://momentum.travel/food-drink/geography-vietnamese-noodles/#sthash.Exp6AixQ.dpuf

Chicken Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Pomelo, Mint and Red Onion Pickle

Mint is the must have essential ingredient in everyone’s fridge. Throw together a combination of raw vegetables, thinly sliced, with a protein such as chicken, dress with mint and a simple Vietnamese dipping sauce and you will have the most delicious and satisfying meal. What is great is that it makes you feel light and healthy. My raw vegetable salad is a major crowd pleaser and anyone hankering after the pure taste of Vietnamese cuisine does the trick. Its down to the refreshing taste of mint, green and cool to the palette. Its all wonderfully fresh, crunchy, sweet, sour and hot. The dipping sauce is bursting with zing, spiciness, sharp tanginess and syrupy ginger. 

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Chicken Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Pomelo, Mint and Red Onion Pickle

Serves 6-8


Red Onion Pickle
1 red onion
3 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt and pepper

Whole corn fed free range/ organic chicken
400g sugar snap peas (can also be carrot, kohl rabi, daikon, courgettes, mange tout or a combination of these)

1/4 pomelo (de-skinned, separate segments) (or grapefruit)

10 radish (thinly sliced)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
10 mint sprigs
small handful of coriander
crushed peanuts, cashew or pistachios

Dipping Sauce
3 birds-eye chillies (de-seeded and finely chopped)

1 clove garlic (finely chopped)

1 thumb ginger, (peeled and finely chopped)

3 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs cider vinegar
5 tbs premium quality fish sauce
5 tbs crushed/ blended salted roasted peanuts, cashew or pistachios

Prawn crackers and/ or steamed chicken rice to serve


Poach a whole chicken in a pot with a lid with 3 litres of boiling water, season with salt and cook for about 60 – 70 minutes, until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Meanwhile, slice the red onion as thinly as you can and pickle with vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl, mixing occasionally.

Thinly slice the sugar snap peas lengthways. Slice the radishes into paper thin pieces. Tear pomelo into bite sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

Using cooking scissors, cut the mint into 1 cm stops and add to the bowl.

Prepare and mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a separate bowl, tasting for the balance of sweet, sour, salty and hotness. Serve in dipping bowls.

When the chicken is cooked, leave to cool. De-bone and tear off the meat along the grain. Season with salt and pepper. Add this to the bowl of salad with the pickled onion (add the vinegar juice too). When ready to serve, toss the salad together.

Garnish with a few sprigs of coriander and mint and a sprinkle of nuts. Serve with the salad dressing as a dipping sauce, prawn crackers or steamed rice.

You can use the chicken stock to make  a delicious chicken rice.
Alternatively, you can also use the dipping sauce to dress the salad.

Oxtail Soup with Butternut Squash and Winter Melon

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I have just had a baby girl and I am breastfeeding. When my mother comes to visit, she prepares this very quick one pot wonder of magic which she claims what makes good milk and that women all over Vietnam are eating this to promote healthy nutrition for mother and baby. It is delicious whether you are breastfeeding or not! Daddy loves it too.

Serves 2


330g large oxtail chunks, ask butcher to slice into 1 inch thick

1.2 litres water

200g butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1 inch square chunks

200g winter melon, peeled, cut into 1 inch slices (or courgette, marrow, green papaya, lotus)

salt and pepper to season

2tbs premium quality fish sauce coriander to garnish (optional)



To gain a clean and clear broth, clean the oxtail pieces by boiling it for 5 minutes, then drain and clean the oxtail pieces under running water.

Clean the saucepan and fill with 1.2 litres of water and bring to the boil. Add the oxtail and a good pinch of salt and cook on a medium simmer for half an hour with a lid on.

Prepare the vegetables, add the squash and winter melon to the oxtail broth and season with fish sauce and cook for a further 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkling of coriander, black pepper and enjoy with a crusty baguette – with or without plenty of butter.

TIP: you can make much more by doubling up. It’s great to have over a couple of days. I’ve suggested a combination of butternut squash and winter melon but it could be a combination of this with marrow, parsnips, carrots, courgettes, lotus. You can see what you have going in the fridge. Cook softer vegetables for less time towards the end.

Use any herb you fancy.

Slow Poached Chicken with Ginger, Lemongrass and Chillies

At home in the fridge, there are always some carrots, peas in the freezer, potatoes and onions in a cupboard. My staple ingredient is fish sauce, ginger, dried chillies (that I dry myself from fresh chillies, finely chopped and left on a plate for a few days), lemongrass and a bag of coriander or mint.

There are so many ways you can turn these ingredients into a quick one-pot, tasty, delicious and frugal meal as well as being healthy and nutritious.

This should take about 15 minutes to prepare, which can be done earlier in the day to be set aside for dinner. (Especially great to do when your little baby is asleep)

If you don’t finish the pot in one go, its great for breakfast or lunch the next day, adding more peas or courgettes and herbs to fill it up.

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Slow Poached Chicken with Ginger, Lemongrass and Chillies 
Serves 3- 4


6 chicken thighs (skinned, chopped or left whole)
2 tbs rapeseed or olive oil
1 thumb ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
I onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled, cut into 2cm chunks
200g baby/ new potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into bite-size if necessary
1 tsp dried chillies
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 3 pieces
300ml homemade or good quality chicken stock
3tbs premium fish sauce
150g fresh or frozen peas
1 courgette, slice into 1 cm pieces (optional)
Some coriander or mint (optional)
black pepper to season


In a medium hot sauce pan, add oil and brown the chicken thighs for approximately 2 mins on each side for approximately 2 mins. Set aside on a plate.

Using the same pan, add the onions, dried chillies, ginger and lemongrass to slightly brown. Return the chicken to the pot, add the carrots and potatoes. Pour the chicken stock into the pan and season with fish sauce and black pepper. Place the lid on the pot and on the lowest heat setting and cook on a low simmer for 30 – 40 mins.

When ready to serve, add peas and/ or courgettes and cook for a further 5 mins. If available add chopped coriander or mint.

Serve with steamed rice, rice vermicelli, baguette or buttered toast.