I admit, I’ve never been to Vietnam. At least, not yet. Nevertheless, living in Berlin I got to know the Vietnamese cuisine quite well – the authentic which is hard to find alongside the more pan-Asian-with-Vietnamese-influences one. Many immigrants arrived to East Berlin during the Vietnam war, bringing their recipes with them and adapting them to the general lack of variety of ingredients common beyond the iron curtain.
Generally, Berlin has turned to quite an interesting place, foodwise, thanks to its communist history. Immigrants from Vietnam and Korea have brought very interesting, and not so common, varieties to the local mouths.
Since I can’t really grasp all of what is a Vietnamese cuisine, at least from my point of view, I’ll just focus on one dish. My favorite one. And that’s Pho. Pho is a light and yet strong flavored soup made of strong roots such as radishes, seasoned well, and poured over some other fresh ingredients waiting in a bowl. And the longer it takes you to eat it, the better the flavors are.
Just to be fair I will mention that this is my take-off and it’s not 100% loyal to Vietnamese traditions.
For the stock:
3 Cups chopped radishes (could be of different kinds, could also be partially substituted with kohlrabies)
Seasoning: 1 Star anise, kefir lime leaves, lemongrass branches, cinnamon stick, small red chilies, galangal root
1.5 Liters cold water
Put everything together, put on a high flame and bring to boil. Then, reduce to medium flame and cook for 20 minutes, then sieve it from the ingredients.
In the meanwhile, fry some diced tofu seasoned with pale soy sauce in sesame oil, and start arranging the bowl. Start with vegetables in a deep bowl – glass noodles, Top with finely chopped chili, ginger and/or garlic, and fresh lemongrass. Add vegetables, and here you can go wild. Mushrooms, sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, cucumber , radish… all fresh and thinly sliced. Top with the tofu and coriander leaves, and cover with the boiling soup. The flavors from the veggies with slowly merge into the stock while you eat, thus changing flavors and textures during the feast.