Herbs and greens (rau)

Rau literally translates to greens or vegetables. Unlike Chinese cuisine, Vietnamese relies heavily on fresh herbs or rau as a part of the diet. Not only does it serve as gorgeous decoration on a plate, it’s a key essential ingredient for all things delicious. Below is a list and some discussion about the most commonly used rau. Can also be read in our Basics section.

Basil (rau quế): also known as thai basil, found mostly in phở or pickled salads, a ubiquitous herb!
Lemon grass (cây xả): easily found in the markets and can be grown in your garden, used as a part of a rub for chicken or fried/grilled fish, flavors soups and stocks

Saw leaf herb (ngò gai): native to Latin cuisines, used widely in noddle soups, mostly found bunched in bags at the markets
saw leaf herb

Rice paddy herb (rau ngò ôm): used in sour soup bases, has a citrusy, slightly sour taste
rice paddy herb

Vietnamese Coriander (rau răm): uniquely spicy with a lemony taste, definitely used in noodle soups, eaten with balut or hột vịt lộn (fertilized duck eggs)
vietnamese coriander

Cilantro (rau ngò or ngò rí): used as a final addition to any good meat plate

Peppermint (húng cây or rau bạc hà)

Spearmint (húng lủi)

Houttuynia cordata/fishscale mint (giấp cá or diếp cá)

Perilla (tía tô): my ALL TIME FAVORITE rau, very strong flavor, known as shiso in Japnese cuisine, also known as beefsteak, can be dark green or purple, my mother would wrap these leaves around marinated beef and put them on the grill

Dill (thì là)

Sorrel (rau chua/rau thom)

More pictures coming soon…

Cholera spreads in Vietnam

Hanoi – A cholera outbreak that began in mid-March has expanded to 16 provinces throughout Vietnam and infected at least 121 people, health officials said Thursday. “The situation is dangerous, and the possibility that the outbreak will further expand to other provinces is very high,” said Nguyen Huy Nga, director of the Ministry of Heath’s Preventive Medicine Department.

Nga said the cause of the outbreak’s spread was contaminated water sources, leading to the contamination of food, especially vegetables.

“Many people don’t have hygienic toilets, and others defecate into rivers or in the fields, resulting in the spread of the bacteria,” Nga said. “It’s more difficult to contain the situation in the countryside, where farmers use human feces to fertilize vegetables.”

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health sent an urgent message to provinces nationwide, requiring them to take necessary measures to contain the cholera outbreak.

The message urges provinces to tighten food hygiene, ban unhygienic food shops, and closely monitor infected people.

“The best way to contain the outbreak is to urge people to eat cooked food and water and to use hygienic toilets,” said Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Late last year, more than 300 people were infected with cholera in an outbreak that expanded to 11 provinces in northern Vietnam, prompting local authorities to ban a popular fermented shrimp paste, which was blamed for half of the cases.

No one reportedly died from the outbreak last year, although health officials warned that dehydration could kill some patients if not treated immediately.

Cholera chiefly spreads through drinking water or eating food contaminated with cholera bacteria.


Sports shoe giants protest EU’s Vietnam duty hike

BRUSSELS, April 10 (Reuters) – Leading sports shoe makers, such as Adidas (ADSG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and Nike (NKE.N: Quote, Profile, Research), urged the European Union on Thursday not to remove Vietnam’s shoe industry from a programme that helps developing countries export to the bloc.

The EU plans to drop the Vietnamese shoe sector — one of the country’s biggest export industries — from its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme after finding the sector was sufficiently competitive on its own.

“Removing GSP preferences for footwear would deal a blow to one of Vietnam’s key industries and undermine the country’s position as a competitive source of supply,” said Horst Widmann, president of the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI), in a statement.

The change would mean shoe exports from Vietnam would face higher EU tariffs, a new blow to the Southeast Asian country after the EU imposed anti-dumping duties on leather shoes from Vietnam and China in 2006.

FESI said the Commission’s proposal was based on the “fundamentally flawed reasoning” that a fall in Vietnam’s shoe exports to the EU meant it was less dependent on that sector when the fall was really due to the EU’s anti-dumping duties.

“The EU is punishing Vietnam twice,” Widmann said. “This is absurd and clearly irresponsible given the country’s vulnerable position,” Widmann said.

A European Commission official said the decision was taken after Vietnam broadened the range of goods it exports to the EU.

“We welcome the fact that Vietnam has diversified its exports to the EU,” the official said, asking not to be named.

“This is a success story and that is why Vietnam will graduate out of GSP in the footwear sector while still benefiting from GSP in other areas.”

Some EU countries have long pushed Brussels to do more to protect their own shoe industries, led by Italy, which is home to some of the world’s most famous shoemakers and led the campaign for anti-dumping duties in 2006. (Reporting by William Schomberg)


Fish sauce and Soy Sauce (nước mặm and nước tương)

So, let’s get down to the basics of Vietnamese cuisine before I start to overload this blog with recipes. Herbs, fruits, seasonings, nước mắm, nước tương, equipments, methods of cooking – all are essential to know for a Vietnamese cook. Jump here to the cuisine page. This is also on our Basics of cooking page.

Nước mắm and nước tương

So this is an easy one. Go into any Vietnamese household and you’ll find these two things (besides your absolutely essential salt, pepper, sugar, oil) in the cupboard. Nước mắm (fish sauce) and nước tương (soy sauce) are a part of our national palates. Without it, most dishes fall flat. It is the base for any good spring roll sauce, the binding ingredient for home-cooked meat dishes, and overall a Vietnamese person’s treasured hoard. When I was hungry and utterly broke, I would dash soy sauce into a bowl of rice with spam (sometimes even without spam) and that would be my meal for the day. Even in the countryside of Vietnam, you’ll find impoverished households revert to using either fish sauce or soy sauce with plain rice.

Nước mắm (fish sauce)

This literally translates into water of salted fish. Good fish sauce is worth its weigh in gold and the best are

often expensive to buy (for the Vietnamese homeland). It is an absolute staple ingredient and can now be found all over the world, even in American, Australian, French supermarkets. Its origins are truly ancient and is a great source for protein. Fish sauce, a somewhat smelly light brown liquid, is made by fermenting either dried of raw fish with water and spices. It’s a true labor of love, as a good bottle of fish sauce can take

months to produce. An ugly, smelly liquid – maybe….but its aromatic, earthy, fantastic universality makes it an 8th wonder of the world.

My favorite brand: Viet Huong Three Crabs. More information can be found on Andrea Nguyen’s blurb about fish sauce.

Nước Tương (soy sauce)

The ubiquitous soy sauce. Every good Southeast Asian and Chinese restaurant totes a bottle of soy sauce. A good cook will know to elevate this common commodity to a essential ingredient status. Soy sauce is made from fermented beans and other ingredients and can range in differing colors and thickness. Light, fresh soy sauce are commonly used as a dipping sauce while old, aged soy sauce are used as ingredients in many dishes. The taste of a great bottle of soy sauce can be quite complex, so don’t settle for just any common name brand.

Read more about the soy sauce made in Vietnam.

Vietnam: government threatens extreme action against Catholic protestors

While a standoff between demonstrators and police at Hanoi Redemptorist monastery continues, state-run media have begun to carry a series of negative reports of protestors urging the government to take “extreme actions” to terminate daily protests which last for more than three months now.

Since Monday, Hanoi television has produced a TV series broadcasted in Morning News and Night News programs falsely accusing Hanoi Catholics of occupying state-owned land, gathering and praying illegally in public areas, erecting illegally crucifixes and icons of Our Lady icons on the fences standing on the land in dispute, and disturbing public order.

The New Hanoi newspaper went further charging the protestors of taking advantages of religious freedom to stir up protests against the government.

The media campaign has led to fears that a police crackdown is imminent.

In the latest episode, local government has sent an order to Fr. Vu Khoi Phung the superior of Redemptorist religious order in Hanoi, asking him to present at the People’s Committee of Dong Da District.

Hanoi Redemptorists have been charged with challenging the jurisdiction of the committee to halt demonstrations and sit-ins at the site before Monday. At the time of the deadline, when hundreds of police came to the site, the Redemptorists and their parishioners gathered more and more people at the demonstration.

Currently, hundreds of protestors are camping at the site. After each Mass in the morning and evening, Redemptorist priests, and their associates, carrying a large cross, lead a procession to the site. There they pray, chant, and sing for hours before hundreds of crosses and icons of Our Mother of Perpetual Help hanging on the fences. Some Westerners also come to the site to show their solidarity with protestors.

Plain clothes and uniformed police officers can be seen in mass resorting to previously used intimidation tactics involving photographing and videotaping the protestors.