Time to get really cozy with the kitchen, and I mean really really cozy. What I want to mention is that one bowl meal with hot broth that just the smell alone can make you feel wonderful. It’s winter already so I cook a lot with ginger root, not only that it is delicious, it’s also very beneficial when it gets cold. Remember the natural remedies for cold and flu that always have ginger in them? Today we don’t have to drink the cold/flu concoction but still get the benefits from it while having a delicious Vietnamese street food. Does that sound tempting?
This dish is not exactly a street food, since lots of folks still cook it at home for special occasions. But because it’s one of those Vietnamese dishes that you most often see and taste on the street, let’s put it in the street food category. For this dish, there are Northern and Southern versions and the ingredients are practically the same for both versions. The difference here lies in the veggies for garnish. Since this dish originates from the North, I will do it the Northern way.
Yes you may wonder, we Vietnamese eat bamboo. Do you use kitchen utensils made from bamboo? This is the same bamboo, only that it’s the young one. The more bamboo grows the harder it gets so only the bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts are edible. A word of caution here: fresh bamboo shoots contain toxins that should be removed through a thorough cooking process. Don’t let this deter the food spirit in you though. It is pretty easy to remove the toxins by the way. You need to repeatedly boil the fresh bamboo sprouts 3 to 5 times. This process won’t change the texture or the color of the bamboo shoots themselves and afterward they are safe to eat. You may wonder how do bamboo shoots taste, right? Being cooked, they’re soft yet not mush, the part near the root can be a bit crunchy even. They taste a bit sweet and are kind of smooth and ‘slippery’: they’re so easy to eat that they’ll slip right into your stomach!
This dish is one of those Vietnamese one bowl meals that are very easy to make, and it’s quite a festive food I must say. If you have guests come over, this is quite the dish to impress, that is, if they can use chopsticks :D. For this dish we will break it down into parts for easy understanding. So let’s dive right in with the recipe then!
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
- 180 gr of Vietnamese vermicelli noodles
- 800 gr duck (choose the part with bones, duck thighs are perfect for this, the whole duck is even better)
- 400 gr fresh bamboo shoots (you can find these in batches at the Asian stores, either already sliced thinly or whole bamboo shoots. If you buy the whole ones, you can cut vertically each sprout in half and tear them into long thin stripes as they’re very soft)
- 2 l of water
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 small chunk of ginger root (cut out 4 thin slices to put in the broth and peel the rest to make dipping fish sauce)
- Salt, grounded black pepper
- 5 spring onions, cut thinly for garnish
- 5 bushes of culantro, cut thinly for garnish
- 3 cloves of garlic (cut and mince 2 cloves of garlic and mince the last one)
- 1 red chili
- Fish sauce
- Lemon (optional)
How to cook it:
- Make the broth:
As with all Vietnamese one bowl meals where there is broth, we build it up with animal bones and slow heat to create a clear consistency. You don’t need to chop the duck at all, put it all in 2l of water along with the whole peeled onion, 4 slices of ginger and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the pot on medium-high heat, when the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to a soft boil and skim off the foams and duck fat.
I use big duck thighs so I let it simmer for 40 minutes, if you use the whole duck, you may need to extend the boiling part to 1 hour or more. If the water evaporates a lot, you can add hot water. The amount of broth, in my opinion, should double the amount of vermicelli so adjust to your liking.
After the duck is cooked, take it out of the broth and let it cool down. You can remove the onion too, we don’t need it anymore. As for the ginger slices, you can eat them if you want. Keep the broth simmering and adjust the taste, add more water if too salty or salt if it’s bland. We will eat the broth with vermicelli in it, so it’s okay if it tastes saltier than your usual soup.
- Prepare the bamboo shoots:
Boil the fresh bamboo stripes in water for 3 minutes then remove from heat and change the water. Repeat this step 3 times or more.
On a hot pan, saute the crushed and minced garlic for 1 minute or until fragrant, put in the bamboo stripes, 3 tblspoons of fish sauce and half of the cut spring onion and culantro (we keep half of it for garnish). Toss them well for 3 minutes. You can skip this step and put the boiled bamboo stripes directly into the broth that we made earlier. However, saute the bamboo stripes like this make them more flavorful, they’ll shine with a delicate salty - sweet taste when you assemble the dish in the end.
Now you should put the bamboo stripes in the broth that we keep simmering on the stove and let them dance in harmony :D for 5 minutes more. And that’s it, we finish the broth! You should keep the broth hot to assemble the dish. As for the duck thighs, cut out the meat and cut into slices.
- Boil the vermicelli noodles:
Boil the vermicelli for 3 to 5 minutes. The more you boil it the softer it gets so adjust to your liking. After that remove the hot water, take out the vermicelli and wash it thoroughly under cold water to break down the cooking process. This step also prevents the vermicelli to stick like glue together.
- Make the ginger dipping fish sauce:
Use pestle and mortar to ground the ginger chunk and 2 tblspoons of sugar with red chili until you obtain a thick paste. Add 2 and ½ tblspoons of fish sauce with 4 tblspoons of water. You can add lemon juice for a slight sour taste but it’s not necessary. Lastly put in the minced garlic and we’re done!
To assemble the dish, in a big bowl put in a handful of vermicelli and a pinch of grounded black pepper, pour the hot broth over it with bamboo stripes. The best ratio, I think, is 1/3 vermicelli and 2/3 broth. Put the duck slices on top, add the sliced fresh spring onion and culantro for garnish. Serve the bowl with dipping fish sauce and a wedge of lemon if you skipped the lemon juice in the dipping sauce earlier. When you dive in, squeeze the lemon juice on top of the bowl, dip the duck meat, and even the bamboo stripes too if you feel like it, into the ginger fish sauce. I must admit, the fragrantly salty and spicy dipping fish sauce is quite addictive. The dish is warm, smells so cozy with ginger and culantro and has a delicate light taste.
I hope you’ll enjoy this dish for holiday season. May Santa treat you this year ;).
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!