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Glossary

A brief explanation of our dishes and cooking ingredients:
 

Banana leaves
Are use for wrapping and cooking various meals.

Basil (asian)
In Vietnamese cuisine asian basil is often served raw as decoration for the meals. It has a stronger taste than many other sweet basils with a taste of anise, licorice and mint.

Betel leaves (la lop)
(piper sarmentosum) related to betel pepper leaves and are sometimes called "wild betel leafs". They are used in the kitchen for wrapping and cooking meat fillings.

Catfish
are a very diverse group of bony fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which give the image of cat-like whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest, the Mekong giant catfish in Southeast Asia to the longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia. Catfish have been widely caught and farmed for food for hundreds of years in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Vietnamese catfish cannot be legally marketed as catfish in the US, and is subsequently referred to as swai. Catfish is also high in Vitamin D.

Chili
Chili is used in Vietnamese cooking in a rather subtle way preferring mild chili peppers.

Coriander
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the most commonly used in cooking. The leaves, and especially the stems, have a very different taste from the seeds, similar to parsley but "juicier" and with citrus-like overtones. Some people instead perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste and/or a rank smell. This is believed to be a result of an enzyme that changes the way they taste coriander leaves, a genetic trait, but has yet to be fully researched.

Fish sauce (nuoc mam)
is a condiment derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment. Southeast Asian fish sauce is often made from anchovies, other small fishes, salt and water, and is often used in moderation because it is intensely flavored. Some fish also contain oyster, shrimps and a variety of herbs and spices. Fish sauce that has been only briefly fermented has a pronounced fishy taste, while extended fermentation reduces this and gives the product a nuttier, cheesier flavor. Fish sauce is smoothed for serving with lemon juice, chili and garlic.

Five spice powder
is a convenient seasoning in Chinese cuisine. It incorporates the five basic flavors of Chinese cooking — sweet, sour, bitter, savory, and salty. It consists of Chinese Tung Hing cinnamon (actually a type of cassia), powdered cassia buds, powdered star anise and anise seed, ginger root, and ground cloves.

Ginger
Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can also be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added as a sweetener; sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added. Ginger is also made into candy and used as a flavoring for cookies, crackers and cake, and is the main flavor in ginger ale.

Glass noodles (rice noodles)
are a type of transparent Asian noodle made from starch (such as mung bean starch, potato or canna starch), and water. They are generally sold in dried form, boiled to reconstitute, then used in soups, stir fried dishes, or spring rolls. They are called "cellophane noodles" or "glass noodles" because of their appearance when dried, resembling cellophane, a clear material. Cellophane noodles should not be confused with rice vermicelli, which are made from rice and are white in color rather than clear.

Ha Cao
(better known as Dim sum) is the name for a Chinese cuisine which involves a wide range of light dishes. Dishes may include meat, seafood, and vegetables, as well as desserts and fruit. The items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate.

Kaffir lime
The kaffir lime is a rough, bumpy green fruit that grows on very thorny bush with aromatic leaves. The hourglass-shaped leaves can be used fresh or dried, and can be stored frozen.

Lemon grass
Lemon grass is widely used as a herb in Asian and Caribbean cooking. It has a citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. he stalk itself is too hard to be eaten except for the soft inner part. However, it can be finely sliced and added to recipes.

Litchi (Lychee)
Lychees are commonly sold fresh in Vietnamese, Chinese and Asian markets, and in recent years, also widely in supermarkets worldwide. The red rind turns dark brown when the fruit is refrigerated, but the taste is not affected. It is also sold canned year-round. The fruit can be dried with the rind intact, at which point the flesh shrinks and darkens.

Lotus
Lotus rhizome (lotus root) is used in Vietnam as vegetable for salad. The seeds are served as nibbles in the evening. They have a calming effect.

Mango
The ripe fruit is variably colored yellow, orange and red, reddest on the side facing the sun and yellow where shaded; green usually indicates that the fruit is not yet ripe. The fruit flesh of a ripe mango is very sweet, with a unique taste. The texture of the flesh varies markedly between different cultivars; some have quite a soft and pulpy texture similar to an over-ripe plum, while others have a firmer flesh much like that of a cantaloupe or avocado, and in some cultivars the flesh can contain fibrous material. Mangoes are very juicy; the sweet taste and high water content make them refreshing to eat. In parts of South-east Asia, mangoes are very popular pickled with fish sauce and rice vinegar.

Mu-Err mushrooms (cloud ear fungus)
is an edible jelly fungus. It is gray-brown in color and often used in Asian cooking. The fungus grows in frilly masses on dead wood. It is a dark brown color but somewhat translucent. It is usually sold dried and needs to be soaked before use. While almost tasteless, it is prized for its slightly crunchy texture and supposed medicinal properties.

Mung beans
are generally eaten either whole (with or without skins) or as bean sprouts, or used to make the dessert "green bean soup". The starch of mung beans is also separated from the ground beans to make jellies and "transparent/cellophane" noodles. In Vietnam, the transparent wrapping of Vietnamese spring rolls are made from mung bean flour.

Okra
is a flowering plant in the mallow family valued for its edible green fruits and one of the oldest known vegetables. Okra is cultivated throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous fruits or pods containing round, white seeds. The fruits are harvested when immature and eaten as a vegetable.

Papaya
The ripe fruit is usually eaten raw, without the skin or seeds. The unripe green fruit of papaya can be eaten cooked, usually in curries, salads and stews.

Rice
In Vietnamese cuisine mostly jasmine rice is served, which is a long-grain variety of rice that has a nutty aroma and a subtle and pandan-like flavor. Jasmine rice is cultivated in northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Italy. By the way: Vietnam is one of the world’s larges rice growers.

Rice noodles
are noodles that are made from rice. Their principal ingredients are rice flour and water. However, sometimes other ingredients such as tapioca or corn starch are also added in order to improve the transparency or increase the gelatinous and chewy texture of the noodles. Rice noodles are most commonly used in the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia, and are available fresh, frozen, or dried, in various shapes and thicknesses.

Rice paper
Edible rice paper is used for making fresh summer rolls (also called spring rolls) or fried spring rolls in Vietnamese cuisine. Ingredients of the food rice paper include white rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, and water. The tapioca powder makes the rice paper glutinous and smooth.

Sate (Satay)
is a dish consisting of chunks or slices of dice-sized meat (chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, fish, etc.) on bamboo skewers. These are grilled or barbecued over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with various spicy seasonings (depends on satay recipe variants).

Seaweed
Seaweeds are extensively used as food by coastal peoples, and is also known as source of iodine. In Asia, gim (in Korea) and nori (in Japan) are sheets of dried Porphyra used in soups or to wrap sushi.

Soy bean
is a species of legume native to East Asia and are an important global crop, providing oil and protein. Prior to fermented products such as soy sauce, tempeh, natto, and miso, soy was considered sacred for its use in crop rotation as a method of fixing nitrogen.

Soy sprouts
are actually mung bean seeds which are usually mistaken as soy spouts.

 

Spring rolls
are fried pastries that can be found in several Asian countries, mainly in south China. They are made of special flaky pastry with various fillings and deep fried in a wok.

Summer rolls
consistis of pork, shrimp, herbs, rice vermicelli, and other ingredients wrapped in rice paper. Vietnamese summer rolls are served cold, and are not fried.

Tamarind
The fruit pulp is edible and popular. It is used as a spice in both Asian and Latin American cuisines, and is also an important ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. The hard green pulp of a young fruit is very tart and acidic and is most often used as a component of savory dishes. The ripened fruit is sweeter, yet still distinctively sour, and can be used in desserts and sweetened drinks, or as a snack. In Thailand, there is a carefully cultivated sweet variety with little to no tartness grown specifically to be eaten as a fresh fruit.

Taro cake
is a Chinese dish made from the vegetable taro. When served in dim sum cuisine, it is cut into square-shaped slices and pan-fried before serving. The pan fried square taro cake is semi-crunchy on the outside and medium-soft on the inside.

Tempura
is a classic Japanese dish of deep fried battered vegetables or seafood with a light batter made of cold water and wheat flour. Thin slices or strips of vegetables or seafood are dipped in flour, then the batter or panko, then briefly deep-fried in hot oil.

Tofu
or bean curd (the literal translation), is a food of Chinese origin made by coagulating soy milk, and then pressing the resulting curds into blocks. There are many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu that has been processed in some way. Tofu has very little flavor or smell on its own, so it can be used either in savory or sweet dishes, and is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish.

Tongku Mushrooms (Shiitake)
is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries, as well as being dried and exported to many countries around the world. It is a feature of many Asian cuisines including Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai.

Wantan (wonton)
is a type of dumpling commonly found in a number of Chinese cuisines. Wontons are served in soup or deep-fried. Several different shapes are common, depending on the region and cooking method.

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