Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam Best Eats

Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam Best Eats

Follow Luke Nguyen across Vietnam as he makes Vietnamese street food along the North and South of the country

In this 10-episode series, Vietnamese Chef and Restauranteur Luke Nguyen traces the North to South of Vietnam, cooking and eating along the symbolic Reunification Express train line. On the streets, he simmers a delicious stock of beef fondue, gobbles up gloriously buttery sea urchins on a whiplash of egg noodles, and bubbles up a citrusy, spiced goat curry. Here's some of Luke Nguyen's most delicious snippets of each episode

1. Beef Fondue Rice Paper Rolls, Ho Chi Minh

“It's a very traditional dish I am doing today, here I'm going to do Bò nhúng dấm, which is basically a Vietnamese beef fondue, with a beautiful dipping sauce made from the anchovies that have been fermented. This lovely stuff here, which is mắm ruốc, or mắm nêm , a very, very deep colour, fermented anchovies. My water has been boiling, infusing all the flavours, ready for my beef. Or like a beef shabu shabu, you just put it into the broth there. Alright, that goes out and I like that medium, medium rare, but it is up to you. This is what I love about Vietnamese cuisine, so fresh, bought from the market down there, I've just dunked and dipped my beautiful sliced beef. Love it. Bò nhúng dấm, Vietnamese beef fondue."

2. Vietnamese Baguette with Pork Meatballs, Da Lat

“I'm here, very early in the morning, and in Da Lat, in the morning, people eat this wonderful dish called Bánh Mì Xíu Mại. It's basically pork balls, and it's in a really nice light broth, dunked and dipped with Vietnamese baguette. So first of all, I've got some pork mince, I'm gonna put some garlic in there, some red Asian shallot goes in. Some salt, some black pepper, ground, and some sugar as well. A pinch of chilli flakes, dried chilli flakes and some fish sauce, probably around 2 tablespoons or so. Mum used to make this for me and I usually take to school, in the baguette, but in Da Lat, they serve it in small bowls, sit on the little stools on the street, and just eat it with some beautiful warm baguettes straight out of the oven. Of course I'm going to serve it with my crisp baguette. That is a perfect breakfast dish for me. Bánh Mì Xíu Mại. Vietnamese baguette with pork meatballs, and a really lovely light broth.”

3. Egg Noodles with Sea Urchin, Nha Thang

“I was visiting my cousin Christoph in Paris and we were having dinner, and we both asked each other what our last dish would be. And funny enough, both our answers were Uni or sea urchin, we just adore this sea creature. Why? Because first of all, look at it, it's beautiful to look at, and it tastes so divine and unique. I have one now, mmm, oh the texture is buttery, it's creamy, it's sweet, and taste of the ocean. This is all smashed up, then I added to the melted butter, whisking until dissolved, then add chili powder for spice along with fish sauce. I then pour it into a mixing bowl, add some fresh basil, then the noodles and mix through. That's umami flavour right there.” 

Watch: Sea Urchin Egg Noodles

4. Cao Lau Noodle, Hoi An

“Now I've marinated these pork loins overnight already okay, look at the colour, it's beautiful. Best to do it overnight, just to get all that flavour absorbed in there, but I'm going to show you how we make it. Just keep reducing this down now, for around twenty minutes, and start caramelizing all of that pork loin. I'm going to get my noodles, beansprouts and blanch the gorgeous Cao Lầu, doesn't need long, around a minute in the boiling water. The chilli flakes goes on, a little bit of that, and a little bit of tartness, just vinegar, white vinegar, wonderful. The last part is this crispy, hmm, this is actually the Cao Lầu noodles as well, cut into cubes and flash fried. This is the incredible, delicious, unique Cao Lầu noodle of Hoi An. Hoi An Cao Lầu.”

5. Flash Fried Mantle Shrimp with Pearl Garlic, Da Nang

“The specialty in Da Nang is the garlic. It's more pricey per kilo than lobster. You might ask why, it's because it's a pearl garlic, it's got one clove and one clove only. It grows up just one and uhm it's growing in sand, on an island, this is a priced garlic. I'm gonna deep fry my mantis shrimp. Now, I'm gonna season with some salt, couple of big punches of salt goes in, and also the same again for sugar. We've got some spring onions and all of that wonderful pearl garlic that I diced up before and I deep fried, nice and crisp. You see that? Beautiful. Ooh wow, wow. And the wonderful smell of this pearl garlic has brought all the locals around me as well, which is great. Now, that is my flash fried mantis shrimp with pearl garlic.”

6. Baby Clams Stir Fried with Glass Noodles, Hue

"Now you've got to see this process. Just a little swirl and all of the clams are sinking to the bottom, shells are left behind and removed. What a genius way of doing it. I'm going to make a dish that a lot of restaurants around here serve. It's called Mi Hen, or Bun Hen, which is baby clams with rice, plus noodles or vermicelli. I've got some Annatto oil. Again, that red, beautiful colored oil goes in. Garlic goes in. Now being in Hué, we love to season with rouc, or mam rouc, which is a shrimp paste, just around a tablespoon of that goes in. Some sugar, just to balance out that saltiness. Little bit of stock, just that beautiful clam stock that we had, that goes in."

7. Goat Curry, Ninh Binh

“Vietnamese travel from all over Vietnam to Ninh Binh for two things. First of all, they come for the beautiful vistas of Ninh Binh and also for the goat. I love, love, love goat meat as long as you cook it properly. Now throughout Ninh Binh, you can go to all the restaurant and they are all serving goat, chargrilled goat, goat wrapped in err rice paper rolls, lots of goat dishes. Think I'll do a lovely goat curry. So I'm just gonna pluck these gorgeous rice paddy herbs leaves. Mmm. smells so good. Cumin flavour. Lemongrass flavour. Citrus flavour. Some chilli on top as well. Star anise, put that on top. With that cinnamon, flavour the curry, and that now, oh.”

8.  Crispy Pork & Quail Egg Pillow Cakes, Hai Phong

“Her aunty has really given me a little umm, instructions, of what should go in, so I'm going to give it a go. Okay, so we've got some pork mince here, a few hundred grams. I've got to get some glass noodles as well. These glass noodles, or cellophane noodles have been soaked in cold water, for around half an hour. Small, small cuts of cello. Now I really love Hai Phong, I haven't really been here that long, this is my first time, but it's just so, so raw, it's so real, you know. Okay, so I've got that, I've got some uh, some dried wood ear mushrooms as well, and the shitake mushroom threw there as well, I should have.”

9. Crispy Noodle Pillows with Stir-Fried Beef, Ha Noi

“I'm gonna do a dish very quickly before the train comes and it's called Phở Chiên Phồng. This is Bánh Phở, the rice noodles. I'm gonna cut this into third. Now if you look at these strips, it's got around 4 to 5 layers of noodle there. And then we cut it into, you know, rectangular pieces. This is gonna fry, the oil is gonna puff up and it's gonna be really crispy. Little pillows and little pockets. You want them golden, you want them crispy, you want them, wow, really really beautifully soft and silky inside as well. Now one thing I forgot to put in because I was scrambling out of the way was some Chinese celery, so if you have chinese celery, put that in your pan as well. Now that is my Phở Chiên Phồng. My pillows of rice noodle with beef.”

10. Wood-Fired Whole Sturgeon with Sapa Botanicals, Sapa

“Okay, now after catching the trout and salmon from the pools there, I asked Gho Mu and her husband how they would cook this dish and they asked other villagers as well, and they all said one thing, salmon hotpot. Now what happens when you cook it at 50 degrees and under, is that the colour does not change, and I'm going to flavour that oil with some garlic. Just cut it in half, and you want to put all these lovely flavours into the oil itself. I've also got some merkén, the wild pepper that everyone loves around this area, related to the Szechuan pepper, but doesn't have as much strong flavour as the Szechuan, very very mild, but beautiful flavour. Black cardamom, related to the green, but completely different, much warm in flavour. Look at that beautiful pods there.”

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