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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Around the World in 12 Dishes: Vietnam: Beef Pho and Banana Coconut Che

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This month we are exploring Vietnam with Around the World in 12 Dishes. Since I wrote the introduction post on the Around the World in 12 Dishes blog, I will not repeat myself here. However the past few days I have been thinking about what I really want Hazel to get out of these experiences. I review many multicultural books, participate in multicultural blog hops for the various heritage months and cook a dish from a different country each month. Hazel is five and a half. She is not ready for the capitals and history of the countries. She is not ready to hear about the governments and how they differ from ours. She barely understands what we tell her about ours. I want her to learn about other cultures now so it is ingrained in her throughout her life that people live in different ways, but that is all right. It is all right to be different and we are still all humans and should be treated with respect. Learning about another culture and how others live helps us understand one another and helps build that respect for others. This is why I focus so much on other cultures, countries, etc. This is why I try to find many books to share stories as well as some non-fiction ones to show her pictures of the countries. We may not travel much or far, but she will know something about the greater world out there from what we do at home. Now onto our Vietnam experience. Some of the books I found most helpful in sharing Vietnam with Hazel are the following.

I love reading her some of the legends and folktales as well as some books to give her an idea of what life is like there. For example we found out that many Vietnamese families in the cities buy their breakfast which is often soup like the one we made. They buy it since it takes so long to make and there is not enough time in the morning.

We decided to make Beef Pho and Banana Coconut Che. This was our Vietnamese dinner the other night. For the most part everyone liked both. We found the soup to be a bit bland and Hazel decided she liked fresh bananas better than the che.

Beef Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup adapted from A Kid's Guide to Asian American History


1 cup bean sprouts
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
3 scallions
8 ounces banh ho, rice sticks
1/2 inch slice peeled fresh ginger
1 pound eye round beef roast -- we used the beef already sliced for a stir fry
2 tablespoons oil
1 package of pho and 10 cups of water or 5 cups of low-sodium beef broth and 5 cups of water -- we used 8 cups of beef broth and 2 cups of water
Optional: Vietnamese fish sauce (we did not use this since I couldn't find any)

1) Place the banh ho in a pot of water to soften for 10 minutes.
2) Rinse the bean sprouts in a colander and set aside in a bowl.
2) Rinse the basil leaves and set aside. I actually found it was better to chop them a bit.
3) Rinse and chop the scallion into small pieces and place in a bowl.
4) Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the noodles and cook for 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set a side.
5) Chop the ginger into very small pieces. 
6) Slice the beef into very thin slices (or cut smaller if using presliced like us--I waited until after we cooked it to slice it.)
7) Heat oil in a frying pan. Cook the ginger and beef in the oil for about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place in bowl.
8) Heat beef broth and water to a boil in pot. (If using pho mix, stir it in after water boils.) 
9) Remove from heat and stir in bean sprouts, noodles and beef. I added the toppings of basil and scallions now as well instead of just topping bowls. I found the broth really needed some more flavor.
10) Enjoy!

Hazel loved cooking the ginger and meat!! She also asked to add the basil.

For dessert we had banana coconut che. Foods of Vietnam by Barbara Sheen describes che as somewhat thinner than soft ice cream and a thick liquid that can almost be sipped through a straw. It is sold in shops, markets and street vendors and can come in many different flavors.

Banana Coconut Che adapted from Foods of Vietnam
3 tablespoons tapioca pearls -- we used powder since we already had it
3 cups of water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
pinch of salt
1 lb. bananas cut into thin, round slices (this was about 2 large bananas)

1) Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add the tapioca and stir well. I used a whisk since we were using the powder. The tapioca will stick together. Cook until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
2) Mix the coconut milk, sugar and salt together in a separate bowl. This is also when we sliced the bananas.
3) Stir the coconut milk mixture into the tapioca mixture. Cook until the sugar dissolves. Add the banana slices and cook 3 minutes.
4) Let che cool to room temperature. Serve in individual bowls or glasses and top with crushed ice. We did not top it with ice.

Steve had several helpings and really liked it. Hazel only thought it was ok. That is our Vietnamese experience so far. Around the World in 12 Dishes is hosted by these lovely blogs:
Adventures In Mommydom, Afterschool for Smarty Pants, All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, Glittering Muffins, Kid World Citizen, Mermaids' Makings, The Mommy Talks and The Usual Mayhem

I hope you will take the time to check them all out and check out everyone's great explorations of Vietnam. If you have a Saudi dish or craft or lesson, please share it here as well!! The Vietnamese placemat and passport pages are coming soon for help with extra learning about the country.
For more posts about Vietnam check out:
Lunar New Year and The Golden Slipper: A Vietnamese Cinderella.