Been off the air for a while :( so have a bit of catching up to do.
I mentioned in my last post that I helped make Lap Xuong, a traditional sausage eaten at Tet - here's how it goes.
Each day Huyen would ride in on her motorbike laden with ingredients and implements as only the Vietnamese do.
She would sit out front on a low stool with a huge wooden chopping board and chop up slabs of pork meat and fat. In a large plastic basin she would then mix it with crushed roasted fennel, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, a little honey, salt and pepper, Vietnamese rice wine, chopped ginger and a little sugar.
She would then wash and strip lengths of pig's intestine and soak it in wine and ginger - then rinse and feed it through in on itself (i.e. turn it inside out) before rinsing thoroughly under the tap.
Using the top of a plastic bottle cut off at the neck as a home-made funnel the end of the intestine would be fed through the lid which had the centre cut out, spread over the neck of the bottle and the lid screwed on to secure the end of the intestine. (difficult to describe). The pork mixture would be pushed through making a long endless sausage. The long sausage was then twisted into regular lengths and tied with twine and the lumps of fat pricked to stop the sausages bursting.
These strings of sausages then hung in the smoker for 2-3 days over smouldering logs covered with shredded sugar cane stems - to give the right flavour.
Beforehand her husband, the landlord, checked the chimney, set up the racks and lit the fire. He would also then drop by from time to time to check on progress, deliver more wood/sugar cane, make more racks. There always seemed to be at least one bystander - her mother, other relatives, neighbours, work colleagues who came to help, watch or just nick a bit of the sugar cane to chew on. Others would come and make purchases from time to time - but most of it was sent down for sale in Hanoi.
All this occurred before and after work as well as during (slightly) extended work-breaks during the day.
The dried sausages are fried, thinly sliced and served with a chilli dipping sauce on the side.
She also made a brawn-like stuffed meat called chan gio nhoi bong (if I have it right) which was delicious and I was only momentarily nonplussed to learn the casing was actually pig's bladder.
When we get home I could probably find a butcher selling pig's intestine - but don't think I'd look for bladder. In the end the smoker may be the biggest hurdle to making my own. I dare say there'd be a Vietnamese supermarket selling the finished product. There are quite a few Vietnamese delicacies I'm going to be looking for when we get back to Perth.
At one point the local TV came to film proceedings and interview me on what I thought of Vietnamese food. They filmed me rolling and cooking nem (spring rolls) which I'm hopeless at. The rice paper tears when I roll it up tightly - or unravels if I don't. I always use tongs to turn food when I'm cooking, so of course I was hopeless when given the traditional long chopsticks for turning. Didn't occur to me to practice beforehand. Slicing the banh chung, using a length of the fine bamboo string it is wrapped in, I managed more or less. Not surprisingly they cut out most of the close-up kitchen shots in the final version which went to air.
They then interviewed Owen on his thoughts on our year living in Vietnam and being here for a second Tet. This was a follow-up on last year when they took us round town to see food preparation, flower sellers etc. as part of the general lead-up to festivities.