Well now, when I launched my first ever competition on the blog just over a week ago, asking readers to name their favourite Asian recipe, little did I know that the prize, Saba: The Cookbook, would win the Gourmand Award for the Best Asian Cookbook inthe world on the same night that my little competition closed. What a fantastic and well-deserved honour for a self-published cookbook, the proceeds of which go to two very good causes – The Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin and the Thai Red Cross Society. And what better proof of the power of a cookbook that tells a story and conveys in a warm and compelling way the passion, commitment and love of what they do that goes into making Saba a success. I’d say there were a fair few Dragon’s Tail Cocktails drunk over the weekend…
To celebrate the Vietnamese New Year known as Tet, the lovely Paul Cadden, owner of Saba Thai and Vietnamese Eatery on Clarendon Street Dublin, has given me a copy of Saba: The Cookbook – Inside a Thai/Vietnamese Kitchen to give away on the blog. The book traces the story of Saba and is beautifully illustrated and crammed with Thai and Vietnamese recipes, not to mention a great selection of cocktails.
Now this is the first time I’ve ever had a competition on the blog and, to be honest, I’m a teeny, weeny bit nervous. Bear with me a moment while I work up to it.
It all came about like this. The other day I was looking for help on Twitter to track down Sri Racha chilli sauce to make Kaffir Lime Chilli Prawns for Taste of China when up popped a helpful reply from @SabaDublin. So I dropped into Paul in this “happy meeting place” (that’s what the name means in Thai) for a chat. Tet coincides with Chun Jie the Chinese Spring Festival and the Vietnamese are also marking the beginning of the Year of the Snake. Snakes are considered to be lucky in Vietnam, having a snake in the house is considered a good omen as it means your family will never starve. Hmmm… I can see certain issues with that if you’re living in Ireland.
Paul offered me the recipe for their fantastic New Year’s cocktail Dragon’s Tail from the cookbook for Taste of China. With our own little grandson Dermot having arrived in Beijing on the very tail of the Year of the Dragon, how could I resist… Try it at home or in Saba – grapefruit vodka, fresh dragon fruit and lemon juice muddled with crushed ice. You will feel as if you have been plunged back in time to colonial Hanoi. (Don’t you love that word “muddled”…)
Vietnamese cuisine has been on my radar since my daughter Claire and her husband Mike went along to check out The Red Lantern in Sydney so I am keen to learn more about it and how it differs from Chinese food. I was delighted when Paul gave me a copy of Saba: The Cookbook so that I could try out some of their recipes at home and also gave me a second copy of the book to offer as a prize.
Which brings me to my first ever giveaway on the blog. As my daughter Claire would say “how exciting!!” Continue reading Saba: The Cookbook – Stir-fried Beef with Cashews and Asparagus
When I was discussing Asian food with Kevin Hui, owner of the China Sichuan recently, he mentioned his interest in Vietnamese food and his belief that it will grow in popularity in Ireland in the coming years. He introduced me to the writings of Luke Nguyen and lent me his book Indochine which documents the profound effect of the French on Vietnamese cuisine. He told me a little of Luke’s fascinating personal journey from being born in a Thai refugee camp, after his family fled Vietnam as boat people, to becoming chef and owner of the award-winning Sydney Vietnamese restaurant, The Red Lantern.
I’ve ordered the book Luke co-authored with his sister Pauline Nguyen, Secrets of the Red Lantern, from Amazon, so that I can get some sense of how Vietnamese food differs from Chinese. I look forward to trying out some of his recipes starting with this one which, in yet another coincidence, @Pat_Whelan passed my way recently. These Red Lantern Crisp Parcels– Cha Gio – are another take on spring rolls and different in filling and dipping sauce to the recipe I used earlier today.
But first I wanted to hear first hand what his food is like.
So, after whetting my daughter Claire’s appetite with a sumptuous Chinese meal at the China Sichuan when she was home in Dublin for a few days recently, I despatched her and Mike for dinner at The Red Lantern, on one condition – that they would review it for me (I love this delegation lark). I will let her take up the story from there. “Review of Red Lantern on Riley
No AA Gill, my review can be summed up in one word, YUMMY!
I was thrilled when Mum (Shananigans blogger, social media guru and slighted obsessed Chinese cooking nut!) asked if she might send myself and my husband Mike off to the Red Lantern so that I could review it for her blog. It ended up being our 2nd Anniversary celebatory dinner following a trip home to the UK and Ireland, where incidentally I ate more Chinese food than on my trip to Beijing in June!
First up I must confess that I booked us into the wrong place. I had thought that we were going to the original Red Lantern on Crown St but we were actually eating in the 4 month old new addition to the the Nguyen clan food empire on Reilly St. The restaurant is the brainchild of TV chef Luke Nguyen, his sister Pauline, brother-in-law and chef Mark Jensen and partner Suzanna Boyd.
My initial disappointment at my mistake was quickly dashed on arriving at the restaurant, cozy and dark with red wallpaper and obvious Saigon influences in the furnishing. Tables are close together but not on top of each other. My husband does not enjoy it when you are sitting on the knee of the person next to you so he was suitably pleased. Best of all the kitchen is glass fronted so you can see the chefs working away and the dance of an Asian kitchen in full flow.
The staff are great and put my inner waitress at ease immediately. They are the right mixture of bubbly, knowledgeable and engaged. They got us started with a cocktail from Red Lilly the funky cocktail bar at the restaurant. Mike had a whiskey sour which he enjoyed and I had a Halong Breeze, yum, I’m a sucker for anything with passion fruit and vodka!
We decided to have the 5 course tasting menu plus wines (thanks Julie and Derry) called ‘Delicious Dalat’ at $135 with matching wine.
The first course was Goi Cha Cuon, soft rice paper rolled with pork and duck terrine, vermicelli, cabbage and pickled carrot and Muc Rang Muoi lightly battered chili salted squid with fresh lemon and white pepper dipping sauce. In Vietnam we took part in a Vietnamese cooking class in Hoi An and I can tell you the Red Lantern’s rice paper rolls were a lot better than my attempt! Both the rolls and the chili squid were very tasty and a great start to the meal. Continue reading Unveiling the Secrets of the Red Lantern