After Thai, Japanese, and Chinese food, Vietnamese cuisine may be the best known Asian food to people around the world. Staples such as pho, fresh spring rolls, and bahn mi sandwiches are particularly well known, but Vietnamese food is notable for its incredible diversity. We previously touched on the subject when we had celebrity guest Bobby Chinn on Episode 55: Vietnamese cuisine with Bobby Chinn, but on this episode we’re going to dive back into the cuisine of Vietnam with another expert, cookbook author Cameron Stauch, this time focusing on vegetarian dishes.
Scott and Trevor kick off the show talking about their experience with Vietnamese food…
Trevor: For a period of around five years I was enrolled in an MBA program from the University of Hawaii located in Ho Chi Minh City. One of the greatest bits of knowledge I obtained from that program was simply how diverse Vietnamese food really was. Of course I discovered my favorite bahn mi and pho restaurants, but I also had lunch with classmates and it seemed that every day we went to a restaurant that had an entirely different range of offerings.
Scott: Pho is so well known globally now that I almost feel silly saying this, but I was knocked-over when about 25 years ago, a friend took me to Pho Pasteur Saigon in Calgary, Canada for a bowl fried spring rolls and an iced coffee. Wow! I was hooked and it became a regular stop for me when eating out. Never would I have guessed way back then that I would end up going to Vietnam many times and eating at the original Pho Pasteur restaurant in HCMC. But you know what? That location in Calgary is still my favorite – wow!
Trevor: Seafood is particularly present in Vietnamese food as the country has a long coast. I particularly remember some great deals on crabs when I was visiting Nha Trang. Another great option I discovered at a number of restaurants was bacon-wrapped shrimp. Possibly my favorite accompaniment to beer. Otherwise, I recall how inexpensive food was. There was a place I used to go for steak and eggs, served on a cast-iron hotplate, that I would order with a large beer, all of which cost around $5.
Scott: Another notable meal I remember is also a seafood feast – way back when I first visited the country in 1995 as a backpacker. My friend Jeremy and I were with some others and sat down to a ‘seafood feast’, including fish, prawns, sting ray, etc. One dish came out and it was a tiny shark. We ate it and wondered how a shark could be so tiny. We then asked the man running the restaurant and he informed, “baby shark from mommy’s tummy!” Uugghh… we had eaten shark’s fetus! The above said, despite having been to Vietnam six times, I can’t name that many Vietnamese dishes and wish I knew more about what to eat and how to eat it!
About our guest: Our guest is Cameron Stauch, a Canadian chef who has spent the last two decades living and working in Canada and Asia. Previously, he served as a member of the cooking staff for the Governor General of Canada, preparing truly world-class food. A diplomat’s wife, Cameron has spent the last number of years living, cooking, and eating throughout Asia. His latest project is cookbook Vegetarian Viet Nam, which comes out in March 2018. He joins us from Bangkok to chat.
To hear Cameron answer these and other questions, listen to episode 75!
- What is your background in the F&B industry and what first brought you to Vietnam/Asia?
- Scott: I love the first paragraph in the book which really resonates with the mental image I have of my first visit to Hanoi in 1995: “In late 2012, on a visit to Sai Gon, I woke up early, threw on some clothes, and headed to the street food stalls on the outskirts of the city’s markets. Hunger – and a desire to investigate the stall’s well-loved breakfast specialties – propelled me.
When and why did you become a vegetarian?
- It doesn’t appear you’ve written a book before this one, what inspired you to take on such a large task?
- What makes Vietnamese food so special?
- What ingredients are the easiest and most difficult to find in western supermarkets?
- What are some of the ‘easiest win’ dishes for people to try making?
- Is this book going to be appealing and useful for non-vegetarians such as myself?
- How did Mahayana Buddhists influence your knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine and ultimately this book?
- What has the reception been from Vietnamese to a white guy from Canada writing a book about their cuisine?
- I realize this is a bit unfair, but what are some of your favorite Vietnamese dishes and eating experiences?
- Where can people learn more about the book and how can they get a copy of Vegetarian Viet Nam?
- Where can they learn more about and follow you?
About our guest:
- Order a copy of Vegetarian Viet Nam by Cameron Stauch
- Vegetarian Viet Nam on Amazon
- Vegetarian Viet Nam on Asia Books
- Cameron Stauch on Twitter: @camcooks
- Cameron Stauch on Facebook
- Cameron Stauch on Instagram
- Cameron Stauch website
To learn more about Scott & Trevor: