A nice Vietnamese soothing light meal with delicate complex flavors!
If you seek great hot weather food, then try recipes from tropical sun belt regions of the world! South asia offers plenty of great recipes and cooking ideas for the hot summer season. Vietnam is well known for light delicate tropical cuisine that is comfortable to eat during the hot humid rainy season.
Vietnamese cuisine makes use of many complex tasting fresh herbs like perilla. Perilla is in the mint family of plants, just like basil. Perilla can have many flavor variations, so it is best to taste the perilla before using it for a recipe. Some chefs say that Vietnamese perilla is stronger tasting than the perilla varieties that Koreans use. I have found the Vietnamese variety of perilla to be subtle, complex and mellow in flavor. Vietnamese perilla leaves are green on top and purple underneath. Most of the other perilla herb varieties are solid green.
Fresh lemongrass is best for clear broths. Clear broths are one of the signature traits of Vietnamese cuisine. A clarified chicken broth is best for the lemongrass broth, but good quality chicken bouillon cubes can also be used. Keep in mind that the broth's flavor should be gentle and subtle.
How the vegetables to remain in suspension in a clear broth is not an easy thing to figure out ahead of time. When the vegetables are cooked in the hot broth, the bright light bulb of understanding will turn on! Raw thin sliced vegetables float on a broth. Overcooked vegetables sink to the bottom of a broth. Vegetables that are cooked somewhere in between will remain in suspended between the surface and the bottom of the broth. The ideal time to serve a broth with thin vegetable slices is just after the vegetables start to cook. As you can see in the pictures, the thin sliced vegetables were at all different depths in the clear lemongrass broth! That is a nice simple Vietnamese style presentation effect.
One thing that I did in the pictures above that should not be done at the dinner table was to spoon the broth over the pork stuffed perilla leaves. I only did that for the pictures. Because the oils from the pork stuffed perilla would have gathered on the surface of the clear broth, any photographs would have just shown the glare of the oil on the surface of the broth and what was underneath the broth's oily surface would not have been seen. Ce est la vie! Dipping or adding a few stuffed perilla to the broth at a time is the proper way to eat this entree!
Place 3 1/2 cups of very light clarified weak chicken broth in a sauce pot.
Tie 1 lemongrass stalk into a simple knot and add it to the pot.
Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
Place the pot over medium high heat.
As soon as the broth starts to boil, reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
Simmer the broth for at least 10 minutes, till the lemongrass flavor infuses with the broth.
Keep the lemongrass broth warm over very low heat.
Pork Stuffed Vietnamese Perilla Leaves:
There is nothing fancy about the pork stuffing. The idea is to not over season the stuffing, so it does not compete with the lemongrass broth!
Place 5 to 6 ounces of ground pork into a mixing bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
Add 1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Mix the ingredients together.
Trim the stems off of 10 to 12 medium to large size Vietnamese perilla leaves.
Place the Vietnamese perilla leaves across a countertop, so the purple side faces up.
Place a small 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce portion of the pork stuffing on each leaf.
Roll each leaf around the stuffing, so it forms a tube shape with both ends open.
Place the rolled stuffed perilla leaves on a steamer rack inside a large pot or steamer.
Add 1 cup of the lemongrass broth to the steamer pot.
Add 1 cup of water to the steamer pot.
Place the lid on the steamer pot.
Place the steamer pot over medium high heat.
Steam until the pork stuffing becomes fully cooked. (About 5 to 8 minutes.)
Turn the heat off on the steamer pot and keep the stuffed perilla leaves warm.
Pork Stuffed Vietnamese Perilla Leaves and Lemongrass Broth with Wax Peppers:
Raise the temperature of the remaining 2 1/2 to 3 cups of lemongrass broth to medium/medium high heat.
Remove the lemongrass knot.
Cut a 2" long piece of the thick white section of the lemongrass stalk and return is to the broth as a garnish.
Add 1 seeded and trimmed thin julienne sliced yellow wax pepper.
Add a few very thin sliced long strips of carrot.
Add a few very thin julienne slices of onion.
Add soon as the vegetables are in the broth for 30 seconds turn off the heat!
Pour the hot broth with the partially cooked thin vegetables into a deep soup bowl.
Place the pork stuffed Vietnamese perilla in a row across an oval shaped plate.
Garnish the soup broth with a few small Vietnamese perilla leaves.
Serve the lemongrass broth with wax pepper together with the pork stuffed Vietnamese perilla leaves.
When I lived in the tropics and an afternoon thunderstorm was dumping buckets of rain, sitting on the porch and eating a light tropical meal like this one was perfect for the moment! Sometimes food is created to suit the weather. Even if the weather happens to be a brief twenty minute tropical shower. Yum! ... Shawna