The English bet – Or: How to become a Vietnamese chef

Everytime Trang or me speaks German to one another the punishment for that failure is cooking. And since I lead against her, I will learn to cook Vietnamese cuisine, everytime we have “payday”. I love Vietnamese food and so I really enjoy the idea of this little tournament to improve our English skills.

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Trang and me have a deal. It’s kinda “You know, we live in a foreign country now so we better just speak the foreign language anymore” deal. Everytime one of the both of us speaks German to the other one, the one who failed to speak English has to cook. And by surprise it’s a 4:1 (3:0) for me at the moment – first payday was yesterday evening. Was sooo looking forward to that one… because Trang promised to just cook Vietnamese and teach me how to do it – this is how I might become a Vietnamese chef in the time over here and I really like this idea since the food is arguably the best Asian cuisine has to offer, hand in hand with Japanese maybe… ūüôā

First of all we went shopping and since the girls luckily have a car, I could get some groceries for the upcoming time. Most likely bins with beans, corn, ground tomatoes and kind of this stuff which is basically too heavy to carry it around while shopping by bike. Have a look, the American way of groceries shopping!

The meal Trang suggested for the first payday is Xiu mai (Vietnamese meatballs). It’s not spelled right but my American keyboard lacks the proper keys to express the name with the right “pronounciation”. The meat (beef, free of fat) is mixed with microslices (!) of onion, carrot, and sugar, salt, pepper and the most important ingredient probably, oyster sauce. Chopping of the veggies truly sucks because they have to be sliced into cubic millimeter small pieces… All has to be a homogenous paste and little meatballs are formed out of this. They are put into a bowl and the bowl is placed in a pot. Tomato slices are put on top of the meatballs and the pot is filled with some water, then closed with a lit. Reflux conditions are applied for about 20 minutes… Man that reads like an instruction for synthesis – some habits won’t change anymore! :-p

As side dishes you serve green salad, either bread (which sucks in the US) or – in our case – rice. And you put some soy sauce and chilies on top to spice it up. It was AWESOME!

The recipe at a glance

What you need: 500 g of ground beef free of fat, 5 big spoons of oyster sauce, 3 medium sized onions, about 3  carrots, 2 medium sized tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar, sidedishes: green salad, rice or bread (you can eat it as sandwich as well)

How you do it: Onions and carrots are sliced in about cubic millimeter small pieces and mixed with the ground beef, salt (a big spoon), pepper (a teaspoon) and sugar (2 big spoons), as well as the oyster sauce (5 big spoons) are added and everything is properly mixed to obtain a homogenous mass. Out of that mass little balls are formed and they are all put into a bowl, on top of those balls the slices of tomato are draped and the bowl is put in a bigger pot, which is filled with some water (the water is not supposed to rinse into the bowl!), the lid is applied to the pot and the water has to be kept at 100 degrees Celsius (reflux) for about 20 minutes. The meatballs are well done after that time and a tasty sauce is obtained from tomato juice, oyster sauce and water steam. The dish is served with sliced green salad, chili, soy sauce and rice. Enjoy!

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