Why Vietnam

Vietnam was chosen when we did our brainstorming session for the countries for 2019. That’s fine. Vietnamese food is lovely.

My experience of Vietnam

I have never been to Vietnam, and my closest experience of it is when my Big Bro (hello, Graham😊) fought in the Vietnam War while I was at high school. While he was there, Graham bought me some Beatles records – Rubber Soul and Help.

Yes, I was a Beatles tragic even in those days. I can remember that whenever my dad looked at the Help album, he’d say “Help, The Beatles – yep, they need all the help they can get”. A real dad joke! Apart from the pure delight of Beatles’ music, the best thing about the records is that they are orange plastic. I’ve attached some pics. I used to love taking them to parties – they were always a real talking point. Sadly, they have not come away from those parties in mint condition.

But back to Big Bro and Vietnam. Graham fought in the Battle of Coral-Balmoral, which was the longest battle fought by Australians in the Vietnam War. People might remember Long Tan, Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive but they don’t know much about the Battle of Coral-Balmoral. In 2018, 50 years after the battle, the men involved were deemed worthy of the Unit Citation for Gallantry. Well done, those men!

It doesn’t matter what our thoughts are these days about being involved in what was essentially a civil war, or that Australia joined at America’s request, or that war is a complete waste of life, energy and money. Our men went over there because they believed it was the right thing to do. Too many of them didn’t come back, and many came back forever damaged. Bluddy well done, those men!!

You can read a bit about about Coral-Balmoral here –


Vietnamese food is delicious, simple and very healthy. And, even better, the ingredients should be relatively easy to source.

Looking through the recipes I have collected, I am very excited, and very much looking forward to dinner in Vietnam.

The menu

This is what the menu is looking like:

  • Beef pho
  • Chicken with caramel sauce
  • Pork banh mi
  • Prawn and glass noodle salad
  • Prawn and lemongrass lollipops
  • Tempura prawn rice paper rolls
  • Three-colour dessert
  • Mango and lemongrass tart
  • Vietnamese mojito

Here are the recipes for our faves – Vietnam best recipes

Click here to see all our favourite recipes.

The food

Our Vietnamese meal was fantastic!

The chicken and caramel sauce was lovely, the beef pho was delicious, the rice paper rolls were fabulous and the prawn and lemongrass lollipops were amazing. Even something as simple as the pork banh mi was delicious.

The only dish that didn’t win any accolades was the three-colour dessert. It is very much removed from a western-type dessert and putting two different types of beans in a dessert is a bit weird if your idea of a dessert is mainly sweet stuff.

The other dessert, the mango and lemongrass tart was nice if you like mango, which I don’t. It was fun to make though – I blow-torched the mango. Using the blowtorch is always fun.

One of the best things about our Vietnamese menu was that nothing had to be cooked at the last minute. Apart from the soup, everything was served chilled or at room temperature. It was lovely to be able to sit down and have a pre-cocktail cocktail with Jan before everyone else arrived.

The drinks

The Vietnamese mojito turned out to be a regular mojito with Vietnamese mint rather than regular mint. Oh, and the addition of ginger and lemongrass sugar syrup. Which is fine by me!

Jacqui and Rich brought some Hanoi beer to add to the occasion, and a few bottles of non-Vietnamese wine snuck onto the table as well. That’s OK, too.

The ambience

The setting for dinner in Vietnam was perfect. The weather in March in Melbourne is truly lovely.  We ate our meal outside, but came inside for the quizzes (yes, multiple quizzes!) after conceding defeat to the mosquitoes.

I found a Vietnamese hit songs playlist on Spotify, but it wasn’t long before I switched over to the Beatles. I easily justified playing Beatles music because my orange Beatles albums were bought in Vietnam.

And, much as I love having the kids at our international dinners, they do add a layer of complication. This was a kid-free dinner. Liam and Lani, and Jacqui and Rich’s twin sons were invited to a sleepover birthday party. It was very pleasant being able to chat with each other without having continual interruptions from the kids, and they would have been much happier at their sleepover. It’s a win-win. Maybe not, though, for Felicity and Paul, who had all those kids sleeping over their place. Brave move, Felicity and Paul! And thank you!!

The quiz

Will. That’s enough said about the quiz. Although well done to Rich, who came an honourable second.

We did The Age quizzes of the last three days, and there was much excitement when we got a perfect score. One of the questions was very tricky and we probably lucked upon the answer. But who’s arguing? Do you know what shape an obcordate leaf is?

And then we had a game of Scattergories. Well done Jacqui!

Here’s the factsheet – Factsheet_Vietnam

Here’s the place-mat – Place-mat_Vietnam

And here’s the quiz – Quiz_Vietnam

The highlight of lunch in Vietnam

Hard to say! The prawn and lemongrass lollipops? The rice paper rolls? The pork banh mi? The pho? The cocktail? They were all delicious.

The only consensus was that the three-colour dessert was the least favourite.

Where to next?

I’ll be in the UK all of April and Will and Lauren will be there for the last part of it for Karma and Rob’s wedding, so we won’t have an international lunch in April. We will be international!

May is Liam’s birthday month, and he has chosen Russia. He chose Russia because the World Cup was played there last year, and that is a valid reason. But I suspect he also won’t be sorry to be able to scratch such a large country off the scratch map.

So it’s privet, Russia. See you on Sunday 26 May!

My friend at work has lent my the most beautiful cookbook that has lots of Russian recipes in it. I can’t wait to try them!


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