Friday, April 27, 2018

Hedgerow Clams #FoodieReads

One of the most dangerous aspects of Amazon - for me anyway - is the "customers who bought this item also bought..." section. Their suggestions never fail to lure me into just one more book purchase! And that's how I ended up with Eating Vit Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday* on my to-read pile.

I wasn't familiar with Graham before reading this book, but I am now avidly following his blog noddlepie. You can also find him on Twitter and on InstagramIn this entertaining memoir, Holliday takes you on a colorful, gastronomic tour between north and south Vit Nam. You almost feel your elbows getting sticky right alongside his.

On the Page
Best opening line of a book ever...and it set the stage for the tales of culinary adventure that awaited me in the book. "As the pig's uterus landed on the blue plastic table in front of me, I knew I'd made a mistake" (pg 1).

Down the back alleys where vendors set up grills on the sidewalks, he shares every bite with the reader and makes you long to explore the Vietnamese culture and cuisine.

A few fun passages...

"There was a breath of kimchi on the breeze. It fermented its way across town from the fetid alleyway market a block or two up the road. Shopfronts were plastered in garish signs whose language was utterly impenetrable to me. Loudspeakers sat out front and inflicted synthetic, screaming schoolgirl pop tunes on the ears of passersby as a ruse to entice them to come spend some won" (pg. 27).

"Blobs of potent purple shrimp paste - mm tôm - sat in tiny bowls, awaiting each order of bún đu. Vit Nam's mm tôm has muscle enough to beat any other cuisine's pungency, plus it has the ability to transport food to another dimension" (pg. 45).

"At the heart of Vietnamese food are herbs, not fish sauce, not offal, not the freak show menu items. The single thing that alters, distinguishes, and sets Vietnamese apart from Thai, Cambodian, Lao, or any other Southeast Asian cuisine is the presence and abundance of herbs. Simple, beautiful, freshly cut herbs, from the swamps, hedgerows, gardens, bushes, woods, and jungles of this incredible, food-filled country" (pg. 237).

On the Plate
"...Take away the herbs and it's not Vietnamese food anymore. Everything that goes with this dish makes the dish. The meat is secondary. It's all about the herbs. Vietnamese food is nothing without the herbs" (pg. 237). 

I was intrigued by his list of different herbs for twelve distinct herbs in a single dish (pg. 235). I was familiar with one of these before I read the book!

  • He - Chinese chives filled with oniony, garlicky, leeky flavor.
  • Cóc non - sour, often used in canh chua, a kind of fish soup
  • Rau sng - general term for green leaves found along the riverbed.
  • Tía Tô - perilla. Strong aromatic flavor.
  • Diep Cá - fish mint

This is a Southeast Asian dish that feature so many pungent flavors, but it's the herbs that make this the dish I am offering for the book. So many fresh tastes...


Spice Paste
  • 6 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 1" knob galangal, peeled and grated
  • 3 to 4" piece fresh lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • ½ t shrimp paste (mm tôm)
  • 3 makrut lime leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 t white peppercorns, crushed
  • 2 T hot water

Clam Curry
  • 1 to 2 T oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced (I used a red onion)
  • 2 pounds clams, scrubbed (I used littleneck)
  • 2 links spiced, sweet sausages (I used Filipino longanisa), cut into this coins
  • 2 C fish stock
  • 2 small red chiles
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 4 makrut lime leaves
  • 1" knob ginger, peeled and cut into thin slivers
  • 1 T organic dark brown sugar
  • 3 to 4 C fresh herbs, torn into large pieces
  • steamed rice for serving


Spice Paste
For the paste, either place all the ingredients in a the bowl of a food processor or grind, by hand, with a mortar and pestle. 

Clam Curry
For the curry, place a large skillet over a medium heat. Add 1 T oil and then add the spice paste. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Add another T oil and stir in the onions and sausages. Cook for until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent.

Stir in the chiles, fish sauce, lime leaves, ginger, and brown sugar. Pour in the fish stock and bring to a boil. Gently drop the clams into the liquid. And sprinkle with 1-1/2 to 2 C fresh herbs. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the clams, stirring or shaking the pan gently until all of the clams have opened. Once all of the clams have opened, stir in the remaining herbs.

Serve immediately with steamed rice.

 *This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in April 2018: here.


  1. It is the same section on goodreads that gets to me. Any "if you liked this, try this" will suck me in

  2. Congratulations on the Foodies Reads win. I've seen this book around, but this is the first I've heard any details on it. Looks fantastic, actually!

  3. You are so lucky to live in an area where all of these food items are easily located. Sigh......


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