The inspiration for this post came from our recent purchase of a new book – Luke Nguyen’s France (it was A$30 from Paperchain bookstore, Manuka).  Tony made 2 sensational dishes from it last night Petit Crab Cakes (we actually used fish & it was still great)…in French this dish is called Petites Bouchees De Crabe. The dish which accompanied it so perfectly was Pickled Cucumber & Radish Salad.
These recipes brought back memories of a beautiful restaurant we went to in Hanoi at the historic Metropole Hotel…the hotel was built in 1901 (see photos from Hanoi post if interested).

Photo above
of the 2 dishes mentioned above.  The salad actually looked more appealing once we tossed it a bit!…the red of the radish was then visible and not covered in dill.  Tony likes dill but I only put a little on mine as I find it can be a little overpowering.  The combination of flavours, textures and crunch was wonderful!  In my top 5 of fave combinations now😉

Here’s the ingredients for the salad:

100 ml Chinese black vinegar;

100 g palm sugar (we only had brown sugar + reduced it by 1/4…still sounds sweet but a lot was left in the dish);

14 dill sprigs (not 15😉…& I thought Tony sometimes too precise!!)…see my note about dill below

1 Lebanese (short) cucumber, cut into long thin strips;

6 baby radishes (thinly sliced);

10 coriander (cilantro) sprigs…we only had Vietnamese mint in our garden so we used that – also worked well!


The Sauce:  Add vinegar, sugar and 4 of the dill sprigs to a saucepan.  Stir in 100 ml water and bring to boil, then turn off the heat and allow to cool.  Once cooled, add the cucumber and radish.  Allow to lightly pickle for 30 min.

Toss the pickled cucumber and radish in a small mixing bowl with the coriander (or mint) and the remaining dill sprigs.

Serve with crab or fish cakes…scatter cakes with lime zest and serve with lime wedges.

Crab or Fish Cakes – numerous recipes on the Net but here are the ingredients to recipe in Luke N’s book, France, P167

600 Gm crab or fish meat;  2 tablespoons Dijon mustard;  125 g mayonnaise;  1 egg;  2 tbsp fish sauce;  1 small red onion;  2 spring onions;  2 cm fresh ginger;  1 kaffir lime leaf;  1 tbsp coriander (cilantro);  2 teas. Lime zest;  90 Gm panko breadcrumbs

Method:  Mix all ingredients – crab/fish meat & breadcrumbs folded through last;  Cover & refrigerate 1 hr;  mould each cake – approx 4 cm wide/2 cm thick;  fry in a mix of butter & oil (50 g butter/125 ml oil)…adding just a little to pan at 1st;  fry in small batches 2-3 min each side;  add more butter/oil as necessary.  Drain on paper towel.

Makes 30 small cakes.

Off track a bit here with writing therapy (skip over if not interested:)

A sleep in today as the shots gave me a slight temp & achiness in arms & my usual weak spot…my spine:(  However, the Canberra morning sun is lifting my spirits + looking over good memories + learning more about Vietnam while I write this!  I might look quite happy in these Vietnam photos (08) but it was a tough time in my life… late father’s health was worsening (he died in 09), so many trips from Canberra – Sydney (exhausting!);  it was the hardest Yr of my teaching career (a long story!) + some health issues including my back…again!  I remember feeling tired & flat at times so I wasn’t v interested in my usual hobby – photography;  consequently most of these photos were taken by Tony.  In some ways the trip was a good distraction from my problems but in other ways it prevented me from making the most of a great travel opportunity.  Such is life…we’ll try to return in a few years and visit our favourite places in Vietnam.  Must get my body moving on such a gorgeous Canberra day so I’ll try to get back to this tonight & note “method” for above recipe😎.  Our son & DIL want to try it at their place…was nice to hear!

A note for son & DIL about Vietnamese mint...(see photo below) – $3 from Canberra Bus Depot market from a Vietnamese woman’s plant stall.  Like Basil, it needs frost protection & I’ll buy a larger pot for it soon.

Just loving my newish iPad + pen!’s one showing location of De Lat – just realised that it’s 2 words!

Photo below:  I love this!…was in a Da lat museum (will later note name of it from our journal) – a French Artist as can be seen by “Paris” in corner.

Where we stayed in Delat, VietnamAna Mandara 30 Km from De Lat airport.

Originally these villas, along the hillside, were built for the French during colonial times.  The French colonists would use them as a holiday retreat to escape the heat of Saigonnow  Ho Chi Minh City of course (I’ll post about HCM city in the future).

photo below taken from behind the Villa where we stayed (cream building with tiled roof).  Delat has a much cooler climate and it is even starting to develop a wine industry but Luke N. says “it’s in the early stages”.  When we were there it was non existent and the French wines were super expensive.   Tony enjoyed their beer…I had an occasional beer plus lots of mineral water with lime which I always find refreshing.

Photos below:  The room in our villa had a desk with a view…just gorgeous (the desk that is AND the man😉);  the lake in De Lat (Xuan Huang Lake) we walked right around from the “city” (quite small in 2008) to the parkland about 30 min or so from the city.

Photo above:  The Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel.  Built in 1922, each room has views of either the lake or Dalat Cathedral.  It was interesting to walk into/around and we went there for a drink but it had/has varying reviews on Trip Advisor and other review sites so it might be worth doing some research before deciding to stay there?…of course things may have changed since we were there.  In Luke Nguyen’s travel/cookbook Indochine 2011 (photo top of page) he speaks about this hotel in glowing terms:

“The hotel’s decor is magnificently elegant:  the lobby is dotted with plush chairs, an elaborate chandelier hangs from the high ceiling, and even the floor tiles are a work of Art…I’m guided up a grand staircase to my room, with Edith Piaf’s La vie en rose playing in the background.  My room has French doors that open out onto a view of the picturesque Xuan Huang Lake…I head down to the hotel’s signature restaurant, Le Rabelais, and take a seat at a table dressed with pressed linen and set with fine crystal….the menu is a recreation of an original menu from 1926”;  or you can “opt for the a la carte menu”.   Luke N, 2011.

Photos below:  Pool at the Villas + proof that I did swim even though it was an invigorating temperature!…in low 20s deg C.

Notes from Tony’s journal about initial impressions of the Villas (photos above):
“About 3 apartments in each Villa – very romantic!”  I agree that it romantic and at this point of trip, my sadness as described above, was starting to lift…I know I’m a very lucky woman in lots of ways!  Tony’s journal continues… 

“Dinner at the Villa/Resort as too hard to work out where to go in the town of Da Lat”.

Trip Advisor might have been just beginning in 08?? But we hadn’t found it at that stage so this holiday was organised through a Vietnamese travel agent.   Also, in depth online travel guides weren’t as prolific in 08 as they are now.

Back to Tony’s journal:

“Pre dinner drinks at Ana Mandara bar followed by dinner at the restaurant…hot & sour soup (great!);  tempura prawns and a Vietnamese salad – all fresh and delicious.  Breakfast at Villa 9 is a la carte.  We had fruit, poached eggs, pancake stack with mulberries, cereal with home made yoghurt, expresso coffee and tea which Chris loved.”

I remember the breakfast/brunch was beautiful and we tried to skip lunch &/or have something really small in the mid afternoon.

Photo below:  The next day we were picked up by a driver/guide for a visit to the Emperor’s Summer Palace Circa 1930 – see Bai Dai’s Palace on Trip Advisor reviews.

We were surprised to see that “the Palace” was more like a large, functional and austere looking house but I suppose that reflected the ideologies of the Communist Regime.   However, a French influence could be seen in the gardens – 2nd photo below.

The guide here wasn’t as good as in other parts of Vietnam.  We weren’t sure if he didn’t want to talk about the history of the area, including the “American War”, or if he just didn’t have much knowledge of the history.   It was a pleasant day being shown around the Palace and other parts of Da Lat but it was frustrating when we didn’t have our questions answered because the guide either didn’t want to answer or couldn’t answer due to limited understandings.  His English was reasonable so we didn’t think that was the problem.

The next day we relaxed by the Villa pool in the morning (refreshing as it was in low 20s)  and went into town in the afternoon.  It was the first time we encountered racism anywhere with an older Vietnamese man on a motorcycle yelling at us “go home Americans!”.

We dined at a couple of places recommended by our Lonely Planet guide book.  We enjoyed both places although not as memorable as some of Luke N’s recipes from the books shown above!

Luke N’s Recipe for Chargrilled Beef and Asparagus Mustard Rolls (from Indochine) – photo below

Ingredients:  500 g beef sirloin;  1 tbsp soy sauce;  1 tbsp fish sauce;  2 teasp sesame oil;  3 garlic cloves chopped;  2 tbsp sugar;  1 teasp salt;  1 teasp ground black pepper;  10 asparagus spears;  2 carrots (sliced into 10 pieces like asparagus shape);  2.5 tbsp Dijon mustard;  10 spring onions (scallions) – white part only;  1 tbsp veg oil;  1 teasp toasted sesame seeds;  light soy sauce and sliced red chilli for dipping.

A summary of method:

Slice beef into ten 5 x 8 cm piece (approx!);  marinate for 20 min in combination of soy & fish sauces, sesame oil, garlic, S & P;  blanch asparagus for 2 min – drain then place in iced water (repeat with carrot);  spread each beef slice with 1 teasp Dijon mustard followed by vegetables including spring onions;  make 10 rolls as in photo;  drizzle with veg oil and chargrill 3 min on each side.  Garnish with sesame seeds;  serve with a small bowl of soy sauce & sliced chilli for dipping.

Other favourite dishes from Indochine (chapter on Da Lat) we enjoyed are highlighted with photos below:  I’ll list the names of the dishes later tonight.


From De Lat we took a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia 🇰🇭…a post for another day.

Before I move onto next post…was just browsing through Australia Gourmet Traveller mag (from local library) which has a French focus.  Saw a recipe for these…

CANELÉS WITH SPICED HOT CHOCOLATE 🍫  we have had them sometimes in both France, Hanoi and De Lat + have seen the tins in our local kitchen shop but not sure how tricky they are to make??