Vietnamese food is often quite subtle, lacking the intense heat of dishes from neighbouring Thailand and with an array of delicate flavours from herbs, vegetables and leaves that are essential at every meal. With a long coastline, seafood is also an important ingredient in many areas.
½ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
700g Yellowfin Bream fillets, skin off, bones removed, cut into 6cm strips
Peanut oil, for shallow-frying
⅓ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 small red onion, halved and sliced into thin slivers
½ Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
1 stick celery, cut into thin matchsticks
1 bunch green asparagus, thinly sliced diagonally, blanched (see notes)
⅓ cup roughly chopped peanuts, toasted (see notes)
1 tablespoon finely shredded Vietnamese mint leaves
2 tablespoons shredded mint leaves
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Start the Vietnamese Salad: Combine rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and pepper. Add the onion and leave to marinate. Combine cabbage, carrot, celery, asparagus, peanuts and mint in a large bowl and set aside.
Place flour and salt in a large freezer bag, add the fish strips and shake well to coat. Place fish in a colander and shake well to remove excess flour.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat; add just enough oil to cover the base of the pan. Add fish pieces in a single layer (you may need to cook in batches), turn gently after 1 minute and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towel.
Finish the Vietnamese Salad: add peanut oil, onions and their marinade to the vegetable mixture and gently toss to combine.
Place salad on a platter, top with fish and serve.
If asparagus is thick and woody, discard the woody bottom section and peel the spears with a potato peeler.
Blanch asparagus in well-salted boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then refresh in ice water, or cold running water, to stop the cooking.
Toast peanuts in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes, tossing gently to prevent them burning, or under a griller (but watch them closely).
Other Breams, Flathead, Ling, Snapper, Tarwhine, Threadfin Bream, Whiting.