Paper Chef #42: Vietnam Edition

by formerchef on July 1, 2009

In case you missed it, my Orzo Salad  was selected as the winner of  last month’s Paper Chef Competition. I was extremely thrilled and flattered to be selected. As winner, it is my duty to host and judge this month’s challenge.


What is Paper Chef? It’s an online cooking challenge where you are given 4 random ingredients and asked to create a recipe from them. You must use all 4 ingredients in the recipe though substitutions are acceptable if you do not have access to an item or have dietary restrictions.

You have from now until midnight Tuesday July 7thto create your recipe, post it on your blog and send the link to If you do not have a blog, that’s ok, just email the recipe and a photo. For more details on the rules and regulations go here.  Soon after the submission deadline, a round-up will be posted on Within a week after that, the winner will be announced right here on formerchef! Be patient folks, I am a loooong way away with questionable internet access.

In keeping with last month’s travel theme (Las Vegas), I too happen to be traveling during the time for this month’s competition. I’ll be in Vietnam!

Because I am the Spreadsheet Queen, I exported the list onto a single page so I could cut up the ingredients into small slips of paper.  The ingredients were then randomly drawn out of a hat and are…





For the fourth ingredient I’m selecting a theme item. Based on where I’ll be during the challenge (Vietnam), the 4th ingredient will be Fish Sauce.

This is known as nam pla in Thailand, nuoc mam in Vietnam and shottsuru in Japan. It’s made from fermented fish (often anchovies) and an essential ingredient in many Asian recipes. On its own it can be challenging on the palate, but as an ingredient it is essential in Southeast Asian cooking and adds that “special something” that is clearly lacking when not included.
The ancient Romans made something similar called garum, so this ingredient is not limited to an Asian themed recipe. Bottles of fish sauce can be found in Asian markets and sometimes in regular grocery stores, and are usually very inexpensive (a couple of dollars at most). If you’re not familiar with fish sauce, I highly recommend you google it and learn a little more about how it’s used. Then go out and get some and try it. Don’t be shocked at the taste on its own. Make sure you try it out as an ingredient too.
As the rules and regulations state, you may make substitutions if you cannot find an ingredient locally or you have food restrictions or allergies.

Here are some of my recipes which use nam pla to give you an idea:

I can’t wait to see what recipes are created!

1 Vivian July 1, 2009 at 11:43 am

Beautifully done. Wow, those are all ingredients that I always have on hand. I will have to consider doing this. Have a great time in Vietnam!

2 formerchef July 1, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Thanks! I do hope you give it a try!

3 Mikey July 2, 2009 at 1:42 am

This combination of ingredients is going to lead to some very interesting dishes.
My mind is already in overdrive with ideas.

4 Janie July 2, 2009 at 6:34 am

I’m on vacation next week and will finally have time to join in the fun – such a great challenge! I love seeing what you all come up with. nice job on the orzo…

5 Minu July 2, 2009 at 8:44 pm

i’m a vegetarian and new to this world of blogging.
can i sunstitute chicken and the sauce?

6 formerchef July 3, 2009 at 1:17 am

Yes, you can substitute.

7 Heather July 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm

What great ingredients! I’m putting on my thinking cap…

8 vietnam vacation packages October 19, 2009 at 11:22 am

This is an awsome blog, I am glad I have found it. Abit more images would be nice. Cheers

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