Vietnam is a unique place that has inspired my partner Andrew and I in terms of how we reinterpret cuisine at our Auckland restaurant Nanam. Last year was our second visit to Vietnam and we travelled from the bustling Ho Chi Min City in the south all the way to the quiet nature and mountain walks of Sa Pa in the north.

We appreciate how the Vietnamese prioritise the balance of flavour in their meals and the importance they place on vegetables and herbs, - it's what's helped shape their cuisine.

One of the most memorable things we did was sit on the sidewalks on little plastic stools, eating elbow to elbow with the local people. Whether it's noodle soups, Bun Cha or Banh Mi, the street food in Vietnam is amazing. Possibly the best way to truly experience daily life in Vietnam, you'll find locals gathered outside storefronts or under awnings, eating and enjoying each other's company.

If there's one thing I remember eating in Vietnam it is "Canh Chua Ca", a spicy fish stew seasoned with calamansi and kang kong or water spinach. Very close to what we eat at home, enjoying this sweet, sour, spicy and salty flavoured stew with crunchy kang kong and a simple bowl of rice while on a boat in the middle of Halong Bay was truly something to treasure.

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Andrew James Soriano and Jessabel Granada. Photo / Supplied
Andrew James Soriano and Jessabel Granada. Photo / Supplied

- Andrew James Soriano and Jessabel Granada are the owners and chefs at Nanam restaurant in Auckland's Takapuna.

Pan fried kahawai in spicy soybean glaze with sauteed kale and leek

Pritong Isda is a customer favourite at Andrew and Jessabel's restaurant. Photo / Supplied
Pritong Isda is a customer favourite at Andrew and Jessabel's restaurant. Photo / Supplied

This recipe for spicy "Pritong Isda" or fried fish is something we serve at the restaurant and has earned a place in our customers' hearts thanks to its simplicity and deliciously spicy umami flavour.

Serves 2

150-300g kahawai fillets or other medium-to-firm fish, skin-on preferably

For the spicy soybean glaze

25g peeled garlic
25g vegetable oil
25g wholegrain mustard
Pinch of salt
125g soybean paste
50ml white vinegar
50g brown sugar
1 piece of bird's eye chilli

1. Blend everything together into a smooth paste.

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2. Pour in a small saucepan and simmer slowly for 15 mins, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning. Set aside to cool down.

For the sauteed kale and leek

1 Tbsp olive oil
100g kale or cavolo nero, chopped thinly
100g leek, chopped thinly
5g mint, chopped finely
Half a lemon
10g brown sugar
1 tsp flaky salt

In a hot skillet saute kale or cavolo nero and leek on a medium heat for about three minutes, making sure to keep stirring to properly colour the leek, then add the brown sugar, flaky salt and lemon juice to season and finally finish with mint.

Assembly

Pat the skin of the fish fillets dry properly, then season with flaky salt. Pan-fry the fish, skin-side down on medium heat, for about two minutes until golden, or slightly longer for larger fillets, then finish in the oven until well cooked through.

Glaze fish with the spicy soybean paste and serve with the sauteed kale and leek. Serve with steamed rice.

• Check out Nanam at Taste of Auckland, October 31 to November 3 at Queen's Wharf.