What’s Cooking in… Vietnam

By Sandra Scott
This item appears on page 23 of the December 2021 issue.
Banana Blossom Salad ready to serve.

There are not many positive aspects of the COVID pandemic. However, being stuck in the house for extended periods has given me time to go through my travel notes and triage what I don’t need. This also gave me the opportunity to rediscover and remember the many wonderful times I had traveling.

For example, I ran across a cookbook I received in February 2009 when my late husband, John, and I took a lesson in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, at a cooking school that, unfortunately, is now permanently closed: the Vietnam Cookery Center (Nov. ’10, pg. 54).

One of four dishes we made during the lesson was Banana Blossom Salad, which I felt was unique. Here’s how to make it.

Sandra Scott can be reached by email at sanscott@gmail.com.

Banana Blossom Salad with Pork and Shrimp 

Marinade sauce

1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
Dash of pepper
½ tsp salt


3 oz pork tenderloin
3 oz unpeeled shrimp (8 or 9 large shrimp)
¼ tsp white vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 banana flower, thinly sliced (can be substituted with cabbage and/or kale or with peeled and shredded green papaya)
¼ large onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp rau ram (can substitute cilantro or basil)
1 medium-size red chili, thinly sliced
1-2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
¼ tsp sesame oil

Mix together all ingredients for marinade until sugar is completely dissolved; set aside. Boil pork over medium heat for about 8 minutes, then remove from heat. Soak in fresh water until cool enough to handle, about 5-10 minutes; drain, then thinly slice. 

In fresh water, with vinegar added, boil shrimp over high heat until opaque, about 3-5 minutes, then remove from heat. Rinse in cold water. Shell the shrimp. 

In a medium-size bowl, combine marinade sauce, 1 tsp of fish sauce and the pork and shrimp. Mix, and let stand for 1-3 minutes, then set aside.

In another bowl, add banana flower, onion, rau ram, chili and sesame oil, then toss until well mixed. Mix in shrimp, pork and 1 tsp. of fish sauce. Let stand for 1-3 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Chicken and/or tofu can be used instead of pork and shrimp. Sliced mango, papaya and/or green pepper can also be added.

Ms. Nhu, our cooking class interpreter, displaying a banana flower. Photos by Sandra Scott
All the ingredients set out for Banana Blossom Salad.