Good Morning Vietnam!

ROBIN WILLIAMS: Least pretentious of stars. Credit: Shutterstock

YEARS ago I was at The Savoy for lunch (where I had trained in the 70s) I was delighted to be a guest some 25 or so years later.

Tony the doorman remembered me and as he parked up my nice car on the front he said wow…you’ve done good!  I felt proud and so happy to be back at The Savoy. I wandered into the bathroom to put on a tie (no tie no entrance to River Restaurant) and there was Robin Williams having a pee!

I was taken aback, I loved Robin Williams but I was a bit dumbstruck. Not known to be ever short of words however, I came out with …..Good Morning Vietnam! (I really don’t know where that came from!)  It was of course a Robin Williams film made in the 80s set in Saigon in the 60s during the Vietnamese war.

Robin played a controversial radio DJ. He laughed out loud at my comment and said something back in a funny voice which I didn’t hear because I was too star struck!  Later that day we had a drink together, he was one of the most natural, funniest and least pretentious of all the stars that I have ever met.

He seemed more interested in my training at The Savoy than telling me his stories. It’s so very sad that he is not with us anymore, he was a fantastic actor, comedian and exceptional guy, RIP Robin.

I have never been to Vietnam but I used to employ a Vietnamese chef and her food was amazing. She came to me to learn how to cook western style food but I think that I learned more from her!

Vietnamese cuisine always combines fragrance, taste, and colour. It always has five elements. For example it includes five fundamental taste senses – spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet, apparently corresponding to five organs (gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder).

Vietnamese dishes also include five types of nutrients – powder, liquid, mineral elements, protein and fat – and Vietnamese cooks try to use five colours, white, green, yellow, red and black in their dishes. The five flavours of Vietnamese food makes it unique and appealing but it also makes it more complex. In other words when I make an Indian curry its far simpler but the taste buds are never satisfied like they are when you cook a Vietnamese curry.

My Vietnamese chef was a bit bossy to all my other chefs and she fell out with them all the time. One day I could feel the stress in the kitchen and I turned to her and said firmly binhtinh (which I think means calm down).  She collected her knives and left the kitchen. I never saw her again. I hope that I said the Vietnamese words correctly and that I did not offend her!

One bowl …Vietnamese Turkey curry (Serves 4) 

This week I want to share with you my Vietnamese curry that I made for lunch tapas at The Little Geranium using up some turkey I had in the freezer. 


2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 onion sliced

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised with the flat side of a knife and cut into 2 inch pieces

1 x 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and cut into thin slices

3 tablespoons madras hot yellow curry powder or paste (I use fresh spices here but this is more complicated and more time consuming)

1 kilo of turkey breast (or chicken)

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 bayleaf

2 pieces of star anise

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander stalks

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint stalks

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

250 ml chicken/ turkey stock( from fresh bones or use chicken granules)

2tins of coconut milk

Note: The Vietnamese like to add potatoes and carrots to the dish which is an option

Garnish and finishing Ingredients

Juice of 1 fresh lime

1 large spring onion sliced into julienne strips

2 mild red chillies sliced into julienne strips (no seeds)

2 inch piece of root ginger peeled and cut into fine julienne strips

2 tablespoons of toasted peanuts or cashews

4 /5 tablespoons of cooked plain rice (you can use the rice mixed with wild rice which gives a nice texture and adds black to the dish.)

4 tablespoons of crispy fried onions ( you can crispy onion pieces  or simply deep fry onions tossed in flour until crisp)

4 large sprigs of coriander

4 large sprigs of fresh mint


Marinate the Turkey:
Cut into 4 inch pieces. Marinate for at least 1 hour ( better overnight) with 1 Tablespoon of Madras Curry Powder, 2 Teaspoons  Salt, 6 Garlic Cloves (minced) and 1 Tablespoons of Grated Ginger.

Cook the Sauce &Turkey:
Heat a thick bottomed sauce pan add the coconut oil and once hot add the chunks of turkey – it should take about 5 minutes to seal them and then cook them for another 5 minutes on a lower heat. Remove the turkeypieces and in the same sauce pansauté the onions for 2 minutes or until they are soft and translucent. Sprinkle in the madras powder and mix well and now add all the other ingredients leaving the stock and coconut milk until the end. Cook for approx 40 minutes on a medium heat.

To finish the dish

Cut the partly cooked turkey pieces into 1 inch chunks and add them to the curry sauce and cook on low heat until cooked ( about 10 minutes)

Heat your rice and prepare 4 largeish warmed bowls

Taste the turkey sauce and add the lime juice and if necessary a little more honey

Note: if sauce is not thick enough add a little cornflour

Put the cooked rice to one side of the bowl (9 o clock position) and spoon the turkey curry to 6 o clock position in the bowl

Grab the julienne chillies, ginger and spring onions and put in bowls at 3 o clock position and finally sprinkle with the crispy onions and toasted peanuts and serve.

Guests will mix the ginger and spring onions together with the herbs into your sauce to get the taste sensation!

You can email Steven any queries or questions this Christmas on

Steven Saunders FMCGB

The Little Geranium

La Cala De Mijas

(Behind the Town Hall in central La Cala)

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