Nicole Reed . photography

An ongoing series of images created with my neighbour and friend Jenny Nguyen, about food she loved growing up. Created during Melbourne’s long lockdown period in 2020 Jenny would drop the food off at my door step and then we connected via zoom while I styled and photographed them on my kitchen table.

“Man I grew up eating jelly like a demon possessed. What we Vietnamese folk call jelly, you would call agar agar, totes vegan made from seaweed. I love the coffee and coconut flavoured ones which sent me bouncing off the bloody walls as a kid. 

"Rau câu cà phê"

To be honest I didn't have this until I was an adult, but eating it makes me feel like a kid. Have you ever tasted something and felt instant nostalgia? This was it for me. Again gluten free and vegan, it has so many different textures!!!! *whispers* so...many...textures... mung bean (Viet folks love them mungy beans), young shredded coconut, sesame and peanuts, enveloped in a glutinous, chewy mochi like exterior. Reminds me of the Malaysian onde onde. Allegedly called "snowball cakes" in English. Perfect with a cuppa green tea like Jasmine or Oolong.

"Bánh bao chỉ"

"Bánh giò"
Pronounced "bun zawww", or "bun yourrr" if you're a Saigonite like I was.
These little "dumplings", originated in Northern Vietnam, is a bit if a labour of love but well worth it. Steamed banana leaf wrapped pyramids of rice/tapioca flour filled w textural wood ear mushies, pork and a quail egg because quail egg is king. I made these for my old housemates and they all kinda lost it. It's the kind of thing (in my experience anyway) you normally buy rather than make here in Oz, a total luxury (for me anyway) and I'm stoked I now know how to make it.

Literally translated to "Steamed Cow Cake" in English but don't fret... These cute tasty morsels do not contain any bovine. Steamy rice cakes leavened with yeast. It is one of my most favourite thing to eat as a kid. I always... ALWAYS... pester my old man to get me some from the small local asian shop in Lalor called Kim Oanh because she makes them from scratch... and it was so soft and so fluffy, better than the pre packaged ones. Enjoy w toasted salted crushed sesame and coco cream if ya like or have it just as is. Delicious!

"Bánh bò hấp"

Moon cakes!! Which is fitting because it's Mid-Autumn Festival (Tết Trung Thu) around now. I remember eating these kinda gross nut and seed moon cakes as a kid... but only the salted egg yolk part because that was the best bit, then lighting lanterns with my friends from my Village in Saigon come nightfall.
These days you can get all different types of mooncakes, this one is filled lotus seed paste which is much more palatable for me and great to have with a hot mug of tea or coffee.

"Bánh Trung Thu"

This one is "Bánh ú" pronounced bun ooooooohhhhh.

My dad used to buy these whenever they start selling them at the shops (which is around the same time they sell moon cakes; during mid Autumn festival). They come in bundles of 10 though you can buy them individually. There are two types of banh u, one made up of only sticky rice and the one with sticky rice and a mung bean filling (my fav). They taste different from other sticky rice and mung bean parcels as they are not wrapped in banana leaves but bamboo leaves... but what gives them the slight translucency and textural difference is that they're cooked in lye water which changes them in a cellular level. Mum used to tell me off for eating too much but dad would always sneak a few and give them to me in private. This is how he showed love, not through words but through Vietnamese sweet treats.

I didn't really like pickles when I was younger with the exception of this bean sprout pickle because it was super easy to eat and colourful. I had totally forgotten about it until my mate asked me to make it for him recently. A nice little zing to add to more savoury braises. Traditionally made around Lunar New Years or Tết, but seriously it's so simple to make and so delicious and nutritious why make it just at Tết?

"Dưa Giá"