• Chargrilled calamari and pickled vegetable salad (Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam)Source: Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam

While the local ladies at the Luong Son fish market try Luke's calamari dish, he awaits nervously for their reaction (as they're all fantastic cooks) but they're delighted with the dish.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)


  • 200 g cleaned squid, legs cut into individual pieces
  • 50 g bean sprouts
  • 1 handful mixed herbs (perilla, mint, Vietnamese mint)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass, white part only
  • 1 tsp fried garlic
  • 2 tsp garlic oil
  • 2 tsp roasted rice powder
  • 1 tbsp peanuts, roasted
  • 1 tbsp fried red Asian shallots
  • 1 bird's eye chilli, chopped
  • 2 sprigs coriander
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted

Pickled vegetables

  • 625 ml (2½ cups) rice vinegar
  • 440 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small daikon
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ½ lemon, cut into thin wedges


  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 birds eye chilli, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Nuoc cham

  • 1½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) water
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ red bird's eye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You will need to begin this recipe 3 days ahead for the pickles.

Marinating time: 3 days 

1. For the pickled vegetables, combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthways and remove the seeds with a spoon. Cut the cucumber, carrot, daikon and celery into 5 cm x 5 mm batons. Combine the lemon wedges with the vegetables and place in a 1 litre-capacity plastic or glass container.

3. Pour the cooled pickling liquid over the vegetables to completely submerge them. Cover with a lid and pickle for 3 days before use. This will make more than you need for this recipe, but once opened, the pickles will keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.

4. For the marinade, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine well.

5. For the chargrilled squid, lay the cleaned squid on a cutting board, insert your knife into the top edge of the body and run the knife down to the bottom of the squid. Fold it open as you would a book. Add the squid to the marinade and use your hands to rub onto both sides of the squid. Stand for 20 minutes to marinate.

6. Meanwhile, for the nuoc cham, place the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring mixture to just below boiling point, then set aside to cool. Add the garlic, chilli and lime juice and stir to combine.

7. Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-high. Grill the squid for 3-4 minutes on both sides. Once cooked, cut the squid in half from top to bottom, turn it horizontally and then slice into 2 cm-wide pieces.

8. To serve, place the squid and 200 g of the drained pickled vegetables in a large bowl. Add the bean sprouts, herbs, fried garlic, garlic oil and roasted rice powder and gently toss together. Place on a large serving platter and dress with the nuoc cham, then scatter with roasted peanuts, fried shallots, chilli, coriander and sesame seeds.


Catch Luke Nguyen on the tracks dishing up Vietnamese fare in the brand-new series, Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam.