A couple of years ago, I had this nutty idea that I could master French cookery within a few short months. Or, at least enough to pass an exam called the CAP de Cuisine. Students who pursue a career in the culinary arts in lieu of the traditional route culminating in a high school diploma followed by college must pass the CAP before embarking on their careers in the kitchen. In preparation for the CAP de Cuisine exam, students enroll in a 2-year program that equips them with food industry skills, such as French culinary techniques, the science of ingredients, kitchen and restaurant management, and food safety.
Did y’all know that Hainan Province formed several million years ago in the South China Sea after breaking off from what is now the northeastern coast of Vietnam? Fast forward to the mid-1800s, many people from the Chinese island province started to migrate to nearby Southeast Asia in search of more prosperous economic opportunities. When they left the island, they also brought with them one of the province’s most notable culinary exports, Hainanese chicken rice. The Hainanese immigrants forged roots throughout Southeast Asia, and their eponymous dish made a mark on essentially all of the cuisines in this region. Each of these countries has a variation of this delectable chicken and rice dish.
From what I’ve observed, many French people outgrow their religious beliefs and leave them behind along with their childhood. Devout believer or not though, most continue to celebrate with gusto religious rites like baptisms and holidays rooted in the Christian faith. Many of these religious traditions have long been intertwined with France’s history and have thus been tightly woven into the fabric of French culture. So, observance of these religious occasions still persists today more as a remnant of tradition rather than actual belief. But let’s get real, these rites and holidays have survived in spite of dwindling religious beliefs because they give the French an excuse to indulge their hedonistic appetites!
As someone who was born and bred in the US, my natural inclination is to reach for something sweet to start the morning. A bowl of cereal with a splash of milk has been part of my breakfast routine since I was a kid, and it hasn’t wavered much even after moving here to France where viennoiseries abound. In Vietnamese culture, however, it’s not uncommon to fuel up in the morning with savory dishes. My stomach never growls for anything salty when I wake up, but the mister, who grew up in Vietnam, habitually starts the morning with what I would consider dinner. His typical morning meal includes a bowl of rice topped with something savory, such as caramelized pork ribs or ginger chicken. Sometimes, he’ll have a bánh giò, that is if I make them!
y baby Plated Palate turns 3 today! I celebrated the occasion by baking some chouquettes. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve baked anything aside from the occasional batch of cookies, so baking doesn’t feel as intuitive anymore as cooking savory dishes has become to me. When I was still living in the US, my baking obsession was what initially propelled me to start my first and now defunct blog. After living in France for a few years, I launched Plated Palate to give myself a blank canvas to explore my culinary predilections. While I wrote just about any and everything and shamelessly posted unappetizing photos on my old blog, I’ve dedicated this blog to Vietnamese foods and the occasional French delight.
Paris is undoubtedly among the top gastronomic destinations for travelers seeking to indulge their appetite for culinary experiences. Yet, the city still has a ways to go when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. Most of the Vietnamese restaurants are concentrated in the 13th arrondissement, while a number of take-out eateries are scattered throughout the city. I have dined at most of the restaurants in the 13th, but I’ve found only one where I go back to time and again for their house speciality, bún bò Huế. As for the take-out places, you couldn’t pay me to eat the foods served there. Everytime I look through the windows of these joints, the unpalatable food looks like highly processed frozen junk sitting in gelatinous sauces.
Earlier on my walk today, I came across an Asian grandpa walking with his grandson, who was probably no older than 4 years old. After I had walked past them, I heard the pitter patter of the little boy’s shoes behind me and him calling out “madame, madame!” I turned around to see what was up, and the little boy was running after me with a handful of flowers that he had picked on his walk. He simply handed them to me and ran back to his grandpa before I could even say anthing. That sweet little gesture from a complete stranger completely touched me and made my day.
My time spent cooking in the kitchen has been a continuous journey of learning. I have graduated from being the head herb and lettuce washer in my mom’s kitchen to the one calling the shots at the helm of my own little kitchen in France. When I was cooking only for one, I stuck to a handful of dishes that I had mastered and added variety to my diet by frequently indulging in the decadent Texas cuisine in Austin.