I don’t recall ever having had this variety of Japanese eggplant back in the US, but this has become one of my vegetables of choice for its milder taste and ease of preparing. This dish is an ideal weekday meal because it is composed of easy to find ingredients and only takes 15 minutes to throw together. Though meatless, this savory-sweet dish is chock-full of flavor and will leave even the pickiest taste buds satisfied.
There are certain dishes that remain inextricably linked to defining moments in my life, dishes whose aroma alone can instantly transport me back to moments that reside in the deepest recesses of my memory. Among those dishes is thịt kho nước dừa, which is pork belly and eggs simmered in coconut juice and nước mắm.
Before lightly frying the tofu, the surface is dusted with turmeric and coated them with minced lemongrass and chili peppers. The fried tofu and vermicelli rice noodles sit on a bed of chopped lettuce and fresh aromatic herbs. The noodle bowl is dressed with a drizzle of a Vietnamese fish sauce mix before serving. This is an ideal summer dish that minimizes stove and prep time, yet doesn’t skimp on flavor.
Pâté chaud (bánh patê sô) is a French-inspired Vietnamese meat pie, which can be found in just about every Vietnamese bakery. The rich meat filling composed of ground pork and French pâté is enrobed in a puff pastry. Once out of the oven, the buttery aroma and flaky puff pastry shell will be hard to resist!
Vietnamese caramelized ginger chicken perfectly marries savory and sweet flavors. Once the liquid reduces, it bathes the chicken in a glistening amber sauce imbued with a fiery ginger flavor. The sauce will no doubt have your taste buds popping and begging for more. This dish pairs perfectly with a side of steamed white jasmine rice.
Garnishes are indispensable ingredients that complement the symphony of flavors found in Vietnamese dishes. Fresh herbs, such as red perilla or basil, infuse our noodle soups, spring rolls and salads with a bouquet of flavors that scintillate our taste buds. More savory toppings like fried pork fat impart a crunchy succulence to dishes such as bánh bèo (steamed rice cakes) and cơm tấm bì (broken rice with shredded pork skin). Among the assortment of garnishes that dress our plates, I use fried shallots the most frequently in my kitchen.
Generations before me fled in droves from a war ravaged Việt Nam over 30 years ago following the fall of Saigon. The country was shrouded in panic and confusion during the final hours of the war as the Americans pulled out. In the midst of the mayhem, people in South Việt Nam scrambled to leave the country, which was the debut of a decade-long mass exodus. My mom and her family were among the fortunate ones who left by plane days before the borders closed after the south surrendered to the north. Many others left by boat and embarked on harrowing journeys at sea, where hundreds of thousands perished. Those who were lucky enough to survive the perilous journey settled in countries in all corners of the world.
New Orleans was my hometown during my early childhood. We only lived there until I was six years old, so my recollections of life in the Big Easy have faded into fragmented blurs. One of the few things that I do remember about Louisiana is eating king cake during the mardi gras festivities, which is as ubiquitous as strings of beads during that time of year. I actually wasn’t particularly fond of eating the cake, which was often topped too generously with icing and colored sugars. I was only interested in finding the tiny plastic baby buried within the cake, because whoever found the prized baby would be crowned king for a day.
Japanese fraisier is a much lighter take on the traditional French fraisier. It is composed of a couple layers of genoise, whipped cream, and of course, strawberries, whereas the French version is filled with a mousseline cream (pastry cream + butter). Check out this recipe from the 2015 issue of Fou de Pâtisserie.
Open the fridge in any Vietnamese household and you are sure to find a jar of nước mắm. I’m not talking about the pure bottled stuff, but rather the mix that accompanies many dishes on our dining table. It is often served as a dipping sauce for (eggrolls) or as a sauce drizzled over dishes, such as cơm tấm bì (broken rice with shredded pork) or bánh xèo (savory crêpes ).