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No matter how hungry I was, I always dreaded the lunch period during elementary and middle school. It was either unpalatable food stuff processed beyond recognition, whose quality was on par with a meal that I had in a Texas prison. Or, it was leftovers that my mom packed for us. Neither alternative was appealing to me at the time. As much as I loved my mom’s cooking, eating then unknown Vietnamese dishes while my classmates nibbled on their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was excrutiatingly embarrassing.
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.
This post is a short one because I didn’t have much free time to write this week. I finally buckled down and spent a considerable amount of time working on my master’s thesis. My ideas are finally starting to crystallize and I made quite a bit of headway. I didn’t, however, want to abandon this series after only one week into it. Though this one is brief, I have another post in the works about a classic Vietnamese dish. So stay tuned next week!
I should be working on my master’s thesis, but I decided instead to create a weekly blog series. Too much of the same routine can lead to stagnation, so I wanted to throw something different into the mix (as well as concoct new ways to procrastinate). I haven’t quite figured out exactly what this series will entail, but I would like it to serve as a space for sharing interesting stories that I come across, most likely those with a food bent. In a recent post, I wrote about how my attention span has increasingly dwindled and how I would like to veer away from simple drive-by information consumption. By sharing interesting stories, I’m hoping to spark discussion and deeper reflection around these topics.
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!
Change is inevitable, but may not always be as timely as we would like. When inertia starts to become too comfortable, you yourself must sometimes catalyze the disruption of static routine. This is where I was last year when I realized that I had reached an impasse in my career.
Before day even broke, we hopped on a bus for 2€ one Sunday morning last October and headed northwest to Rouen, the capital city of Normandy. The minute the driver revved the engine, I was out cold, snoozing the entire 2 hour ride only to wake from my slumber once we reached our destination. The bus was continuing to Le Havre, but like us, most of the other passengers got off at Rouen for the weekend long Fête du Ventre, which literally translates to the Stomach Festival.
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.