There are a handful of dishes that I turn to time and again because I can make them in my sleep. The simplicity and familiarity of these dishes wrap me in a soothing blanket of comfort with every bite. When I’m low on creativity and motivation, I pull from my repertoire of these tried and true dishes. Bún riêu is among those dishes for me because I can whip it up in no time. Not only does it require minimal effort, it also has a satisfying combination of savory + slightly tart + umami flavors that hits the spot every time!
Fried tofu stuffed with minced pork, woodear mushrooms and bean thread noodles bathed in a tomato sauce is a simple, yet satisfying weeknight meal.
Canh cà bung is a North Vietnamese specialty. The soup is composed of eggplant, tomatoes, tofu and pork ribs seasoned with turmeric & garnished w/Vietnamese perilla. I usually eat it with either steamed rice or vermicelli rice noodles.
Though meatless, these vegetarian egg rolls are far from bland, especially when served over a bed of vermicelli noodles and fresh Vietnamese aromatic herbs and dressed with a nước mắm sauce.
Chả Hấp Chay (steamed tofu pâté) is a vegetarian take on the classic Vietnamese chả trứng hấp, which is a steamed egg meatloaf with ground pork. This meatless version is composed of tofu, onions, wood ear mushrooms, beanthread noodles, and fermented tofu, which imparts a satifying umami flavor. The steamed tofu dish is vegetarian and vegan friendly and best enjoyed with a side of steamed white rice and sautéed greens.
Similar to bò kho in flavor (beef stew) but much quicker to make, fried tofu and king oyster mushrooms are simmered in a broth seasoned with lemongrass, chilis and a blend of spices. The king oyster mushrooms add a satisfying meaty texture, while the combination of chili peppers and spices gives a bold depth of flavor. The dish packs such a punch that you may even forget that you’re eating a vegetarian dish!
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.
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.