I know I’ve mentioned it before, but my blog seems to feature very few Vietnamese recipes, despite the fact that I cook Vietnamese at home every second day or so. So in an attempt to rectify the situation and to bring some more balance to this blog, I hope to feature more Vietnamese recipes which are quick, easy and delicious to make at home.
Pho could perhaps be described as the national dish of Vietnam. But what many people don’t know is that it is predominantly a breakfast dish in Vietnam. In some parts of the world, breakfast might be a bowl of cold cereal to some. In Vietnam, however, they like to kick-start their day with an aromatic noodle broth, full of flavour and texture to awaken the senses.
From looking at the recent entries on my blog, you wouldn’t think that I cook a lot of Vietnamese food at home. The fact is, I probably cook Vietnamese food about 4 to 5 times a week! Of course, the frequency varies, but hardly a week goes by when I haven’t made something at least Vietnamese-inspired.
After my mother, Luke Nguyen would have to be my greatest source of inspiration when it comes to authentic Vietnamese cuisine. His recipes appear in Secrets of the Red Lantern, an autobiography of sorts written by his sister, Pauline Nguyen, detailing the plight of their family from when they emigrated from Vietnam to Australia, as well as an account of her growing pains as a Vietnamese immigrant in an Australian society. Her story is an inspiring one, though perhaps not too different from many Vietnamese immigrants who struggled to come to terms with their Vietnamese heritage whilst wanting to embrace their newfound Australian identity at the same time. And whilst her bravery in sharing her story ought to be commended, I think the book is made more heartfelt by its recipes.
I have a soft spot for any book which is smartly dotted with recipes throughout. As with many foodies out there, I have a curious obsession with reading cookbooks, and so reading an autobiography is made much easier when there are mouthwatering recipes and tantalising food photography to break the story a little.
I adore artichokes. As a child, my mother would boil a whole artichoke for my dinner on those nights when she was preoccupied with other things or, more likely, fed up with cooking and needed to give me a no-fuss dinner. Hard task given that I was a fussy eater for most of my life.
But I always enjoyed my solitary meal of boiled artichokes which I would ceremoniously sit down to in front of the telly, picking off the leaves one-by-one and sucking off what scant flesh there was on the edge of each leaf. Once I was done making my way through all of the leaves (which usually took this fussy eater quite a while), my mum would then cut through the remains to reveal the heart. Though normally by this stage, I would have lost interest and demanded toast.
I had to renew my work visa the other day, which necessitated a trip to the immigration office so that I could be fingerprinted and all the rest. The only thing worse than taking an hour out of my day to visit a government office was posing for my mug shot and realising that I would be stuck with that photo everytime I have to go through passport control in the next 12 months. Someone ought to fix the lighting in those photo booths …
Thankfully, my time at the immigration office was over in 5 minutes (that’s Swiss efficiency for you) and as I walked back to the tram stop, I popped into the Asian grocer nearby to see what I could pick up for dinner that night. It was not a store I had frequently visited before and I was giddy with excitement by how well-stocked it was. I was particularly surprised to see a large selection of different types of tofu, including silken tofu which I had never come across before in Zurich.