Growing up, my family cooked cá kho/braised fish the Northern way and it was never a favorite dish until much later. Northern style cá kho is ascetically simple and intense. Southern style cá kho is easier to like – the fish is more softly presented and embellished with a more prominent sweetness. When we experimented with adding tea (a typically Northern touch) to Southern style cá kho, we found that the flavors of braised fish and the fragrance of tea were well matched companions still. Using Japanese or Korean barley tea made for an even more intriguing dish with a novel taste while the tea leaves themselves can be roasted to form a crust on the fish filet, adding a new textural element.
Instead of bánh tét, people from Northern Vietnam wrap bánh chưng for Tết. This past Christmas, we learned to make bánh chưng from Grandma. For Tết in Houston, we demonstrated that the lesson (mostly) stuck.
That’s right, folks, Rau Om enters the cutting edge world of moving pictures with a short kinematographic post to Youtube.
The days before Tết are a frenzy of food preparations, including wrapping and cooking bánh tét if one’s from Southern Vietnam. This past Tết season, we went home and learned from Mom a more efficient way to wrap than what was previously described in our previous bánh tét post.
The music included in the video is “Improvisations in the Spring Mode” by our music teacher, the amazing master musician Nguyễn Vĩnh Bảo.
This past Christmas my grandmother (bà ngoại) taught me how to make bánh chưng. The last time we made bánh chưng together, I was 5. I ran amuck and made a big mess of everything – my grandmother still complains about all the tactics she needed to chase me away or keep me distracted. Nevertheless, “helping” bà ngoại make bánh chưng and staying up watching the adults tend to the fire and the bubbling pot of bánh chưng remain one of my fondest memories. Despite not running amuck and not making as big a mess this time around, learning to make bánh chưng with bà ngoại is another cherished event. It made my grandmother happy, too, finally to have someone help her make bánh chưng again. Maybe making bánh chưng will even become a regular holiday event once more!
This is a very simple yet tasty dish that was a hit at many of the dinners we held this year. At one dinner, a couple of guests fought to keep this dish on the table when I attempted to remove it to make room for other dishes on the menu :). This salad is a study of balancing various tastes and textures: sweetness of baby clams & tartness of tamarind, chewiness of baby clams & meatiness of young jack fruit (it’s a staple ingredient of vegetarian cuisine in South and Southeast Asia) & crunchiness of rau om (rice paddy herb) and rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), rice crackling and peanuts. And best of all, the salad is extremely easy to make and should take no more than 30 minutes in the kitchen, including prep time.