In Michigan these days, the farmers market stocks are dwindling save for vibrant, colorful displays of winter squash that we don’t know what to do with. Well, roasted squash is always delicious, but for the variety and abundance of squash available, more ought to be done with them. We finally got inspired by daetongbap / Korean rice cooked in bamboo and baked pumpkin oatmeal to make several dishes using the squash as the cooking vessel. Here we introduce a new dish: Thịt kho trong trái bí (Caramelized pork braised in squash). The rich pork flavor, caramelized coconut sugar, fish sauce, and spices permeate the squash while extracting from it a smoky sweetness. The dish taste different and new yet comforting, containing within it home-for-the-holidays flavors both from the New World and the Old Country.
We’re excited to share with you a real simple dish we created that’s been a runaway hit at every dinner we’ve served it. At the heart of the dish is our love for the flavor of salted kumquats, with its floral citrus scent transformed into an earthy and complex ancient aroma after months of aging. That flavor paired with juicy, just slightly gamey quails proved to be a winning combination, one that we haven’t encountered anywhere else.
Ah, Canh Rau Răm / Vietnamese Coriander Soup. Such a perfectly simple soup, needing only 4 ingredients – rau răm, beef, garlic, and tomato – to achieve a balanced, flavorful broth that is light and refreshing, even when served hot. That the broth itself contained the highlights and the majority of the experience of the dish made this soup an ideal candidate to test out the modernist/stunt cuisine techniques of clarification. The goal was to produce a clear broth that delivered all the flavors of canh rau răm, We’ve decided to call the clarified soup Trà Canh Rau Răm (lit. Vietnamese Coriander Soup Tea) to avoid confusion .
Summertime in North America is the season of heat, watermelon, and family gatherings, and the perfect time to make and enjoy this refreshing and festive salad. The recipe was an original creation of Fatty Crab‘s Zekary Pelaccio and was written up by The New York Times, where we found it. Sweet and fluffy watermelon cubes tossed in an aromatic ginger cilantro dressing and tangy pickled watermelon rinds were coolly delicious contrasts against juicy roast pork belly. Spicy scallion, rau răm / Vietnamese coriander, and Thai basil completed this unusual salad that in its own way provided all the textural and flavor elements of gỏi (Vietnamese salad). The original recipe combined elements of Southern United States cuisine with spices and techniques chef Pelaccio encountered in Malaysia. We substituted his crispy fried pork belly for a star anise marinated roast pork that was more reminiscent of heo quay (roast pork), an ingredient associated with celebrations in Vietnam. We had no idea how one would classify a dish in which so many lineages were mixed together, but we felt perfectly at home serving and enjoying this salad out in the backyard with the rest of our family.
We are excited to host the June 2011 edition of Delicious Vietnam. It was fun to read through the amazing array of posts on different aspects of Vietnamese cuisine. Without further ado, let’s start the multi-course feast.
Breakfast fares: Bánh mì & Xôi (sticky rice)
“To me, nostalgia is the language of inspiration for the different types of bánh mì I’m making and writing about here. The Damn Bien (aspiring to be ‘damn good’) bánh mì contains the specially dressed fresh carrots, jicama, cucumber and cilantro surrounding the French comfort food of sumptuous and crispy duck confit hash I fried.”