i think the only thing that’s truly remarkable about the fact that i made this dish is the whole "presentation" thing. i’m usually short on looks and long on flavor. by the time i get a dish tasting how i want it, the way that it looks matters little to me. especially if knife skills are required and it’s only a decorative garnish. i’m just not that cook. except for today. today i spent about 6 hours with 2 guys, one who was the chef and the other who was just a lost paying soul like me looking to glean some cooking tips. there were 4 courses for our lunch which began with a trip to saigon’s biggest and best market, ben thanh. i’m going back by myself tomorrow for a longer look. the hell with the war remnants museum and the reunification palace, show me how the people live, show me what sustains them. to me the market is the life force of the city.
dried shrimp. lots and lots of dried shrimp…
the banana flower salad is a relatively common dish in vietnam and one that i have seen in the states, but instead of the banana flower, cabbage is used. why i never make this at home, i do not know – but now i plan on having it often. it is simply a taste sensation and so incredibly simple to prepare. the dressing is the vietnamese classic of equal parts water, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar with minced garlic and chiles. the salad is the shredded banana leaf, shredded chicken breast, julienned carrots and green peppers (take that ruhlman) and some fresh herbs. we used rau ram and hun kay – the former i know is available in the ny area although not readily unless you live in chinatown and the latter i have seen but don’t know the english name and googling it didn’t help. but regardless, mint and thai basil would do quite nicely. the salad is finished with crispy fried shallots and chopped roasted peanuts – not too much of either, and let me just say once more: this salad is truly amazing. and honestly, it’s not even cooking, it is merely assembling. oh, and chili pepper flower and outer banana flower petal dish? optional…
nearly everything is alive and there is zero fish odor.
also at lunch there were seafood and taro fried spring rolls that were ok but not so much my thing, and pho was explained and assembled but i’ve learned from pardus how to make that and quite frankly, michael’s broth is better. but it was a lovely setting with really nice guys and we had good fun. afterwards i went and got a neck and head massage while also getting a foot and leg massage. simultaneously. for an hour. for $30. in what would be considered a high end spa. i’m not sure how physically therapeutic it was… if you’re into serious massage this is in the vein of swedish – at best, not so much therapeutic. but still, it was welcomed by my travel weary body.
for dinner, a vietnamese crepe at the night market. there were also shrimp steamed in beer and a bowl of rice noodles with some bbq’d pork that were both excellent.
i was moving past them quickly so pardon the blur… but this is vietnam.