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When Vietnamese Cooking Goes Wrong…Tales from a Mama who tried :)

January 7, 2010

As part of my new year’s resolution to incorporate more VN dishes into our daily lives, I reached for my copy of “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” by Andrea Nguyen and decided to start simply with “Spicy Cabbage and Chicken Salad”.

I went to our local grocer to assemble the ingredients and rejected the Thai fish sauce on the shelf after reading the section onVN fish sauce being much milder. I had intended to try the Asian Market near our home but ended up forgetting to pick up the sauce.

The 3T fish sauce called for in the salad dressing was a crucial component! I made an uneducated decision to substitute soy sauce….which I was later told by a VN friend was akin to “swapping ketchup for mustard”. Shall I say that things went a bit wrong? I then tinkered with the salty brine that I had created…adding a bit of sugar, a bit of sesame oil, until the taste was more muddy than anything. Nothing like the clear, bright flavors of true VN cuisine.

Hubby–suitably nervous as he contemplated a head of raw cabbage suggested that we add Caesar dressing to the slaw and toss the muck that I had been mixing. No way! I had already compromised by marinating the simple poached chicken the recipe called for using the basic chicken marinade on p. 81…you guessed it–Sans Fish Sauce. I had creatively improvised by adding a bit of lemon grass to the marinade and came out with a tasty lemongrass chicken that we ended up serving over rice.

The salad was still a problem. What to do without fish sauce?

I scrambled through the rest of the cookbook looking for a salad dressing that didn’t require the condiment. Disgruntled, I broadened my search to a few other cookbooks for any Asian dressing that I had the ingredients to make. I ended up with the “Moosewood Collective–Lowfat Favorites” cookbook and a recipe for Spicy Peanut Dressing. It took about 5 minutes to whip this up in the blender and it was delicious!

In the end…the dish wasn’t truly VN and I have to try again next week. However, we created a tasty Thai inspired dish that resulted in Hubby enjoying cabbage salad 🙂 Not too awful!

Next week I have a lovely soup recipe from a girlfriend that I am quite sure I can manage. Baby Steps!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 5:36 pm

    Love moosewood!!! Next time you are at the asian market pick up a bottle of three crabs fish sauce or the one with the fat baby sitting on the globe (no need to refridgerate it stores in the pantry). Good save with the peanut dressing!

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