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