Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Latest Autodidact Project: Vietnamese Cooking

Upon arriving in Texas a few months before the kids and I did, my husband discovered Vietnamese food. We have very few Vietnamese restaurants in Connecticut but there are a large number of restaurants in Houston. There is a huge Vietnamese population here. My husband had pho (noodle soup) for the first time and quickly became obsessed. He introduced me to pho when I visited him in June to pick a rental property to live in.

(Pho is a large bowl of soup, in America it is served as a main entree. The larger bowls can be 40 ounces! It has broth, onions, and usually meat(s). You add bean sprouts, fresh herbs: cilantro, culantro, and thai basil as well as fresh lime wedges and hot green peppers. It has thin rice noodles in it.The soup is complex and fragrant thanks to all the fresh aromatic herbs.)

When the kids and I arrived, and when my husband moved out of where he was and moved up to where we are now, we started trying out Vietnamese restaurants in this area. They vary highly in quality. There are a number of so-called fusion restaurants which in reality means they serve Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese from the same kitchen but none of it is any good. We now avoid any place called "fusion" like the plague. We have not found great pho near our home.

Thus, my husband suggested we start to cook our own pho. Hey, why not we cook many other things from scratch! Due to the large Vietnamese population here, there are markets to get all the specialty foods. About a half hour drive way is a giant market that sells things I never knew existed! If I can cook American soup and Italian soup why couldn't I cook Vietnamese soup?

I went to Amazon.com and started surfing for cookbooks. I found one that had great customer reviews and based solely on those I ordered the book. Just the beef pho recipe has been worth the price of the book.

So, my first project since arriving in Texas to do something interesting and fun and personally enriching for myself, has been to read about Vietnamese cooking and to teach myself the recipes in this book and to explore the Vietnamese market. I was so exhaused from intenese unpacking and home organization plus trying to meet people in the homeschool network plus planning the homeschool year out and then starting in on teaching. I needed something creative to do just for myself. I needed something new to stretch my brain and my senses.

After that first trip to the market and teaching myself to cook the complicated beef pho recipe, and tasting how delicious it was, I was rejuvenated and refreshed and ready to tackle the regular stresses and pressures associated with homeschooling, parenting, and settling down in a new state.

Perhaps I can blog details of this Vietnamese cooking journey in other blog posts soon.

The book I really am enjoying is called Into the Vietnamese Kitchen Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen. After I try a few more recipes I may write a review on the book.




(Due to move related challenges I cannot download photos from my camera, so I apologize. I'd wanted to share photos of my beef pho, but I can't just yet.)

1 comment:

C T said...

I'm pho-obsessed, as well. Luckily, there are several Vietnamese (not fusion) restaurants within a 20-minute-drive, so I rarely have to make my own pho. I'm always disappointed when the restaurant doesn't bring out Thai basil with the pho; cilantro is OK, but it's not as happy-sigh-inducing as the Thai basil in pho.