Thursday, November 8, 2012

Adventures in Vietnamese Cooking

So I had my first Vietnamese cooking lesson. I was at my father-in-laws house killing time with my husband, and my almost step-mother-in-law, Minh, was cooking lunch. She is from Vietnam, and is one of the best cooks I have met. I have been wanting to learn from her for a while, and finally was in the right place at the right time. I didn't think I was in the right place at the right time at first though. It started off with my husband leaving me alone with Minh. Don't get me wrong, she is great and I like her a lot, but she is a little difficult to understand. Ok, very difficult to understand. I think I get about 50% of what she says. But she is as nice as can be and does not seem to mind my ignorance. So when my husband left, I was thinking uh-oh. First we made lo-mein. Minh already had the noodles cooked, so we started off by cooking chicken to put in the lo-mein. Then we added scallions, garlic, butter, and a little soy sauce. While that mixture was cooking we put together the filling for the spring rolls, fresh rolls, I don't really know what they are called rolls. We cut up some shrimp and scallions and added them to a pot with water, garlic, and butter. Minh handed me some extra-long chop sticks to tend to the cooking. I was thinking, chop-sticks?! these are going to be helpful. Not. To make things a little more tricky, she added way too many noodles to the pot with the chicken. I was trying to toss and mix everything together without tossing the noodles out of the pan. Meanwhile, Minh was getting ready to chop up some fresh greens to add to the spring rolls. The only cutting board in sight was the one she used to cut up the raw chicken and shrimp. I was thinking, oh God, I am going to get salmonella and never going to want to eat her food again. Thankfully, she washed it. Now we were ready to put the spring rolls together. Minh told me to wash my hands before we started. When she repeated herself for the third time I caught what she said and obliged. At 5'3" I am not tall by anymeans, but next to Minh I feel like a giant. She asked me to get the rice paper down from a shelf she could not reach. After about 5 tries, I finally got the correct package down (she had a lot on the shelf and wanted the package that was already open). She did the first roll then let/told me do the rest. Rice paper is kinda hard to work with! I felt like I was working with clingy plastic wrap- you all know how fun that can be. She only laughed at me once and took one sheet of rice paper away from me after I stuck it to itself in about 16 different spots. There was no fixing that piece. Overall, the spring rolls came out decent looking. Minh made a "special sauce" to dip them in which is full of "secret ingredients". She did not teach me the "secrets". Maybe next time. She is big on sauce though. If you don't take some for youself, she will give you some. Whether you want it or not. So take the sauce. After eating, the four of us somehow got on the subject of gay marrige. Minh is all for it, which is cool. Before taking her naturalization test, she had a tutor to help her study. We learned that the tutor was a 42-year old lesbian who Minh thinks had a crush on her. Crush or not, Minh didn't mind, and some pretty funny stories. Minh said next time she will show me how to make banh xeo. Banh xeo is one of the few words I can understand from her, and it's not english. Go figure. I can't wait for that cooking lesson (for real; that is my favorite vietnamese food)!

The finished products:

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