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  • Bettina Applewhite

Corona Chronicles: Trip to Vietnam

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

I've had a crush on Asian foods for a long while but have been entirely too scared to try cooking them myself. Apparently all I needed to step up to the challenge and try my hand at these unfamiliar ingredients and some high heat cooking was a global pandemic.

This trip was to Vietnam. Good Morning, Vietnam! Do you remember that movie? I vaguely remember it. But I couldn't stop yelling out the phrase while I was preparing the meal.

I have never gone to Vietnam and with the pandemic still not under control, I won't be going anytime soon. But I like eating Vietnamese food. Pho is this clear broth soup that fills my belly and has me dancing in my seat. But Pho isn't the only Vietnamese recipe. There's salted shrimp and caramelized pork, noodles, and rice, and pickled vegetables. I sauteed bok choy and mixed mushrooms for vegetables. I really like sauteed bok choy. I can eat that almost anytime. It's quick and easy and only has a few ingredients. To saute bok choy all you have to do is clean it thoroughly. Then heat oil and garlic in a large saute pan. Add in the mushrooms and bok choy and cook for 4 - 5 minutes until greens have wilted. Drizzle a little bit of sesame oil to finish and season with soy sauce and pepper. #tasty

My first introduction to Vietnamese food was in Memphis, TN. Yes, in the South! Memphis has a decent Vietnamese population, and they came with their food. I knew it was different from the American Chinese food I was used to when I had the spring rolls that were wrapped in fresh vegetables and dipped in this vinegar-y sauce. The fresh herbs were cilantro and parsley. It just brightened up a deep fried dish. It was like a light bulb went off. And I knew this was something special. Also pickled vegetables are a great way to get vegetables and a crisp and sour taste all at the same time. It's also good for a crudité or cheese plate.

I made my platter look inviting with plates of bold colors. I used a TV tray as my platter. I used some of the fresh herbs I used in the dishes around some of the plates. Lastly I arranged some spicy peppers on the tray and that was just what this tray needed. For the salted shrimp, I had to grind toasted Sichuan peppers and salt in a mortar and pestle. I had some leftover spice in the mortar so I added it to the tray. If you were hosting a party, it would be a great conversation piece.

While you're stuck in the house, try out some different flavors. The only people you can disappoint are the people in your house. If it doesn't work out, you can try to re-purpose the meal. But keep trying. I tried this recipe of salted shrimp but it didn't turn out the way I really wanted to. So I'll try another recipe before I share it with friends. But that's the beauty in this time. By the time you have a small party at your house, you'll be confident of your skills and can focus on entertaining your friends. Have fun and stay safe!

Can you tell I'm having fun in Quarantine?

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