Vietnamese food

by Bridget O’Donnell

By partnering with local organizations, public Libraries in Dutchess County have certainly helped keep their patrons busy during October and November! Hopefully, some of the  thematic programs and events planned for the 2021 Big Read inspired you to engage in a [MHL]system-wide conversation about, “The Best We Could Do: An illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui.” If you haven’t read it yet, the graphic novel focuses on the personal narratives of a Refugee who immigrates to the United States during the Vietnam War. In her story Bui highlights aspects of Vietnamese culture and various effects of the War on its victims. Talented musicians in the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and visiting soloists contributed to the open dialogue by performing works centered around “The Exile’s Journey,” a difficult theme in Bui’s book. Artist-, author- and scholar-talks, books groups, crafts and movie nights provided insight in other medias. Food, another form of expression that defines and marries cultures, was a vehicle used to humanize the author and her experiences through tastefully age-appropriate and intergenerational cooking programs.

Disappointed that I would miss the culinary tasting session at Saigon Pho mid-October I quickly rearranged my schedule so that I could register for a few programs the following month. The second week in November, while eating lunch at my desk, I attended the virtual cooking class “Spiceways! Vietnam.” In less than 15-minutes we were taught how to make Vietnamese Beef Pho. Being one of my favorite soups, I definitely recommend checking out the recording if you missed the program’s premier. The next day I eagerly attended a hands-on cooking class held in the Poughkeepsie Underwear Factory Kitchen. Under the guidance of Chef SonyaJoy Key and her assistants from the Poughkeepsie Farm Project we received recipe cards and instructions. In less than two hours our class helped prepare vegetables for Vietnamese-influenced lemongrass [chicken] curry with sweet potato & Fall greens and, Vietnamese [inspired vegetable] spring rolls with Thai basil. Samples were handed out to attendees at the end of class; both dishes were fantastic!

Title of Cookbook/Cooking Workshop: Vietnamese Flavors in Season

Author of Cookbook/Recipe: Recipes were adapted by Chef SonyaJoy Key, farmproject.org/foodpower

What prompted you to check out this cookbook/attend this Class? It was a free workshop hosted by the library and presented by Poughkeepsie Farm Project staff. I’ve appreciated other educational programs offered by both organizations in the past.

What did you like about this cookbook/Class?

  • The vegetables and herbs can be locally sourced.
  • New chef, new perspective; I like trying different recipes. And, learning new techniques or shortcuts to use in the kitchen are always helpful.
  • This is a base recipe that can easily evolve, becoming more complex with the addition of meat/fish, herbs and various dipping sauces.
  • Everything was delicious! The novelty of making spring rolls (for the first time) hasn’t worn off.

What didn’t you like about this cookbook/Class?

  • Both recipes were flavorful; I’m really impressed how well the instructor managed and adapted to the limitations of a mobile-cooking-class. And, a few weeks later the class is still fresh in my mind unfortunately, as I continue to shop for the holidays there are still a few ingredients I haven’t found in the International aisle at multiple grocery stores.

Favorite recipe (that you tried from the cookbook/Class): Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions? If so, what were they?

  • Simplified for the class, a few ingredients were prepared ahead to accommodate for time constraints (i.e.: spices were pre-measured, raw chicken cut, thin rice noodles boiled).
  • The instructor experienced some technical issues with the food processor during her presentation. Although a preferential piece of equipment in the kitchen, this setback slightly modified prep times and cooking methods called for in the adapted recipes.
  • Because there were a limited number of spiralizers and peelers available the vegetables in my Spring rolls were julienned. The textural difference may have made my rolls a little messier to eat but I’m sure they tasted just as good. Something to experiment with at home.

Have a photo of your completed dish, your creation mid-recipe, or happy eaters you’d like to share?

Would you recommend this cookbook/recipe? Absolutely!