Friday, April 5, 2013

Real Phở Ga Recipe

I'm cleaning up the blog a bit, so more on the cultural history of pho over here and my phở -natic confessions.

Real Phở Ga

Vietnamese chicken noodle soup
Use organic, sustainably-raised ingredients when possible.  Grass-fed or pastured beef/chicken really taste soooo much better.  At the very least, get halal chicken which is raised humanely and without antibiotics.  Next up, try organic, free range.  And the top tier is organic, pasture-raised, grain-free chicken which has incredible flavor.

BROTH
  • 1 whole organic chicken, unwashed
  • 1 organic sweet onion or 3-4 shallots, carmelized
  • 1 whole fresh ginger
  • spice: 10 star anise
  • small handful of cloves
  • two 3-in stick of cassia (saigon cinnamon)
  • handful thảo qua/smoked cardamom (can find in an Indian or Southeast Asian grocery)
  • handful of coriander seed (aka cilantro seed)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup Red Boat fish sauce (do not mess with any other fish sauce)
  • raw organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother)

FIXINGS
  • 2 bags of med-large size  bánh phở/thick rice noodles/pad thai noodles. (I use dried gluten- & preservative-free noodles.  I like the Ba Cô Gái|Three Ladies brand).
  • shredded chicken meat & offal
  • mung bean sprouts
  • cilantro
  • thai basil
  • limes
  • ngò gai/rice paddy herb (optional)
  • fresh chile or chile paste (I get mine from my mother-in-law)
  • Red Boat fish sauce
If you are using whole chicken, low boil with innards and spices for 30 minutes in a 5 qt stockpot until it is cooked (if you cut it up it’ll be a little faster).  Skim any scum that comes to the surface.  Remove the chicken from the broth and allow to cool.  Then shred the meat.  (This can be done the day before.) Put the bones back in the soup with 1 spoon of raw apple cider vinegar and bring to a low boil for 1 hour. If you are using a pressure cooker, reduce times by 30%.

 If you are using mainly bones from 1-2 whole chickens, roast them for 15 min.  Low boil for at least 1 hour with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar to allow the bones to release the minerals.  You’ll still want to add some raw chicken pieces (neck, backbones, leg quarters) to enrich the broth flavor. (Remove the leg quarters when cooked if you plan on eating it, otherwise all the flavor will get extracted.)



Ăn Ngon Lành|Eat Delectably!

Real Phở Bo | Vietnamese beef noodle soup recipe



I'm cleaning up the blog a bit, so more on the cultural history of phở over here and my phở -natic confessions.

Real Phở Bo Recipe

Vietnamese beef noodle soup (feeds 5-8)
This recipe endeavors to take phở back to its homemade, slow cooked, nutrient-dense roots with whole food ingredients without chemical additives and without the corner-cutting cheats found in a fast food restaurant environment.  It goes without saying, use organic, sustainably-raised ingredients when possible.  Grass-fed and/or pastured organic beef really tastes soooo much better. A second best choice would be grain-fed halal beef which is more humanely raised (no antibiotics) & slaughtered than conventional beef. This is a Northern style phở recipe which is less sweet and uses less condiments than its mainstreamed Southern counterpart that is typically found in most restaurants.  There are tips on how to make it more Southern-style if you prefer a sweeter broth.  This homemade phở is more nourishing and wholesome than most, if not all, restaurant phở, and a different culinary experience.  You can read a little more about phở here.

If you like that sweet, southern style of pho (I am a northerner, I do not like it) once the broth is done, add an unpeeled daikon and simmer to release glutamates. This replaces synthetic MSG which is the source of sweetness and the laxative-effect in restaurant phở.  Remove when it is soft enough to poke with chopstick.  If you leave in too long, it becomes starchy & breaks down and the broth will be ruined.


BROTH

  • 3 lbs  knuckle, marrow bone, feet, or shank (or soup bones) and/or oxtail
  • (optional for a meatier flavor: 1 pound piece of beef chuck, rump, brisket or cross rib roast, cut into 2-by-4-inch pieces)
  • raw, organic apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 organic, sweet onion or 3-4 shallots
  • 1 whole fresh organic ginger
  • spice: 10 star anise
  • small handful of cloves
  • two 3-in stick of cassia (saigon cinnamon)
  • optional handful thảo qua/smoked cardamom (can find in an Indian or Southeast Asian grocery)
  • handful of coriander seed (aka cilantro seed)
  • sea salt to taste (I use grey sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup Red Boat fish sauce (do not mess with any other fish sauce)

FIXINGS

  • 2 bags of med to extra large size bánh phở/thick rice noodles/pad thai noodles. (I use dried gluten- & preservative-free noodles.  I like the Ba Cô Gái|Three Ladies brand).
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced beef eye round, filet mignon eye of round, sirloin, London broil or tri-tip steak (If you are using a whole piece, freeze for one hour and then slice thinly.)
  • mung bean sprouts (optional)
  • cilantro
  • thai basil
  • limes
  • ngò gai/rice paddy herb (optional)
  • sliced fresh chiles/jalapenos or chile paste (I get mine from my mother-in-law)
  • Red Boat fish sauce (accept no substitutes)
  • optional apricot or prune syrup
Equipment: pressure cooker or 8 qt stockpot, pan, baking pan/aluminum foil, spice bag, ladle
If you are using a pressure cooker, expect 1 hour cooking time.  If you are using a stockpot, expect 3-5 hours cooking time.

BONES PREP THE NIGHT BEFORE

1) Acidulate bones overnight by soaking in water with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.   Acidulating helps to render the collagen and calcium and release the minerals.
BROTH
2) Drain & rinse the bones.  Then parboil the bones.  Put bones into pressure cooker/stockpot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil on high heat.  Dump it all out into a metal colander and scrape off sides of pot to get rid of the scum.
3) While that is going, char a whole onion (or shallots) to release carmelizing sugars in oven or on grill. Open all your windows, ventilation fan, close all bedroom doors.  Remove outer onion skin, then put on foil in a baking pan (will release liquid) in the oven to broil for 5-10 minutes until blackened or translucent.  Scrape off most of the black and drop in the pot.  The carmelized onion is what gives phở it's color.
4) Char ginger.  No need to peel the skin.  Slice in long thin slices (length of ginger is fine).  Then panroast on a dry unoiled pan on high heat or over open flame.  You can either throw it in pot or add to spice bag.
5) Toast the remaining spices and add to the spice bag.
6) Pour in new water (approx 6-8 qts) with the bones.  Add spices to spice bag and throw in the pot.  If you are adding any tendon or tripe, that goes in now.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a low boil for 3-5 hours until the collagen renders.  For a pressure cooker, when the indicator pops up, reduce heat to low.  Low boil for at least 1 hour.
7) If you like that sweet, southern style of pho, add an unpeeled daikon and simmer to release glutamates.  Leave whole or whatever chunks fits in the pot.
8)  Broth will taste plain until you add lots of seasalt which will bring out the flavors.  Add sea salt to taste (1/8-1/4 cup) and fish sauce (approx 1/4-1/3c).  You want to make it towards the salty side because the rice noodles and sprouts water it down.   Skim as much rendered fat & collagen off the top of the soup as you prefer or not.  It's more nourishing to eat it.  Nowadays, I leave it in.  If you prepare this the day ahead, refrigerate the pot and if you prefer a less nourishing broth, skim the congealed fat off in the morning.  The broth should be gelatinous after refrigeration from the rendering of collagen in the connective tissues; this is the gold standard for a nutrient-dense broth.  Note that restaurant phở never congeals.


NOODLES & GARNISHES

9) If you are using dried noodles: soak dried rice noodles in room temperature water for at least 15 minutes to reconstitute. Bring water to a boil. Drop in noodles and use chopsticks to separate. Cook until tender approx 2-5 minutes. Drain & rinse out starch with cold water.  If you are using fresh noodles, they just need to be heated up before you add the broth (otherwise they cool the broth down).  
10) Bring broth back to a boil before ladling into the bowl.  Put noodles & mung bean sprouts in the bowl. If you like your meat well cooked, you can either cook it in the broth pot first or put it in the bowl before adding broth.  If you like it rare, add meat last.
11) Garnish to your preference with the fresh herbs.

I personally do not garnish phở with anything other than herbs, fish sauce and lemon.  Hoison sauce or "plum" sauce is a popular southern garnish and is comprised of refined sugar, gluten, starch and food coloring and nary a plum to be seen; IMHO it has negligible flavor.  However, for those folks who like hoison sauce in their phở and are looking for a gluten-free/additive-free alternative, I suggest blending organic prunes or unsulfured dried apricots or with water to a thick consistency as a substitute.  If it's just a sweeter broth you are looking for, you can add carrots to the broth making.

Leftover broth can be frozen in 1 cup amounts or left in the fridge for a few days. 


Ăn Ngon Lành|Eat Delectably!

This could probably be made in a slow cooker, but I've never tried.  Leave a comment if you have tried it and let me know how yours turned out.

If you are using organic bones, you can reuse them a few times with new water and seasonings before throwing them away.  That next batch will taste slightly like pho even without the spice bag though.
Shake that thing baby baby
Gelatinous broth

Real Food, Real Phở

Organic, grass-fed beef from local Pampero Ranch
Links to recipes at the bottom. 
N.B. As a former career academic, I reserve the right to edit and editorialize in perpetuity; I  updated the history of Nam Định as of 10/15/2013.

As I stated previously, I started this blog to share my love of Việt food and my nutritional lifestyle that promotes healthy, sustainable choices.  I am not a food professional.  I am a home cook--albeit anthropologically trained in the culture of Việt Nam at the doctoral level and partially raised by my ông bà ngoại|maternal grandparents which informs my approach to the social history of foodways.  Below follows two recipes for phở bò|beef noodle soup & phở gà|chicken noodle soup.  But first a little historical reckoning about the social foodways of Phở.

The Genealogy of Phở

The French try to claim inspiration rights for phở with this spurious pot-au-feu nonsense perpetrated by an important somebody like francophile Craig Claiborne with a vast knowledge of (European) food yet with limited knowledge of the five thousand of years of Việt culture much less the last 500.   And this supposition is eagerly repeated until it is accepted as mythologized gospel by more urbanized Việt|Việt Americans pioneer chefs seeking to validate or elevate Việt cuisine/culture.  This mythos lacks an understanding of peasant political economy, modes of production, and foodways, and dare I say, Việt history.  Viet history did not begin with Western missionaries in the 16th century, French invasion in the 1880s, American occupation in 1954; while Viet culture and civilization goes back thousands of years, there is documented history dating back to 111 BC with the first Han conquest.

Though Việt Nam has a long history of influence from South Asia, con trâu|water buffalo is not a Sacred Cow; except for the ethnic Chàm Hindus, cows were not venerated as divine avatars of Vishnu.  The simple truth is, Việt folks have never had the luxury of retiring ông trâu|elderly water buffalo "out to pasture."  Those senior or surplus buffaloes go in the pot and every inch of them is used.  Livestock reproduction is not managed as it is here in the agriculture industry (that Mike Rowe is a crack up).  Con trâu be gettin' it on when and where they damn well like.  The offspring of such merry unions are put to work, sold, or eaten.  Phở, and by extension beef, was not available everyday as they are now in the US and in the cities in Việt Nam.  Phở wasn't written about prior to French colonization, because let's face it, phở was not a meal of the emperor (really a king trying to elevate to the Middle Kingdom's bar, but let's not argue semantics) nor of the citified literati; it was and is a simple peasant dish that no one composed lục bát poems about.  Not even Hồ Xuân Hương bothered to make it sexy.   



Phở is a Viet dish.  Phở was a dish comprised of necessity as a by-product of a special occasion, a celebration, a wedding (ông ngoại revitalized this tradition in the US when he slaughtered a cow in this manner a few decades back for his nephew's wedding in San Diego--and his former parish comprised of Northerners from the same province now does this regularly as a fundraiser), a funeral, the birth of a son.  When my ông ngoại|maternal grandfather returned to his natal hamlet in rural North Việt Nam (in Nam Định province, purported to be the birthplace of pho, and one of the original 8 provinces that are the cradle of Việt civilization) in the late 1990s for the first time since becoming a refugee in 1954, they honored him in age-old tradition--by slaughtering a surplus water buffalo on his behalf, collecting its blood for tiết canh|blood pudding, and ceremonially smeared the whole intact carcass with blood before lighting a bonfire to burn off its hair. (I am digging up the pictures but alas, they seem to have been lost after his death.)  Then about an inch or so of skin and meat was skinned and served as thịt tái|seared carpaccio with thinh|roasted rice power and tương cụ đà|fermented soy dipping sauce.  The rest of the meat and organs were made into various dishes and the bones were not given to the dogs, they were made into phở.  The hooves were made into goblets and the horns into a trophy for the walls and a story for the grandchildren (I wonder what happened to the horns now that ông ngoại has passed?).  The village was fed for a week.  This isn't French.  This is common sense, peasant senseViệt sense.

Anyone who argues that Phở was invented by the French would also need to make the case that thịt tái is a French invention as well though it shares no French cognate and with no parallel except with Italian carpaccio; or for that matter, bò lúc lắc and its genealogical predecessor the Khmer Lok Lak|ឡុកឡាក់.  And they also have a lot of 'splainin' to do do about the husbandry of trâu and the political economy of surplus capital (trâu); mayhaps, elderly trâu transcend to heaven like a bodhisattva once they've served their life's purpose.



Lễ Đâm Trâu--there be some Phở for breakfast. Blessed be.

All we need to do is look at the elaborate rituals around slaughtering water buffalo--Lễ Đâm Trâu--among ethnic minorities in Việt Nam that have the least amount of francophilia.  Some of the ethnic minorities in VN are also con rồng cháu tiên--descendants of Âu Cơ and Lạc Long Quân pushed out to the highlands by the agrarian Kinh--with shared cultural traditions.  Once eschewed by the communist state as barbaric, and likely surpressed, currently there is a state-sponsored revival of the Lễ Đâm Trâu for cultural tourism; these festivities which honor the sacred buffalo and give thanks for the harvest season.



Here's the Lễ Đâm Trâu of the Ba-Na tribe of Gia Lai
 (coincidentally the village my paternal family lived in when they were being "re-educated").  
Trâu introduced at 4:40.

To claim a French origin for Phở is the height of colonial arrogance and yes, VN the nation-state did internally colonize over 50 tribes of ethnic minorities so Viet colonial arrogance with regards to the tribal minorities is par for course (not to mention Viet Nam's own colonization of the Cham & Khmer kingdoms in the 16th century and the rich cultural legacy that created in the South.)

[Revised 
10/15/2013] Taking a closer look at the history of Nam Định province, purported to be the birthplace of phở, it is important to note the significant Spanish influence in the region, not French. What?! There is historical evidence dating to at least 1533 in Nam Định to that effect, but Spanish Dominicans from the Philippines began their Vatican-sanctioned missionary work in earnest in eastern Tonkin in 1676--their Apostolic Vicariate region comprised all the provinces east of the Red River and the sông Lô|Clear River including Nam Định (which falls under the Bui Chu Diocese established in 1679).  My grandparents' village church was established in 1719. ( I certainly did learn a lot about Catholicism in VN through research for this post.)

By contrast, French engagement in Nam Định (1883) was marked by colonial invasion and violent bloodshed as Viet folk mounted rebellions. Then French interests turned to exploiting cheap labor source for textile production and they established Nam Định as the center of their colonial textile industry. It's not surprising that my ông ngoại, my mother, one of my aunties & one uncle are capable tailors as a result of this legacy.



Arguments for a French infused genealogy for Phở has a romanticized view of the social nature of colonization (á la Indochine) that needs correcting.  Napolean Bonaparte did not decide to invade Viet Nam because he wanted to share classic French cooking techniques. French colonial administrators and their soldiers were not congenial Jacques Pepins-type paisans traipsing about the Viet countryside giving fracking cooking lessons to peasant womenfolk. If anything, the womenfolk hid when the French were nearby because rape is a weapon of domination. The French were in VN/Indochina to enforce an imperialist military occupation, maximize resource extraction and exploit labor/sexual subjugation.  French plantation owners intentionally/deliberately borrowed tactics from American slave-owners; rubber was harvested on the blood, sweat, tears, and corpses of Viet bodies.  To imagine that French colonizers were conveying tips on onion carmelization while conscripting forced labor, imposing harsh taxes and alcohol gavage quotas, raping congaïe|con gái (a Viet word that means daughter or girl child corrupted by/in French to connote a concubine), to imagine that as a benevolent transaction akin to the bantering between Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin is the height of ahistorical imperialist amnesia. The generation (and really, the rural populace who bore the brunt of the exploitation) that experienced and remember French rule is now passing, but my ông ngoại's stories of French brutality will not be forgotten.

Coming to America

Here in the US, Viet cuisine has also infused itself with the Standard American Diet--high meat content, highly industrialized food processing, additives/preservatives (oh the ubiquitous MSG in all its iterations), refined sugars, etc.  Nước mắm |fish sauce has gotten a bad reputation amongst medical doctors who without any scientific evidence at all claim that it causes heart disease and strokes in the Viet American population. (I'd still like to see the research looking at the entire subcontinent of Southeast Asia consisting of millions of people and the correlation between fish sauce and heart disease/mortality to back that claim. Hey, I'd still like to see evidence-based medicine but that is another kind of blog entirely.) This ignores of course all the additives, preservatives and industrial chemical processing that goes into producing most fish sauce. (I've done posts about fish sauce and a taste test.)

Yo! Get to the phở-king point!

I grew up eating my bà ngoại|maternal grandmother's Northern-style phở for brunch almost every Sunday.  She would wake up as is customary, before the crack of dawn, and begin to simmer those bones for at least 5 hours.

Phở is a delicate balance of aromatic spices simmered in beef broth, graced with the pungent flavor of fresh basil and cilantro.  And in my opinion, phở is completely ruined by hoison and sriracha sauce and I have maintained this attitude since childhood even though this is how the rest of phamily eats it. I had my first restaurant-made (Southern-style) phở when I was in my early 20s and was appalled. Phở became fast food. Sweetened with MSG, overly sharp with fish sauce, and served with the ubiquitous hoison and sriracha.  In my hoity-toity opinion, hoison and sriracha mask the flavor of inferior broth--bones not simmered long enough to extract the minerals and beef essence.  I'm not sure I even finished that first restaurant bowl.


In American phở restaurants, it has become the norm to be served a supersized portion and to abandon the dredges of watered down soupy MSG, muddied by hoison/sriracha, wilted herbs, and thickened by noodle detritus. In our Phamily, the custom was to serve a Viet-sized portion, and drink it to the last drop. ông ngoại was fond of telling me stories how they survived the brutalities of French colonization and the atrocities of Japanese occupation and the indignities of American intervention. ông ngoại would give me the body counts of how many millions died under each regime. So I always licked my bowl clean.


Over the years, I've had to take my soul food familiars and bring them back to the basics.  In a way, I've decolonized my diet--I've eliminated the wheat and dairy of French influence, and the industrially processed, chemically laden ingredients and products of Japanese & American influence.  I use organic, grass-fed beef bones, organic spices (when I can source them), dried rice noodles (I've yet to source or make brown rice noodles), herbs from my garden, mineral-rcih grey sea salt, and real fish sauce.  The result is deeply satisfying, nutrient-dense, nourishing.  It is not the sweet phở that most phở fans accustomed to the fare served up in phở restaurants across the US will be used to. It is not my bà ngoại's phở because there is no spice like nostalgia, and alas she took her recipe when she crossed over (and to be real, she loved her some MSG).  This is my Phở. Phở real.


One day, my grandchildren will tell stories about my phở in fond memory and will eschew the dishwater that passes for phở in most restaurants (two notable exceptions to my hatred of phở restaurants).


[Note: Everyone's spice mix/taste is different.  Mine is only an approximation of what magic was in bà ngoại's phở.  I have only tasted phở like bà ngoại's twice since my youth; once at a hole-in-the-wall shop in Qui Nhơn (the city my ông bà ngoại settled in after 1954) and while volunteering post-Katrina at the communal kitchen of Mary Queen of Viet Nam Church in Versailles, New Orleans--a community settled by Viet refugees from two villages in Nam Định province.]

Without further ado...

Real Phở Bo recipe

Real Phở Ga recipe

 

Ăn Ngon Lành|Eat Delectably! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

(Wo)Manifesto


I started this blog to share my love of Việt food and my nutritional lifestyle that promotes healthy, sustainable choices as I healed myself from auto-immune issues through food.  I am not a food professional.  I am a home cook--albeit anthropologically trained in the culture of Việt Nam at the doctoral level, investigative research analyst for almost a decade, and partially raised by my ông bà ngoại|maternal grandparents which informs my approach to the social history of foodways.  I am a improvisational, free-hand cook which means I don't always use measuring devices or follow recipes/instructions.


My Story*

After a lifetime of allergies, digestive discomfort, and chemical sensitivities--none of which my Việt Nam-born siblings share--I came to realize I was allergic to onions, sulfites, and especially food additives which are abundant in many of the condiments of Việt cooking (and present in American processed foods as well).  When I went to Việt Nam for the first time in 2000 for fieldwork, most of my symptoms abated.  I returned determined to eat organic foods.  Living in the Bay Area, organic food is accessible and plentiful.  Nevertheless, I continued to suffer seasonal allergies, chemical sensitivities, and continually elevated eosinophil levels.

At some point or another, while reading up on Pottenger's cats in order to educate myself about biologically appropriate raw foods for our cats, I read some of Weston A. Price Foundation's materials around native, whole foods nutrition which made an impression on me though I didn't attempt to adopt it beyond the basic principles of "eat what your ancestors ate."


In 2007, I tried the Eat Right for your Blood Type diet.  I eliminated wheat, dairy, corn and a host of other things.  For the first time in my life, my allergies went away for the most part which I attribute to eating avoiding most of the problematic processed foods rather than the quasi-scientific blood type approach.  I got pregnant right after this, and diet went out the window.  Nevertheless, anytime I felt them creep back, I eliminated dairy & wheat and the stuffy nose cleared up. 


When my daughter was born, we realized she inherited my allergic tendencies (weakened adrenals) exacerbated by the haagen daz bars I ate in the last trimester instead of high quality protein, and was allergic to dairy primarily, and sensitive to wheat.  So our family renewed our commitment to additive-free, organic/sustainably-raised real food when possible to heal our leaky guts.


As the cusp of 2011, I had a lot on my plate--I was a working mom at an intense workplace with monthly travel, volunteer contract negotiator for my staff union with weekly travel, my grandfather died, I started taking college courses on the weekend, we relocated to be closer to family and I gained a 1 hr commute each way, oh and I was still nursing my co-sleeping 3.5 yr old.  We "ate healthy" but what wasn't on my plate was a lot of vegetables and whole foods.  Did I mention I worked next to a panaderia | Mexican bakery?  Yeah.  Mmmmm donuts!  Something had to give--I'd already sacrificed much of my social/activist life and to a certain extent my relationships--and so, it was my health that finally gave away.  I burned out or when I'm more bleak about it, I had a nervous breakdown.  It's taken me 2.5 years to crawl, claw, and climb my way out of the fatigue and flatness of life that I thought was just a measure of working zombie parenthood.  i won't get too into how I healed myself in this blog (a longer recounting of my journey over here and here).  Suffice to say it was by eating organic, real foods, hydrating, cultivating self awareness, and sleeping a lot.  I firmly believe Food is medicine.


Along the way, we've become foodies that occasionally buy a whole hog (heritage and organic and directly from the farmer, natch) and found it vastly superior to any supermarket or "natural" pork. (Red Wattle pork has been known to make me cry.)  We became one of those people:








Actually, we do have a dose of practicality & humor about this.  We strive not to be zealous.  (Except when it comes to pork.  I'm known to start flame wars about pork.  They are monologues since no one cares to contest me, but just so you know...)

After spending a couple of years recuperating from adrenal fatigue syndrome, I've eliminated wheat, dairy, refined sugar, soy, food additives, alcohol, additives/preservatives, and stimulants (no more cà phê sữa đá--sob) to heal myself (along with nutrition response testing & whole food supplements and a lot of energy work).  For anyone growing up in America, it is very hard to give up those highly addictive things--especially without sugar or wheat or dairy or alcohol or coffee to make up for it.

We don't adhere to any particular "The NEWEST Miracle Diet".  We eat what feels right to our bodies ("bio-individuality" is a term I was recently introduced to that I like without knowing much about or thereby attaching myself to the intellectually copyrighted product that goes with it).  My nurse practitioner (who is also an acupuncturist) called it anti-inflammatory diet and I'm sure there's a affinity to GAPS diet/Primal diet though I've never read much on either and I happen to believe--along with archeologists, anthropologists, and microbiologists--that humanity has evolved the capacity to digest grains after 10,000 years.  There's an affinity to Weston A. Price too although I think its recommendations can be overly generalist/universalist with a bias towards its main constituency of Euro-Americans, especially in its raw milkism (just because it's good for some people doesn't mean it works for the other 95% of humanity;  I mean my ancestors did not consume non-human milk in any form).  Occasionally, we indulge in things we shouldn't; though more often than not, I pay a steep price for indulgence.

As we started to care more about what went into our food, we started to really see food as medicine--the old adage: "you are what you eat" speaks truth--and to enjoy real food.  The end result is that we are the normallest people and we really like to eat good food.  We are usually too busy eating to take photos of everything we eat.  So I'm sorry this blog won't be sexy and monetizing in that way.  (I should also mention that I don't know how other foodies manage to take DSLR quality photos in the middle of making something and not get their very expensive cameras dirty beyond belief--tripod and remote in a ziploc perhaps--or spend precious moments of their lives prolonging the task of making a meal to pause & take photos of every iteration.  Although I am an amateur photographer myself--I use a Lumix G5 because a DSLR is too damn heavy to take to birth events--I rather enjoy the challenge of taking good photos with a crappy droid phone camera.)

[I should also mention that my beloved big brother has been working in the high end restaurant industry for decades (we're talking Michelin stars, James Beard, and well-earned snootiness, not yelp dilettante snootiness) and he has always introduced me to delicious, gourmet food & wine.  I had my first taste of caviar albeit with tortilla chips when I was 16 or 17, which is a big deal to a kid fed by food stamps and single, working mom cooking (not bagging on it, it's just filled with shortcuts).  And I will still go on and on about that 1986 Vouvray that tasted of innocence and unicorns...  Dude, you know what to get me for my birthday, right?]

So what is the point of this long-winded narrative?  I eat Real Food and when it comes to Việt cuisine, I eat Real Phở.

When I say real, I mean food that is grown in the earth--not in a factory/laboratory--without the use of synthetic, toxic chemicals.  This is how food has been cultivated since humanity became agrarian.  There is a perception out there that organic is a lifestyle choice--a bourgeois lifestyle choice.  To that I respond: Food is a human right.  Food is medicine.  Food is political.  At a time when multinational biotech conglomerates own 82% of the seeds worldwide, ergo almost all the food that humanity relies on, choosing organic is not a privilege, it is an act of resistance.  Saving seeds and growing one's own food is revolution.  Stick it to The Man, grow food, not lawns; support local organic farmers.

Getting back to cuisine--Việt food is marked by its mutability--"fusion" in the popular cooking parlance--a distinctly Southeast Asian palate converges with influences from Indian, Chinese, French, Khmer cuisine.  All these flavors can exist in the same dish and yet still be distinctly Vietnamese (I mean I had Viet sushi in Sai Gon in 2000.  It was Japanese inspired for sure, amaebi, but only a Viet person would think to throw chili paste in the wasabi.  Chili + Wasabi = Double Punch.  Viet ingenuity, that's how we won the wars.)  Moreover, most dishes are highly personalized so that each person sitting down at that meal can have it the way s/he likes it.  I find using whole food ingredients--organic or sustainably-produced when possible, without chemical additives--heightens the experience and enjoyment of the food.  While I like to take food to its ancestral roots, I am not a purist.  I enjoy boosting the nutritional content with superfoods.  I've been known to put kale & zucchini in my soups.



Ăn Ngon Lành|Eat Delectably!
*My disclaimer found here. You can direct any questions to my lawyer Bob Loblaw.