Though there is that traditional American June Cleaver mom archetype with the casseroles and whatnot, I don’t know a lot of mothers like that. Particularly in my neighborhood, where there are all kinds of fun ethnic cuisines to explore. Particularly in my family, where food is something that should be exciting, shared, and worth celebrating. Particularly with my mom, who read a recipe for tofu and bok choy, said “That sounds good!”, and introduced her kiddos to the wonderful Chinese cabbage way before all the other kids.
So for Mother’s Day, we seem to’ve started a Vietnamese food tradition.
The iced coffee (YES YES YES!)
Y’all know what that entails, right? Sweetened condensed milk of amazingness!
We also chowed down on summer rolls with delightful peanut sauce…
And best of all, the banh mi! Colonialism didn’t do anybody a lot of favors, but the French occupation of Vietnam resulted in some amazing cuisine.
For my mama, the “combination”, a wonderful mix of meats. For me, the sardine.
Are people familiar with banh mi?
The basic components are:
- baguette (absolutely FANTASTIC, fresh and perfect and like the best stuff in Paris)
- some kind of protein (deli-type stuff or pate is traditional but I’ve had them with tofu and the sardine version was FAB)
- mayo (which I ordinarily don’t love but is necessary)
- fish sauce
- AWESOME veggies. Pickled radish, carrot, thinly sliced cucumber, cilantro, hot peppers.
Here are the layers:
Here is the explosion of awesomeness:
More layers in that fabulous summer roll. Veggies, egg, and wonderfully smoky and fatty sausage, sliced oh-so-thin. With a fab peanut sauce.
For dessert, a tasty and cunning combination of yuca, coconut, etc. Sticky, sweet, starchy. I love.
Rewind to one week later where again my mother and I explored a heavenly and exotic cuisine: that of Romania! My mom stopped by a Romanian food festival on the way home from church this Sunday (I had skipped it since, discovering that randomly bursting into tears all day Saturday had actually been the result of extreme tiredness, which was remedied by sleeping until noon on Sunday. Thank God!)
Anyway, right now we go to a church with a lot of Arabic people, which results in a lot of its own deliciousness, but prior to that we went to a church with a lot of Romanians, and were introduced to their seemingly unknown cuisine.
Witness: polenta, stuffed cabbage and grape leaves, and scads and scads of wonderful sour cream. Fact: we healthy ladies can preach all we want about Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute, but when you taste the real stuff and remember how amazing it is, you go “Yeah right”.
We had a good friend who’d cook Romanian food for us, and when he made the wonderful polenta pictured above he’d top it with an egg (totally can’t remember whether it was fried or poached, but it had a wonderful runny yolk). I ran to the fridge and grabbed a hard boiled one, which was also delicious on top.
The cabbage was stuffed with a wonderfully flavorful vegetarian rice filling. The grape leaves with made-your-eyes-roll-back-in-your-head-it-was-so-flavorful lamb.
Plus sour cream sour cream sour cream! Along with a love for ethnic food, my mom has reminded me you can be a healthful person and occasionally indulge in some quality saturated fat. For that and many other things, my mom is the best.