Cooking 101 – 56 of 365

Shredded Banana Flower Salad

Watching an eight year roast meat to browned perfection on Junior Masterchef Australia can make any of us feel bad about our own recent cooking debacles.   The judges oooh and aaah over seemingly edible finished products, and the winning roast chicken isn’t some entire bird hacked to pieces a la Saigon.  Maybe these judges are just being nice and don’t want some prepubescent girl from Tasmania  wailing all over national tv.  Who knows.  But in any case I got to thinking I needed some good old fashioned atonement for my own cooking sins such as the goi cuan craprolls, and a cooking class Melissa had mentioned seemed the perfect road to recovery.

Bang Xeo and Clay Pot Chicken

Only a few days later Xander, Sarah, Melissa, and I were enroute to the Vietnam Cookery Center ( tucked away in our very own neighborhood.  This is cooking done up right.   Bowls of chopped vegetables, spices and meats line the tables and save us all that laborious prep work.  Here in the land of guess the animal and the home of which internal organ is it, seeing sliced, skinless, all white meat, bone out chicken breast is just such a beautiful sight.  Sometimes a Vietnamese meal derails into a game of charades only unlocked by finally sending Anthony a picture of the suspect food.  Not so here at the cooking school where recognizable ingredients laid out in their full westernized glory provide a little down home comfort.  In other words no imagination is needed to guess which sound these meats made in the barnyard.

Banh Xeo and Mustard Leaf

Remember that crispy yellow bánh xèo, or Vietnamese pancake, rolled up with mustard greens and herbs from a few weeks ago?  Come on admit it, you were thinking how in the heck does someone cook that thing let alone make the dipping sauce.  I thought that, too, and here is this school trusting us to prepare our very own “interpretations” of a classic Vietnamese dish over an open flame.  All of us joked this would for sure end in certain disaster proving that only in Vietnam could a Teflon skillet ever meet its match.  Watch four westerners do to non-stick cookware what scientists at DuPont never dreamed possible when these pans were just a laboratory concept.

A little prodding and encouragement from the head chef proved in the end even four Americans can serve up a decent bánh xèo by swirling the batter around in the hot pan and then drizzling some oil under the almost cooked pancake to crisp it up.  Caramelized chicken simmered in a clay pot is easy enough for an eight year old to cook at home, and our chef even showed us naysayers that yes, shredded banana flower tossed with sugar, lime, nuoc mam and chili peppers among other ingredients tastes a whole lot better than the noxious fish sauce odor lets on.

Thank you Melissa for setting up a memorable morning in the cooking classroom!   And even if we do forget how to make a proper pancake back home, sharing a table with friends to enjoy the highly edible results of our labors is one memorable experience we won’t.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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