Photo courtesy of Vietnamesegod.blogspot.com
Have you seen Luke Nguyen's Vietnam on the Cooking Channel? I caught a marathon one Saturday a couple weeks ago and it completely paralyzed me. I couldn't peel myself away for a solid two and half hours (at least). The food in Southeast Asia really excites me. The combination of flavors challenge your palate in a way that, I would argue, no other cuisine can. It's complex and fresh and vibrant and leaves your lips tingling and your mind racing. The street food, in particular, is what I find the most interesting. That in the median of a busy road, a woman is methodically shredding papaya for salad with bags upon bags of fresh mint at her disposal and little more than 12 inches of workspace (if any at all). Or deeply marinated meats with lemongrass, sugar, fish sauce, and cilantro, are skewered and slapped onto a makeshift grill, all from an unassuming cart, while traffic furiously buzzes by. It's proof that good--no, great food is only as good as its ingredients. And the person crafting them together.
I desperately need to go to Vietnam.
In the meantime, here's a Southeast Asian menu to hopefully hold me over.
spicy green papaya salad
grilled chicken with garlic, lemongrass, and cilantro
2009 Jean Ginglinger Riesling
Check out a clip of Luke Nguyen's show here.
Spicy Green Papaya Salad
Recipe Courtesy of Zak Pelaccio for Food & Wine
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp. Asian fish sauce
2 tbsp. sugar
2 Thai chiles, minced
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp.minced peeled fresh ginger
2 pounds green papaya*--peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/4-by-1/4 inch sticks
1 firm, barely ripe mango--peeled, sliced off the pit and cut into 1 1/4-by-1/4 inch sticks
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup shredded mint leaves
1. In a blender, puree the lime juice with the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, chiles and ginger. In a large bowl, toss the papaya with the mango, cilantro and mint. Add the dressing and toss. Season with salt, toss again and serve.
*If you can't find green papaya, you can substitute with using all mango or jicama or celery.
Serve with sticky rice.