Giddy (or, Plans for Cooking Day!)
Have you ever been shopping for Kinh Gioi? Rau Ram?
Neither had I, until last night.
Cross that one off on my Bucket List.
I must say that I am absolutely giddy with anticipation of Cooking Day with my friend Kim. We have never met in real life. But, starting a couple of years ago, we began exchanging e-mails after “meeting” via a local Celiac listserv, and somehow we realized that we are both huge fans of natural birthing. We both blog, too. And, we’ve talked on the phone several times.
I’m not worried in the least about any awkwardness in real life. We have great repoire every other way, and I expect the transition to be quite seamless.
Initially, I favored a Greek menu, but I’m glad that Kim rather steered us toward Vietnamese, her favorite ethnic food. In many ways, Vietnamese is similar to Thai food, of which I’m a fan, and which I’ve cooked a number of times. (With this fabulous and beautiful cookbook.)
Through a somewhat lengthy — and very fun! — process, we decided on this menu:
- Spring rolls (my recipe, but MUCH altered from this early incarnation. We’ll be filling them with daikon, savoy cabbage, carrots, enoki mushrooms, mung bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, ground pork, Vietnamese mint, and Vietnamese cilantro, tossed in a dressing of fish sauce, garlic, sweet chili sauce, fresh ginger, and rice vinegar.)
- Grilled Lemongrass Beef Skewers (Bo Nuong Sa Ot)
- Pumpkin in Sweet and Sour Sauce (for which I got a gloriously beautiful Rouge Vif Etampes pumpkin from Trader Joe’s)
- Sticky rice (white shortgrain rice)
- Coconut Sorbet
The kids — her two* and my five — will run wild as Kim and I work in the kitchen. 🙂
While we were hunting for just the right combination of foods for our menu, I noticed that almost all the recipes on this Vietnamese Recipes site called for mint and/or cilantro. I simply refused to believe that these were the “normal” herbs with which I was familiar. I did a little Googling, and found out that Vietnamese Mint is also known as Kinh Gioi, which looks very similar to the darker green spearmint with which I’m familiar, but has a distinct lemony taste and flavor. Vietnamese cilantro, Rau Ram, tastes similarly to “normal” cilantro, but looks very differently.
So, there I was, at the Asian market, scanning for leaves that looked like the ones I’d seen on my computer. I knew that Lee Lee had a whole host of herbs of which I was completely unfamiliar, and I was hoping to find the right kind. I honed in on them, both in the “mint” section. I pinched a few leaves, tasting and smelling. Voila!
I felt immensely victorious, in a nerdy-cook sort of way.
I can’t wait for Cooking Day with Kim. 😀
*She has three children, but the oldest will be in school.