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Monday, January 12, 2015

Vietnamese Cooking


Sometimes I feel like my own culture is a ghost to me.  Born in the USA to parents who immigrated here as teenagers only to be Americanized, I worry that when I have kids, they're going to know less about Vietnam than I will.  It's sad in a sense, to see first hand your own cultural knowledge slowly die inside you as the years pass, but at the same time, it's inevitable.  Sometimes you just don't have the focus to work on everything you want to.

However, if there's anything I want to instill in the future generations I may create, it's at least their appreciation of Vietnamese food.  It's actually kind of funny.  I can't speak much Vietnamese, but of my limited vocabulary, probably more than ninety percent of it is dedicated to food related words.  I suppose that's something I take for granted growing in the largest Vietnamese community in the US.  I speak English with my parents, but I speak Vietnamese only when I'm put into a corner and forced to, and that place would be at a Vietnamese restaurant.

Sometimes I have a desire to move away from the Bay Area.  Housing is just so damn expensive.  But among the top reasons that would keep my to stay (other than friends and family) is the food.  Where else am I going to get good Vietnamese food?  (I'm talking about REAL Viet food, not stuff like Pho or Spring Rolls).  Even cultural meccas like NY are hard pressed to have good Vietnamese options.  Living in the Bay, (specifically San Jose), means living in a place that probably has both the best and most abundant Vietnamese offerings.

The only thing I could do if I moved away would be to cook it myself.  However, my Vietnamese cooking skills are pretty low.  I'd say I'm a good cook.  I cook every meal for me and my girlfriend, and over the years, I've improved greatly.  My greatest skill is how resourceful I am with food.  Vietnamese food should be a natural fit for me because A) I'm Vietnamese, and B) Vietnamese food requires using everything you can.  Sadly, my skill doesn't match up to expectations.

I try to pry my mom for recipes, but she's pretty hard to get info from.  She's the best cook I know (and I'm not just saying that because it's my mom, many other people agree).  However, that skill has given her a sense of over zealous pride, meaning her cooking secrets can't be trusted to anyone else.  That includes me.

Until I can get info out of her, I'll have to rely on what I can get fro the internet.  Normally, my cooking usually depends on what the rush is, but overall, I've grown accustomed to cooking American style food (grilled stuff, soups, casseroles, "Italian") and Chinese stir fry for those quick and easy meals.  Vietnamese cooking is simple, yet complex at the same time.  I've tried it a few times, and it hasn't been up to par with my mom's stuff.  I don't think it ever will.  It makes me a little sad knowing that as I get older, my exposure to Vietnamese food, good quality Vietnamese food, will decrease more and more.

And in a sense, as silly as it sounds, that's what food can do to you.  It's makes you ponder the deeper mysteries of life as you chow down on a bowl of noodles.

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