Kamis, 03 Maret 2011

Culinary Explorer

It’s been said that the best way to get to know a country is through its food. As a fan of the food writers Diane Kochilas and Corinne Trang, who combine a traveler’s cultural awareness with a chef’s creativity in their cookbooks, I believe cooking authentic cuisine from abroad helps you get closer to a culture. Dorothy Aksamit went one step further on her trip to the river town of Hoi An, Vietnam:
She took a cooking class led by a local chef. She learned about smooth-skinned dragon fruit, a type of cactus, as well as yellowish-green custard apples (with creamy-white segments), bitter melon and Dalat coffee. She learned how to soften rice paper and pick out the freshest squid. She boiled Asian eggplant in a clay pot, sculpted cucumber fans and tomato roses (a garnish for the shrimp rice paper rolls), and pepared banh xeo, a crepe made with rice flour sprinkled with tiny shrimp, bits of pork, green onions and bean sprouts.
Of course, I salivated after reading this. I don’t know of any decent Vietnamese restaurants in Athens, after all. But before despairing over the closest thing to an Asian eatery in my neighborhood—a so-called Chinese restaurant that actually offers “sweet-and-sour oven-roasted potatoes” as a menu item—I took out Trang’s “Essentials of Asian Cuisine” and turned to page 396 to find Chan Ca, or Hanoi Fried Yellow Fish. It’s a dish that’s found in Cha Ca Street in the old French Quarter of the capital; the turmeric in the recipe turns the flounder a vibrant yellow. So call me a stovetop traveler. It’s the best I can do until I have enough money to book my ticket to Vietnam.
Related on World Hum:
* Extreme Eating in East Berlin With the Stasi
* A Daring Cup of Tea in Darjeeling
* Four Travel and Food Books: Paul Richardson’s Picks
Related on TravelChannel.com
* Anthony Bourdain: Traveling and Cooking (video)

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