Thursday, 24 February 2011

Vietnamese Food as I know it- 50 years of knowledge

My father and I when I was 3 yrs old
Being a Vietnamese born in Hanoi pre 1950 to a middle class family I was brought up to be a perfect “interior minister” of my future family, I have to be a wife mother, lover, friend, executive chef, I expect to have helpers, handyman, writer, a designer and a teacher. My son now can see why I am such a confusing person.

I started my apprenticeship when I was 9 in a kitchen ran by 7 boys who cooked like pros and wizards at the markets. I was trained in the art of the eel and the sea worm (ruoi). It was interesting but I have never been friendly with those two species. My aunt taught me alternative method of preparing mixed salad (goi).
I went to the market with my mother often and got shown how to select the best ingredients. I know how to select a fat chicken, which had not laid too many eggs!

The rest of my culinary training is from observations and  cooking from the following old cookery books from my mother when I came to Sydney in early 60s, Big Ming was the Prime Minister then.
Also by trials and errors, and errors by the gallons!

 These were my textbooks, of which I still have in my cookery book collection (in Vietnamese unfortunately):
1.     Vuong thi Thu Huong. Am thuc tu tri: sach day nau an du ba cach Tay Tau Ta. In lan thu ba  1935. (The Knowledge of Eating and drinking- cooking instruction in three styles, western, vietnamese and Chinese)
2. Van Dai. Lam bep gioi: lam bep gioi cung la bi quyet de tao nen hanh phuc gia dinh. 1967.    Nha Sach Khai Tri. Saigon (loai sach Hoc Lam Nguoi), (Skillfull Cook- a good cook is the secret to family happiness). 

I consider myself lucky to have a taste which suits others. I tend to carry on rambling a bit when it comes to food…. So lets begin with the essence of Vietnam dish Pho Hanoi.

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