I am going berserk over the recipes in my new Vietnamese cookbook, Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan. The dishes I have prepared thus far have been familiar but with a hint of that exotic flavor usually found only in restaurant dishes. The food is fresh, complex and full of that perfect balance of salty–sweet–sour–heat. We do not have a restaurant that produces Vietnamese food like this in Baltimore. No we sure don’t. But, I am delighted that I now have a go-to guide so I can create restaurant-worthy Vietnamese dishes in my own kitchen. I cannot wait to hit Mr. Phan’s Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco the next time I head to California to visit family.
You can even snack on these shallots as if they are potato chips. They were so easy to make and at the same time you wind up with a jar of shallot oil — two for one! I made extra to sprinkle over other Asian dishes I’ll be making this week.
Green papaya can be difficult to find and expensive to order online. So instead, I made this dish with finely shredded zucchini and it turned out beautifully. Just be sure to salt the zukes and squeeze out as much water as you can so the salad doesn’t become soggy. The mix of spearmint and cilantro in the dish provides a wonderfully fresh flavor.