Lets take a deep breath. A very deep one.
Almost a month now that im back from traveling still i could not sit down to share my experiences with U guys… Its just too much for one breath. To be honest – i am a bit scared of it. Big mouthful of Asia. Hm.
Thats why i decided to do chapters. I am sorry ahead – i can not give u a full view of this magical cuisine… i can only share what i saw, felt, smelt and tasted…
I visited 4 ( 5 if i count Singapore as a separate country – but its cooking is everything but not special – multiculti by the way) countries, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. But i am not going to separate the food by places… more like specials and traditions. Even if i would – i could not: all the flavours are dancing together without borders changing just couple of ingredients…
If i need to name the most magical thing there – would say STREETFOOD.
Well… if u hear this u might can think of any kind of rubbish stuff… like popcorn, or hotdog… maybe a slice of that horrible thick pizza. Just to make it clear – i am not going to talk about that. At all.
Its quality food without any fuss…
People constructed there own little kitchen in the corner of the street and working there – all day, every day. Its hard work – no choice. The countries are lack of normal kind of jobs (and there is a huge market for food cooked outside the home – most kitchen are poorly equipped anyway) people started their own ad-hoc businesses: like food stalls. Most of them are “master the art of making one single dish” – they are spending their entire careers perfecting this one single recipe, customizing the equipment, sourcing the best ingredients.
Another important point: street food offers a very direct connection* between the cook and the eater. U are literally watching the whole proccess, how your dish is being made from start to finish – in front of your eyes.
*footnote – its not exactly what we are doing nowadays in the “open kitchens” or “chefs tables” in Western countries paying a nice amount of money????? just to see how chefs in their snowwhite jackets opening oyters and rolling sushies?
So…. just to mention a couple of these foods.. u can find on the street…
They are soooooo f8ckin good… i mean – such a fun to make them! Usually the people know just that type what u can buy in frozen packs in the supermarket and u need to deepfry. I wanna show u the real “raw” spring roll which is perfect for a “show” in a dinner with friends – let them do it!
The most important ingredient is the dried rice paper itself – i was lucky enough to see how the local women are making them (there is a saying, that a girl who can not make rice paper /or pancake is not ready to be a wife :))) But because we dont need to be a good Vietnamese wife – lets just buy this paper in any asian market – u are lucky if u find one which made with coconut water instead of normal water cause its got much more flavour. So go and get your pack of dried round rice papers (the price is never as high as the amount of work the women need to put in it to make them).
After this… well, its a bit like sushi…. whatever u like, u can use as a filling. Traditionally Asian people put everything what needs to satisfy your tastebuds at one time*.
*footnote: if u think that the Asian people just put all the available ingredients in a wok and stir twice to have a special dish – u are wrong. They are playing with the 5 main elements and depending on this they are playing and creating the most popular dishes.
5 main elements and their importance (- spices, colors, senses, nutrients, organs)
WOOD (sour, green, visual, carbohydrates, gall bladder)
FIRE (bitter, red, taste, fat, small intestine)
EARTH (sweet, yellow, touch, protein, stomach)
METAL (spicy, white, smell, minerals, large intestine)
WATER (salty, black, sound, water, urinary bladder)
Usually a roll contains some kind of protein (can be anything u like – mince pork, prawns or tofu), carbohydrate (cooked rice or pasta vermicelli), vegetable (a piece of salad, beansprouts or cucumber), fresh green herbs (coriander and mint are pretty popular) and something for crunchiness (peanuts or pork floss). Oh yessss – and the most important to serve it with a sauce (to prevent a really dried spring roll u can use sauce inside as well, like home made mayo or something nice spicy can work really well). Thats all!!!!! Sooooooooooooooooooooooo easy. Now u just need to invite all your friends around and prep a couple of things (beers :)) and start the fun.
To use the dried rice paper – u just gonna need a bowl of water (easier if the ball has the same size like the paper). When everything is ready to jump in the dinner – get a pancake and give a little bath to it – just for a couple of seconds to make it wet (u hold with 2-2 fingers on the side). Maybe it looks still hard – but in a couple of minutes while u are stuffing it – gonna soften enough to roll it. If u keep it in the water longer – will stick to the plate while u are preping it. Dont worry, u will need just a couple to try and practise.
Having lots of balls in the middle with all the ingredients (cooked chicken meat, fried egg slices, cooked noodles in sesame oil, crunchy fried peanuts, fresh beansprouts, aromatic herbs etc etc etc…) and everyone is making their own little fresh spring roll, dipping in the sauce… make your home a bit dirty (- obviously u eat with hands) and give u all the smile and laugh they can.