Saturday I devoted the day to something I love more than anything: studying, talking about, tasting, and discovering food traditions from different cultures. I attended two events at the Asian Culinary Forum. The forum is an educational nonprofit that aims to celebrate, investigate, and expand Asian food and culture. Founded by cookbook author Andrea Nguyen and writer and Asian food expert Thy Tran, the forum held its inaugural events this weekend.
First I took a class at Sur La Table on Chutney, Kimchi, and Sambal. It was totally mind and palate blowing. Three masters of their genres, Niloufer Inchaporia King, author of the award winning My Bombay Kitchen, Huynjoo Albrecht, proprietor of CookingKorean.com, and Daniel Sudar, chef at Red Lantern Restaurant in Redwood City (if anyone local is up for a field trip, let me know. The restaurant is steps away from the Cal Train station) demonstrated some amazing staples of Indian, Korean, and Indonesian cuisines. The tastes jumped around my tongue and left my head spinning with ambition to recreate the flavors I sampled. I left truly inspired to push the boundaries of the familiar even further in my kitchen.
Then I headed over the Ferry Building to attend a panel discussion on Meals, Meaning, and Memory in Asian Diasporas. It was scholarly in the way that panel discussions by scholars often are (by that I mean the talk required concentration) and hours later, I found myself continuing to run over in my mind some of the ideas that were brought up: why food-based cultural habits are the last to change when immigrants assimilate, the ways in which immigrant’s eating habits vary depending on who they are eating with, feelings of being “other” around food, and the roles of caste, gender, in ascetism in Gandhi’s vegetarianism.
What did I cook when I got home? I pulled out Andrea’s book, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen,
which I love and cook from often. I made two dishes I hadn't made before: a simple soup of shrimp and cabbage (to which I added rice) and rice noodles with Chinese chives, tofu, and dried shrimp (instead of the fresh shrimp and pork called for). It’s fun that I’m getting comfortable enough with the Vietnamese techniques and flavor profiles to vary the ingredients and still end up with very good dishes that are almost always better than anything I can find in a Vietnamese restaurant.
Next up: Kimchi!
I'm so glad I treated myself to this wonderful day. I wish I'd gone to the all-day symposium on Sunday too.