You must think that I don’t have a life since this is being sent on Saturday afternoon. Since I wrote a good four weeks ago, it’s been a whirlwind — a delightful blur actually.
March was filled with cooking classes, with a fabulous hands-on afternoon class at Ramekins in Sonoma. We made banh khoai (delightful crepes from Hue) with everyone having a turn at the stove, bo bia (beef and jicama rice paper hand rolls), chuoi nuong (grilled bananas and sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf), among other things. Joan, who’s contributed to site before, signed up for the class and it was such a pleasure to meet her and cook with her. She took this snapshot of the class. That’s me in the middle with my big hair and Joan is the second person on my left.
In May, I’ll be teaching in Eugene, OR, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. For more, check the classes and events listing.
Awards and Conferences
Every year, Spring marks the cookbook awards season and on March 19, I learned that Into the Vietnamese Kitchen was up for three (3!!) awards. Two of them were from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), a respected professional organization. And the other was from the James Beard Foundation. Shazam! The first time out of the shoot. It’s quite an honor to be in such rarefied company, which included these excellent works: Cradle of Flavor, The Sushi Experience, Memories of Philippine Kitchens, The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook, and The Soul of a New Cuisine. I was up for first book and international for the IACP awards, which were announced at the annual IACP conference in Chicago last week.
And the award for best international cookbook went to . . . my dear friend and soul brother James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine and author of Cradle of Flavor. The Lee brothers received the first book awards. The conference was good, and I led a panel with James and Elizabeth Andoh (author of Washoku) called "Going Underground: Roots, rhizomes and tubers in Asian cooking". Not as geeky as you may think. Our session was filled with standing room only!
In a few weeks, I’ll be making my first trip to New York to attend the Beard Foundation Awards ceremony, where I’m up for best Asian cookbook. Cross your fingers! Regardless of the outcome, it’s amazing to have the book recognized at such a level. I feel a bit like David versus Goliath. Nevertheless, it should be quite the party scene.
While in Chicago, I checked the Southeast Asian enclave around Argyle Street as well as the humongous Super H (owned by HMart) grocery store in Niles, a suburb about 30 minutes outside of Chicago. About 40% Korean, the pan-Asian inventory was dizzyingly large — the same size as the Home Depot that was in the shopping center. Super H is also like a deluxe mainstream American market in its cleanliness and orderliness. The kimchi was fantastic!
I was at the conference for five (5) days, and also had the pleasure of meeting Bich Minh Nguyen,
author of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. A writing professor at Purdue University and recipient of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award, Bich has recently published a memoir of growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We often read about Viet people on the coasts or in the South, but what about the Midwest? Yep, it was cold, but Bich delivers more than weather descriptions. An extremely gifted writer, she cleverly uses food themes to convey the trials and tribulations of being an immigrant in America. The complex and poignant book is tender, funny, and charming — just like Bich is in person. (And, she cooks from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen too!)
I just posted information that my father wrote on various types of Vietnamese tea. Tea is in these days. But hey, Vietnamese people have been drinking all kinds of tea (fresh, dried, leaves, and buds) for thousands of years. What prompted Bo Gia (Old Daddy) was a query I got about an unusual kind of tea called nu voi. Read on . . .
That’s about it for now. Stay tuned for more or submit content for posting!