Jack Vu emailed last week wanting to ask VWK reader to weigh in on this question: How do you incorporate Vietnamese food and ingredients into other non-Asian dishes?
As an example, Jack dips corn bread in nuoc cham dipping sauce instead of spreading it with butter. “Didn’t think I would like it but it turned out pretty good,” he wrote. Another thing that Jack does is combine lap xuong Chinese sausage with Italian sausage for topping pizza. I think he mentioned making banh mi pizza with his nephews too.
I’ve been simmering on how to answer Jack’s provocative question. Asian cooks have learned to adapt and even appropriate Western ingredients for Asian dishes. A good example is how canned cream corn is used for a popular southern Chinese and Vietnamese soup. Another example is the Viet use of canned asparagus for the classic crab and asparagus soup. The banh mi sandwich embodies the use of a Western food for not just a Vietnamese dish but to create something completely new.
But what about using Asian foods or ingredients in Western ways? On the February 9, 2011 episode of Top Chef All-Stars, pho fondue was the winning dish. Not everything works, though. For example, I recently tried replacing anchovies with fish sauce in a Caesar dressing and it wasn’t great.
On the other hand, when Asian foods or ingredients are used as part of Western fare, some great things can emerge. Here are ideas from or based on past VWK posts:
- St. Paul sandwich (egg foo yung sandwich) – Quite good, like a fried egg banh mi!
- Crab Rangoon (fried wontons filled with cream cheese and crab) – I’m not quite sure what western dish this was supposed to be, but it has become an American classic. Also consider the Sriracha and crab Rangoon too.
- Grilled pizza with Vietnamese beef jerky – Need I say more? It's picture at the top.
- Serving a lamb shank version of bo kho (Viet stew with star anise, lemongrass, and tomato) atop polenta or risotto for a twist on osso buco
- Butterflied roast chicken with curry leaf - A divine use of Indian curry leaf.
- Spicy umami ketchup made with mam tom shrimp sauce – This is really good. I recently added Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) to umami ketchup for an instant bbq sauce.
Since I've answered Jack's question, I'm very curious about your western ways with Asian food and ingredients. Don’t be bashful.