My dear friend Linda came down from San Francisco for an impromptu lunch yesterday. I was too tired from having finished the Asian Tofu manuscript (hurray!) to make an elaborate meal for us. I needed something quick and easy.
Linda loves big flavor and chile heat. My solution was in a lovely bunch of lemon basil (bai maeng-lak) that I’d purchased on Saturday from the Hmong vendor at our farmer’s market. If you’re not familiar with lemon basil, get a hold of some.
This is the fresh herb season and I typically overdose on lemon basil. Their delicate, light green leaves are slightly peppery with elements of lemongrass, basil, and mint. Lemon basil is not widely used in Vietnamese cooking as we have herbs such as kinh gioi and tia to. (See the Herb Primer for details.) However, lemon basil is used in other Southeast Asian cuisines. For example, the Thais employ it in soup with shrimp. (I recently it on a crostini topped with the sardine in spicy tomato sauce.)