If you’re like me, you look at every opportunity to cook for other people as an opportunity to create, experiment and just generally flex your culinary muscles. Not necessarily to show off, although I will admit to the odd twinge of pride when things work out how I hoped, but just because the thrill of creating – and then devouring – something new is almost as exciting as getting to share it with people you love. Knowing me as he does, my husband usually prefaces announcements of expected guests with, ‘Just keep it casual. Make something simple. Don’t go overboard.’. But sometimes keeping it simple is exactly what you need to do to create a masterpiece.
For my birthday back in November I got Uyen Luu’s My Vietnamese Kitchen and I was so excited. I dove into it and buried myself in the vibrant colors and beautiful photography, wanting to cook and eat everything all at once. Then I started looking through the lists of ingredients. It is fair to say that Vietnamese cooking requires a lot of what we would term ‘specialist’ ingredients − but, of course, they wouldn’t be considered specialist ingredients in Vietnam, would they?
This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months now. I feel like I’m not doing it justice because I wasn’t able to get a decent enough picture and so I haven’t posted it. But, to be honest, it’s so good you need to know about it, bad pictures or not.
This dish is sort of baffling. It’s filling and satisfying, but not heavy. It uses dried lentils which have probably been sitting in the cupboard since winter, yet it has a summery freshness. It’s healthy, but feels extremely indulgent. I think we can agree that all those things are very, very good.