Growing up around majorly different cuisines from most children, Vietnamese food has now been strongly growing as my favorite over Chinese food. Both being part of my upbringing, Vietnamese food takes the cake because of its heavy influence on my life. It is light, healthy, and very foreign to the usual American food. In the past two weeks, I have cooked three different Vietnamese dishes that are not very well known amongst western culture. This has allowed me to have an appreciation for my Mother and the cultural upbringing that I had. The biggest challenge is a test of patience because most meals in Asian culture take hours of preparation to bring forth to the final crucial minutes to execute the dish. It is exhausting, but very well worth the healthy lifestyle.
Another reason why I am doing this is that I am sick of bar food. It is absolutely perplexing how easily accessible to find burgers, pizza, and hot wings that are ready to eat at just about any place and time. I guess that is just America for you.
There is an education that you receive when you focus on learning dishes from a country’s cuisine, such as different cooking styles, techniques, and the origins of the dish. Learning the origins of the dish is very beneficial because it teaches you the history, etymology, geography and sometimes the political history of the country that you are emulating the cuisine for. That is only if you research the dishes like I do.
Cooking Vietnamese food has restored many values in me that I have lost when I was a kid. It has also brought back many memories of family gatherings and my Mother. I have come to learn that cooking is a relationship because you need to plant the seed, be patient, and watch it grow over time because the more you cook, the better your dishes will turn out.
When you explore a new cuisine, you get to learn about new types of ingredients and what they do and where to buy them. Ingredients for Vietnamese food are very specific and hard to find, so I have been spending much more time at Asian grocery stores to find these exotic ingredients versus commercialized stores like Lunds and Cub.
The other day, I spoke Vietnamese, Spanish and English all within the span of five minutes at Truong Thanh Grocery Store. I have not spoken three languages within that time span since I was five years old. Isn’t that something? This brought back great memories of my childhood.
Most importantly, the only person in the world who can cook these types of dishes for me is either my Mother or Vietnamese restaurants. This is quite the predicament because I do not live with my Mom anymore so it isn’t easily accessible for me. I can’t imagine my future spouse being able to make me Pho, Congee, or Caramelized Pork. Not to mention that there is a very strong divide between people who cook or do not cook. So, if I don’t learn how to cook this type of cuisine, then the odds of having it easily accessible are slim to none.
This frightens me because if I do not know how to make the food that I grew up with, then I will be losing a part of me. But, I do solemnly vow that I will be teaching whomever how to cook these dishes because it is my duty to show the world how beautiful my culture is. Moreover, it is important to remember that it is a very fun activity to share with people because cooking brings people together.
Henceforth, every week I have pledged to learn how to make a new Vietnamese dish. If I can master the cuisine that I grew up with then I will add cultural cooking to my arsenal of skills. But overall, my biggest goal with this new challenge of mine is to learn how to apply western cooking techniques to Asian cuisine in order for people like you and me, who live in this fast-paced world to be able to cook Asian food in a timely manner.
In conclusion, I challenge everyone to learn about their family heritage’s cultural cuisine. Whether you are Italian, German, Greek, or African, there is a lot you can learn by executing foreign dishes. This can further connect you to your roots and bring knowledge to something that you have been oblivious to your whole life: The beautiful cultures that our ancestors have hailed from.
This is why I am making a strong effort to get in touch with my cultural cuisine of Vietnamese food.
Remember, “The Zos Knows”.
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