Sunday, November 16, 2008

Carmelized Snake Fish, Sour Soup and Ginger Tofu

When Thuy arrives, I have Google Earth set up. Tarn is gone, but Katherine is here and the three of us fly around the world: to Seattle, Montreal, Wellington and Ho Chi Minh City. Thuy gets dizzy and has to look away when we fly across the ocean. We spend quite a bit of time finding our neighborhood and Thuy is fascinated. She keeps pointing to things and laughing.

I think I may be saying this every weekend, but tonight's dinner is the best yet. Here is the menu:

Deep Fried Ginger Tofu
Carmelized Snake Fish
Sour Soup

I'm going to tell you exactly (well, except I don't know measurements, I just watched Thuy throw things in and am approximating where I can) how to make all three of these things (it's my way to keep the recipes, too):

Start your rice cooking, then:

Ginger Tofu:

Cut tofu cakes into strips and coat them in freshly ground ginger. Heat oil in a wok and fry them for about five minutes on each side. When you remove the strips, fry the rest of the ginger in the oil and pour all of it over the cakes. We here in Vietnam are not shy about using oil.

Snake Fish: (Very much like halibut)

Wash the fish in salt water and cut into thin steaks. Put the steaks in a fry pan with sugar, fish sauce, oil, carmelized sugar (you can buy it in packages at our market, but you will probably have to make your own) and "moto" (we think it's MSG). Cook the steaks over very low heat for about fifteen minutes. When they are done, sprinkle with pepper. This fish tastes so much like Tamarind Tree's Catfish in Claypot. It's that tender and flaky and flavorful.

Sour Soup:

Cut two tomatoes into wedges and dice the okra, a long leafy green stem that I don't recognize, and one quarter of a pineapple. Put it all in a collander with the bean sprouts. It's kind of nice, you don't have to rip the heads off of the shrimp for this soup...they are a bit smaller. With these, you take scissors to them and just snip their heads right off. (Remember, they are already dead today, so that helps a bit).

Fill a deep pan with about five cups of water and put in a cluster of tamarind (look it up) (you can find it at many Mexican and Asian stores in Seattle). Let it boil for about five minutes, then take out the tamarind seeds. Add 2 T of sugar, 2 T of crystallized pork seasoning (here it is a package with a cartoon pig on it), salt and fish sauce. Add the vegetables and the shrimp and cook until vegetables are crunchy and shrimp are pink. Mom, this is the soup you love at The Tamarind Tree. Only Thuy's is better, of course.

Things are getting more and more comfortable for everyone during Sunday night cooking lessons. Thuy knows our kitchen well, she brings over what we lack, and our landlords installed a new stove without us even asking. It's a nice one, and we tell Thuy "We got this stove for you!" She just laughs. And you know what? My theory the other night, that Thuy didn't want to leave me alone? I know it's right. Because even though we are having a great time and talking easily, etc, when dinner is over, she is right on cue. "I go now."

She doesn't need to stay, because Katherine and I have each other. But before she leaves, she says, "Everyone will ask you three why you are getting so fat. It's because of Thuy's cooking!"

I'm thinking she loves being our teacher as much as we love being her students. We shut the door and K and I look at each other again and say, "We are soooo lucky!"


kumma said...

Yes, SOOOOOO lucky...

The Norris Clan said...

You are so brave... I wish I could eat cool stuff like this!