I am not a fancy cook. I'm a home-style cook. This description of Vietnamese food (which the VietFest website pulled from Wikipedia) resonated with my own approach to cooking:
"[T]he ingredients for Vietnamese food are often very inexpensive but nonetheless, the way they are cooked together to create a yin-yang balance make the food simple in look but rich in flavor."Well, minus that bit about the yin-yang balance. Actually, I think this description of inexpensive ingredients, simple in look, but rich in flavor applies to other East and particularly Southeast Asian cuisines, too.
I must say, though, sometimes I think I'm actually getting pretty good at this home-style cooking thing. I improvised this tofu stir-fry with materials on hand and it turned out the textures and flavors were particularly harmonious and bright. I wrote down the recipe immediately after eating, and it's included at the end of this post.
Of course, the more "rustic" traditional fare of European cuisines can use cheaper ingredients than what's generally on offer in restaurants these days, too. I'm trying to start exploring more of Italian cuisine now, or at least what parts don't involve wheat or dairy, or where they are minor components and can be dropped or subbed out. I'm scanning and picking out parts of Marcella Hazan's tome to try...hmm, very ingredient driven--the quality of your ingredients will make or break your dishes, whereas with East/Southeast Asian cuisines, there tends to be more in terms of spices and sauces involved.
Speaking of not being a fancy cook...here's a pic of my melding two chicken fricassee recipes in Hazan's book. Though, she calls for browning, so technically they're actually braises and not fricassee, which sautées without browning before "braising".
Here's the tofu recipe:
Will’s Tofu Stir Fry
1 block (14-16 oz.) medium-firm tofu, pressed, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 carrots, peeled, sliced on diagonal
1 bunch scallions, cut into 5 cm segments
1/2 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp brown sugar
fried shallots/onions for garnish
poached or fried egg on top, bibimbap style
- Heat oil in wok until it slides smoothly over wok surface (hot). Add tofu and brown on several sides (the crispy outside is key!).
- Add carrots, lightly salt, and continue occasionally stirring.
- Mix fish sauce and brown sugar together and add to wok, using the fluid to release tofu if stuck, and deglaze.
- Add tomatoes and scallions and toss until scallions have heated through and are bright green and softened. Remove from heat and serve immediately.