Vietnamese Cuisine

Fish Sauce, Nuoc Mam and Sea Ghost  Fingers
The National Dish Is a Soup — Even at Breakfast

“Only the French imposed their own cuisine upon their Asiatic possessions.” — David Dodge [1]

“He was not yet Ho Chi Minh. It was 1917 and he was Nguyen Ai Quoc and he was a pastry cook under the great Escoffier.” — Robert Olen Butler [2]

Cooking with Vietnamese Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce

Three Crabs Brand Fish Sauce

Vietnamese cooking is light and delicate, healthy, and remarkably varied. Its famous dishes can be very unusual and even have poetic names, like one for Crab Claws called Sea Ghost Fingers. Continue reading

Ambarella Fruit

Hog Apple or Golden Plum?
Shades of Melville

Ambarella or Otaheite Apple

Ambarella — Otaheite Apple

Recently you could find them in some Asian markets in North America retailing for about three dollars a pound.  It’s a small fruit that looks like a plum.

What could you do with this fruit? Ambarella is relatively little known in North America or outside its tropical habitat. The fruit has many names in local languages and grows in a wide range of tropical Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. [1] Continue reading

Reishi Mushrooms 靈芝

Daoist Elixir of Immortality
Performance-Enhancing Substance

How to use reishi mushrooms

Japanese reishi mushrooms

Chinese athletes are said to get a competitive edge from — perfectly legal — mushroom extracts to win more Olympic golds.  A leading Japanese politician takes three different kinds of Asian healing mushrooms for breakfast every day.

One of the most important of these mushrooms is Reishi. You see them in Chinese paintings of Daoist sages and also ancient Chinese emperors.

These are the gnarly, strange-looking fungi, often purple, sometimes shown as green, brown, black or red. Continue reading

Sea Cucumbers/Beche-de-Mer/Namako/海鼠

Sea Grub or Sea Mice?
Solomon Islands Currency

beche de mer or sea cucumbers

Beche de Mer
Frozen, Chinese Origin

You see them in Asian markets.  They do look like cucumbers, and are typically about six inches long in the fresh state.  Sometimes they are sold dried.  The dried form is usually black and rock-hard, and only a few inches long.Despite the name, they are not a vegetable and are not related to cucumbers.  They are a kind of seafood.

A common name is Sea Cucumbers, from their shape, also Trepang, or Bêche de Mer, from the French word for “sea grub.” Continue reading

Chopsticks

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Elegant Replacement for Fingers
The Most Refined Eating Utensils

What They Are: Chopsticks are the principal eating tools of a large part of East Asia, centering on what Toynbee calls the Sinic culture sphere.

They are about 10 to 12 inches long, with longer ones used for cooking and serving. Children’s chopsticks are about 5 inches long. In Japan, chopsticks for use by women tend run smaller than men’s chopsticks.

Chinese chopsticks tend to be longer than Japanese, and have more rounded ends, while Japanese ones tend to have pointed ends. Continue reading

Lotus Root

A Crunchy Vegetable
Nourishes the Blood and Clears the Lungs

How to use Lotus Root in cooking Asian dishes

Lotus Root

Symbol of Purity: The lotus flower has an exalted status in many of the Buddhist societies of Asia, because of its symbolism of purity.  The lotus has also given its name to one of the most important scriptures of Buddhism.

So it is not surprising Continue reading

Pacific Rim Cusines – Overview

Cooking – The Oldest Art

Chinese Tang Dynasty art from Silk Road

Chinese Men in Foreign Dress
Tang Dynasty Figures from the Gobi Desert

Our focus is the food and cooking of the Pacific Rim, but it is also a story of human history. As Brillat-Savarin said, “Cooking is the most ancient of the arts, for Adam was born hungry.”

With such a wealth of culinary styles, ingredients, cooking methods and national ways, how can we make some kind of order out of this ocean of recipes? It’s a good idea to create a kind of grid or structure to group the major national cuisines that we will feature in this Site. Continue reading

Germaine Swanson

Germaine’s of Washington
The First pan-Asian Restaurant!
IViet Nam - Saigon mapf you traveled to Washington, DC in the 1970s and 1980s, you may have visited Germaine’s Restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue in upper Georgetown tor some of her Asian food.

If you lived in Washington during that period, then Germaine’s was the place to take visitors from out of town, to show them that you were in the know.. Her restaurant survived for two decades, a rare thing for restaurants, anywhere. Germaine’s  clients Continue reading