Thursday, July 16, 2009

Asian herbs

This morning, on a lark, we zipped down to Rockport/Fulton and ate lunch at Hu Dat, a Vietnamese joint near the docks. It is run by the family of Dat Nguyen, and has always been a pleasant experience. I had a soup with chicken, pork, shrimp, and two kinds of noodles, while herself had her customary noodles with eggrolls and a glass of cafe su da, a kind of street-legal speed based on strong coffee and laced with Eagle brand milk or something similarly sweet. It keeps her cranked for the entire afternoon. The food comes with nice dishes of various things to toss in; a big splat of Sri Racha mskes it zing and sing. The Southeast Asians around here have a gorgeous palette of their own beloved herbs to use in cooking. Look somewhere near the door of a Vietnamese abode and you will see a little herb garden. They often throw the cooking water from their crabs and shrimp on the herbs.
So, we got home and I went to the LA Times Web site and found this by Andrea Nguyen.
At this time of year, like many cooks, I'm obsessed with fresh herbs. But you can keep your Genovese basil, French tarragon and Italian parsley; for me the magic is in the leafy aromatics of the Vietnamese table -- red perilla, garlic chives and rice paddy herb, to name just a few. I grow the herbs in my garden as well as purchase them by the bunch at farmers markets and Asian markets to ensure that I savor as much as I can during their peak hot-weather season.

Read it all here. There's a recipe there to click through on, and it sounds great. I wish there were somewhere to buy the herbs that are grown for Southeast Asian cuisine. The flavors are amazing.

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