Vietnamese food is the epitome of fresh, I am discovering. Market stalls are piled high with green goodness and every meal layers on herbs and leaves. The result is a complex blending of spiky and sweet flavors, some cool and others warm—and all in perfect harmony. Tranh Diem Vy, a recognized authority on Vietnamese cuisine and an ardent proponent of the authentic flavor sources it demands, says the most important element in Vietnamese food is herbs and recommends shopping for them first when heading out to the market. Her mantra of harmony laced each of our several conversations and it is easy to see why.
Vy says that her family recipe for stuffed squid with pork helped establish the reputation of both her and her parent’s restaurants. Loaded with crunchy mushrooms, and bound with glass noodles and spring onions, the caramelized squid tubes sit pertly on the plate. I had ordered the dish at Vy’s Morning Glory Restaurant the evening before we started cooking. Never did I expect to produce such a picture-perfect specimen of squidly flavors!
Cooking at Morning Glory
Last week in Hoi An, when a fellow traveler in our early-morning market tour invited me to join his one-on-one cooking class with “Miss Vy”, the diminutive powerhouse behind Morning Glory Cooking School, I jumped at the chance. I’d traveled there eager to sign on for some personal time with her, but it seemed another foodie had beaten me to it. Thanks to his generosity, we shared a revved up version of the group sessions offered by Vy and her able assistants. The experience definitely took my culinary skills up a notch.
A plate of skewered BBQ chicken with lime leaf, paired with green mango salad, was one of the succulent combos we prepared together over the two days. From fish in banana leaf to clams in lemongrass broth, we delighted in some very local bounty of the sea. And then there was Vy’s memorable Hoi An version of banh xeo, or Vietnamese pancake…Ooh, la la. But that’s another story.
A cookbook from Miss Vy
Cooking—and munching—through so many of the sixty-plus recipes in Taste Vietnam: The Morning Glory Cookbook have been highlights of my travels in Vietnam thus far. I am eager to tackle more of the dishes in this newly published book of memoirs and recipes. Thanks to Vy’s heart-warming personal style and great stories, this is much more than a cookbook. What a wonderful way to venture into the heart of Vietnam’s heart!
In September, Vy will be a guest lecturer at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York, sharing a few of her exquisite recipes with a bunch of lucky New Yorkers.