is it asian food if a white guy makes it up?

I've been playing a lot with Vietnamese-style noodle bowls lately, which generally consist of fine rice noodles over a bed of lettuce, assorted herbs, and bean sprouts, with some grilled meat on top and dressed with a fish sauce/vinegar dressing of some sort. Good stuff, relatively quick to prepare, and very healthy.

Tonight while walking the dog I passed someone's house that was simply redolent with the smell of cooking garlic. It put me in the mood. I spent the rest of the walk home dreaming up dinner, and came up with a winner. The sweetness of the sausage and the bitterness of the bok choy compliment each other well, and the garlic ties it all together.

Garlic bok choy with sausage and tofu

serves 2

For the bowl:

red leaf lettuce (6-8 leaves), cut into 1/2" strips
fresh basil (~12 leaves, or to taste)
a handful of fresh bean sprouts, washed and briefly (~10 seconds) blanched
rice vermicelli, boiled or soaked to preferred softness, drained and fluffed

For the tofu (optional, I did this for variety of texture but don't think it is essential):

8 oz firm tofu, sliced 1/4" thick
fish sauce
fresh ground black pepper

For the the stir-fry:

peanut oil
pretty much an entire head of garlic, peeled
6-8 heads baby bok choy
3 small links Chinese sausage, steamed 10 min (if not already cooked)
oyster sauce
soy sauce

1. Take all the garlic, smash it to a paste in a mortar and pestle with some salt (I used sea salt, kosher should be fine too) and fresh ground pepper to taste. Put a generous amount of peanut oil in a wok (maybe enough to cover the bottom by 1/4-1/3 of an inch) and heat it to medium low. S-L-O-W-L-Y cook the garlic in the oil for 8-10 minutes. The goal here is to infuse the oil with garlicky goodness, and not brown it AT ALL.

2. In the meantime, slice up your tofu (if you're having it), put it on a plate or shallow dish with enough fish sauce and pepper to marinate it. Wash and trim the root ends from the bok choy. Slice your sausage up, 1/4" thick.

3. Strain the garlic from the oil, leaving most of the oil in the wok, and reserving the garlic. You really need to get all the garlic out, so you can crank the heat up to high and...

4. Fry the tofu, a couple of minutes per side, in your garlic-infused oil. Set it aside on a paper towel to cool and drain.

5. In the meantime, toss the lettuce, basil, and sprouts together into a couple of big soup bowls. Put the noodles on top.

6. Once you're done with the tofu, you're going to want to dump maybe half of your oil, leaving enough to just cover the bottom of the wok. Return it to the heat, and toss in your bok choy. Keep it moving for a minute, and then add the sausage. Keep it moving for another minute or two, and add a little bit of oyster sauce and soy sauce (maybe one shake each), and the reserved garlic. Stir it all together for maybe 30 seconds, remove from the heat, and serve it over the noodles and salad in the bowls, dividing all the liquid from the wok between them. Add the tofu on top.


Gino said...

i think the question is: is it vietnamese food if there is no mexican in the kitchen?

Brian said...

Well you probably aren't in a restaurant...