Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vietnamese cooking class

A lucky group of aspiring chefs learned some Vietnamese vegetarian cooking at its finest during a Saturday morning class presented yesterday in English at Chua Phap Nguyen (Dharma Spring Temple), which is located on the east side of Pearland.
Sister Phap Nghiem (pronounced similar to "Pap Neem") served as the very capable instructor.  Here she expertly peels a jicama, a vegetable that was unfamiliar to most of the Westerners in attendance. 
The first item on the menu was Vietnamese spring rolls.
Asian recipes, and vegetarian dishes in particular, tend to be very sensitive to cooking technique, because they rely on a medley of more subtle vegetable and spice flavors for taste, rather than on the stronger tastes imparted by animal products.  Here, Sister uses a stir-fry technique to prepare the "stuffing" for the spring rolls.  Note how all of the different ingredients have been cut into thin strips for stir frying.
Your blogger loves to eat but is probably a better photographer than cook, and so I had some extra fun doing "art shots" of the sky and forest as seen diffused through a close-up view of my rice paper sheet prior to hydrating it for the spring roll.  The pattern on the sheet derived from the pressing or rolling apparatus used during its manufacture.
See what I mean?  Here is my spring roll, wrapped in the same rice paper sheet as shown above, but with no special skill.  It's supposed to be a nice neat uniform cylinder, with the lettuce and mint leaves encasing the inner ingredients, and then the rice paper enveloping the works.  It's going to be fun to practice improving my technique in the future, because these things were absolutely delicious!  Sister also taught a recipe for making the peanut sauce that goes so well with these rolled critters.
The spring rolls were followed by a vegetable curry soup.
Tofu, carrots, taro root (a tuber vegetable used as a food staple throughout Asia), sweet potato, and regular potato assembled for the soup, which also included mushrooms, onions, cabbage stock, coconut milk, lemongrass, an Asian packaged product called "bean curd sheet", and several spices.
Lookin' good!!  :-)
Awesome stuff!
This class was a wonderful learning experience, with the food being rich, flavorful, and satisfying.  And the social experience equally rich, as the class was attended by a wide range of men and women, many of whom were not otherwise associated with this Temple. 

This particular class was conducted too soon after the initiation of South Houston Sangha News for me to post about it in advance, but I will announce future classes.  Future posts will also provide additional information on Chua Phap Nguyen / Dharma Spring Temple.


  1. I'm so sad I missed the soup! It was tasty at the going away dinner.

  2. The neat thing about the curry is that it freezes and thaws without loss of quality. We are a two-working-parent family and we rely extensively on a massive freezer for maintaining a healthy home-made food stockpile. I did a "test" freeze with the extra serving that Sister gave each of us to take home, and it did fine, as most stew-like dishes do. And I actually prefer it as a topping to steamed rice (Sister served it with French bread and it can be eaten that way as a soup-like thing or made into a rice curry).