Welcome to Cooking Vietnamese Food!

by Ramona on February 4, 2010

No Gravatar

I’m a Foodie, I admit it!  It’s strange how life turns into a full circle and takes you back to the beginning.

Let me explain…

I was born in Siagon, Vietnam; I was an orphan, but luckily for me I was adopted and brought to the United States by American parents at the age of 13 days old. Yes, I was only 13 days old, so I didn’t really learn about my birth culture, or anything about life in Vietnam. I certainly look the part, but I grew up in Arizona learning to cook from my mother, grandmother, and a Mexican nanny.

As a child, the Vietnam war was going on and it was a lonely time for me because the other kids had either a father or brother in the war and I was the enemy. That’s okay because I had plenty of friends, I had 12 cats, a dog, and 2 chickens.

After the war when more Vietnamese were coming to America, I was curious to learn about my culture. These people didn’t want anything to do with me either because I didn’t even speak the language. That was also okay because I saw myself as being ‘blonde and blue eyed’. I put Vietnam out of my mind, because after all, I was an American and lived in America!

Fast forward several years….

As I said earlier, I grew up in Arizona, moved all over the country, started several businesses, and ended up in Texas. I met David and we were married in Austin, on the State Capital steps. I collect stars (mostly the Texas Star) and my motto in life has always been: ‘Reach for the Stars, after you have grabbed one, keep reaching for the stars, there are millions of them out there.’

David was a Texas newspaper publisher. He has turned into my ‘taster in chief’.

I have always loved cooking, but never really had any formal training, and the recipes in most cookbooks are so intimidating! My dishes never turn out as pretty as the pictures in the books. I also love to garden. I always wanted a vegetable garden and to cook with my own fresh vegetables.

Well, both David and I retired and moved to our beautiful Sherwood Ranch. We have plenty of space for gardens, but we also have 100 year old Pecan Trees! There’s not much sunshine because of the trees…

We have tried different vegetables and found that we can grow peppers! We grow Jalepenos and Banana Peppers. I make homemade Salsa and Picante sauce. Not much luck with other vegetables.

I decided to try Herbs. I found that I was fascinated with Basils. As I started to research Basil, I discovered there are over 100 different varieties! Wow. I became obsessed with basil and I drive David nuts whenever we go on a roadtrip. He has to stop at every nursery and at my favorite grocery chain, H.E.B. so I can see if they might have a variety of Basil that I don’t already have.

I have over 20 different varieties in my collection and even take a list with me to I make sure that I don’t duplicate my Basils.

This was in the Spring that I started to collect my Basil plants. I found that they love the indirect sunlight under the Pecan Trees and it didn’t get too hot for them either.

Oh, no winter was approaching and I learned that Basil doesn’t like to get cold! Most people harvest their Basil and start over the next Spring. I just couldn’t do that! I didn’t want my Basil to die and have to start finding them all over again!

David’s next project was to build a Greenhouse that would house all of my Basils. He started in mid summer with an old retired cowboy friend and pet babysitter. They worked for food, lol! I was finding that with all my research on Basils, there were lots of recipes for the different Basils. Wow, what a great idea, start a blog on Basil and have recipes for the different kinds of Basil that I have in my collection.

The greenhouse was completed and the Basil were moved inside just in the nick of time. We moved the Basil plants inside and we had our first freeze not long after that. Almost all of my Basil are loving the new greenhouse and I even have 2 heaters in it and try to keep it above 50 degrees. I have a radio in the greenhouse that plays Country music for them…I read somewhere that they don’t like Rock and Roll. I don’t like it much either. They do enjoy soft rock too.

With all my wonderful recipes we were starting to gain weight and my cholesterol was a little higher too. I was using real butter, heavy cream, and lots of it! I was creating recipes that were so delicious, but not heart friendly. I needed to find a different plan.

Hmmm….I had found a Vietnamese recipe for Pho which is a Vietnamese soup. Vietnamese food uses a lot of fresh vegetables, not butter or heavy cream, and is so healthy. Vietnamese food is unique. It’s not like Chinese, Thai or Indian. The dishes and sauces are healthy, clean, simple and fresh. Vietnam has an abundance of fresh herbs. The fresh herbs gives the dishes and sauces a very distinctive flavor.

We have been testing several different Vietnamese restaurants when we go to the Austin area, and have seen big bowls of soup that everyone was eating. We didn’t want to try it because we had over a 4 1/2 hour drive home and after seeing how big the bowl of soup was, well you get the idea. I found a recipe and it sounded so delicious. I didn’t really read through the recipe, I just went ahead and gathered all the ingredients.

Do you know how hard it is to find soup bones? The grocery stores don’t really have a butcher department any more where they cut their own meat from the beef quarters. It pretty much comes in smaller chunks and they just cut and package the meat.

We have found the perfect butcher in Fredericksburg, Texas called Dutchman’s Meat Market. I get my puppies big bags of dog bones, and my soup bones.

As you can see in the picture the soup bones have quite a bit of meat on them.

Here’s my secret, I use the dog bones….these are just cut up bones with the marrow and are perfect and only $3.00 for a 10 lb bag! After I cook them, I rebag them and freeze them and give to the puppies…they love them cooked too.

I started making the broth and read the directions over and over again. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading, you start by oven roasting the bones and some meat. There is no oil, no water, just bones, meat, and vegetables in a shallow roaster pan in the oven at 450 degrees for 2 hours! I was really nervous. I figured either the meat would be ashes or at least leather and I should be prepared for burnt smoke coming out of my oven….but okay, I’m following the recipe. I was so shocked, the aroma in the house was wonderful. It smelled so good that we wanted to just chomp on the bones.

That was only the first step to the Pho. Next you take the bones and meat, put them in a pot and cover with water. Then I used sangria wine to get up the drippings in the bottom of the roaster and add to the pot with the bones.

Drop in your bag of herbs and cook for another 3 hours! This recipe had better turn out after all this cooking!

Next you take some of the broth, and add a little water (this recipe makes 12 cups of golden beef broth) and the fish sauce, (wasn’t too sure about this part) put in your fresh herbs, thin sliced beef (you don’t cook this because the hot broth actually cooks it in the serving bowl), rice noodles and some other fresh vegetables and eat.

David and I sat down to try this wonderful smelling Pho without any reference to what it should taste like. It was DELICIOUS!

We were going to stay with family for a weekend trip, and I decided to make Pho for the family. David’s brother John and wife Susie, their son Michael and wife Amy with Lily and James, and our son Joe David and wife Callie all were going to try my Pho. I brought plenty of the beef broth, (thought I’d brought too much, it was enough for 18 servings) thought we’d leave our hosts with some to enjoy later. Susie informed me that Pho was both John and Michael’s favorite Vietnamese dish and went on to say how often they order.

Oh no, I didn’t even know what the Pho in the restaurant tasted like. I worried all night. Everyone prepared their Pho (you prepare your own, by putting in the meat, rice noodles and then at the table pick the fresh vegetables and herbs you want). I sat holding my breath. Remember when I thought I had brought too much broth and would leave some for John to enjoy later? It must have been good, because there wasn’t a drop of broth left in the pot! All you heard at the table was “slurp, slurp, pass me some more bean sprouts”, and “I need some more broth.”

Recipe for Vietnamese Beef Pho

This is where my mind started to really roll! All the way home, I was so excited. I already have a Basil blog, I love Basil, I love to cook, and now I want to cook Vietnamese food! I started researching Vietnamese food, reading about all the essentials that I would need in my Vietnamese food pantry.

I have learned about the open markets and street cooking vendors so much that I would love to venture back to Vietnam and experience the cooking and learn about my culture! I even am thinking about that language course, Rosetta Stone, you know the commercials, learn a language from CD’s and it’s easy; I’m wanting to learn Vietnamese too!

So there you have it, from the day I was born to present and how strange it is that I was born in Vietnam and how I have found that Basil and Vietnamese cooking is a big part of my heritage.

I hope you will enjoy my new blog. I’m still keeping up with my Basil blog, because I want you to learn to ‘Love Your Basil’. I want to show you how to grow, care for and cook with the different varieties of Basil, but now I am adding a new blog.

I will be teaching you how anyone with little or no cooking experience can enjoy healthy, delicious Vietnamese recipes right from your own kitchen. I won’t edit out the mistakes, or my comments, because remember although I was born “Little Miss Saigon”, I was raised in the good old USA and this is all foreign to me too.

I hope you enjoy my food blogging and if you want to be notified when I post a new article or recipe, please subscribe to my blog. It’s easy and you will be notified by email whenever I post.

Here’s just a short fun video!

From my Vietnamese Kitchen….
Ramona Werst

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Valerie KaemmerlingNo Gravatar February 7, 2010 at 7:48 am

What is it that they say about curiosity?
We don’t have much spare time now and in August AFTER OUR GRANDBABY ARRIVES, I’m sure there will be even less. If I start slowly now though, by the time we retire I may even be able to cook:)
Added bonus: I may even learn how to use the computer:)

tessaNo Gravatar April 19, 2010 at 9:13 am

what a wonderful story! thanks for sharing!

Leave a Comment

Next post: