Thursday, July 5, 2012

Yin and Yang Cooking

bahn pho noodles
Banh Pho Noodles
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve been reading a book about the Chinese way of eating and cooking, Why the Chinese Don't Count Calories by Lorraine Clissold. I have to admit I didn’t have time to read the whole book before I had to return it to the library today. I skimmed the last few chapters, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t continued to inspire me.

It inspired me to visit one of Madison’s Asian grocery stores, Viet Hoa Market. Someone at work had mentioned it and when I passed it on my way from dinner with friends I had to stop. Inside I found everything I could ever want to make an authentic Asian meal, if only I knew how to read Chinese.

peanut sauce
Peanut Sauce
Peanut noodles with carrot and cucumber
Peanut noodles with carrot and cucumber
I perused the exotic meats and frozen fish, marveled at the produce, and picked up nearly every box of tea I passed. I ended up purchasing a hodgepodge of items including some coconut flavoring for my coffee, a tea ball, chrysanthemum tea, some noodles and some sesame cookies that had been delivered from a bakery in Chicago’s Chinatown.

Because I don’t usually cook Asian cuisine, it took a little research to figure out what kind of noodles I bought. They were banh pho, a type of rice noodle used in Vietnam for soups. I decided to make some peanut sauce and use them that way because I knew it would be a good complement to the carrot and cucumber I had recently received from Two Onion farm.

The dish seemed to be a perfect way to put a few Clissold’s secrets into practice: Bring yin and yang into your kitchen and Balance the flavors. Basically these two secrets discuss how the Chinese vary ingredients and cooking methods and eat foods with varying tastes and textures together.

Peanut sauce is a good example because it contains peanut butter (sweet) and curry paste (hot) and does not need to be cooked. I served it with the noodles, which needed to be soaked before they were cooked, and raw carrots (crunchy) and thinly sliced raw cucumber (slimy/soft). All in all, it was a combination of a lot of textures, tastes, and heat/cool.

The dish was perfect for a day when the mercury rose to more than 100 degrees and when it feels more like southeast Asian than Wisconsin. Although I had to return the book today, I did copy a  few of the other recipes, so I’m looking forward to trying out more of her secrets as CSA season continues.

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