Part of the joy of cooking is getting to experiment with foods. Much of that experimentation involves trying the cuisines of different countries. No two countries approach cuisine in the same way, giving foodies a never-ending supply of foods to sample and enjoy.
For those looking to experiment with food, Vietnamese cuisine is both dynamic and enduring. Those hoping to bring Vietnamese cuisine into their kitchen might want to consider the following recipe for “Cellophane Noodles With Crab and Black Pepper,” from Andrea Nguyen’s “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen,” (Ten Speed Press).
Ingredients — Serves 2
1 tablespoon water
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1 large shallot or small yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 dried wood ear mushrooms, reconstituted (see below), stemmed, and cut into 1/8-inch wide strips (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 pound cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until pliable, drained, and cut into 10-inch lengths
Cooked meat and tomalley and fat from a 2-pound Dungeness crab (about 1/2 pound crab meat and 1/4 cup tomalley and fat)
In a bowl, combine the tomalley, fat, egg, water, fish sauce, pepper, and chopped cilantro and mix well. Measure the mixture; you want about 3/4 cup total. Add water if needed. In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the crabmeat and mushrooms and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until aromatic. Add the noodles and continue to stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until they begin to soften. The noodles will look a bit dry. Give the tomalley mixture a good stir and pour over the noodles. Quickly work the mixture into the noodles to ensure an even distribution of flavors, lowering the heat if the noodles begin to clump. In about 2 minutes, the noodles will become translucent and lightly golden. Remove from the heat and taste and adjust with extra sprinkles of fish sauce and/or pepper. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately. To reconstitute the dried wood ear mushrooms: soak the mushrooms in enough hot water to cover for about 15 minutes, or until they are pliable. If the tough “eye” remains at the center of the mushroom, remove it before cutting up the mushroom for a recipe. Because these mushrooms can vary in size, gauge how much fat to use for a recipe by looking at the count and corresponding measurement.
Le Charmel Rhone Syrah/Grenache 2014
Le Charmel Winery — France, Rhone Valley
“This Rhône wine is a blend of 70 percent Syrah and 30 percent Grenache. Our Rhône wine is a beautiful wine with generous aromas of blackberries, chocolate and spice. On the palate, it is remarkably smooth and long with a rich finish. The wine is perfect with beef, lamb and chicken and pasta dishes as well as firmer and strong cheeses.”
— Winery notes