While they have that saying, “Traditions are meant to be broken,” I strongly feel some traditions are meant to be kept. Growing up in America as an immigrant in a relatively big family, as a child I always wanted to become more modernized and “Americanized”. I shamelessly pushed away my roots and wanted so bad to have the life of the typical “American” girl. I wanted my own room, at least my own bed. I wanted to wear shoes in the house. I wanted a matching bed set, with matching pillow cases and sheets- not those big furry blankets that put me to shame when my friends came over (I now believe these furry blankets are the most comfortable and warm blankets ever). I wanted to speak English to my parents. I didn’t want to use chopsticks. I wanted to use forks and spoons. I didn’t want to use bowls. I wanted plates.
No, there was nothing wrong with me wanting to adapt to the American culture, but there was something terribly wrong with me not accepting my own. Fortunately for me, as I became older, I realized how important my culture was to me. As I became more and more appreciative of my parents, I became more and more accepting and intrigued with my own heritage. After years of struggling with my culture and wanting to keep it in the dark, I am beginning to see my Vietnamese culture in a new light- and it is a radiant light!
Speaking of traditions and culture, one of the most traditional and nostalgic thing for me is a Vietnamese dish called “suon kho”. It reminds me of my childhood, my parents and my home. It is basically pork spare ribs in a caramelized sauce (I know Izz, you don’t eat pork, that’s too bad hehe). When I moved away from my parents, I knew I had to learn to make it. Once I did learn the basics of the dish, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Suon kho is traditionally served along with “canh” or soup such as canh bau (opo squash soup) and a nice bowl of steaming hot rice. Ironically, I’m not sure if this is the traditional way of making this. I found the basis for this recipe on a food forum a LONG while back so I don’t remember who posted it and I can’t seem to find the forum again so I can’t give credit to who posted it (sorry!).
Suon Kho - Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs
1.5 lbs of pork spare ribs, cut down the meat between the bones to have little pieces
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 shallot minced
1 Tbs garlic minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbs fish sauce
¼ cup water
1 Tbs olive oil
First rinse the pork and pat dry.
In a medium skillet on medium high heat, add olive oil, let pan heat up then add meat. It should make a sizzling sound so that you can get a nice browning on the ribs. Once all the meat is browned, add the sugar and 1 Tbs of the fish sauce and stir to incorporate. Continue cooking and turning the meat after about 2-3 minutes add garlic, shallots and pepper flakes. Continue cooking and turning the meat so it doesn’t burn.
Lower the heat to medium low and add the rest of the fish sauce and mix. Continue cooking. Once sugar caramelizes and meat looks nice and brown (close to burning) add the water and stir. After a while you should get a nice sauce. Total cooking time of the pork will vary depending on how big the pieces are. It took me about 20-30 minutes to cook the meat all the way. Garnish with green onions and serve!
Canh Bau – Opo Squash Soup
I actually found the recipe for this soup on recipezaar and it was the most authentic recipe I could find.
Opo is a great vegetable to eat [and to say :)]. This is the first time I’ve cooked with it but it’s very easy to prepare. You can use it for soup or sauté them with some garlic and olive oil. Its subtle taste makes it very easy to manipulate into whatever flavors you like. Best of all it is nutritious! Here are some more information on opo squash.