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Ladies and gentlemen, we are now firmly in the Year of the Goat/Sheep/Ram! Pick the four-legged animal of your preference. My father says that in Vietnamese, it’s officially the Year of the Goat. “We don’t have sheep in Vietnam,” he pointedly explained. So obvious and true. 

In Chinese, the character for sheep and goat is the same. If you are interested in background information on this new year, see this recent post on the site. Above are the popular greetings for the Lunar New Year in Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese. The camellias are from my garden -- blooms just in time for Tet.

Some people on Instagram told me that if it’s your year (you were born under the sign of the goat), then you should always wear something red for extra good luck – a discreet string around your wrist, for example. I’m not a superstitious person but it’s always good to ponder about what it means to attract and offer positive energy.

Ginger has been on my mind these days in the form of a refreshing end-of-the-day cocktail that I sip while making dinner. I like ginger beer (especially Fever-Tree's) for its zing but I don’t want to invest in opening up an entire bottle each time I want some. 
Watermelon radishes
Watermelon and carrot pickle
A month or so ago, I came across a ginger liqueur by Stirrings. It has a good natural flavor, a bit of heat, and is not overly sweet. It’s also roughly $12 a bottle. That’s a lot of cocktails given that this is what I concoct: Put 3 or 4 ice cubes in a double old-fashioned glass, add 1/4 ounce freshly squeeze lime juice, 1 ounce Stirrings ginger liqueur, top with club soda and stir.

From a small can of club soda, I get 2 drinks. Last weekend, our friends Jennifer and Mike came over and we started our Lunar New Year celebration with one of these ginger cocktails. But before that, I made them a tangerine mimosa: 1 ounce fresh squeeze tangerine juice, a tiny splash of triple sec and proseco. Those are two terrific cocktails for the season, or well, all year long, I suppose!

Along with those two beverages, I’ve been mildly obsessed with Amarosa fingerling potatoes. They have a dark red/ruby skin and the flesh is close to the same color. The contrast in color between the Amarosa and yellow fingerling potato is amazing.
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Crazy color aside, what’s actually remarkable about the Amarosa is that it has a wonderfully sweet, meaty flesh with just the right balance of starch. It's a meaty potato that you could serve with or without meat. Some farmer around here is growing them and when I come across them, I buy all I can and treat them simply. 

Typically, I cut them in half and toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil. They’re roasted on parchment, cut side down, for 25 minutes in a 425F oven; I turn them cut side up around 18 minutes, or whenever they want to release themselves.  
Vegas winter morning
I’m roasting another vegetable too – mini honeynut squash. I’d read about them in the New York Times and all of sudden, there they were at our local farmer’s market. Only one farm is growing this squash in my area.

They are the size of my hand, cut easily and roast up quickly – as fast as the fingerling potatoes. I just rub oil and soy sauce all over the cut and seeded squash. They are a watery and soft but the flavor is good. We sometimes eat the skin too. If it’s not sold where you are, consider growing honeynut squash from seed.

This weekend, I’m teaching my first cooking class of the year. It’s very exciting. The only class with spots left is the May 30 pho and banh mi workshop. It seems so far away but I know it’ll be here before we know it!

I hope the Year of the Goat is off to a good start for you and your family,

Interesting things from around the Web:
  • Asian tastes of the seas – chefs, food and travel writers share memorable flavors and tips at the New York Times
  • You may take pause after reading this story on vitamin-enriched foods, also from the New York Times.
  • Lots of dumpling action in February: Lucky Peach has a story about ba wan, a strangely pleasant meat-filled rice and tapioca dumpling from Taiwan. People are sharing their Asian dumpling making skills in this discussion at Chow. I was asked to weigh in at theKitchn on the difference between a potsticker and gyoza.
  • A Vietnamese-American art student was inspired enough by public interest banh mi to make a stop-action animation of how to make one. Triet posted it on  YouTube and wrote me, noting that the project was partly informed by articles on The Banh Mi Handbook. (I was flattered to say the least.)
  • Phil Armstrong, a farmer in the Shenandoah Valley made sriracha using my recipe and an interesting blend of chiles that he grew from seed.
  • Lists to glean: Banh mi shops in San Jose (KQED), Asian picks (mostly Chinese) in Flushing, NY (the Infatuation), pho spots in Chicago (Thrillist)
  • If you’d like to hone your cooking skills, try a mini class at Craftsy – for FREE. There’s a great knife skills tutorial, tips on how to fix kitchen mistakes, artisanal pizza making with legendary Peter Reinhart and insights on cooking with whole grains. Get details and sign up for a free mini class
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