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Ep9: Feb 2018: Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen

It was madness from the beginning and I should’ve known better. I was supposed to be the host and Poornima arrived on time but I just drove in when she did.

Suraj (Menon, my husband) was in Hyderabad and this was my last weekend in Pune. I was just back from a work trip, had to meet Ajji (my grandmum-in-law) and my parents and get some errands out of the way. In all the rush, the cookbook club should have been the last thing on my mind. But then, that’s what it was… the LAST thing, as opposed to it being not there at all....

Apart from the fact that we’d just been mentioned in the press, I needed it to be a grand affair and I wanted to leave Pune in style. I knew there really wasn’t much in it for me. I had called folk I knew I’d never see again - Raj who insisted on baking his own bread, despite me sharing a recipe. Needless to say, the bread for the banh mi was a total downer.

Keya rolled out some dough for vegetable and pork steamed buns (Bánh Bao) and used my steamer. And as yummy as the filling was, I personally thought the baos were too large. I made a char siu pork (Thịt Xá Xíu) and a liver pate, a silky sausage (from Andrea Nguyen’s other book) & some pickled veggies for the banh mi. The char siu pork was okay, so I cooked it using my standard way instead. Sahil brought in some caramelized minced pork (Thịt Heo Băm) while Suraj ‘SPD’ Prabhudesai got some chicken and ginger simmered in caramel sauce (Gà Kho Gừng).

Pranav ‘Floyd’ Joshi cooked at my place, as usual (for which I was very mad at him, but didn’t show it), scrambled around in the last hour for ingredients, was extra late with his made an utterly lemony broth. Raunaq called to say he’d drop in, so I made corn and coconut fritters (Chả Bắp Rán) on his behalf real quick. That recipe is a keeper!! While Poornima kept it simple with the Russian Beet, Potato, and Carrot Salad - Rau Củ Trộn (Salade Russe). Though her grilled bananas with coconut sticky rice (Chuối Nướng) were a complete winner!

Shivani, who like Poornima, was a first timer, brought the sticky rice with roast chicken and scallion oil (Xôi Gà) and was visible disgruntled by the crass jokes and general state of affairs. She left early, as did Poornima. Keya had another party to go to too.

Dhanashree strolled in really late with a delicious chicken, lemongrass and potato curry (Cà-Ri Gà) and she helped carry the cookbook club forward, do all is forgiven, I guess. She and some of the boys stuck around till real late by which point I was super sleepy.

Sometime during the evening a bottle of strawberry kombucha erupted all over my kitchen (including Floyd’s shirt and my kitchen ceiling). And my white cat boy snuggled with Suraj because he confused him for my husband owing to a deo and an identical cigarette brand (and a name!!).

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