Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cooking From The Heart

So, I have my biggest story yet currently out in the News and Review.  I am proud of it, but pretty bummed it didn't make the cover.  I really thought it deserved it, more for the wonderful accomplishment of these two friends than for any angle I took on it.    I loved Sami and Sheng's book.  It made me cry a couple of times, which I can confidently assert no other cookbook has ever done.  I have also used it to cook from twice now, with delicious results.  Because of them I now keep a jar of MSG in the cupboard for seasoning.  I thought I'd post some pictures, since the SNR didn't have much room for photos.

These photos are my favorites.  This one was taken in the 80's.  It's Sami dressed in traditional Hmong clothing, with Sheng's mom and dad, and Sheng's sister, Little Sami.

This photo was taken in Laos in the 70s.  It's Sheng as a baby, and her mom and dad.

 This is Sheng today.  The first stop on our shopping trip was B and S market.  It's a Hmong market.  I know that there is at least one other Hmong market in the Sac area.  She is holding up a bundle of Hmong herbs.  They sell a bunch of different types all bundled together, which is quite convenient.
This market has lots of other products, and they sell meat, as well.  I picked up a package of the huge Hmong sausages that you see at the New Year's celebrations, too.  They are pork sausages with a lot of cilantro and lemongrass.  They're great.
Then, we went to A&A Market on Stockton.  This part got left out of the story.  I believe A&A is Vietnamese.  I had never been into this particular market.  It has a really nice, clean-smelling meat and fish section.  This is Sami and Sheng picking out bitter melons.  Last night I woke up at 3:30am craving the ground pork with bitter melon that they made at our feast.
At B&S, I picked up this papaya shredding tool for five bucks.   That huge platter is just two green mangoes. You really only need to buy one to serve 2-4 people. Hmong food is very healthful and economical.
Here's Sheng filleting a striped bass for larb.  She made this look easy, and when smiller and I did it at home, it was excruciatingly hard.  Sheng had a tip to just buy cheap knives at Asian stores (like three bucks) and throw them away when they get dull.
Speaking of knives, these are handmade Hmong knives.  The biggest ones are for like butchering pigs and stuff.
Here's Sami, wearing an apron that has a nice example of Hmong embroidery.
I already posted this photo, but I'll post it again because I really like it.  The toenails on the chickens kill me.
Here's Sheng chopping the chicken.  I would like to get one of those stump chopping blocks.  The one at Cheung Hing is awe-inspiring.  And totally sanitary, I'm sure.
Here's Sheng's husband, Leo, sqeezing the lime on the fish larb.  This guy is awesome.  He's super funny, and so relaxed for a guy with six kids!  Maybe that's why he's relaxed.
This is box elder, from the Yang's backyard.  It's in the larb recipe.  I'm still not sure if you can buy it in stores.  I need to keep looking.
This is Sheng's daughter, Francis, with her baby cousin.
Chopped herbs and bitter melon.
Here's the nab vam, which I mention in the article.  This dessert was addictive.  I ate so much of it at home that I finally had to pour it out because I was making myself sick.  I tend to do that with coconut desserts.
Sami and Sheng, cooking together.
Right after this the SNR photog, Shoka, arrrived, so I didn't take many more pictures.  The food picture in the article is really nice and pro.  This was my picture of the whole feast.
You can buy the cookbook at the Avid Reader, and the ladies are going to be on Insight with Jeffrey Callison on June 12th!  I'll remind you to listen.  I tried to sweet talk my way on the show but it didn't work.


Anonymous said...

Hooray! Good Job!

As usual you are making me hungry.

my verification word: gargly


Anonymous said...

Fish larb? YUM!


Snufkin said...

Oh wow, I am going to go look for a copy of the N&R and the book. My mom taught in West Sac for a long time and had a lot of Hmong students. I did a short ESL stint with Sac City and the best memory I have from that job is the Xmas potluck, in which our Hmong students brought in dishes to go with the usual offerings like tamales.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Becky! That was really enjoyable. CPR mentioned the article on their little SN&R advertisement today.


Anonymous said...

This was such a great article, Becky! I especially liked what a family affair the preparation of the food was. Is it usually like that - with all the kids and husband helping out?


beckler said...

Yeah, it would have to be. If you try to prepare Hmong food on your own it can be time consuming because there are so many different chopped herbs and vegetables. But if a bunch of people chip in, it's super fast. It's still worth it to make it at home, but there's a lot of prep.

The Armeniac said...

Nice article Becks! I was really into all the herbage they use, and I was especially into use of the word 'herbaceous'!

beckler said...

maybe I should call the ancient sons "herbaceous warriors". remember when you said you liked how i called the a.s. "stoney monsters" and i was like "i said that?" stony warriors is way better.

DB said...

"Super Troopers" is a totally herbaceous movie!