I've cooked a lot from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen over the last few years, and since I'm going to Vietnam next month, this seemed like the moment to delve deeper.
Last night I made Nguyen's recipe for pan-seared beef steaks in which you briefly marinate strip steaks in soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper, then cook them in a hot skillet. These tasted exactly like non-Vietnamese steaks, which is to say, my family tore into them like a pack of ravenous dingoes. Something about rare meat. I can guess what it is.
On the side, we had Nguyen's grilled corn with scallion oil. Nguyen: "One of my most vivid memories is of our cook, Older Sister Thien, squatting and fanning the small charcoal brazier on which she grilled corn on the cob. As the corn cooked to a charred chewy sweetness, she brushed on scallion oil made with home rendered lard. The aroma and taste were heavenly. "
I should have used my home-rendered lard! Nguyen's Americanized version calls for you to parboil the ears, grill until slightly charred, then brush with oil in which you have fried some green onions.
I almost burned the house down, but the corn -- smoky and succulent -- was worth it.
Dessert: David Lebovitz's ace chocolate chip cream puffs. He calls for covering them liberally with pearl sugar which I did not have. Lacking other options, I covered them with large-crystal green sugar and the results were delicious but dead ugly. To make chocolate chip cream puffs, you can follow the recipe Lebovitz has posted here and when the batter is COMPLETELY cool, add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. He doesn't specify in the blog post, but you should use a full 1/2 cup of large-crystal sugar to top these puffs. And don't bother with the egg glaze. Phenomenal.