Synopses & Reviews
Living in Vietnam for four years in the 1990s, Seattle native Kim Fay fell in love with the romantic landscapes, the rich culture, and the uninhibited warmth of the people. A decade later, she grew hungry for more. Inspired by the dream of learning to make a Vietnamese meal for her friends and family in America, Kim returned to Vietnam and embarked on an unforgettable five-week culinary journey from Hanoi to Saigon.
Joined by her sister and best Vietnamese girlfriend, Kim set off to taste as much as possible while exploring rituals and traditions, street cafés and haute cuisine, famine and feast, and Communism and the legacy of war. Together, the three women discovered a society shaped by its ever-changing relationship with food. Every encounter serves up an enticing morsel, from uncovering the secret world of ragu in the French hill town of Dalat to bonding with the Julia Child of Vietnam in Saigon. Epicures and culture buffs will delight in markets, restaurants, farms, fisheries, and cooking classes as Kim assembles her dream meal and shares recipes such as banana flower salad and clay pot fish. Examining how we eat reflects who we are as individuals and as communities, Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam offers a feast for armchair gourmets, as well as a colorful guide for travelers hungering for their next adventure.
Julie’s Banana Flower Salad
Using recipes from our cooking classes at the Metropole in Hanoi and the Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An as a base, Julie perfected this salad. Highlighted by the hot-tart play of chili and lime off the crisp rings of the banana flower, it is a refreshing dish that is perfect for a hot summer day. If banana flowers are unavailable, a good substitute is peeled and shredded green papaya.
Serving: 4 as a side or 2 as a main dish for lunch.
- 2 banana flowers, thinly sliced (see directions)
- 2 tbsp. peanut oil
- Scant 1/4 cup shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil, coarsely chopped
- 3 tbsp. lime juice + 1 lime for the bowl of water
- Large bowl of room temperature water
- 3 tbsp. lime juice
- 2 tsp. brown sugar
- 1 red Thai chili, chopped
- 2 tsp. fish sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet. Sauté the shallots until golden brown. Leave them in the oil, and set aside to cool.
2. Squeeze fresh lime juice into the bowl of water. This will be used to prevent the banana flower slices from turning brown.
3. Peel back the dark purple layers of the banana flower until you reach layers with just a hint of purple. Using a mandoline, slice the banana flower into thin rings, beginning at the point and slicing about three-quarters of the way down. The rings will look similar to onion rings. Immediately soak the rings in the lime water until ready to use. Set aside.
4. Once the oil is cool, mix in half of the mint leaves and half of the Thai basil with the sautéed shallots.
5. Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Heat lovers will want to add more chili.
6. When you slice the banana flower, you will end up with small bits from the center of the flower. Strain these out using a spoon. Don't worry if you don't get all of them. Remove the banana flower from the water, and combine with the shallot/mint/basil mixture, chopped peanuts, and remainder of the fresh mint and basil.
7. Toss in the dressing, and serve.
About the Author
Pacific Northwest native Kim Fay first traveled to Southeast Asia in 1991. She spent four years living in Vietnam and has traveled back frequently, writing about the region. As an expert on travel literature and Vietnam, she has been a guest speaker on NPR and has written for numerous publications, including Travel + Leisure. She is the creator and series editor of the To Asia With Love guidebooks. She lives in Los Angeles. Julie Fay Ashborn Julie Fay Ashborn’s travels through Southeast Asia inspired her photography in To Asia With Love, To Vietnam With Love, and The Little Saigon Cookbook. She was raised in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband Clive, daughter Charlie, and son Oliver.