Ba noi passed away nearly six years ago. I still can't eat banh nam without crying so I often avoid it at family gatherings. Also, my aunts don't make it quite the same. The dough isn't as tender. The dumpling sometimes a bit too thick. It just wasn't the way grandma made it.
Then recently, youngest auntie stopped by with a few banh nam that she had made. There, in the comfort of my kitchen, without anyone to see, I slowly savored each dumpling. Youngest auntie's version tasted as close to grandma's as my memories could conjure up. I cried the whole time, of course. I later told her to call me the next time she makes some. This time, I vowed to learn.
File this away as one of the family recipes I'm not willing to share.
Banh nam is a central region specialty. It's #12 on my list of 100 Vietnamese foods to try. Banh la is the clear tapioca flour version. Noodlepie has a picture of banh la on his blog. Disregard the title, it's incorrect, this is banh nam. Anyway, both banh nam and banh la are flat. Both have a mixture of pork and shrimp filling on top of rice or tapioca dough. Sometimes grandma added chives or ground black pepper. They're wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
Youngest auntie also made a version with more black pepper, for those who preferred it, just like grandma. For some reason, probably because that's how my ba noi liked to eat it, I eat banh nam doused in soy sauce instead of Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce).
My salute to my grandma seemed only fitting on this historic evening. I don't know which way my grandma would have voted. I remember helping her study for her citizenship exam, coaching her on how to pronounce George Washington correctly. I was so proud when she passed her exam and became an American citizen.
While I'm ecstatic with Barack Obama's election as America's 44th president, I'm also saddened that his grandma didn't live one more day to see it.
What memories do you have of your grandma?
1 year ago today, muop (Vietnamese loofah).
2 years ago today, goi ga (Vietnamese chicken salad).