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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Confessions of a Foodie: From the Flavors of Thiland to Vietnam

Fresh, salubrious, innovative, and heavenly divine: these are the elements that fuel my addiction to the flavors of Thailand and Vietnam. Rarely do I have the opportunity to laud over food that is actually healthy and absent of the artery-clogging fun that exists in our rendered pork fat-loving society. The masterful synthesis of aromatic herbs, flavorful chilies, rich meat stocks, and an avant-garde use of spices often spark insatiable cravings for the delights of Southeast Asia.

Having tasted the exotic dishes of Thailand firsthand, I can differentiate between true multidimensional Southeast Asian cuisine and homogeneously seasoned, Asian-like food devoured by those with less than discerning palates. The cornucopia of subtle herbs, spices, seasonings, and vegetables including basil, citrus fruits, nutmeg, culantro, mint, chilies, and coriander lend Thai and Vietnamese food its distinctive, multilayered flavors.

I grew to adore these tastes from an early age, but just recently have the cuisines of Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia flourished in popularity and authenticity stateside. This recent development is allowing more Americans than ever to broaden their horizons and experience a taste of Asia that they may not be accustomed to.

I was standing in my kitchen last week, lamenting over eating leftovers for dinner, when I came across a box of spaghetti, a bottle of Texas Pete, and oddly enough, a jar of peanut butter. I had no intention of cooking such bizarre ingredients together, but it did remind me of slurping Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok. The thought of those soft rice noodles, lightly tossed with egg, fish sauce, tamarind, red chilies, and topped with crunchy peanuts made my mouth water and initiated a desperate craving for Pho Hien Vuong on Spring Garden Street. Leftovers would have to wait until tomorrow.

Pho Hien Vuong is among the most authentic and delicious Southeast Asian cuisine on the East Coast. Their menu is impressively expansive, brimming with both Thai and Vietnamese favorites such as Ph? (Vietnamese noodle soup, pronounced, "fah"), G?i Cu?n (fresh Vietnamese spring rolls), Tom Yum (hot and sour Thai seafood soup), and of course: Pad Thai. First on my menu that evening was an order of Fresh Spring Rolls. I asked Trang, my server and fellow UNCG Spartan, to add roasted pork and basil to the delicate Vermicelli rice noodles, plump shrimp, and earthy vegetables, which are then cloaked in a sheet of rice paper and served immediately.

The urgency in which the rolls are served is substantial, because rice paper quickly becomes rigid and flavorless minutes after being activated in water and rolled into G?i Cu?n. The rolls are complemented by a rich, homemade peanut sauce that pairs perfectly with a touch of spicy Sriracha (known colloquially as "Rooster Sauce") to lend the dish some heat. Read more!

Obama Administration Fares Even Worse than Bush at the UN, Says Fund for Reconciliation and Development

NEW YORK, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by the Fund for Reconciliation and Development: "Obama Administration pledges of multi-lateralism and respect for the views of other nations suffered today in the United Nations. Amazingly, Obama did even worse than the Bush Administration when votes on a resolution to condemn the unilateral US embargo of Cuba rose from 185 to 187 in favor, 3 opposed."

John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, also commented that, "continued accommodation to the dwindling special interest minority of Senator Bob Menendez and other hard line Cuban Americans is undermining the international credibility of the President."

"To redeem his reputation, President Obama must quickly send a signal more compatible with the values and aspirations he voiced at the United Nations, several international venues, and during his campaign. He should declare his readiness to sign legislation which ends all restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba, and, in the interim, to use his own power to authorize all visits for educational, cultural, religious and humanitarian purposes," McAuliff said.

"US hypocrisy in defense of the embargo is equaled by Israel's hypocrisy in voting with us. Its own citizens, unlike Americans, vacation, invest and work in Cuba," he concluded.

McAuliff founded the Fund for Reconciliation and Development in 1985 to bring about normal US diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. With the success of that effort he redirected his work to the similar problem of US relations with Cuba. He has visited Cuba at least annually during the past decade. Read more!