“My mother’s greatest joy is to see her extended family gathered together for one of her Vietnamese feasts says Ngoc Ming Ngo. Nothing gives her more pleasure than to see her American-born grandchildren slurping her noodle soup or devouring shrimp on sugar cane. She has taken it as her duty to introduce her grandchildren to the delights of Vietnamese cuisine and thereby reminding them of their heritage. Food has always been a large part of our family. My fondest memories of growing up in Vietnam invariably involve food – its elaborate preparation in the kitchen, the intoxicating smell of grilled ribs with lemongrass after a long day at the beach, and our nightly family dinner on the terrace overlooking the shimmering river.”
Striped Bass Wraps
Serves 8, makes 16
For the Fish
2 whole fresh striped bass (2 pounds/1kg each), cleaned and dried
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, halved and cut into half-moons
1 piece (2 inches/5 cm) peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 stick/ 100 g) unsalted butter
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
For the serving
1 ¼ pounds Japanese sweet potatoes and/or regular sweet potatoes, peeled and halved lengthwise.
4 ounces/115 g fine rice vermicelli (use the variety that is packaged in coiled nests)
16 round (8-inch/20cm) rice-paper wrappers
2 small heads butter lettuce leaves separated and ribs removed
2 bunches cilantro leaves
2 bunches fresh mint leaves
Lime-Chile Dipping Sauce
Preheat oven to 350˚F/180ºC.
Make 3 diagonal 2-inch/5 cm long cuts on each side of the fish.
Rub cavity of each fish with oil & season with salt and pepper.
Rub exterior and cuts of each fish with oil & season with salt and pepper.
Stuff each cavity with half of the onion and ginger.
Transfer fish to a 16-by-12-inch/ 15 - 20 cm baking dish.
Bake until flesh is opaque and no longer pink near spine, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, place sweet potatoes in a bamboo or metal steamer basket; place over boiling water in a wide saucepan or wok.
Cover and steam until just tender, about 25 minutes.
Transfer to a work surface and let cool slightly.
Cut lengthwise into 3 inch/7 cm-long sticks, about 1/3 inch/1 cm thick.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add noodles and cook according to package instructions.
Drain, and rinse under cold water.
Cut into 2-inch lengths and set aside.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.
Add scallions and cook until bright green, about 1 minute.
Spoon over baked fish.
Sprinkle with peanuts.
To assemble each wrap, soak a wrapper in a bowl of warm water until softened, about 30 seconds.
Lay flat on a plate.
Top with lettuce, noodles, sweet potato sticks, fish with toppings, cilantro, and mint.
Fold ends in and roll tightly to enclose filling.
Serve with dipping sauce.