Category Archives: Vietnamese

What We’ve Been Doing for the Last Five Months, Plus My Homage to Café Lafayette: Shrimp Fritters

For nearly five months of lock down, my family and I have enjoyed getting fat from eating too much soul food—not my mom because she eats like a bird and not my son because he loses weight as he gains it. He’s in the Ninja phase.

Also, on our list of quarantine activities are:

  • cleaning
  • fighting like Ninjas
  • completing online learning tasks (now the endless summer packet)
  • working from home
  • reading and watching the news
  • becoming addicted to the news
  • getting sick of the news
  • avoiding the news 
  • loving the videos and pictures of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests across the country

Of course, my all-time favorite activities are cooking, eating great food and hearing how wonderful my food tastes.

During the quarantine, I’ve made a bunch of new things. Among the best is a shrimp and sweet potato fritter. My love for the late, great, and quaint Café Lafayette’s shrimp fritters, inspired me to make it. 

Before the treasured Fort Greene spot, Café Lafayette, closed in 2017, my sister and I spent quite a few Sundays brunching in the living-room sized restaurant. Downing mimosas and Kir Royales. Listening to Nina Simone and other Blues notables. Regrettably sharing one chocolate lava cake, instead of ordering two. 

Café Lafayette was one of OUR places, which meant neither of us were allowed to bring anyone else there. We also agreed that the shrimp fritter—juicy morsels of shrimp laced with crispy shreds of sweet potatoes and carrots—was a remarkable, tasty and satisfying bite. 

My family loved my recreation of this shrimp fritter. Omitting the carrots, I added a bunch of other stuff to add flavor and to “French” it up a bit. It’s definitely lighter, moister and richer than I remember.

Try it and I think you’ll agree that it’s the kind of appetizer that takes the word “appetizer” to whole new level.

For the shrimp and sweet potato fritter recipe and more healthy, French cooking, check out Frealthy, a page for francophiles that love to cook.

Video by Melinda Wright.

When a Bahn Mi Quacks

Lately I’ve been ducking down. No I’m not hiding from anyone or anything, but rather on the hunt and taking advantage of every opportunity to chow down on a piece of luscious, fatty and decadent duck. If I see my favorite fowl on the menu, then I have to have it.

Foie gras two ways and seared duck breast in one very fancy and well-executed meal didn’t satisfy my craving before ordering the duck confit Báhn Mi at Park Slope’s Bricolage. I even asked my server for a recommendation but once I saw the duck Báhn mi option, I had to have it.

When duck is added to a dish or in this case, a delicious multi-culti sandwich, the plate soars to new heights, with a richer, more complex flavor.

The duck confit Báhn mi at Bricolage, a “Vietnamese Gastropub” with an ugly-pretty, fashion forward interior and an oasis backyard garden, was no exception. In the sandwich, there wasn’t enough tender and sweet duck for me—when is there ever—but it was a purely delicious version of the classic Vietnamese sandwich. I couldn’t see the spicy mayo but it was definitely present and spot-on. The soft and fresh baguette reminded me of the really good hero sandwich that I’d been craving all week. The veggies—fresh cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon—tossed with a vinegar-y dressing added a healthy crunch with the right amount of sweet tang. Everything they are supposed to be in a Bahn Mi.

So having two of my favorite things to eat in one sandwich put me on the highest cloud nine possible.

My only wish was for a smear of duck pate on the inside of the baguette. Why don’t most Bahn Mi sandwiches include duck or pork pate anymore? When I had my first Báhn mi in Midtown East Manhattan, these beautiful bridges between Vietnam and France included pate, unless of course it was the vegetarian option. The rich and creamy pate added so much more flavor to every single bite, especially where it hugged up next to the spicy mayo.

But it’s hard to miss anything in a Báhn mi because the synergy of all the key components creates an unmatched experience for almost every taste bud. Sweet and sour in the pickled veggies, savory and salty in the caramelized meat, heat from the spicy mayo, and the added the freshness of the cilantro. The stuff of foodie dreams.

By the time I noticed just how lovely Bricolage’s backyard garden truly is, I was halfway done gobbling up my duck Báhn mi, a stupid mistake that I won’t make twice, thrice or however many times I get to revisit this gem.


Photo by Carly Jayne on Unsplash.