While Top Chef makes for great entertainment, it is also educational. The greatest lesson I have learned after watching five seasons plus a season of Top Chef Masters is that if there is something missing in your dish, add acid.
The Asian Noodle Salad I made yesterday was good but needed something. So I splashed some rice wine vinegar on it. Voila.
Top Chef taught me that while most people tend to over salt their food, what most dishes need is acid to make the flavors pop. My pantry is slowly accumulating more acids: balsamic, rice wine, and regular vinegar; lemon juice and limes. I think whenever I get a house, I have to plant a lemon tree.
My latest food discovery is how amazing acidic pickled vegetables are on sandwiches, particularly on Vietnamese Banh Mi (Saigon Sandwiches from San Francisco pictured above). Sure, I grew up on Banh Mi my entire life but I never put on the vegetables. I always assumed they were soaked in fish sauce or something because my dad did not eat them and thought they were smelly. Little did I know that it was just carrots and radishes picked in vinegar and sugar. The pickled vegetables, jalepeno, and fresh cilantro provide a great balance to richness of the meat, pate (I love pate), mayo-like spread, and baguette. Such an amazing combination of flavors.
Funny how I do not make these food epiphanies until I am 3,000 away from Little Saigon. Hopefully Virginia's Eden Center has something comparable or I might try to make it.