Most might think that growing up in Alabama afforded little in the way of cultured cuisine (keeping in mind that southern food has a unique culture all its own). However, I was fortunate to have an English mother who always cooked dishes that stood well apart from the standard fare of a typical Sunday dinner with extended family (think chicken and dressing, over-cooked green beans and sweet pies that could make your teeth hurt just looking at them). My explanation of what a “Yorkshire pudding” was to my friends at Christmas was always met with a look of bewilderment.

I was even more fortunate that in elementary school, a young girl who recently immigrated from Vietnam became by childhood best friend. I used to look for excuses to go to Rose’s house at mealtimes. The fragrance coming from her mum’s kitchen were like I’d never experienced before! Instead of the heavy smell of grease used to fry, well, just about everything…I had the smell of chilli, lemongrass, lime and the scent of steamed rice. When I close my eyes and think of those times, my sensory memory puts me right back at their kitchen table. My good food fortune has certainly continued with migration to Australia—a country rich in food culture and amazing produce. To this day, though, Vietnamese food is still my favourite cuisine. I love the crisp, clean flavours and the balance of salty sweetness—perfect as the warmer weather begins. This dish pays homage to those wonderful childhood memories and takes full advantage of my cravings for lighter fare after a long cold winter: Vietnamese-inspired spicy pork salad with toasted organic coconut. And Rose, if ever you read this blog, thank you for some of the greatest memories of my youth. Stay tuned for the recipe under Test Kitchen Favourites.