Spring for some herbs

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Mai Pham of Lemon Grass Restaurant has a new cookbook, The Flavors of Asia, which includes 10 quintessential dishes from the seven major Asian cuisines. “It’s a very different cookbook for me,” Pham explained. “It comes from a culmination of my experiences at the [Culinary Institute of America], where I have taught as a guest chef instructor.” One thing Pham emphasized, and has been talking about for years, is the importance of herbs in her cooking. “[Herbs are] sort of iconic of Vietnamese cuisine,” she explains, noting that you can grow all these herbs—fresh basil, red basil, perilla, different kinds of mint—in your backyard here in Sacramento. “Vietnamese would eat herbs just like you eat baby greens,” she says, pointing out that these herbs aren’t intense like sage, but instead more so like leafy greens. For instance, Pham recently prepared Whole Foods’ air-chilled chicken with green perilla—both wrapped around the chicken and as a side, like a salad.