Figs aren’t big in Vietnamese cuisine. In fact, before last night, I was the only one in the household to have ever actually tasted them. I used to talk to a friend about how growing up in an Asian family (he’s 3/4 Chinese and I’m Vietnamese), we were almost made to feel bad whenever we did not like something. It was even worse when we did not want to try something. As was common practice, the elderly at dinner parties would comment on how mature they thought your palate was. This cultural phenomenon is so deeply rooted it can be found embedded in the language (at least in Vietnamese). When I used to express my discontent for stomach or intestines my family friends would exclaim in Vietnamese that “I didn’t know how to eat it.” Of course, cultural differences account for the fact that this sounds extremely rude in English. Hilariously enough, I found it a bit hypocritical how the same people exclusively ate Chinese and Vietnamese food, refusing to ever try foods originating from other parts of the world. Luckily for me, my family is always up for new flavours.
For the figs, I just stabbed them with the stems of rosemary and popped them in a pan with a balsamic reduction. The balsamic reduction can be made by simply adding icing sugar to simmering balsamic vinegar. I basted the figs until they became a bit darker in colour by absorbing some of the balsamic vinegar. After taking them out of the oven the balsamic vinegar thickened a bit and became much sweeter. To balance this out I finished the dish with some basil ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and some pine nuts for texture.
The figs were a hit which I hope will reinforce the “try anything once” mindset my family currently holds.