Monday, March 30, 2009

Cha Gio - Vietnamese Fried Spring Roll


When I was a little girl my mom use to make Cha Gio for a lot of church events, which require her to make anywhere from 50 to 100 rolls. My dad and I were the designated wrapper peeler. The wrappers come in a pack that stick to one another, so my dad and I would sit there and peel them so it would be ready for my mom to roll. I hated that job! Like other little girls I wanted more responsibilities...I wanted to roll.

My mom would never let me roll though. When I was a teenager I told my mom I would only peel if she let me help her roll. She finally agrees to let me roll and you can't imagine how excited I was. My mom, however, put my rolls in a separate pile, the pile that doesn't get serve! I was not happy and I have to say I was hurt at the time. Why was my roll not good enough? Ok, I have to admit I was new to the rolling process so some were skinny while others were fat. My mom's rolls were always perfect and identical to each other. I didn't care I still work hard to roll them. My mom would tell me that they are made for guests so she wants them to be perfect because it shows that she cares about the food she serves. My thought at the time was it's just going to end up in the same place, our stomach!

Now that I cook a lot more I'm beginning to think like my mom. I don't mind spending extra hours in the kitchen to cut everything up the same length. I take my time plating my meals because I want it to look beautiful at the dinner table. I don't care if it's perceive as a waste of time. I just want to add special touches here and there because I care.

You could say I'm bias but I always prefer Vietnamese egg rolls, Cha Gio, to other egg rolls. Maybe I grew up eating well balance Cha Gio with 50% meat and 50% vegetables and other ingredients. I want to bite into a pork filled roll not a roll filled with 90% cabbage and mystery meat. You could say i'm very picky about my Cha Gio and rarely order them, even at Vietnamese restaurants. I grew up watching my mom make Cha Gio and I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as I have!

Ingredients:


1 lb of ground pork
1/2 lb of shrimp
6-8 small to medium carrots
1 yellow onion
1 cup of dried black fungus
2 cup dried cellophane noodle
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning
a few good shake of ground pepper
a few dash of fish sauce
egg roll wrappers
1 egg yolk

1. Peel and julienned carrots (I only use the outer layer and not the core because it's sweeter)
2. Finely diced the onions
3. Soak the black fungus and cellophane noodle until soften. then rough chop the black fungus into smaller pieces and rough chop the noodles into shorter strands
4. Pre-peel the wrapper then saran wrap it so it doesn't dry up.
5. Ground the shrimp using a food processor.
6. Mix the ground pork, shrimp, carrots, onions, black fungus, and cellophane noodle together. Add the sugar, salt, mushroom seasoning, ground black pepper, and fish sauce and mix thoroughly. When you spoon a portion of the mixture, you want it have a balance of every ingredients.

7. I always take a small portion of the meat mixture and throw it in the deep fryer. This way you will know what the filling will taste like. Add additional sugar, pepper, and fish sauce to your liking and repeat step #7.

How To Roll:

I'm sure everybody's mom have a special procedure to rolling eggs, this is what i'm comfortable with. Give yourself enough space to roll and have all your ingredients withing reach. I don't show it in the picture but you should always have something covering your wrappers because they will dry out.

Firmly roll it, squeeze it a bit if you have to. If you don't roll it firm enough it will not maintain a round shape and it may come a part during the frying process. Brush a little bit of egg yolk at the top corner to help you seal the roll.

Heat up cooking oil on medium-high heat and deep fry the roll until it's golden brown, which is about 10-15 minutes depending on the quantity of roll you are frying at a time. After you remove the rolls from the cooking oil, let roll stand upright in a container wrapped in paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Enjoy!



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sup Mang Cua - Crab and Asparagus Soup


You guessed it, Sup is the Vietnamese term for soup and it's usually serve as a starter. Our family usually eat sup for special occasions such as weddings, graduations, and holiday dinners. I prefer the texture of Vietnamese soup or even Chinese soup because it's thicker due to the cornstarch. My favorite is Sup Mang Cua because I love the flavor that the crab meat gives off, even though we usually use chicken broth the crab flavor always dominate. This dish can be unique to certain people depending on how they make it. My mom make fun of me at times because I put so much stuff in my sup that it doesn't seem like a sup anymore. My reasoning for it is I like to add some ingredients I persoanlly like and think will add more to the dish. I like Chinese Hot and Sour soup especially because of their bamboo shoot, so I add it to Sup Mang Cua for texture. I also love eating white fungus from Sup Nam Trang (White Fungus Soup) so in it goes.

My eggs was getting ready to expire pretty soon and I just hate wasting food no matter how little of it I have left. A friend and I got together to make dinner so sup would be nice starter. I pretty much had half the ingredients laying around already; chicken broth, eggs, and white fungus. This is my first time trying the white asparagus!


Soak white fungus in warm water until it soften.
You can use fresh crabs but I have always use canned crab from the local asian market. This time i went for the frozen crab meat and there really isn't a difference.


Ingredients:

4 can of chicken broth
1 bunch of asparagus cut into 1 in. pieces
1 small can of bamboo shoot cut into thin strips
1 cup of crab meat
2 cup of dried white fungus
4 eggs white (you can use the whole eggs if you like)
salt
pepper
sugar
fish sauce
water
cornstarch
cooking oil
1/2 tablespoon of mince garlic


1. Bring chicken broth to a boil and add more water into the pot, I usually add about another can 1/2 of water from the chicken broth can. Taste broth with salt, sugar, and fish sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes.

2. In a smaller pot, heat up cooking oil with the minced garlic. Stir fry the crab meat and taste it with sugar, fish sauce, and ground pepper. This should add more flavor to the crab meat.

3. Add crab meat to the chicken broth and let simmer for a 15 minutes.


4. Add bamboo shoot and asparagus and let simmer for another 15 minutes. Add white fungus.
5. In a bowl add about 1/2 cup of cold water 2 tablespoon of cornstarch. Stir until it becomes a mixture. Add the mixture into the broth and stir. The broth should become more thick.
6. Bring the pot to a boil and slowly stir in the egg whites. Turn off the stove.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pad Thai


I am a huge fan of Thai cuisine! Thai cooking is all about beautiful colors and balancing different flavors. Every bite is like a surprise because you can taste a little bit of sweetness, some tang and then you are hit with a spicy kick. You can taste all those flavor in the popular dish, Pad Thai. My mom use to work at Thai restaurant many years ago. She would always bring home leftover and it's usually Pad Thai. I eat this stuff all the time but since my parents never really eat out I thought it would be nice to prepare some for dinner.

My version of Pad Thai is base on an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown and my five senses when I order this dish many time at different restaurants. Since we ran out of tamarind concentrate I tried out a ready to use sauce bought at the local supermarket called Thai Kitchen. This dish is made literally by tossing in different ingredients together so I suggest you prep everything before cooking. Have everything within arm reach at the stove so you are always ready to add a little of this and a little of that. Pad Thai is such a versatile dish because you can try it with so many different meat like chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp. Have fun cooking this dish and be creative!







Ingredients:

2 Strip of Boneless Chicken Breast/Thigh
1 Pack of Flat Rice Noodle (Vietnamese Banh Pho)
Ready To Use Pad Thai Sauce
Sugar
Salt
Fish Sauce
Soy Sauce
Minced Garlic
Minced Shallot
Eggs
Sliced Yellow Onion
Sliced Green Onions
Julienned Carrots
Bean Sprouts
Lime
Dry Pepper Flakes
Chilli Paste



1. Soak Banh Pho in hot water until it's flexible but still hard to eat, about 10 minutes. If you soak it too long it will break when you stir fry it later. It's always better to under soak because you can fix that when you stir fry it. Remove from water and let it drain in colander.


2. Cut chicken breasts/thighs into thin strips and marinade with salt, sugar, 1 tbspoon of soy sauce, 1 tbspoon of pad thai sauce, minced garlic, mince shallots, and dry pepper flakes. Let chicken marinade for about 15-30 minutes.


3. Heat up some cooking oil in a wok/pot and stir fry the chicken strips. Half way into the cooking process add the sliced yellow onions. When the chicken strips are fully cook, remove from pot and save for later use.


4. In the same pot or pan, add more cooking oil, garlic, and shallots. Don't let the garlic and shallot sit too long because it will burn. Add the banh pho noodle and coat it the oil so it doesn't stick to the pot/wok. Add fish sauce for taste and and 1 cup of pad thai sauce. Continue to stir fry the noodle until it soften. If the noodle is still hard, add some water and cover the pot/wok. The steam action should soften the noodle.


5. Beat two eggs and add it right into the pot and continue to stir fry.

6. Add the chicken strips back in a long with the green onions. Stir in some pepper flakes and chili paste for some heat.


7. When the noodle fully cook and ready to eat toss noodle with carrots and bean sprouts.

8. Add a little lime juice and crushed peanuts before serving.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bun Bo Hue - Hue Spicy Beef Soup

How can anyone not crave a bowl of Bun Bo Hue after watching No Reservations Vietnam? This past Monday we all got a glimpse of "The Lunch Lady" and her special soup of the day. I could barely get through the whole episode without wanting to ingest a hot bowl right then. So as soon as it ends I began preparing my groceries list for the weekend. I was so glad to see her squeeze a whole pineapple and threw it into the pot. My mom does this with her Bun Bo Hue as well. Some of my friends are really amused when they see chunks of pineapple floating in my Bun Bo Hue pot.

Bun Bo Hue is a specialty noodle soup of the imperial capital of Central Vietnam, Hue. It consist of a rich broth with plenty of proteins, definitely a hearty meal. The unique broth is made by slowly simmering beef bones, pork bones, and pork feet; and then flavoring it with lemongrass, garlic, chillies, pineapple, shrimp paste, and even pork blood. In the end you get a savory, spicy, and tart taste. Each bowl of bun bo hue is a little different depending on the cook. Some like it mild, others like it spicy, still there are others that like it HOT! Not only is it delicious but also fun to eat! The noodle is bigger and slippery then most typical Vietnamese noodles so expect to do some slurping.


Ingredients:

beef bones
beef shank
congealed blood cubes (optional)
lemon grass (8-10 stalks depending on size)
garlic
chili powder
fresh chili
shrimp paste
pineapple
anato seed
cooking oil
salt
rock sugar
fish sauce

Garnish:

green onion
yellow onion
cilantro
bean sprout
basil leaf


Prep:

Minced 1 tablespoon of garlic
Minced 1 tablespoon of lemongrass


1. Pre-boil beef bones and beef shank in water with plenty of salt.

2. Rinse bones with cool water.
3. Cover bones with cold water in a large pot.
4. Let pot come to a boil. Add rock sugar, salt, and msg.
Let bones simmer on medium heat.
5. Char ginger roots and 1 medium onion. (Broil in oven)
Remove charred skin and add to pot.
6. Add 6-8 lemongrass stalk to pot.
7. Add fish sauce to your liking and let pot simmer for
2 hours.

8. Add about 2 tablespoon of shrimp paste to cold water
and stir. Let the mixture sit.



9. Sauteed minced garlic and lemongrass with anato seed
oil, add sugar and salt for taste. Set aside for later.
10. Sauteed garlic and sliced chilies in oil. Let cool and then
stir in chili powder to your liking. Set aside for later.

11. Remove beef shank when tender.
12. Go back to shrimp paste mixture. By now there should
a clear liquid on stop and the shrimp paste should have sank
to the bottom. Ladle only the clear liquid into the beef broth.
Add more water into the shrimp paste mixture and repeat
2 -3 more time. 13. Add lemon grass and chili powder mixture to broth.
Let broth simmer for another hour. 14. Squeeze pineapple juice into broth. 15. Add blood cube into broth.
16. Prepare onions and cilantro mixture. ENJOY!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goi Muc Ngo Sen - Calamari Lotus Root Salad

I never get tired of eating Goi. There are so many varieties you can choose from and very simple to make. I love experimenting with goi recipes because you can pretty much turn most vegetables into a goi. Goi consist of vegetables/fruits, meat/fish, a sauce, some kind of acid, and herbs. I added squid to this version of Goi Ngo Sen, the chewy squid together with crispy lotus roots is a must try. Enjoy!


Goi Ngo Sen Muc (Squid Lotus Roots Salad)


Ingredients:

2 jars of lotus rootlets
1 cucumber
1 carrot
1/2 red bell pepper
1 lime
fish sauce
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of vinegar
sliced chilies
basil leaves
1large squid (you find this in the frozen section of your local asian market)

Prep:

1. Rinse the lotus rootlets and shave thinly. The best way is to use a vegetables peeler and shave the rootlets the long way, this way all the pieces will be the same size.
2. Julienne the carrots
3. Cut cucumber in half the long way, remove seeds. Sliced cucumber thinly the short way, again you can use the peeler.
4. Combine lotus rootlets, carrots, cucumber, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Mix together and let marinade for an hour in the fridge.
5. Boil the squid in water, add a little salt for taste. Slice the squid into thin strips
6. Take vegetables mixture out of the fridge. Squeeze out 80% of the liquid absorb from vegetables and set aside.
7. Wash and rough chop the basil leaves.
8. Wash and slice chillies.

Making the Salad:

1. Put your vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add fish sauce, lime, and chillies and mix thoroughly.
2. Toss in the squid strips and and mix. Add additional fish sauce and lime if needed.
3. Toss in the basil leaves right before serving.