Friday, December 4, 2009

Banh Canh Cua - Tapioca Noodle Crab Soup

I never liked this soup growing up. I thought it was bland and boring, but of course my mom would always make it. I'm sorry foodies; I was a clueless child then and did not appreciate the essence of this soup. I remember throwing a tantrum one time when I was little because I did not want to eat it. My brother asked why I was not eating. I told him it's tasteless and I don't like eating pig hocks. I don't know if he was telling me the truth or just trying to con me into eating it. He claimed I'm eating it wrong! When you eat banh canh you're suppose to add a squirt of lime, extra fish sauce, and a lot of pepper. You know it's just right when you can taste the sourness from the lime and the saltiness of the fish sauce. It was perfect! Luckily I grew to love this soup but only with extra lime, fish sauce, and pepper of course. I guess big brothers are good for some things.

Since I'm not a fan of the pork version I always make the crab version. This recipe was inspired by my friend's mom. I had a bowl of her banh canh and instantly was intrigue by her broth. As I was slurping her broth I noticed a familarity. It looks like banh canh but why does it have a hint of Bun Rieu in it? Well that's because she uses the crab paste from the jar commonly use to make the "cach" for bun rieu. The only thing I would change about this recipe is adding real crab claws but it way too expensive in Indiana so I settle with frozen crabmeat. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 lbs of pork neck bone
2 cup of crabmeat (thawed if frozen)
1 lb shrimp (peeled)
fresh banh canh noodle
1 tablespoon of minced shallot
2 tablespoon of crab paste
cooking oil
salt
fish sauce
rock sugar
mushroom seasoning
ground pepper
yellow onions (thinly sliced)
green onions (finely chopped)
cilantro (finely chopped)
lime
fresh chilies

1. Preboil the pork bones with a good amount of salt.
2. Simmer the bones in a pot of water for 1-2 hours.
3. Taste the broth with fish sauce,rock sugar (size of your thumb), 1 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning (or chicken bouillon).
4. Heat up 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Add the minced shallot (you can use the white part of the green onions as well) and saute until fragrance.
5. Add the crab meat and saute with the shallots. Season with a little bit of fish sauce and ground pepper. Add the crab paste and continue to stir.
6. Add the crabmeat into the broth and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Some people like to add the noodles directly into the pot but I can't risk overcooking the noodles. I prefer to transfer a portion of the broth to smaller pot and prepare individual bowls. Bring the pot to a boil, add shrimp and noodle and let cook. Once the noodle is soft enough to eat, transfer to bowl immediately. Top off with green onions, sliced onions, and cilantro.

Sup Chua Cay Thailand - Tom Yum

I love themed dinners...I'm such a dork! As I was getting groceries for the Thai Papaya Salad, I just had this urge to make Tom Yum to go with it. I order Tom Yum every time I eat Thai, it is a must or I will not be satisfied. A lot of people compare Tom Yum to the Vietnamese Canh Chua. I guess I can see the similarity due to the tartness of both soup, but they both have their own unique flavors. Tom Yum has a sharp fragrance from the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, definitely a sinus clearing smell. The broth of Tom Yum is more briny and sour whereas canh chua is more sweet and sour. I guess it just irritates me when people tell me we are going to eat Lau Thai (Thai Hotpot) but we are really eating Canh chua?

What I really wanted to get out of this soup is as a lot of fragrance and flavor from the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. I did this by letting the lemongrass and lime leaves simmer in chicken broth for over an hour, to the point where the lemongrass falls apart. Believe me it will make a difference! Another thing I love about Tom Yum is you can a lot of different type of proteins. Don't get me wrong because I do love Canh Chua, but I feel it taste best with catfish. For this recipe I will stick with shrimp and squid. Feel free to use other shellfish or even meat!

Ingredients:

4 cans of chicken broth
1/2 lb of shrimp (peeled)
1/2 lb of squid (cut into smaller portion)
3 stalks of lemongrass
4-5 kaffir lime leaves
4 roma tomatoes (cut into quarter)
1/2 yellow onions (cut vertically into medium strips)
1 cup of sliced button mushroom
cilantro for garnish
sugar
fish sauce
mushroom seasoning
tamarid
fresh chilies

1. Cut the lemon grass in half and bruise it with the handle of your knife.
2. Bring chicken broth to a boil and throw in the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. Cover the pot and let simmer for an hour. If the broth reduces too much just add water.
3. Flavor the broth with 1-2 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar, 1/3 tablespoom of tamarid powder, 2 teaspoon of mushroom seasoning, and fresh chilies.
4. Add tomatoes and let cook for 5 minutes and then add mushroom and onions.
5. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the shrimp and squid. Cook them last so they will be fresh when you are ready to serve.
6. Top off with little bit of cilantro.

Enjoy!

Goi Du Du Thailand -Thai Green Papaya Salad

Boy have I been slacking off lately! I still cook quite often though, just haven't had time to blog about it. Hopefully tonight will make up for my absence :)

I was having dinner with some friends several months ago at a new Thai place that just open up in Indianapolis. We ordered the Thai Green Papaya salad which seems very simailar to the Vietnamese version when I read the description. The used of the long green beans and cherry tomatoes really made the salad pop with beautiful colors. It was almost too pretty to eat! Not really, but you get the idea. Upon trying it for the first time, yes shame on me for missing out all these years, I noticed it was a lot sweeter than the Vietnamese version which is not really a bad thing. Everybody really enjoyed it because the flavor was there!

I figure it can't be anymore difficult then the Vietnamese version, so I gave it a try. I used sauteed sliced beef as a protein because it goes very well with lime juice and tomatoes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 papaya (shredded into thin long strips)
1 carrot (julienned)
2 cup of long green beans ( cut into 1 inch portion)
1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in 1/2)
1/2 cup cilantro (rough chopped)
1/2 cup basil (rough chopped)
1/2 lb sliced beef (any cut is fine)
vinegar
fresh chilies
lime
fish sauce
sugar
1/2 tablespoon garlic (minced)
crushed peanuts

1. Marinade the green beans and papaya with 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of vinegar for 1-2 hours.
2. Marinade the sliced beef with garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce, and 2 teaspoon of sugar for about 30 minutes.
3. Drain vinegar/sugar mixture from green beans and shredded papaya. Squeeze as much of the liquid out from them.
4. Flavor the green beans and papaya with 1 lime, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce,sliced chilies, and a couple pinch of sugar.
5. Sauteed the sliced beef and let cool.
6. Toss in the sliced beef and tomatoes. Add more lime and fish sauce to your liking.
7. Right before serving toss in the cilantro and basil.
8. Top off your plate with some crushed peanuts.