Monday, August 29, 2011

Ca Tai Chanh - Vietnamese Style Ceviche


My first ever ceviche experience is through the Travel Channel. Every time Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern travel to any places near water, they always get to eat the most amazing ceviche. Yes I know we can't possibly experience what they experience with their taste buds but it was still a beautiful experience with my eyes.

The Midwest is probably the last place you would ever find ceviche but I lucked out. I went to lunch with a friend at this Peruvian restaurant in a shady area of town. Yelp boast it was the best ceviche in town but I took it with a grain of salt, we do live in corn country after all. The ceviche arrived on a huge plate, and still the shrimp, squid, and fish were spilling every where. I knew I would love it just by looking at it and I did! It was so amazing, I can't imagine how even more amazing it would be to have ceviche made fresh right out of the water.

I wanted to recreate the ceviche I had but of course with a Vietnamese twist. This is a great dish to beat the summer heat, enjoy!

Ingredients:

sushi grade tilapia or cod
sushi grade octopus tenacles
shrimp (I bought already cooked cocktail shrimp)
red onions (thinly sliced)
cilantro (rough chopped)
Vietnamese coriander (rough chopped)
2-3 lime
fish sauce
sliced habanero pepper (or whatever you like)
crushes peanuts
fried shallots (hanh phi)

1. Cut the tilapia into flat pieces.
2. Squeeze enough lime to cover the fish and let the fish cook in the lime juice.
3. Thinly sliced the octopus.
4. Add the octopus and shrimp to the lime juice with the fish.
5. Drain about half of the lime juice from the seafood mixture.
6. Add two tablespoon of fish sauce to the sea
food mixture.
7. Add the sliced onions and pepper, toss thoroughly.
8. Right before serving add the cilantro and coriander.
9. Top off with peanuts and shallots.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Che Ba Mau - Vietnamese Three Color Dessert

Che Ba Mau meaning Three Color Dessert; consist of YELLOW
mung bean paste, GREEN agar strips, and RED beans. It looks and taste pretty similar to Suong Sa Hot Luu but there are some differences. We use red beans in Che Ba Mau and a different type of agar. Suong Sa Hot Luu uses a grass jelly agar which has a really distinct grassy taste and a dirty pondgreen color. You can make your own agar strips but to save time I just buy a can of agar called Suong Sam, it's lime green in color and has a lighter taste than grass jelly. Finally we usually sweeten Che Ba Mau with condense milk. I like faux pomegranate seeds so I like to include it in my Che Ba Mau as well.

I have to admit Che Ba Mau is pretty time consuming and tricky to make. Making the red beans and mung beans can be a nightmare. You have to cook it on really low heat over a long period of time. I've burned quite a few batch over the years. I recommend soaking the mung beans and red beans overnight.

Ingredients:

1 can of Suong Sam agar
2 cups of red beans (soak in water overnight)
2 cups of already peeled and split mung beans (soak in water over night)
1 can of coconut milk
condense milk
rock sugar
faux pomegranate seeds
finely crushed ice (prepare with a blender)

1. Rinse the red beans in water until the beans no longer makes the water cloudy.
2. Boil 5 cups of water in a pot and throw in a medium size rock sugar. Drain the red beans and pour into pot. Cook the red beans on low heat for around 2 hours or so. Once tender, drain and set aside for later.
3. Prepare the mung bean paste (refer to my Suong Sa Hot Luu entry for cooking instruction).
4. Prepare the faux pomegranate seeds (refer to my Suong Sa Hot Luu entry)
5. Slice the Suong Sam agar into strips.
6. Heat a can of coconut milk in a small pot and add 2 tablespoon of sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, let cook for later use.
7. Prepare the crushed ice.
8. In a bowl, spread some mung bean paste at the bottom of the bowl. Second add agar strips, next the red beans, and then the faux pomegranate seeds. You can prepare these bowls ahead of time and store in fridge.
9. Before serving, add the condense milk to the bowl and then top off with some crushed ice. Finally drizzle the condense milk at the very end, depends on how sweet you like it add as much as you like.

Mix and enjoy!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Thit Heo Kho Trung - Pork and Eggs Braised in Caramel Sauce

When I was growing up, not a week went by when my mom did not make a pot of Thit Kho for lunch. But i'm sure Thit Kho is a weekly regular in most Vietnamese household. Because it is easy and cheap to make, Thit Kho is categorized as "com binh dan" or meal of the commoners. In Vietnam during lunch time, you can find many stand that sells meal for the working person which includes Thit Kho.

Thit Kho is made by braising chunks up fatty pork such as pork belly in a caramel sauce made of caramelized sugar and fish sauce. The pork is braised in the sauce until it becomes so tender you can cut it with your chopsticks. Since I do not always have access to pork belly, I often use Boston pork butt instead. I suggest using any pork cut that has some fat because fat is flavor.

As much as I love eating tender and fatty pieces of pork, my favorite part is the egg. I eat my Thit Kho Trung a certain way since I was a little girl. I break the egg in half and take out the yolk and mix the yolk bits into the rice. I then drizzle a lot of the caramel sauce on top and mix everything together. My favorite part is the egg whites so I always eat that last. Some things just can never change, and i'm OK with that!

Thit kho is often link to the Lunar New Year celebration 'Tet'.  Every year our family welcome the new year with a big pot of braised pork and egg along with pickled bean sprouts.  I especially love to at thit kho with rice paper rolls and dipped the delicious caramel sauce we cook the pork and egg in! 

Ingredients

3 lbs of Boston pork butt
2 shallot finely minced
2 tablespoon of sugar
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning
2 teaspoon of salt
12 eggs
1 can of Coco Rico
1.5 cups of water
1 tablespoon of cooking oil

1. Cut pork into 1-2 inch cubes.
2. Marinade pork with shallots, fish sauce, cooking oil and mushroom seasoning. Let pork marinade in the fridge for at least an hour.  
3. Begin cooking marinated pork on low heat in a large pot.
4. In a separate smaller pan, cook  2 tablespoon of sugar until it turns dark brown turn.  Add 2 tablespoon of water which will cause it to bubble vigorously mix the mixture.  
5. Pour caramelized sugar to the pot of pork (this will add the color).  Mix pork into the caramel sauce, make sure every pork pieces is coated with the sauce.
7. Add 1 can of coco rico and 2 cups of water.  Simmer on medium heat reduced by a 1/4.  
8. At this point you can begin preparing your eggs. Boil as much eggs as you would like or fit in the pot. I try to under cook the eggs so it won't over cook when I add it to the pork. So cook it to the point where the egg whites are firm but the yolk is still runny. Cooking time will depend on however many eggs you'd like.
9. Once the eggs are prepared, peel and then add to the pork.
10. Once eggs turn color, your pork is done and ready to eat!  

Enjoy!