Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bo Bia -Jicama Spring Rolls

I love just about every single spring rolls in existence, from pork belly to baked fish.  Bo bia, on the other hand, I didn't really care for it much.  I can't remember eating them a lot growing up, therefore I never crave for them.  Last year during a family reunion, my aunt had bo bia on the menu.  The females of the family got together to form an assembly line to make bo bia.  A few people were in charge of rolling them, while others were in charge of wrapping them up so they will stay fresh, and some were in charge of re-stocking the fillings.  It was a lot of fun being in the kitchen with my family!  We joked around declaring who were the worst rollers, and we were all so hungry at the time too.  Anytime someone's roll were deemed ugly, that roll was alright to eat at that instant.  We definitely took advantage of that and soon everybody started messing up on purpose.  My aunt and mom finally caught on when we kept asking for more fillings.  Ever since that day, I became very fond of bo bia!

Bo bia is made with a variety of ingredients; sauteed jicama, Chinese sausage, eggs, sauteed dried prawns, lettuce, and mint leaves.  Prepared fish sauce is my dip of choice for most spring rolls but bo bia is the only exception.  Bo bia is best eaten with a peanut-hoison sauce.  This type of sauce is richer but it's a nice balance with all the vegetables in the roll.

Ingredients:

3 jicama
2 carrots
1 cup of dried prawns
4-5 Chinese sausage link
5 eggs
salt
peanut butter
hoisin sauce
vegetable oil
paprika
chili paste
lettuce
mint leaves or cilantro
rice paper

1.  Rehydrate the dried prawns in warm water.  Once it has soften, sauteed the prawns in oil.
2.  Julienne the jicamas and carrots.  Sauteed them in a little bit of oil until tender and season with salt.
3.  Boil the sausage link in water until fully cooked and then thinly slice the sausage diagonally
4.  Beat the eggs and then fry them very thinly as if you are making crepes.  Once your eggs are fried, slice them in thin strips.
5.  Prepare your lettuce and mints/cilantro.  Chop them up and then mix them together.
6.  Lay out all the ingredients and get ready to roll.
7.  In a sauce pan, cook about a teaspoon of paprika in cooking oil on low heat.  Be careful not to burn the paprika.
8.  Once the paprika has dissolved into the oil, add 1/4 of peanut butter and 1 cup of hoisin sauce.  Stir in enough water so that the sauce is not too this (about 2-3 cups).  Let everything marry on low heat.
9.  Add chili paste or chili oil for some heat.
10.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pho Chay - Vegetarian Pho

There was a period of time when I wanted to ease myself into vegetarian cooking.  It was healthier and of course you feel a bit more humane.  It didn't last very long, however, I just miss eating steaks and seafood too much. I, however, got one thing out of it, I had lots practice with making pho chay.  I really admire vegetarian cooking, especially Vietnamese vegetarian dishes.  A lot of times it taste so much similar to the original dish and taste so good that you hardly notice the meat is missing.  

With any soups, the most important factor is the broth.  I use a lot of roots vegetables to make the broth for pho such as; daikons, carrots, leeks, cabbage, onions, and ginger.  You'll want to cook these vegetables down until they basically fall apart, and then remove them from the broth.  You will attain a very subtle and sweet broth and the only thing you will need to season the broth is salt and spices you use to make traditional pho.  Instead of meats, I use tofu, mock meats, and more vegetables.  You'll want to sauteed the tofu and mock meats with some soy sauce and sugar so it's not bland in the soup. I lightly blanch my favorite vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, baby corn, and mushroom to add to the soup.  Make sure you season each component well; the broth, the "meats", and the vegetables.  

I would totally choose traditional pho over pho chay any day of the week but it's nice having options for certain occasions.  When lent come around, I have another noodle soup option. When you are feeling ill and in need of something light and warm, pho chay is a great option.  Are you having vegetarian guests for dinner? You can't go wrong with introducing Vietnam's most famous soup pho, but vegetarian style.  Hope you will find this recipe helpful in the future, enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/2 cabbage
1 daikon
3-6 medium carrots
1 leek
1 onion
1 ginger
broccoli
mushroom
baby corn
tofu
canned mock meat (optional, get the one without added flavoring)
star anise
cinnamon
cloves
pho noodles
green onions
lime
cilantro
salt
sugar
mushroom seasoning
soy sauce

How to make the broth:

1.  Wash and prepare the cabbage, daikon, and about 3 carrots.  Put these ingredients in a 6 quart pot and fill it up with water.  Let the vegetables cook down in the broth and then season with sugar, salt, and soy sauce, and mushroom seasoning. Once the vegetables fall apart or has cooked down enough, remove the vegetable.  
2.  Broil the ginger and onion in the oven. Remove any skins and then add to the pot as well.
3.  Roast the spices in the oven, you'll need about 2 cinnamon stick, 5 star anise, and 4 cloves.  Add the spices towards the end when the broth is done and ready.  Remove the spices after 15 minutes. 

The "Meats" and Vegetable:

1.  Cut the tofu and meats to bite size.  Heat up some cooking oil in a pan, and sauteed the tofu and mocked meats with some soy sauce and a little bit of sugar.  Make sure you seasoned it well and the tofu is cooked all way.   
2. Cut up the broccoli and carrots and mushroom.  Blanch all them and the baby corn in boiling water and add enough salt to give the vegetable some taste on their own.  If you prefer more flavor, you can sauteed the vegetables with soy sauce and sugar just like the tofu.

Assembling:

1.  Prepare the pho noodles, lime, and garnish for the soup.
2.  Put noodles in a bowl, add the tofu, mocked meat, and vegetables on top.  Add hot broth and then topped off with the garnish.  
3.  Add hoison and sriracha to your liking, and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bun Moc - Pork Paste Soup

Bun moc is another soup originated from northern Vietnam. Not only does it have to go up against popular northern soup such as pho and bun rieu, it is overshadowed by just about all the other soup from Vietnam.  While most of us are well acquainted with bun bo hue from central vietnam and hu tieu from the south; there is very little love for this humble soup from the north.  Bun moc is a light soup made with pork bones and pork paste.  Pork meat is ground into a paste and then used as the main meat of the soup.  The pork paste is very similar to the ones you could steamed with banana leaves to make cha lua, also know as Vietnamese pork rolls.

While my dad's breakfast of choice was pho, my mom prefer bun moc.  She even had a favorite spot near my grandma's in Saigon.  Even though I was my dad's pho buddy, I often accompanied my mom whenever she craves a bowl of bun moc.  My favorite thing about bun moc is definitely the pork balls made by spooning glob of pork paste right into the broth.  Most stall also offer deep fried pork paste and you can get fancy by mixing pork paste with some wood ear fungus.  The pork paste for bun moc is slightly different from the pork paste used to make cha lua because cha lua's meat is dense and firm.  Bun moc's pork paste on the other hand is very light and airy; it's like you are biting into chewy pork marshmallows.  I love it so much so I often put pork paste in a lot of other soup like bun bo hue,bun rieu, mi, and hu tieu.

My mom buys a freezer full of pork paste from Seattle, there is a deli that makes very good pork paste.  Every now and then I would grab a few container when I visit home.  If you like your pork paste extra fluffy, I suggest adding a tiny bit of Alsa baking powder (the ones in the pink pouch).

Bun moc is another soup that is very simple to make and doesn't require the whole day.  Use pork neck bones and a couple yellow onions to make the broth.  Bun moc is also know for it's very light and clear broth so make sure you par-boil and rinse your bones well.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:  

2 lbs pork necks bones
2 yellow onions
rock sugar
sugar
salt
fish sauce
black pepper
mushroom seasoning
2 cups of pork paste
1/4 cup of wood ear fungus (rehydrated and then minced)
lettuce/bean sprouts
lime
green onions (chopped)
cilantro (chopped)
chili

1.  Par-boil your pork bones and then rinse with plenty of cool water.
2.  Add clean bones to a 6 quart pot and fill with water.  Let simmer on low-medium heat.  Add two yellow onions.
3.  Season with salt (3 tablespoon), rock sugar(thumb size), mushroom seasoning (1 tablespoon), and black pepper (1/2 teaspoon).  And continue to taste and season with salt and sugar if necessary.
4.  I deep fried 1 cup of pork paste and mixed the other half with minced wood ear fungus.
5.  Prepare your noodles(vermicelli rice noodles),vegetables of choice, and garnish.
6.  Taste your broth for the final time.  If broth still need some saltiness, taste with fish sauce.
7.  Spoon pork/fungus mixture right in the broth, you can ball it up ahead of time also.
8.  When pork balls floats to the top, your soup is ready to eat.
9.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blueberry Bread Pudding w/ Condensed Milk Sauce

Anybody who knows me, know I am not a dessert person.  I don't like sweet very much, and I probably have my mom to thank for that.  My mom didn't let me have a lot of sweets growing up.  So I usually passed on cakes and cookies.  I don't know what it is about bread pudding that draws me to it so much.  Every time there is bread pudding on the menu I have to order it.  There's something so comforting to me about pudding and i'm the same way with french toast.

I've been playing around with bread pudding a lot lately, making it at least once and sometimes even twice a week.  You can turn pretty much any dessert into a bread pudding!  Have anybody ever had freshly baked baguettes dipped in condensed milk?  If you haven't, you need to try it!  And that's where I got my inspiration for this recipe.  I hope you all will enjoy this amazing dessert! 

Ingredients:

1 loaf of French bread
3 eggs
2.5-3 cups of heavy cream (this depends on how firm you want it to be)
2 cups of sugar (more or less depends on your taste)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 cup of blueberry
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of condensed milk

1.   Tear bread into smaller pieces.
2.  Mix sugar and heavy cream together first, this way you can taste it in case you want to adjust the sweetness.  Add eggs, vanilla, and nutmeg to the mixture, and mix with a whisk.  
3.  Add the bread to the wet ingredients and combine.  I find it easier to use your hand with gloves.  Make sure everything piece of bread is soaked in the wet mixture.  Fold in the blueberry.  And let everything sit for about 15-20 minutes.  
4.  Pre-heat oven to about 300 degrees.
5.  Butter a baking pan and then start stuffing it with the bread mixture.  Because I like my bread pudding a little firm, I make sure I pack the pan pretty tightly.  
6.  Put in the oven for about 40 minutes.  Then I take it out and brush the top with some butter (this will help it form the delicious crust at the top), put it back in the over turn it up to about 350 degrees for another 15 minutes or until you get that golden brown crust.  
7.   In a pot combine the milk and condensed milk.  Cook it on medium heat, mix thoroughly and let it cook until the two ingredients blend together. 
8.  Let the bread pudding cool completely. 
9.  Cut out a piece and serve it on top of a bath of sauce or you can just dip it in the sauce.  
10.  Enjoy!

Pho Bo - Beef Noodle Soup

I wrote an entry for crock pot pho last year and it was quite an experience. Crock pot cooking sure has its benefits but I much prefer cooking on the stove top. Maybe I have OCD in the kitchen but I can not leave something cooking on it's own for that long without tasting it.  It'll probably work if I started measuring everything precisely but I know that's not going to happen!

Living so far from my parents, I've develop a love for pho more than ever before. While living in Vietnam, my dad and I were pho buddies.  I didn't really have a choice, but it was our daddy and daughter time together.  After pho we would walk around and my dad would catch up with his friends and neighbors.  When we moved to the states, there were no pho shop and no friends to visit.  We still had our daddy daughter time though, grocery shopping in 3 feet of snow.  Those early years were tough!

Despite her busy schedule, my mom always made sure there was a pot of pho every Saturday morning.  It was something we all look forward to every weekend.  Now that I no longer live at home, I miss my mom's cooking more and more especially her pho.  It's definitely her best dish!

I have tried cooking pho in many different ways, believe me I've tried all the techniques!  And I don't think one technique is better than another, it's all about what you are comfortable with!  And these are the techniques I love and I hope they will help you on your next phoventure!

1.  Root Vegetables

When you of think of pho, you automatic think of beef and even more beef.  While beef play an important role in making a pot of beef pho, I feel we need to credit the root vegetables.  A lot of western soup are made by using a lot of roots vegetables such as onion, carrot, leek, celery, and etc.  Why?  Root vegetables are so good for broth because they give off a natural sweet flavor that's not going to take away or overwhelm the beef flavor.  I especially love using the onion family for pho such as yellow onions and leeks.  They are must haves whenever I make pho!

2.  Beef Bones

I love love my bone marrow but you have to use a variety of bones and meat.  Bones alone will not produce a great broth, that's why we use beef shank as well.  Look for beef neck bones or any bones with a little bit meat to it.

3.  Spices

One of the worst pho turn off for me is the over use of spices.  I definitely got this from my dad.  He hates pho that has a very strong aroma of spices, he feels it takes away the beef flavor.  There are pre-package pho spices at the Asian market but I tend to stick with only a few.  I usually only use cinnamon, star anise, and cloves.  You want the spices to be subtle to linger but not to overwhelm.

4.  Roasting

While my mom feels roasting the ginger and onions are not needed, I love this step.  It takes these ingredients to a whole another level of sweetness.  You can also roast the spices as well but spices burn a lot faster so be careful.

5.  Clear Broth

Certain soups you can get by without have a clear broth but murky pho is not as inviting.  I take the extra step to get my bones and meats very clean.  You'll want to par-boil your bones and then rinsing them with cool water right after.  I even use a different pot par-boil my bones.  The only thing that goes in my pot of pho are clean bones, fresh water, and clean meat.

Ingredients:

4-5 lbs of bones (the more the better)
2 shank, beef balls, tendons (optional you can just stick with rare slice beef for Pho Tai)
2 yellow onions
2 leeks
2-3 knob of ginger
rock sugar
salt
black pepper
mushroom seasoning
fish sauce
2 cinnamon stick
5-6 star anise
5-6 cloves
aluminum foil
thinly sliced beef (Pho Tai)
pho noodles
green onions/cilantro/sliced yellow onions (garnish)
lime
bean sprouts/basil (optional)

Total cooking time:  5-6 hours

1.  Par-boil beef bones/shank/tendons, thoroughly rinse both with cool water and set aside.
2.  Fill a new 10 qt. pot with water and add clean beef bones/shank only.  Let the bones simmer on low-med heat for about 1-2 hours.  Occasionally check on the broth for scum and remove.  If you are using tendons, use a different pot to boil the tendons on high heat (otherwise it will take to long to get tender).  Add tendons to the pho pot when it's about 80% done.
3.  Roast the ginger/onion in the oven or grill.  Remove the skin and then add to the broth.  Add the leeks to the pot as well.  Add rock sugar about the same size as a knob of ginger. 1/2 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning.  Remove scum when necessary.
4.  You should see fat at the top from the bones/shank, remove as much as you can or if you like the fat you can leave it.  Continue to let pot of pho simmer for another 1-2 hours.  Add additional water if too much has reduced.
5.  Remove shank when it's tender, I don't like my tendon fall apart tender I like it a little firm.
6.  Taste the broth, add additional salt/sugar/fish sauce if needed.
7.  Lightly wrap the spices in aluminum foil and add to the pot for about 20 minutes or so.
8.  Prepare sliced beef, noodles, vegetables, green onion, sliced onion, and lime.
9.  When your pot of pho is done I like to remove all bones in to one bowl for munching.  Discard ginger, onions, leeks, spices.  So you are left with only the broth.  You can also take the extra step of straining your broth.
10.  Prepare a bowl to your liking and enjoy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Che Sam Bo Luong

My dad is a part-time herbalist, a position that was passed down in the family.  Family and friends often ask him to prescribe herbal medicine to help relieve certain ailment.  He makes herbal medicine in all forms such as powder, liquid, dough, etc;  I just know they all taste god awful.  It's basically ground dried roots, plants, and tree barks how can you expect it to taste any good.  He always assured us that it was good for us, they are nature's medicine.  I try to stay clear of his herbal medicine except for one exception, when I want to make Che Sam Bo Luong.

Sam Bo Luong is a sweet soup of Chinese origin.  Ingredients for this sweet soup varies but jujube(Chinese dried dates), dried logan, seaweed(kelp), white fungus, pearl barley, and lotus seeds are the usual suspects.  Each of these ingredients have a medicinal usage therefore this dessert is often deemed as good for your health. My dad says every ingredient has either a "cooling" or "burning" effect to your body, like a ying yang effect.  Therefore it is important that we consume both kinds of food to attain a balance.  I'm glad this soup is considered good for you because it is delicious.  On a hot summer day, you simply cannot get enough of this dessert!

You may have trouble finding certain ingredients especially if you only have access to a smaller Asian grocery store.  We have had some trouble finding pearl barley at the market but my dad usually have a lot in stock from the herbal shop.

Ingredients:

seaweed/kelp (the ones used to make seaweed salad dark green in color that looks like long ribbons)
lotus seeds
pearl barley
white fungus
dried dates/jujube
dried logan

1. You'll need to rinse and rehydrate most the ingredients except the dried dates and dried logans.  The kelp will require a lot of rinsing because it may contain a lot of sand/dirt.  You can soak the dried ingredients overnight or boil them for instant use.
2.  Soak the kelp in warm water after a good amount of rinsing and then cut them up into 3 inch ribbons.  Soak the white fungus in a warm water and chop them into smaller pieces.
3.  Boil the lotus and barley to soften it up but you don't want to cook them all the way through.  About 10-15 minutes in boiling water will do.
4.  Fill a 10 qt. pot with water and add 2-3 cups of brown sugar.  You can add more or less sugar to your liking.  This is suppose to be sweet soup after all so it is usually made very sweet and eaten with crushed iced.
5.  Once the water has come to a boil, add the barley, lotus seeds, and kelp.  Let that cook until tender. Then add the white fungus, dried dates, and dried logan.
6.  Once you attain the sweetness to your liking and all the ingredients has become tender, you can turn off the heat.
7.  This sweet soup taste best when chilled or eaten with ice.  Enjoy!




Saturday, July 6, 2013

Canh Chua Ca - Sour Fish Soup

The word sour and fish doesn't sound too appetizing together does it?  But don't let that hinder you from trying out this delicious soup.  Canh chua is a sour soup produce by fresh vegetables and one key ingredient tamarind.  Whole tamarind pulp, pineapple, and tomatoes is used to produce sourness to the soup. Okra, bean sprouts, and a strange stalk called elephant ear (bac ha) is also unique to this recipe.  The spongy like elephant ear and slimy okra soaks up the broth and every time you take a bite your mouth is gushing with sweet tangy flavor.

Canh chua is usually made with fish therefore it is commonly accompanied by ca kho, Vietnamese braised fish.  This recipe also works well with shrimp and again you can use extra shrimp to make tom kho (Vietnamese braised shrimp).  I prefer to make this soup with fish especially whole cat fish.  While visiting home this weekend, my uncle brought over some freshly caught striped bass and catfish, they were 5 - 8 lbs a piece.  Nothing beats fresh ingredients when it comes to Vietnamese cooking!  Without even thinking, my mom and I already know what's in store for dinner.
I don't order this dish when i'm eating out very often because everybody like it a different way.  We all have our own interpretation of the perfect canh chua and that is best achieved at home in our own kitchen.  Even though it is called sour soup, I like to make mine sweet as well and let's not forget I like everything spicy.  When I taste this soup I want to get a punch of sourness, a flicker of sweetness, and kick of spiciness.  It's like a party in your mouth, flavors fighting to get your attention.  While this soup is usually eaten with rice you can also eat it as a noodle soup with vermicelli noodles.  Enjoy!
Ingredients:

1 whole pineapple or 1 can of pineapple in syrup (I like to use the canned pineapple in syrup because it does a good of sweetening the broth so I don't have to add so much sugar)
4-5 tomatoes quartered
2-3 stalks of elephant ear cut into 2 inch section
1 lb of okra cut in half
a handful of beansprouts
Thai chili
ngo om 
4 - 5tablespoon of fresh tamarind pulp ( I like my soup pretty sour so I would start w/ 3 tablespoon)
tamarind powder
sugar
salt
fish sauce
mushroom seasoning
catfish 2-3 lbs cut into smaller portion will do but the more the better

1. Marinade the fish by sprinkling it evenly with salt and dash of fish sauce and some green onions. My mom likes to pan sear her fish ahead of time so it won't break a part when you put it in the pot.
2. Fill a 8 qt. pot 3/4 of the way with water.
3.  Add the fish to the broth on medium heat, if you use high heat the fish may break apart easier.  Let the fish thoroughly cook in the broth for a 10-15 minutes depending how much you use.
4.  Remove fish from broth and set a side for later.
5. Add the tamarind and if you are using canned pineapple drain the syrup into the pot.
6. Let the tamarind break apart and flavor the water.  Then you'll want to scoop it out and discard.
7. At this point you'll want to flavor your broth with salt, sugar, and additional tamarind powder if you like it more sou.  Start off with about 2 tablespoon of salt, and more sugar if needed.  I went ahead and added a bit more tamarind powder.  At this point the broth will seem really overwhelming with a a lot of flavor but once you add all the vegetables it will lighten it up a lot.  So seasoned everything very aggressively before I add the vegetables.  
8.  Add the vegetables.  Okra and elephant ear will take a bit more time to cook so i usually put that in first followed by tomatoes, pineapple, and bean sprouts.  Try not to overcook the vegetables to much or the vegetables will lose its texture.  
9.  Season more fish sauce if needed.
10.  Turn off the stove re-the fish to the pot if you plan to eat it right away.  Add chopped ngo om and thai chili.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Homemade Pad Thai Sauce

I have no problem using store brought Pad Thai sauce, I've used it plenty in the past. My problem is I never think to buy them when i'm grocery shopping and when I do get that craving for Pad Thai I never seem to have it at home. It is simple to make and I usually already have the
ingredients handy.

The best thing about making the sauce from scratch is being in control.  You control the consistency and the flavor.  When you go to ten different Thai restaurants, each of their Pad Thai will be slightly different in flavor and consistency.  Some Pad Thai are more dry, while others are more saucy.  Everybody makes their sauce differently but it's the same concept.  You'll need tamarind, fish sauce, and sugar.  Below is the recipe I used for a 16 oz. pack of rice noodle.  Don't forget to taste your food and adjust to your liking.  If you prefer your Pad Thai to be more saucy I recommend increasing the recipe by a half.


Pad Thai Sauce:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of tamarind pulp
1/4 cup of fish sauce
2 tablespoon of soy sauce
1/4-1/2 of water (thick or saucy your choice)

1.  In a pot combine the sugar, water, and tamarind on low heat.  Use a spoon to help break down the tamarind.
2.  Once the tamarind has broke down add the fish sauce and soy sauce.  Let the sauce come to a boil and remove from stove.
3.  Strain the sauce so it will be smooth and you won't be eating any of the seeds.
4.  Sauce is ready for you to make Pad Thai.
5.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Che Troi Nuoc - Glutinous Rice Ball Dessert


Che Troi Nuoc, literally translated as dessert floating in water.  Everybody in my family loves this dessert.  My mom and dad are expert mochi baller.  When I was little, they use to make it together but now my sister-in-law and I have taken over that duty.  Our balling technique is no where close to my parents.  While theirs are perfectly round and uniform, ours are lumpy at times and all different sizes.  Hopefully practice will make perfect!

This dessert is made by balling glutinous rice dough with a mung beans filling.  The glutinous rice ball is then serve in a bath of ginger syrup.  If you have ever eaten this dessert you will know there are two type of rice balls.  The bigger ones are usually filled with mung beans and the smaller ones is just plain glutinous rice dough.  My favorite is definitely the smaller balls because it soaks up the ginger syrup better than the bigger one.  What I love about this Che is the savory aspect of it.  While the ginger syrup is sweet the filling is actually salty.  The mung beans is seasoned with salt, ground pepper, and pig's fat.  So when you cut into a filled rice ball you will taste both sweet and salt.

While I have made this Che a few times by myself, I'm much more comfortable making it with my family.  There are a lot of steps that is difficult to explain especially the making of the dough and the balling technique.  For that reason I have found a YouTube video that explain those technique very well and it would be a good reference than my instruction.  I will provide the recipe for making the mung bean filling, the ginger syrup, and coconut sauce.  Good luck and happy cooking!

Ingredients:

1 16 oz bag of glutinous rice flour
1/2 12 oz bag of split mung beans
1 can of coconut milk
tapioca flour
ginger (about a knob
water
2 stalks of green onions minced
salt
ground pepper
vegetable oil
water

Mung Bean Filling:

1.  If possible soak the mung beans in water for 2-3 hours.  This will help the bean soften and it will be easier to cook.  You'll want to wash the beans a couple time before soaking to get rid of the yellow coloring.
2.  Cooking the mung beans is very similar to cooking rice on the stove top.  In a pot, you'll want to add enough water to cover the beans and about 1 teaspoon of salt and then cook it on very low heat.  Let the beans soften more and expand.  If most of the water has evaporated before the mung bean has soften and expand just add little bit more hot water to the pot and let it continue to cook.
3.  Once the beans has soften enough, take a soup spoon and mash the beans into a smooth dough.  At this point you will want add the green onions, about 2 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and the ground pepper (about 1 teaspoon) to the mung beans.  Continue to mash and mix everything together into a smooth dough.  Add more salt if needed.
4.  Let the mung bean mixture cool and then you can knead it into small ball.  You can refer to the video.
Ginger Syrup:  

Not all ginger syrup is the same, it really depends on personal preference.  Some people prefer it to be more subtle like a liquid then a thicker syrup.  If you it want it to be a like syrup you'll want to use less water and more sugar.  If you want more of a subtle and light taste you'll want to use more water.  I prefer more of a syrup.

1.  Dissolved 2 cups of sugar with 6 cups of water in a pot on low heat.  Add about 1-2 knob of ginger sliced.

Coconut Sauce:

1.  Heat up a can of coconut milk on the stove.  Taste it with a pinch of salt.  Sprinkle some tapioca flour into the coconut milk to help thicken it and stir well.





Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bun Bo Hue Pt. 2


It's been four years since I posted my recipe for Bun Bo Hue, and I lost count on how many times I have made it again after that day.  Bun Bo Hue is my favorite Vietnamese soup, my guilty pleasure.  I love everything about it; the broth, the meat, the vegetables, and most of all the spiciness!

One day as I was reviewing my blog and looking through old recipes, I came across the one for Bun Bo Hue.  As I was reading through it I realized I don't do some of these steps anymore or I do this step differently now.  I definitely need to update this post!  Instead of re-writing the whole recipe I will just make a new post on it.  Hope these tips will help all the Bun Bo Hue lover out there in the kitchen!  A lot of these tips can be applied to other recipes as well.   Happy cooking!

1.  Beef Bones vs. Pork Bones
Before I only use beef bones when making Bun Bo Hue.  I guess because it is a beef soup we all assume we can only use beef bones.  But to be honest pork bones produce a better broth, and you can definitely get by making a pot without using zero beef bones.  I have been doing this for the last couple years and nobody can tell the different.  People actually think my broth have gotten better over the years.  The downside of pork bones is you'll need to use more of it and it cooks a lot faster than beef bones.  For that reason, if you leave pork bones in the pot for too long it will fall a part and your broth will not be as clear.  You can mix and match pork neck bones and pork hocks to make the broth.  Just remember you'll want to remove it from the broth before they fall apart.

2.  Fermented Shrimp Paste (Mam Ruoc)
Ok this was the most time consuming step for this recipe.  You have to constantly add water to mam ruoc, mix it up and then only use the liquid at the top.  I thought this was the only way to use mam ruoc and produce a clear broth.  So glad I got rid of this step.  Now I just sauteed the mam ruoc together with the minced garlic and lemongrass.

3.  Rare Beef


Who said you can only eat thit tai (rare sliced beef) with only Pho?  Ridiculous!  Thit tai is my favorite meat with pho and my family always have it with Bun Bo Hue as well.  People use to think it was strange that I have it with my Bun Bo Hue.  Oh well I like thit tai and I will have it whenever I want!

4.  Annatto Seeds
Cooking annato seeds in oil produce an orange color to give the broth that unique orange/red color. Annato seeds is a pain to cook up because it pops and the oil splashes on stove top, shirts, counter, skin, and etc.  Sometimes it will stain your counter.  I never really liked this step.  Instead of using annatto seed, I just cook paprika in oil.  I like using paprika from the American groceries store because it produce more of red color than the orange color.  Cook the paprika in oil on low heat will produce a beautiful color for your Bun Bo Hue Broth without splashes.

5.  Chili Powder



For spiciness I relied a lot of fresh chili or dried whole chili. It took a lot to make the broth spicy and I felt like I was wasting a lot of chili.  I suggest search for a really spicy chili powder, I recommend using Thai or Indian chili powder.  Add the chili powder the same time as you are cooking the paprika in oil.

6.  Lemongrass

Before I used pre-minced lemongrass in a container in the frozen section.  It was convenient to use but it definitley lacked a lot of lemongrass flavor and aroma.  Now I take the extra step and minced and grind my lemongrass in a food processor.  I suggest doing a lot at once and then storing it in the freezer for later use.

7.  Salt vs. Fish Sauce
This took me a couple years to realize but salt is better for cooking broth.  It takes a lot of fish sauce to flavor a pot of broth, and with the cost of fish sauce lately that's just a total waste.  When you use too much fish sauce in your broth not only does it alter the color but it will alter the taste of your broth.  Fish sauce is pungent and will mask the natural flavor that the bones and vegetables give off for your soup.  Now I will only taste my broth with salt until the right amount of saltiness is produce, this way you can still taste the natural sweetness from your ingredients.  You only want to add fish sauce once you are done cooking or at the very end if needed.  Remember to add the salt gradually and always taste your broth.  You may not taste the salt right away and your first instinct is to add more salt; do not add additional salt right away.  Once you add salt to the broth give it time to marry with your broth and then re-taste.  You can fix bland food but once you make something salty it's a lot harder to fix.

Ingredients:
pork neck bones/pork hock/beef bones (4-5 lbs would be plenty but the more bones the better the broth)
2 beef shank
sliced rare beef (opitonal)
Vietnamese ham (optional cha lua/cha hue)
lemongrass (8-10 stalks the more the better)
2-3 knob of ginger
2 yellow onion
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon of of fresh Thai chili
1 tablespoon of minced lemongrass
chili powder (there are many different kind some more spicy than others)
paprika
shrimp paste(mam ruoc)
whole pineapple (peeled)
cooking oil
salt
black pepper
mushroom seasoning
rock sugar
fish sauce

1. Par boil the all the bones and then rinse thoroughly with cool water.  If you are using pork hock I would recommend par boiling at least twice and use a little bit of vinegar to get rid of smell.
3. Place clean bones in an 8-10 qt. pot and fill with water.
4. Let pot simmer on low-medium heat.  Remove any scum.
5. Char ginger roots and onion (by broiling).  Remove charred skin and add to pot.
6. Add lemongrass stalk to pot.
7. Now you'll want to season your broth with 1/4 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning, rock sugar the size of a knob of ginger, and 1 tablespoon of black pepper.  Let everything marry for about 1 hours.  
8.  Make sure you are checking on the bones/pork hocks.  Pork bones cook fast and you'll want to remove it before it falls apart.  I don't like my pork hock too tender I actually like it chewy.  It's up to you when you feel it's ready to your liking.
9.  Par boil the beef shank and rinse with cool water.  Add to the pot.  You can add more salt if needed but remember you still have the shrimp paste (mam ruoc).
10.  Add the pineapple.  Squeeze some of the juice out and then put the whole thing in the pot.
11.  Remove the shank when ready.
12. Heat up two tablespoon of vegetable oil on low heat.  Add about 4 tablespoon of paprika and chili powder to your liking.  Constantly stir so it doesn't burn.  Add to the pot.
13.  Heat two tablespoon of vegetable oil on low heat.  Add the minced garlic, minced lemongrass, and shallot.  Cook until fragrance and then add the fresh chili, and 4 tablespoon of shrimp paste.  Cook everything with the oil for a few minutes and then add to the pot.
14.  Do last minute seasoning.  At this point add fish sauce if needed or you can just add fish sauce to your bowl.  Turn heat down to the lowest setting and let it sit until you are ready to eat.
15.  Cook noodles, sliced shank, prepare ham, sliced rare beef, and prepare garnish.
16.  Enjoy!






Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pho Ga - Chicken Rice Noodle Soup

The last few days I kept thinking about Vietnam and when I will get the chance to go back.  And the more I reminisce, the more I thought about all the wonderful foods I had in Saigon.  Pho ga was one of the dish that stood out in my mind.  People close to me know I am obsessed with food and cooking.  I have a keen memory when it comes to food no matter how long ago, if it made me happy and made an impression on me I will never forget the taste.  It amazes my family when I can go on and on describing and praising a dish I had years ago.

In Saigon, there is a noodle shop name Ky Dong who are known for their chicken noodle soup. My first time there it was completely packed.  I can smell the fragrance of chicken stewing away.  I remember I was very hungry at the time because I ordered a bowl of pho ga and mi ga. When the soups arrived I couldn't devour my bowls any quicker.  The chicken was firm, fragrance, and chewy (a good chewy).  The chicken skin was actually a pale yellow unlike the chicken here in the U.S. that just blends in with the meat.  The soup was light and sweet.  I never would have thought out of all the things I ate in Saigon I would be amazed by a simple bowl of pho ga.

Chicken makes a great broth in very little time.  It doesn't require half a day to achieve a great broth like beef pho.  The chicken here in the states does not even come close to the free-range chicken in Vietnam.  Whenever I make any kind of chicken soup I would only use cornish hen or organic free-range chicken for better quality meat.  The broth for pho ga is lighter in taste and sweeter than the broth of pho bo.  I like using a lot of roots vegetables to help achieve a natural sweetness such as yellow onions and leeks.

The steps for making pho ga is similar to pho bo but the time is cut down tremendously.  For pho bo we have to take the extra time to wash, par boil, and again wash the beef bones.  These steps are essential to achieve a clear broth.  I usually do not par boil chicken, I just make sure I wash the chicken thoroughly with salt and water.  You will achieve a clear broth by skimming the scum.

Basil is usually the herb that is synonymous with pho.  I, however, prefer eating pho ga with ngo gai, known as sawtooth herb to some and culantro to others.  The spicy and explosive flavor of ngo gai goes so well with the light and sweet chicken broth.  Whenever I eat any kind of chicken noodle soup such Mien Ga, it just doesn't taste the same without ngo gai.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (The picture show an organic free-range chicken and 1 cornish hen because I was using the hen's meat for goi ga)
2 leeks
2 onions
2 stub of ginger
rock sugar
mushroom seasoning
salt
fish sauce
5-6 star anise
2 cinnamon stick
5-6 cloves
chopped green onions, cilantro, sliced onion, and sawtooth herb for garnish
lime
hoison/sriracha
rice noodles

1.  Wash your chickenwell.
2.  Place chicken in an 8 qt. stock pot and fill pot with water.
3.  Let chicken cook on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of salt.  You'll want to skim the broth whenever necessary.
4.  You can roast the ginger and onions at this point. Peel the skin.
5.  Once the chicken has cooked all the through remove the chicken.
6.  Add all the roots vegetables to your broth (ging
er, onions, and leeks).
7.  Remove all the chicken meat from the bones, and throw the bones back in the pot.
8.  Let the broth simmer for about another hour or more on low heat.  Add more salt (about 2 tablespoon, don't put it all at once remember to taste your food), rock sugar, and about 2 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning or granulated chicken base.
9.  While you wait for the broth, you can shred the chicken meat and prepare the garnish and noodles.
10.  Roast the spices in the oven and throw it in the pot.  Season with more fish sauce if needed.
11.  Remove the spices after about 15-20 minutes.
12. Broth is ready for you to enjoy!





Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ca Ri Ga - Vietnamese Style Chicken Curry

                            

Since November I have cooked curry about 20 times, before that I have never cooked curry or even care to eat it.  I know plenty of people who enjoy eating Thai curry made with coconut milk, hot Indian curry, or Japanese saucy curry.  I, however, never really develop a taste for curries; I guess we all have a kryptonite.

So what happened last November that changed my mind about curry?  I tasted the best curry at Thanksgiving dinner, made by my boyfriend's aunt.  She used to be a cook for a living, and he raves about a cooking all the time.  I was very skeptic at first, but he said ca ri ga was one of her best dish!  To my surprise her curry was delicious!  It had a lot of curry flavor and the right kick of spiciness. I didn't taste any coconut milk but I can tell a little bit of milk was use.  If only I tasted her curry first, my feeling for curries may not be same as before.

I spent the last 6 months trying to re-create that curry, bless my family and boyfriend for eating so much curry and being my guinea pig.  I made curry so many times I can probably make it in my sleep.  But I don't regret any of it, actually learned a lot through trial and error.  For optimal flavor, I suggest marinading your chicken over night.  To achieve curry flavor in your broth, you'll need to cook curry powder into your broth similar to the way you would make Bun Bo Hue.  If you choose to use milk, you should add your milk a little at a time on very low heat.  I find it best to add milk at the very end.

This curry does not have that rich flavor from the coconut milk.  It's not as saucy because I prefer it to be like a broth so you can eat it with noodles or bread.  If you like it more saucy, I would use less water.  This curry is more savory, with a kick of chili in every bite.  You'll definitely be sweating when eating curry at my house.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

One whole chicken cut into smaller pieces
1 can of coconut juice
1 can of chicken broth
2-3 stalk of lemon grass
1 stub of ginger
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1 tablespoon of minced lemongrass
1/2 tablespoon of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 bag of curry powder
1 teaspoon of chili power
3 lbs bag of Yukon potato
fish sauce
sugar
salt
mushroom seasoning
water cooking oil

1.  Marinade chicken with 3 tablespoon of cooking oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 4 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning, 1/2 a bag of curry powder (about 3 tablespoon), minced garlic, minced shallots, and minced lemongrass.  Marinade overnight if possible.
2.  Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes, soak in water until ready to use.
3.  In a pot, brown the marinaded chicken.  Does not need to be cooked all the way.
4.  Add the coconut juice and chicken broth.  Let chicken simmer in this mixture for about 10 minutes. If you want the curry to be saucy then you can go ahead and the lemongrass stalk,ginger, and bay leaf.  Season the broth with salt and sugar.
5.  In a pan add 2 tablespoon of cooking oil on very low heat.  Add the other half of the curry powder and cook into the oil.  Add this mixture to the broth.
5.  If you want more of soup broth, then you'll want to add more water as if you are making a noodle soup.  Season the broth with salt and sugar to your liking.  Let everything marry in the pot for another 20 minutes.
6.  Add the potatoes at the very end because they will cook very fast.  Just before the curry is done add about 1 cup of milk a little bit at a time on very low heat, mixing it into the broth.  Turn off the heat.
7.  Curry can be eating noodle, bread, or rice.  Garnish with some green onions and cilantro.  Enjoy!



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ca Chua Nhoi Thit - Pork-Stuffed Tomatoes

I adore this dish because it's beautiful and delicious.  The sauce produced by marrying all the ingredients together is so divine.  It's salty and sweet; tomato, sugar, and fish sauce equals the best sauce EVER!

This is quite a popular recipe on the web so I was a little reluctant to write an entry on it. I mean there are already so many great recipes out there, I should just focus on something else?  Well the bag of tomatoes I brought last week sitting in the refrigerator beg to differ.  

For this recipe you want to use firm tomatoes and try to pick out the flattest one if you want a pretty presentation.  You'll want to remove the core of the tomatoes but save them for the sauce.  For the pork mixture I used wood ear mushroom, minced garlic, minced green onions, paprika, chili powder, soy sauce, mushroom seasoning, salt, and vegetable oil.  Adding vegetable oil to the pork mixture will help it stay soft and moist after cooking.  The sauce is a combination of fish sauce, sugar, chili powder, ketchup, the core of the tomatoes, and green onions.  I often add chili powder to my recipe for that extra kick, omit if you prefer a mild taste.  Once you have mix all the ingredients together for the pork mixture, refrigerate this mixture for a couple hours.  Refrigerating the mixture help it bind together and it will less likely fall apart during the cooking process. 
Ingredients:

1/2 lb of ground pork
6 medium size tomato
1/2 cup of wood ear mushroom (rehydrate and finely chopped)
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of minced green onions
soy sauce
fish sauce
salt
sugar
chili powder
paprika
mushroom seasoning
vegetable oil
chopped green onions


1.  Prepare the pork mixture by mixing together the pork, wood ear mushroom, garlic, green onions, 2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of mushroom seasoning and 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Combine and refrigerate for a couple hours. 
2.  Cut the top of the tomatoes off and remove the core of the tomatoes.  Save the core and top part of the tomatoes for later use. You'll want to cut them into smaller pieces.
3.  Fill the tomatoes with the pork mixture.
4.  Heat up cooking oil in a pan.
5.  Place the tomatoes top down into the oil and let brown.  Let this brown slowly because you'll want the pork to cook all the way through.  
6.  Once the meat has brown flip the tomato over.  We can begin making the sauce.
7.  Add about 4-5 tablespoon of fish sauce to the pan ( you can add more if you would like to make more sauce).  Add the rest of the tomatoes, 3 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of ketchup.  Just let it simmer on the stove on very low heat.  This will produce the sauce and the tomatoes will soak up the sauce as well.  You want to make sure the bottom of the tomatoes doesn't overcook and burst.  Just be patience and let this cook on very low heat.  Add the green onions at the very end.  

Best eaten with steamed rice, enjoy!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bun Hen - Baby Clam Vermicelli



I've recently been introduced to this lovely dish, originated from the city of Hue.  My parents never had this dish while they were in Vietnam, which led to my late meeting with this dish as well.  It's crazy how vast the Vietnamese cuisine is for my parents in their 60's have not had this dish.  Being from the North and migrated to the South when they were very young may have an impact.  I am truly overjoyed that we have finally met because I know we will be friends for a very long time.

This dish can be eaten with rice noodles or rice, but I always prefer noodles over rice.  In Vietnam, the baby clams are picked right out of the freshwater and steamed with lemongrass.  I can imagine how fragrance and fresh the baby clams taste.  Unfortunately, we do not have that luxury here in the States, often have to settle for canned our frozen clams.  Even so, I still love eating Bun Hen. I love that this dish requires fresh vegetables and herb, and can be eaten with sesame rice cracker.  The clams is sauteed and seasoned with shallots, garlic, and black peppers.  Like most bun dish, there needs to be a sauce.  It's not he limey fish sauce that we have become familiar with.  For this dish, we make the sauce from fermented fish paste (mam ruot) and the clam juice.  The sauce is salty and pungent, but is needed to bring this dish together.

I've tasted Bun Hen made by different people, and there are certainly some differences.  Some seasoned the clams a lot more and some makes a lighter sauce than others.  But no matter how different each Bun Hen taste, the one thing that makes the dish so delicious is the vegetables and herbs.  I always tell people that herbs is an essential ingredient to Vietnamese cuisine.  I cannot claim that this recipe is authentic, but this what I have come up with after tasting different Bun Hen.  Perfect dish for the summertime, enjoy!

Ingredients:
rice noodles
3 10 oz cans of baby clams
fermented fish paste
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
romaine lettuce
Vietnamese coriander
diep ca
cucumber juliened
sesame rice cracker
salt
sugar
chili powder
black pepper

1.  Cook the vermicelli rice noodles and let it dry.  If you are using rice, cook the rice a little bit dryer than usually.  Mushy rice will ruin this dish.
2.  Open the canned clams and drained the liquid, setting the liquid aside to make sauce.
3.  Washed all the vegetables and herbs, and let dry.  The lettuce and herbs should be chopped for easier eating.  You can mixed the two together as well.
4.  In a pan, heat up about two tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add 1/2 of the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrance.  Add the baby clams to the pan and sauteed together with the shallot and garlic.  Seasoned the clams lightly with some of salt, sugar, black pepper and chili powder.  I like to eat spicy food, therefore you can omit the chili powder if you do not like spicy food.  Continue to cook this mixture, and if like it a little burned you can cook the clams a little longer.
5.  In a small pot, heat up two table spoon of cooking oil.  Add the remaining garlic and shallots and sauteed until fragrance.  Add the juice of the canned clams (about 2 cups) to the pot, and then stir in 4-5 tablespoon of fermented fish paste.  I added 2 tablespoon of chili powder for spiciness.  Once the sauce has come to a boil, turn off the heat.
6.  In a bowl, add rice noodles, vegetables, cucumber and herbs.  Scoop however much of the sauteed clams you want on top.  Add some sesame rice cracker and then add sauce to your liking.  You can cut in additional chili if you like it really spicy.  Mix everything together and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Beef Stew

I had a holiday party around Christmas time and I made a pot of Bo Kho and Ca Ri Ga.   I have to admit I don't make stews very often but I figure it would be a hearty meal and will definitely warm up my guests. That night I had many compliments on my pot of Bo Kho.  My friends requested that I post the recipe to my blog with the exact measurements.  So for this recipe I actually measured what I can out, but sometimes during the cooking process I forget.  But I really want to emphasize the importance of tasting your food.  It will help you improve your cooking skills tremendously.

Bo Kho would probably not make my top 20 of favorite Viet food to eat because it's simply too heavy for me.  I prefer eating pho or bun bo hue over bo kho, but stews are great during the cold Indiana winter.  The day after the party, I brought home some bo kho to my family.  My sister-in-law showed me a great way to lighten a hearty bowl of bo kho and it made it so incredibly delicious.  She squeezed two lime wedges to a bowl of bo kho and top it with lots of cilantro.   The lime and cilantro added depth and tanginess to the broth.  I didn't even care about the star  of the dish, the shank, it was all about that broth.  If you haven't tried lime and cilantro with your bo kho, you have to give it a try!


Ingredients:

4 lbs of beef shank
4 stalk of lemongrass (cut 1/2 and then crushed)
1/4 cup of tomato paste
6-7 carrots (cut into 1 inch pieces)
vegetable oil
2 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning
chili powder (if you like spicy)
1/4 cup of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
paprika
5-6 star anise
1 whole sweet onions
cooking oil
bay leaf

Marinade for 2 lbs of beef shank:


1/4 cup of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of chili powder (this depends on the spice level of your chili powder and how spicy you want it to be)
1 tablespoon of minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1/2 tablespoon paprika


1.  Cut up the beef shank into cubes.  Keep in mind beef shank shrink during the cooking process.
2. Marinate the beef shank with the marinade over night if possible or at least 2-3 hours before cooking.
3.  In a large pot, heat up a little bit of vegetable oil and pour the marinated beef shank in the pot.  You want to brown the outside of the meat.
4.  Once the meat has brown evenly, add the tomato paste and coat the meat with the tomato paste.
5.  Add enough water to submerge the meats about 12 cups of water.
6.  Add two bay leaves and lemongrass stalk to the pot, season the pot with 1-1.5 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoon of sugar, 1 tablespoon mushroom seasoning.
8.  In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add 1 tablespoon of the paprika to the oil.   Let paprika cook on low heat, be careful not to let it burn.  This will add color to the broth.

9.  Let pot simmer on medium heat with lid on until meat is tender.  At this point the broth should be at the right consistency, not too water but not too thick.  The meat should be tender enough to eat but still stay in tact.
10.  Add the carrots and star anise to the pot and turn the heat down low.  If you put the lid on the carrots will cooked pretty fast.  You don't want to overcook the carrots and become mushy.
11.  Prepare yourself a bowl of bo kho with French baguettes or rice noodles (hu tieu).
12.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions, squeeze a little bit of lime to your bo kho .
13.  Enjoy!