Thursday, April 28, 2011

Suon Ram Man - Carmelized Pork Spare Ribs

When we first moved to the States my parents were always working, sometimes day and night. We never really sat down together to enjoy dinner, we just ate whenever we had some free time. Now when I come home to visit I always make an effort with dinner, food always bring the family together. I actually look forward to sitting together with my family to enjoy a traditional family style meal where we share rice, some sort of protein, and a soup. It feel like time slows down; my dad reminiscing about his past and our family nearly choking on our food due to his out of this world stories. You just can't do the same thing with a bowl pho. Vietnamese family style meal is meant for family to chit chat between bites. We must cherish these times that we easily take for granted.

One of many favorite family style dish is Suon Ram Man, it taste like a dry and saltier version of thit kho (pork belly braised in caramel sauce). You braise the spareribs in caramel sauce until it is completely reduce. In the end you are left with crispy spare ribs from the caramel sauce sticking to the outside of the meat. I used to not like a lot of pork products when I was little (don't worry I got over that stage), but every time my mom made suon ram I would pick at every little pieces to the bone. Every part of the meat was glazed with the caramel sauce, the outside was crispy but the inside was so juicy. I love biting into all the fat and of course my favorite part is the cartilage. When it's cooked long enough I will gnaw on the bone, don't judge me bones are awesome!

To reduce some of the cooking time and achieve a wonderful crust on the outside, I cheated and used my deep fryer. You can totally skip this step and do it the old fashion way. Family style dish is meant for sharing, so please share this recipe with your love ones.


2 lb of spare ribs
2 teaspoon of minced garlic
2 teaspoon of minced shallot
1/2 can of coconut soda (coco rico)
fish sauce
garlic powder
black pepper
cooking oil
green onions (optional)

1. Chop spare ribs in small pieces (1.5 inches)
2. Marinade with a couple dash of garlic powder and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce in the fridge for a couple hours.
3. Throw it in the deep fryer until the outside become crispy. Remove and let meat cooled in a lot of paper towel. This will help remove some of the oil.

4. In a pot (I like using nonstick pot or pan), melt tablespoon of sugar. As soon soon as you see some color, add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. This part will probably be the most difficult part. If you let the sugar cook too much it will burn by the time you add the fish sauce.
5. Add the deep fried spare ribs, garlic, and shallots. Coat all the spare ribs in the caramel sauce.

6. Add 1/2 a can of coconut soda. Let the meat braised in the sauce for 10-15 minutes on medium heat.
7. Turn the heat up a little and let it it cook until the sauce begin to charring the outside of the meat. Be careful not to let it burn. Sprinkle some black pepper on top.
8. Serve and enjoy with a bowl of white rice.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bun Rieu - Crab Cake Vermicelli Noodle Soup (Lent Friendly)

Sorry for posting this up when Lent is about to end. I promise you won't notice a big difference from the traditional recipe, so feel free to use this recipe year round. I actually prefer the meatless version of Bun Rieu, so I have an excuse to LOAD up on seafood. When I was younger, I was not a fan of pork products so my mom usually makes meatless Bun Rieu anyways.

I buy canned crab meat in the refrigerated seafood section at Costco or Meijer, I prefer Costco crab meat even though it is more expensive. Believe me they are good right out of the can!

Usually we use pork neck bones to make the broth but dried prawns will work just fine. Ground pork is usually added to the "rieu" to glue all the wet ingredients together but ground dried prawns actually does a better job. I also listed V8 vegetable juice as an ingredient but you definitely can leave that off. I actually bought a case of it from Costco thinking it was something else so I'm just trying to get rid of it in my cooking. The vegetable juice add a really nice color to my broth and an extra umphh of tomato flavor. Try this recipe out and see if anybody can tell a difference, my boyfriend sure didn't!

Ingredients2 lb of shrimp with head
2 cups of dried prawns (tom kho)
1/2 can of crab meat
2 eggs
1 jar of crab paste in soy bean oil (cach cua)
6-8 large tomatoes cut in quarters
1 daikon
shrimp paste (mam tom)
fish sauce
mushroom seasoning
black pepper
green onions

1. Soak dried prawns in warm water until it is more tender to use. Peel the shrimp but save the shells and heads.
2. Fill pot with  4 quarts of water and add 1/2 of the dried prawns rough chopped, shrimp heads, shells, and daikon.  Simmer until daikon and dried shrimp is tender. 
3. Season broth with 2 tbl of salt, 1 tbl mushroom seasoning, and 1/2 tbl sugar. 
4. With a food processor, finely mince the other half of the dried prawns and shrimp. 
5. Place mixture from step #4  in mixing bowl; add the crab meat, crab paste from the jar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste, and a couple dash of black pepper. Mix thoroughly until it become a uniform mixture.

6.  Once your broth is finish (meaning you have extract all the flavors from the ingredients) remove shells, shrimp heads, and daikon from the broth. 
7. Sauteed tomatoes with a little bit of fish sauce and transfer to broth. 
8. Bring pot to a boil and spoon in mixture from step #5 to the broth.  Let the rieu cook thoroughly. 
9. Do one last tasting, add nuoc mam if needed.
10. Cook your noodles and get your garnishes ready.
11.  Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Goi Xoai Ca - Mango Salad w/ Cod

I went a little mango crazy this past week, the local grocery store was having a sale and the mangoes looked very promising. I love eating mangoes by itself but decided to switch things up as a salad. The mangoes were a tad bit unripe and very firm, perfect for a salad. It was till very tart which I like, but I know if I had made this for my mom she would be squirming. If you can't handle the sourness then I would suggest marinading the mangoes in a lot of sugar. For proteins I used some left over cod, it would have been great if I had some sashimi grade fish to make a mango ceviche but maybe next time. For little time and effort, you can take dinner to a tropical paradise!


2 firm mangoes (julienned)
1 red bell pepper (julienned)
2 small carrots (julienned)
1 red onions (thinly sliced)
1 lb of cod
a bunch of Thai basil (rough chopped)
a bunch of Vietnamese coriander (rough chopped)
1 lime
Thai chili to your liking
fish sauce
olive oil

1. Marinade the mango, carrot, bell pepper, and onions w
ith 3 tablespoon of sugar. Let sit int he fridge for about 1-2 hours.

2. Heat up some olive oil in frying pan. Pan-fry the cod but
try not to over cook it. Remove from and let cool.

3. Removed the mango mixture and drain all the excess liquid.
4. Break the cod into large chunks with your chopstick and add squeeze half a lime on it.
5. Add 1-1.5 tablespoon of fish sauce to the mango mixture, 1/2 a lime, and chili to your liking. Mix together well. Add more fish sauce if the mango is still too sour for your taste.
6. Add the cod chunks and the chopped basil and coriander.
7. Serve and enjoy!