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!


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
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. 

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
chili powder
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!

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
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!