Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lau Thai - Thai Style Hotpot

It seems like for every occasion my family always rely on hotpot. Not only is it delicious and easy to eat, it is also fun and interactive for gathering.  We love eating all kinds of hotpot; there is lau mam (fermented fish hotpot), lau nam (mushrom hotpot), lau cua (crab hotpot), lau hai san (seafood hotpot), and lau Thai (Thai style hotpot).  Our favorite has to be Thai style hotpot because it's salty, sweet, spicy, and sour; a little bit of everything.  If you are a fan of Thai Tom Yum soup, you will love this hotpot!  It is eaten with rice vermicelli noodle and a varieties of meats, seafood, and vegetables.

Hotpot is pretty easy to make as well, it's just a lot preparation.  The thing I love about eating hotpot is you can eat it all day!  We usually eat hotpot for lunch, again for dinner, and then if we have some leftover we'll have it again the next day.  For that reason I usually make a huge pot of broth and after every eating session I replace the old broth with new broth.  If you are planning to have a hotpot marathon make sure you buy a lot vegetables and meat.

My Thai style hotpot is made very similar to Thai tom yum soup.  I actually use a store brought paste that is labeled as seasoning paste for Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup) but it taste more like Tom Yum to me.  There are a lot of these paste at all Asian grocery stores but Golden Boy brand (picture below) is my favorite.  I sauteed this paste with lots of minced shallots and lemongrass which helps fragrance the broth.   There is one other secret ingredients that nobody every gets after eating my broth but I will happily share it with all of you.  I also add mam ruoc (Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste) with the seasoning paste, which give the broth its saltiness.  I basically make my broth very similar to Bun Bo Hue but without the beef broth.  The broth is made with canned chicken broth, pineapple juice, lemongrass, tamarind pulp, kaffir lime leave, and my seasoning paste.  I also add one can of coco rico soda for sweetness and also as a tenderizer for meats.  Last but certainly not least, it has to be spicy.  I add a special hot chili oil to the broth for spiciness (picture below).
Now onto the meats and vegetables!  No hotpot can be without meats and vegetables; there should always be an abundant amount for both.  Thai hotpot is the most versatile because almost any meats and vegetables will be great with the broth.  Most common ingredients are mushrooms, water spinach, banana blossom, beef, shrimp, squit, clams, mussels, tomatoes, tofu, and the list goes on.  Since I have limited access to Asian vegetables I usually go with watercress, enoki mushrom, oyster mushroom, and nappa cabbage.  As for as meat you litterally can you any type of sliced beef and seafood.  Today I felt like only using seafood.  Happy eating!

Ingredients:  I won't be listing amounts for the vegetables, meats, and seafood because it really depends on how much you want to eat.  Make sure you get plenty because it would be a damper if you run out!  Prepare the ingredients below for eating.

Napa Cabbage
Enoki Mushroom
Oyster Mushroom
Tilapia filet
Rice Vermicelli Noodle

6 cups of canned chicken broth
2 cups of pineapple juice
1 can of coco rico
6 cups of water
1 cup of Golden Boy brand paste (or similar seasoning)
1/4 cup of mam ruoc (fermented shrimp paste)
1/4 cup of sugar
4 lemongrass stalk
2 kaffir lime leave
1/4 cup of minced lemon grass
3 tablespoon of minced shallot
4 tablespoon of cooking oil

1.  Combine chicken broth, pineapple juice, water, lemongrass stalk, and kaffir lime leaves in a pot.   Let everything cook for about 30 minutes on medium heat.
2.  Heat up oil in a sauce pan.  Add the minced lemongrass and shallots and let it cook in the oil until fragrance.  Then add the Golden Boy paste, mam ruoc, and sugar.  Sauteed everything on low heat.   I usually make extra of this paste so that I can add more to the broth, because as you eat and put in more ingredients the broth will get diluted.  Unless you want to keep replacing the broth.
3.  Transfer to the broth. Let the paste cook into the broth.  
4.  Broth is ready for eating, transfer broth to a hotpot.  Add the hot chili oil to your liking.
5.  Once the hotpot comes to a boil add the fresh ingredients to cook and enjoy everything with vermicelli noodle.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Banh Canh Do Bien - Seafood Tapioca Noodle Soup (Lent Friendly)

I already post a recipe for Banh Canh Cua (Crab Tapioca Noodle Soup), which is made with a pork base broth and requires fresh crabs.  This version has no meat product (beef, chicken, poultry) and does not require fresh crabs.  I usually tell my family it's my "lazy" version of banh canh, meaning I spend less time on the broth.  I usually make the noodles from scratch because it taste better and it's cheaper then store brought banh canh noodles.  Please refer to my Banh Canh Cua recipe for instructions to make homemade noodles.

For this recipe I use dried prawns and a lot of mushroom to make the broth.  It is said that mushrooms give a natural umami taste, savory taste, so I go crazy with the mushrooms.  Instead of fresh crabs I use jar crab meat in soya bean oil (the same jar I use to make bun rieu).  Shrimp, mushroom, and fish cake (cha ca) contribute to the "meat" of the soup, you can also use frozen shrimp and fish balls.


Banh canh noodles
1/2 cup of dried prawns (rehydrated)
1 daikon (or 2-3 carrots)
1 onion
3 cups of mushroom
1 lb of shrimp(cooked in the microwave)
fish cake (cha ca usually already cooked)
1/4 cup of crab meat in soya bean oil
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
fish sauce
green onions(garnish)
cooking oil
tapioca flour

1.  Fill a 6 quart pot with water,the rehydrated dried prawns, onion,
and daikon. Let these ingredients cook on the stove to make the broth.
2. Once you have extract all the sweetness from the dried prawns and daikon, you can remove daikon and onions.
3.  Season the broth with salt and sugar.
4.  Heat up some cooking oil in a pan.  Add the minced shallots and the crab meat, sauteed the two together so the crab meat is more frangrance.  Add this to the broth.
5.  Add the mushrooms to the broth.  Let it cook in the broth.
6.  Season the broth with additional sugar and fish sauce if needed.
7.  It's best to make banh canh per bowl.  I usually have a little sauce pan to make each bowl of banh.
8.  Transfer enough broth for one bowlto the sauce pan.  Add the
noodle to the broth.  If you like the broth more thick(especially if you use store brought banh canh noodles),have some tapioca flour handy.  Add more tapioca flour to the broth base on your personal preference.
9.  Add the shrimp and fish cake to the broth.
10.  Once the noodle has soften, transfer to a bowl.
11.  Top off with green onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of of lime juice.
12.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bun Cha Ca - Fish Paste Soup (Lent Friendly)

Lent season just started and I want to make sure I post a couple Lent friendly recipes before it ends.  If you are Catholic, you cannot eat meat products (poultry, pork, beef) on Friday.  However, seafood is allowed which is fine by me since I love seafood.  There are plenty of Vietnamese recipes that uses seafood.  A lot of soups can be Lent friendly by using seafood and vegetables to make the broth.

During my last trip to Vietnam, I stayed mainly in Da Nang, which is located in central Vietnam near Hue and Hoi An.  It was my first time ever in central Vietnam and I was ecstatic because I love their cuisine so much.  Soups such as Bun Bo Hue and Mi Quang; rice cakes such as Banh Bot Loc and Banh Beo all originated from that region. Every day I got to eat all of my favorite food and got to try new dishes unique to that region, I was in heaven.  When I got back to the states, all I want do is cook those dishes over and over again while the flavors and memories are still fresh in my mind!

Bun Cha Ca is a noodle soup that really stood out, a specialty of Da Nang, and the first soup I ate when I first arrived. There was a vendor that sells this particular soup at every corner.  I've had Bun Cha Ca in Saigon before but different from the ones from Da Nang.  The ones from Da Nang are sweeter due to a very unique ingredient, bi do (pumpkin, globe squash).  The squash also added a beautiful yellow color to the broth.  This soup is usually eaten with vermicelli noodle but I used rice macaroni (nui) to change things up a bit.

I used dried prawns (tom kho), globe squash, mushroom, daikon, and onions to make the broth.  If it weren't for Lent I would also use pork bones. The globe squash makes the broth very sweet so not much of it is needed.  Globe squash is pretty heavy to me so I only add a few pieces here and there to my bowl or else I would get full just eating that alone.  I used store brought fish paste and then fried at home.  Hope you will enjoy my spin on Da Nang's Bun Cha Ca!


1/2 cup of dried prawns (rehydrated)
1 daikon
2 cups of mushroom (sliced)
1/4 of globe squash (peeled and seeds remove)
1 onion
4 tomato (quartered)
fish paste (or already prepared Cha Ca)
vermicelli noodle
green onion
cooking oil
fish sauce

1.  Add the rehydrated prawns into a 6 quart pot and fill with water.  Add the daikons and onions.  Let pot cook on medium until all the sweetnes and flavor has been extracted.
2.  If you are using already fried fish cake, just cut into thick slices for easy eating.  If not, fried your fish paste in oil.  Heat up plenty of oil in a wok or pan, add the fish cake to the pan and then flatten it with a spatula.  Cook both side until golden brown.  Remove and let it cool on paper towel.
3.  Season your broth with salt and mushroom seasoning(1 tablespoon); continue to let it cook until the the prawns has been completely extracted from flavor, and daikon and onions have become mushy.  The best way to tell is to have a bite of your prawns, if it's soft and flavorless you can discard.  Remove the daikon and onions as well.
4.  If you do not plan to eat the actual squash/pumpkin and only want to use it to make the broth, add the whole thing to the broth.
5.  If you do plan to eat the squash, chop it up for easy eating and add to the broth.  Let the squash cook until tender.
6.  Add the sliced mushroom to the broth.
7.  Heat up some oil in a pan with a little bit of chopped green onions, sauteed the tomatoes with some fish sauce.  Add the sauteed tomatoes into the broth.
8.  Taste the broth with additional fish sauce and sugar if needed.
9.  Prepare vermicelli noodles, green onions/cilantro for garnish.
10.  Prepare a bowl of noodle and then add broth and fish cakes.
11.  Enjoy!