Vietnamese

Happy year of the goat!

**Please excuse the many misspelled Vietnamese words in the following entry, as I don’t have the software to write proper Vietnamese, accents and all.

This Thursday marks the lunar new year, or Tê’t, as we call it in Vietnamese. Growing up, the red envelopes containing minted bills (or—like xì—were my most anticipated new year tradition. It meant I was that much closer to that Super Mario game or, when I was in high school, that Green Day CD.

Another fond memory of Tê’t was the banh chung my grandmother made not only for us but all the extended family members that visited over the week-long holiday. Bánh chung (or banh Tê’t as they’re known in the Vietnamese South) are glutinous rice cakes filled with pork and mung bean and wrapped in banana leaves prior to steaming. The leaves impart a hint of green and earthiness on to the rice, which is why it’s no surprise they are meant to symbolize the earth. My grandmother and aunt made dozens of them, and sometimes I would help tie the red decorative ribbons around the massive cakes before stacking them on to the dining table. There they rested like stacks of sandbags, waiting to be gifted to our relatives.
Read More…

I Am Vietnamese: A project anthology

My achievements as a Blind Cook often supersede my identity as a writer. That’s what I was before I went on “MasterChef,” and that’s what I still consider myself, in spite of my latest lackluster attempts at the memoir. (That’s a discussion for another day.)

In fact, I find writing much more challenging than cooking; results are less tangible, and gratification, if it comes at all, is way delayed.
Read More…

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey congee

Thanksgiving is done, but the leftovers are not. Because Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday (and with that comes the love of traditional Thanksgiving food), the hubs and I usually cook enough fowl to feed family, friends, and ourselves for days, even weeks.

This year was no exception: we sous vide a turkey and fried two turkeys. We vacuum sealed most of the leftover turkey to make it last as long as possible in the fridge. (You can freeze the turkey leftovers too.)
Read More…

Sous vide pork belly bao

Last week, I posted a video about my menu for the Ikea Supper Club: five courses of small offerings that reflected both my heritage and upbringing. A month has gone by since the Supper Club, and I still reflect upon the menu fondly.

The guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy the dishes (or at least that’s what they told me), and when asked which was their favorite, a majority said it was the sous vide pork belly bao.

Read More…

Simple sous vide Vietnamese short ribs

Our family has been obsessed with sous vide ever since we got a PolyScience immersion circulator. The great thins about sous vide cooking are: (1) the prep is minimal (just set it and forget it); and (2) the results are perfect (granted your ingredient and ratios were perfect going in). The hubster once got overly excited about brining and let his spareribs sit in a salt bath for two days, and after an additional 72 hours in the water bath, the ribs were the best texture but way too salty.

Sous vide is a great technique for tough cuts of meat because the slow cook at low temperatures help turn the fibrous collagen into gelatinous goodness, while preserving the protein’s cell walls so that they don’t break down and leak vital juices.

Read More…

Get your slurp on: A foray into other Vietnamese noodle soups

“Brrr…it’s cold outside.” That was the outgoing message my college roommate and I had recorded on our answering machine. Don’t ask why. I think it had something to do with our adoration of Chilly Willy. But today, it is cold outside. It was a freezing 25°F last night in Houston. But who am I to complain? The northern states saw an insane −44°F (according to the hubster). I didn’t even think that was possible outside of the Antarctic.

I am so not a cold weather person. So when it gets down to the 20s, 30s, even 40s outside, my ideal evening is one spent indoors in fuzzy socks in front of the television with a good book. (I like to multi-task, often reading a book in Braille while listening to a sitcom.) And then I like to sidle up to the kitchen counter and slurp down a bowl of noodle soup. That’s the ultimate comfort food on a cold day.
Read More…

Stock & congee: What to do with all that leftover turkey

Our deep-fried turkey before it became a bare carcass.

Your crazy family came and went. Now all that’s left is a big ol’ turkey carcass. Wait, don’t throw anything away just yet. In this time and age when offal eating has become the trend, I’m going to show you what you can do with all those leftover turkey bones.

First, you make turkey stock. Duh! Then, you use that stock to make turkey congee.

Every Asian country has its own version of rice porridge. It’s the ultimate Asian comfort food. Think of the Americans with their chicken noodle soup. Well, the Asians have their rice porridge. It’s what you feed someone under the weather. I admit I used to hate congee or chao (as it’s called in Vietnamese) because it was all my mama let me eat when I was sick. Incidentally, I grew to associate congee only with illness. Of course it left a negative impression on me. But now that I’ve got no mama to cook me homemade congee, I had to roll up my sleeves and do it myself. Now I don’t necessarily eat congee just when I’m sick; I’ll eat it when it’s cold out. (Speaking of which, Houston is finally starting to feel like winter. Yippee!) I eat it because it’s hearty, warm, and best of all, simple to make. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make congee, but even if I don’t, the great thing about congee is its versatility. You can just about throw anything into it. Perhaps the only requirement is stock or broth and rice. (I’ve even seen some people cook congee with plain water but I don’t recommend this—too plain.)

So read on, and learn how to make turkey stock with that leftover carcass and then, subsequently, turkey congee. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Happy winter eating!

 

: Turkey Stock

: Stock can be made from any animal’s bones, but I especially like poultry stock made from chicken, duck, or turkey.

 

  1. 1 bird carcass
  2. 2 to 3 carrots, chopped into 2″ pcs.
  3. 2 to 3 celery stalks, cut into 2″ pcs.
  4. 1 med. onion, chopped
  5. 1 to 2 bay leaves

 

  1. If necessary, chop bones so they will fit into a stockpot. Place bones into a stockpot and fill with enough water to cover. Add carrots, celery, onion, and bay leaves. Bring almost to a boil but do not let it boil.
  2. Reduce heat. In the first hr., skim off any scum that floats to the surface. Cover and let simmer for approx 3 hrs.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain through a mesh sieve into containers, leaving 1/2″ space at the top. (This is to prevent the containers from busting when the stock expands in the freezer.) Discard bones and vegetables.
  4. Refrigerate overnight. Spoon out and discard any gelatenous fat that solidifies at the top before using or freezing.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 hour(s)

: Turkey Congee

: Chao is the Vietnamese term for congee.

 

  1. 1 c. uncooked jasmine rice
  2. 4 to 6 c. turkey stock
  3. 3/4 c. leftover turkey meat, shredded
  4. 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  5. 1 sm. pc. ginger, minced
  6. 1 to 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped (optional)
  7. 2 tbsp. fish sauce or to taste
  8. 1 scallion, finely chopped
  9. a few sprigs cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  10. ground black pepper

 

  1. In a med. saucepan, combine rice, stock, turkey meat, onion, ginger, and carrots if using. Bring to a low boil.
  2. Reduce heat and add fish sauce. Cover and let simmer for approx. 25 min. or until rice reaches desired consistency. Season with ground black pepper and more fish sauce to taste. Garnish with scallion and cilantro. Serve hot.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Sweet rice with Chinese sausage

Xoi ga lap xuong

Salty from the sausage, sweet from the rice

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe or talked about cooking, for that matter. Enough with all that blind stuff, eh? Let’s take a break from all the tech talk and get back in the kitchen. Last week was my mama’s birthday–she would’ve turned 61–so here’s a dish from her repertoire. A comfort food I crave every so often is xoi lap xuong, a very easy dish to prepare using sticky, sweet rice and Chinese sausage. My mother used to make this and shape the rice into a perfect circle, spreading the sausage in one layer on top so that each bite contained exactly one slice of the dark red, fatty meat. Because this dish was so delicious, I thought it took a lot of skill to make. Little did I know after experimenting in the kitchen years later that xoi lap xuong was a very simple meal.

There are many different components to this dish, and it’s one of those things that different mamas prepare them in different ways. Here is my version along with some possible variations noted below. This is definitely a dish where if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

: Sweet Rice with Chinese Sausage

: Xoi Lap Xuong

 

  1. 1.5 c. uncooked sweet rice
  2. 1/4 to 1/2 c. raw peanuts
  3. 4 to 6 Chinese sausage, sliced on the bias
  4. 3 stalks scallions, finely chopped
  5. 3 shallot cloves, finely sliced
  6. 2 tbsp. oil

 

  1. Steam rice and peanuts together in a rice cooker.
  2. In a lg. skillet, heat oil over med.-high heat. Add scallions and shallots and saute until tender, approx. 5 min. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. In the same skillet, pan-fry Chinese sausage over med. heat, stirring frequently until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, set aside.
  4. Serve Chinese sausage over sticky rice. Drizzle oil and scallion and shallot mixture over the top. Season with Maggi sauce.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

 

Since my husband was on a pork fast, I made some chicken for him to eat with the sticky rice. Take 6 chicken thighs and cut into pieces. Marinade with 1 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and salt & pepper to taste. After cooking the Chinese sausage, cook the chicken in the same skillet, using the sausage fat for flavor. You can also serve finely shredded pork (thit cha bong or thit ruoc) over the top–it looks like carpet meat but I grew up with the stuff. You can also added dried onion bits or crispy pork skin. Like I said, there is not one right way to eat this. The only constants are the sweet rice, the oil and scallion mixture, and the Maggi sauce.

Vietnamese eggrolls (spring rolls?)

Eggrolls

Crisphy cha gio on top of a bed of vermicelli

Cha gio, or Vietnamese eggrolls: one of my favorite things to eat. I can make 100 of them and nibble on them every day for weeks. I never get tired of this homemade version which is a recipe I modeled after my own mother’s. And you know mama’s home cookin’ is the best kind of cookin’ they is.

My mom used to make these as a treat every once in awhile, and they’re so good that I don’t even eat them with nuoc cham, or the fish dipping sauce that is a staple condiment for many Vietnamese. I prefer the eggrolls virgin, untouched and unmarred by any any additional sauce or lettuce or vermicelli. Of course, eating them this way makes them disappear much quicker, so I like to feed them to others with a bowl of vermicelli (bun cha gio).

This recipe is not exactly my mothers–she passed away when I was 14, an age before I became interested in cooking. But of the dozens of Saturday mornings I spent in the kitchen peeling eggroll skin after eggroll skin for her, I got to “know” the ingredients by sight and smell. It sounds a little sick, but I loved inhaling the aromatic raw meat and vegetable mixture that is to become the eggroll filling. As a matter of fact, I still do that today when I make eggrolls–that’s the only way I know if the mixture needs more fish sauce or garlic or whatever.

So eggrolls being one of the things I missed most from my mama’s kitchen after she died, I came up with my own concoction that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, tastes incredibly similar to hers. Now if only I was talented enough to figure out her homemade pho from scratch.

Eggrolls contain pork, but one time in elementary school for an international culture week, my mom substituted the ground pork with turkey because I had a Muslim classmate. Now that I have a husband who avoids beef and pork, I too make my eggrolls with ground turkey. They’re not as juicy but they’re healthier. (Well, as healthy as they can be after being submerged in the canola oil.).

I must say cha gio are my masterpiece, but they’re only made like once a year because the whole process–from chopping the veggies to wrapping the eggrolls to frying them–used to take six hours or something insane. Thank God for the food processor, which now has cut my prep and cook time down to a mere four hours. (Har, har.) Don’t let that scare you away from attempting them though; keep in mind that I’m a slow worker, not to mention blind. So remember that if I can do it, so can you. And I encourage you to try this.

Recipe: Vietnamese Eggrolls

Summary: Based on my mom’s cha gio recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground pork or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled & minced
  • 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lg. carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 oz. dried cat ear mushroom (black fungus)
  • 6 (1.75 oz.) pkgs. dried bean thread noodles
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2/3 c. fish sauce or to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 pkgs. egg roll wrappers or rice paper
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Soak mushrooms and noodles in hot water until tender, about 5 to 10 min. Then finely chop either with knife or food processor.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a lg. bowl and season with pepper to taste.
  3. If using eggroll wrappers, use beaten egg to seal. If using rice paper, simply wet paper and roll, using about 2 rounded spoonfuls of filling in each eggroll.
  4. Heat oil and test for readiness by dropping the tip of an eggroll into the oil. It is hot enough if it immediately begins to sizzle. Fry eggrolls until golden brown, about 4 to 7 min. each.

Quick Notes

Refrigerating the filling mixture overnight allows the flavors to meld together better.

Don’t overstuff your eggrolls or else they will either burst or not cook through.

The folding technique is as follows: if using the square eggroll wrappers, set the skin so that it is a diamond in front of you. Set the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold the corner pointing at you up over the mixture. Then fold in the two sides. Then roll eggroll away from you, sealing the far corner with a little bit of beaten egg. If using round rice paper for skin, simply wet the banh trang in a lg. bowl of very hot water. It just needs to be immersed for a few seconds; don’t oversoak–the paper will get more and more pliable as it soaks up the water. Oversoaking the rice paper results in mushy skin that will tear easily. Place the circular skin in front of you, place the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold in the same pattern as with the square skins, but omitting the beaten egg for sealing.

Line the cooked eggrolls on paper towels or paper bags to drain excess oil. Paper bags, I heard, do a better job of soaking up the oil without making the eggrolls soggy.

Variations

The authentic Vietnamese eggroll uses rice paper for the skin, but many use the Filipino lumpia eggroll skin nowadays. Just be sure not to use the Chinese eggroll skin; I made that mistake the first time I ever made eggrolls (yes, back in college), and the skin puffed up like a wonton crisp, which is NOT what you want.

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Vietnamese shaking chicken (or beef) – Com Bo Luc Lac

Ga luc lac or bo luc lac are French influenced dishes consisting of seared and sauteed bpcubes of meat served with a vinaigrette dressing. The term “luc lac” comes from the sound of the meat shaking in the pan while cooking. The dish is usually made of sirloin or ribeye steak, but I decided to go a slightly healthier route and make it with chicken. Whichever meat you choose, it’ll be tasty.

You can serve it with white rice or a French style fried rice (recipe posting TBD). This is often a favorite at Tan Tan and Sinh Sinh restaurants (reviews of these places also TBD).

The picture below is of the beef version which is on Rasa Malaysia. The one we took of our chicken version turned out too dim for the web.



Bo luc lac (Shaking beef)

Photo courtesy of Rasa Malaysia



Recipe: Vietnamese Shaking Chicken (or Beef)

Summary: Original recipe for beef from Ravenous Couple on Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs or beef sirloin or ribeye, cut into 1″ cubes
  • Marinade:
    • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
    • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
    • 1 tsp. soy sauce
    Vinaigrette dressing:
    • 1/4 c. rice vinegar
    • 1.5 tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tbsp. salt
    Dipping sauce:
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 bunch watercress, long stems trimmed (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine marinade ingredients with the meat. Refrigerate and let marinate for 30 to 90 minutes.
  2. Prepare vinaigrette by combining vinaigrette ingredients. It should be a balance of sour, salty, and sweet. Pour 3 to 4 tbsp. over the onion and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a wok over high heat. Add onion and meat 1 layer at a time and sear for about 2 minutes. Then shake the wok to sear all sides of the meat, about another 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Prepare dipping sauce by combining ingredients.
  5. Drizzle vinaigrette on top of meat and serve with tomatoes, rice, and dipping sauce.

Variations

I accidentally added cupfuls of sugar instead of tablespoonfuls. (This is what happens when you are blind and have to juggle all the measurements in your head.) We managed to throw a lot of it out and salvage the dish, but in the end, it wasn’t too sweet at all. I also used brown sugar instead of white as a healthier alternative.

The original recipe called for slightly pickled red onions but I prefer mine sauteed with the meat. I can’t get enough of that scrumptious sauce flavor so I just added the onion to the wok while cooking the meat. I also substituted green onion since that’s what was in my fridge, and I needed to get rid of it. But using actual onion is preferable.

I also cut the rice vinegar by half for the vinaigrette. This worked out much better. I would maybe try white vinegar and even less of it next time to see how that turns out.

Lastly, the original recipe called for more oil to be added to the wok for cooking but I found the sesame oil in the marinade was enough to keep the meat from sticking to the wok surface. Otherwise, it’d be a super greasy dish.

Cooking time (duration): 30 (excluding marinade time)

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: Vietnamese

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

1 2  Scroll to top