This is a classic preparation in Vietnam, except usually we make it with squid. The baby octopus just looked really good at the market that time, so we thought – why not? With squid, you would slice it thin or score criss-cross on a 2×2” piece of squid, to make it cook fast without getting chewy, and absorb the sauce. I took a chance with baby octopus and saute it really fast, and then cut it up when we eat. There is a slight chewy texture, but not in a bad way!! Continue reading
The other day I brought my Vietnamese watercress soup (canh xà lách xoong) to the lab, and my lab manager was so surprised that it was so simple: handful of ground pork + watercress + water + salt/fish sauce = AWESOME soup. I think the real treasure of Vietnamese cuisine is our many different soups – at least 10 different types of noodles made from different starch, and many many kinds of greens that withstand the heat of soup well. And with the exception of some kinds of broth, Vietnamese soup is So.Darn.Simple.
After endless days of meat and potatoes, seafood just becomes THAT more attractive. Hot clam soup for the cold winter days – you’re welcome, it’s only my genius idea hahahaha. On a more serious (?) note: long holidays become so boring and useless if you don’t have work to catch up or an overseas place to go. Never thought I was the type who would look forward to going back to being busy
1 bunch Vietnamese spinach (normal spinach works fine) Continue reading
The recent San Francisco ban of selling live chicken at farmer’s markets, and the California ban of foie gras, were two of many retarded things about food here in the US. Or, at the risk of being politically incorrect, retarded things about political activism.
Growing up, I saw everyone in my family (maybe with the exception of my aunt) killing and butchering chicken at some point. Continue reading
Growing up I hated fish. It was always so…dry. Can’t blame my mom though – in Vietnam, cooking everything until they’re overcooked is a must, otherwise you risk food poisoning…
Anyway, this summer when I was home, my dad brought us this beautiful, HUUUGE, at least 6 pound mackerel (it’s rather round…I don’t think it looks like Spanish mackerel or the type I had in Japan, but that’s what wikipedia says, so…). I made a fake balsamic vinegar sauce (red wine + honey + apple cider vinegar) for this fish, and cooked it the way I would when I’m in the US. Had everyone in my family ooh-ing and awwing over how soft the fish was
Ingredients Continue reading
I don’t get the whole cereal-and-milk breakfast deal. It’s so…boring (even if some people I know would argue, vehemently!, otherwise. I’m used to the colorful Vietnamese breakfast: noodles, meat, and herbs. If you try one kind of Vietnamese noodle soup everyday for breakfast, you can at the very least last for 2 weeks, if not more. The breakfast is hearty and soothing, yummy and easy to eat (and digest!). It’s THE perfect breakfast.
One of my favorite noodles is bánh canh – noodles made of rice flour with a good mix of tapioca flour that gives it the translucent and slightly chewy quality you don’t see in the conventional rice noodles (bún). There are some variations, but the basic, I’d say original even, variety is the thick soup with pork and fried shredded crab meat. I was craving banh canh, but had to invent a makeshift version in the absence of crab meat hence the scallop! Quick and delicious Continue reading
It was interesting and sometimes fun to have an Indian landlord. She has a pantry full of Indian spices and ingredients. I once asked her naively, do you have curry powder? She suppressed a sigh (or so I guessed, because she looked at me like I was an idiot), and said there’s no specific “curry powder” in Indian cooking. She usually makes curry using a host of spices, and therefore there are many many ways to make Indian curry. Eek.
Anyway, I didn’t have curry powder either, and was craving “real” curry, as in, strong and spicy curry different than the Japanese curry cubes that I have. So I made this thing from scratch – I based the recipe off some Thai curry recipes, but didn’t have a lot of the required ingredients so had to wing it a bit. I thought it came out very curry-esque, despite the lack of proper ingredients. Since I didn’t have a lot of chillies or paprika or chilli paste, I added the tomato for color (red) and also flavor.
Fish (with) made-from-scratch curry (sauce)
(You can of course add broth/water to make a soupy curry).
makes 10 oz of thick curry sauce
cooking time: 15 mins
Ingredients Continue reading
*Warning: this recipe is very, very easy. So easy it hurts. And might be boring. BUT IT IS REALLY GOOD!*
For the longest time (10 years maybe), the only thing I knew how to make, and excelled at, was flan. My grandmother taught me and gave me the recipe, and it was the only thing I could use to show off to people. The recipe is quite magical – I’ve played around with the proportion of egg and milk multiple times, and never end up with the wonderful texture that my grandmom’s recipe gives. If you put in too much egg, the flan is harder. Too much milk/water, the flan is watery, simple as that. I’ve found similar measurements in recipes elsewhere, too. Must be a law in the flan-making business. Continue reading
I’ve been sick the past week – it suuuuuuuuuuucks. In so many ways…but I’ll spare you the bitching. We’ve been making a lot of soup – soup is the perfect sick-person food, because you can just cook the broth, leave it there, languish away/mope on your bed for a few hours, and crawl to the pot when it’s ready. Yes, I was THAT pathetic.
Today it was an impromptu chicken ramen (mi ga). We roasted a whole chicken 2 weeks ago and STILL had leftover meat. We also saved the carcass & leg bones – it’s always a wonderful thing to find some bones of any kind in your freezer…yeah, I am aware that I sound like a serial killer (do they make soup from human bones in Dexter?)
The toppings were just a kind of mash-up of what I think fit in a “chicken broth context”. Straw mushroom is my favorite Vietnamese mushroom, and bok choy just makes (Chinese) sense. I love Japanese ramen, but have always wished there were more greens in it (although the pickled takenoko is wonderful, too). The broth is really a rip-off of Vietnamese pho Ga, but even after straining off all the scum/impurities, I still ended up with a milky broth that looks a lot like Japanese tonkotsu ramen. I think it’s the combination of bone marrow + the leftover meat &fat on the bone + 12+ hours of simmering. The result was a surprisingly good cross between Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese noodle soup. This broth is the basic pho Ga broth – my family usually adds dried squid and dried shrimp, and cilantro to make the distinctive pho Ga taste.
Chicken bones (the more the better) – we used one chicken’s bone for a small 3 quart pot.
Woohoo, 15 minute bun oc FTW! Oc buou = river snail (apparently? Well I can tell you it’s not one of those weird snails with antenna on their heads.
So I got the snails, frozen, at the Asian market. The pleasant surprise was that while I didn’t get the delicious water from steaming the snails (it was precooked), the snails stilll carried that distinctive river-creature smell. It’s hard to describe, but if you’ve ever had real bun rieu with real river/rice-field crabs. you’ll know what I mean. This version is quick because I didn’t use pork bones, just ground pork. Pork bones give the broth a yummy, thick taste but can be too heavy-handed sometimes. I didn’t feel like heavy tonight so ground pork was the way to go. Even if it was rather simple, my version of bun oc was delicious!! You can’t really go wrong with tomatoes, onions, and meat. That’s why pasta never fails if you add tomato sauce ^^