(Isaan) Pork Larb Gai – Thai Minced Pork Salad

Pork Larb Gai

Larb (also often spelled as laap or laab) has been one of my favorite Thai dishes for a long time. It essentially translates to “minced meat salad” and can be made from a variety of different proteins – pork, beef, chicken, fish, duck, etc.

The word larb means “to chop up” in Thai. That’s right folks–authentic larb aficionados use a cleaver to chop/mince their proteins until they reach the perfect consistency. But truthfully, I’m a tad lazy and use pre-ground pork/chicken/turkey.

Andy Ricker, chef and author of Pok Pok does a beautiful job narrating his adventures of Thai cuisine and does an infinitely superior job of explaining the nuances of larb than I ever could. In a nutshell, there are two different schools of larb — the Northern Thai version and Northeastern Thai (Isaan) version. I gravitate towards the Isaan style that is heavily laden with citrus and toasted rice powder. The Northern style also uses various proteins and herbs but often includes pork/beef blood.

Pork Larb

I’m obsessed with Isaan-style larb because it’s truly a flavor explosion (I’m so cheesy). It’s incredibly savory with the garlic, shallots, fish sauce……bright and aromatic from the tons of citrus & fresh herbs…..and rather “earthy” from the toasted rice powder. Whether you eat it with sticky rice or as lettuce wraps, larb has multiple layers of texture, especially when you take intermittent bites of fresh cucumber slices, cabbage or fresh chiles.

My version isn’t totally authentic but it definitely is my homage to the original and can be whipped up in about 20 minutes. Not bad at all when you need a quick bite and its lightness is perfect for a warm summer meal.

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(Isaan) Pork Larb Gai – Thai Minced Pork Salad

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 tablespoon minced Thai chiles, divided
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pound ground pork
2 scallions, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon toasted rice powder*
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly torn
accoutrements: extra fresh herbs, lime wedges, cabbage, lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, steamed rice

In a bowl, create the sauce by whisking together the sugar and warm water until dissolved. Add in 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce and 1/2 teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste). Set the sauce aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/4 teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste), red chili flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the pork.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the pork around the wok/skillet while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the pork until it is no longer pink, approximately 3-4 minutes. Stir in the remaining fish sauce and scallions.

Remove the wok/skillet from the heat. Toss in the rice powder, remaining lime juice, red onions, mint, cilantro, and basil. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the sauce to taste. Plate the larb with extra fresh herbs, whole chiles, lime wedges, sliced cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage. Serve with either steamed rice or whole lettuce leaves for wraps. The remaining sauce can be served alongside as a dipping sauce.

*If you cannot find pre-ground toasted rice powder, you can easily make your own. Toast uncooked jasmine rice in a skillet over low heat until golden brown. Once cooled, transfer the toasted rice into a spice grinder and grind until you get a fine powder.

Korean Feast for Sunday Family Dinner + Happy Birthday Nina!

August 2013 Korean Family Dinner

My eldest niece, Nina, turns 15 today *gulp*

Don’t ask me how it happened but within a blink of the eye, our super chubby little baby turned into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. The bday gal requested Korean for last week’s Sunday Family Dinner and we willingly obliged.

We LOVE Korean food! And as I’ve shared before, our mom went through an extensive phase where she cooked all types of Korean dishes to dazzle her guests.

August 2013 Family Dinner

As always, we cooked way too much food. But what can we say, we wanted a “little” bit of everything and leftovers are a good thing in our book. A HUGE thanks to Emily Kim, author and founder of Maanchi, whose recipes were heavily used in our menu that night.

As for the menu…..

What’s a Korean meal without some type of Kimchi? Eldest seester started a week before our dinner and prepared a ridiculous amount of Kimchi—and I mean a TON OF KIMCHI! Though I’m not complaining as we each got to take a jar home.

Kimchi

We had crispy, Grilled Pork Belly served with an acidic, vinegar based dipping sauce…….

Grilled Pork Belly

A huge pot of bubbling Soondubu Jjigae – Soft Tofu Stew with lots of seafood……

Soondubu Jjigae - Soft Tofu Stew

Plates of Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake……….

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

You can see that the there’s definitely more “filling” than batter in these pancakes.

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

And there was a huge pan of Ddeokbokki – Spicy Rice Cakes which is one of my personal faves. Mimi (my oldest friend/ex-roomie) used to make this all of the time for me in grad school and it’s carboliciously, delicious.

Ddeokbokki - Spicy Rice Cakes

We also had Galbijjim – Braised Beef Short Ribs that just fell off the bone. Slightly sweet and incredibly tender. Man, my mouth is watering just remember this goodness…..

Galbijjim - Braised Beef Short Ribs

And there was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

And last, for dessert, Patbingsu – shaved ice. We adorned ours with sweet red beans, fresh fruits, mochi, tapioca and a drizzle of condensed milk.

Patbingsu - Shaved Ice

And that’s how we roll–Korean style!

Happy 15th Birthday Nina-love!!!! May this year bring you success in school (and tennis), laughter, happiness and adventures (in moderation, of course :) )

xoxo!

August 2013 Family Dinner

Double Jalapeno-Bacon Cheeseburgers with Roasted Poblano Aioli

Double Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburgers

Summer has been beating down my door lately with gorgeous sunny days and warm weather. And of course, what’s better to do in the summer than grilling up some delicious eats?

So when this glorious box of Farmer John Jalapeno Bacon showed up at the doorstep, it was a no brainer what had to be done.

Jalapeno Bacon

Burgers.

Ultimate, jalapeno bacon loaded burgers.

With a bit of heat.

Awwww yea….

Double Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburgers

These decadent burgers are not only topped with a pile of crispy jalapeno bacon but there’s also chopped up bacon INSIDE the patty!!

Yea, I totally went there.

Poblano

And because burgers are the perfect canvas to go BIG, I dressed these bad boys up with spicy pepper cheese, crispy cornmeal onion strings, peppery arugula and a creamy roasted poblano aioli.

Double Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburgers

These burgers not only have a ton of great textures, a balanced level of heat, but were ultimately bacon-licious! The jalapeno component to the bacon was not at all overpowering but rather mild. Perfect for folks who just want a tad of heat.

And if you think these burgers are bacon-riffic, just wait for my upcoming post on Jalapeño-Bacon wrapped Avocado Fries!

Have a fantastic weekend folks!!
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Double Jalapeño-Bacon Cheeseburgers with Roasted Poblano Aioli
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large poblano pepper
½ tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup mayonnaise
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
kosher salt
black pepper
1 pound ground beef (80/20 blend)
½ tablespoon garlic salt
½ tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 pound cooked jalapeno bacon
vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
½ cup flour
½ cup yellow corn meal
4 slices pepper jack cheese
1½ cups fresh arugula
4 burger buns, split and toasted

Prepare the aioli. On your stovetop range, char the poblano pepper on all sides. This can also be done under your oven broiler. Once charred, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes. This will help the skin loosen from the pepper. Once cooled, peel the skin from the pepper and discard along with the stem and seeds. Finely chop up the pepper and transfer to a clean bowl. Whisk in the garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and cilantro. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, garlic salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and Worcestershire. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Take ½ of the bacon and roughly chop into small pieces. Add the bacon to the beef and mix until just combined. Form the meat into 4 patties and create a small indentation in the center of each patty. This is to help the patties from puffing up. Transfer them to a plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the onion strings. Fill a heavy bottomed pot with 2 inches of oil. Heat to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. In batches, place the onions into the dry ingredients, tossing well to coat. Gently shake out the excess and carefully lower into the oil. Fry the onions for about 5-6 minutes, stirring every so often until golden brown. Drain the onions on a plate lined with paper towels and season immediately with additional salt. Repeat until all the onions have been fried. Transfer the onion strings to a large baking sheet. Keep warm in a 200 degree F oven while you grill the patties.

Remove the patties from the refrigerator and lightly brush them with vegetable oil. Light your grill (or preheat grill pan). Place the patties over medium heat and grill on each side for about 4-5 minutes. About 1-2 minutes before the second side is done, lay one slice of cheese over each patty. Cover the grill and cook until the cheese has melted. Remove the patties and tent with aluminum foil while you’re assembling the burgers.

On a toasted bun, place a small mound of the arugula and then lay a patty on top. Spread a few spoonfuls of the aioli on top of the patty before adding a few strips of the remaining bacon. Next, add a small pile of the crispy onion strings and then top off with the other side of the bun. Serve immediately.

 **Disclosure: I did receive products from Farmer John, but as always, my opinions are my own.**

On Tiny Giants, Mom’s Birthday, and Petite Filet Mignon….

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Today is Mom’s 72nd Birthday–though she probably wouldn’t have been too happy with me that I shared her actually age. But let’s be honest, Mom always looked a decade younger than she really was.

Mom

I find that the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. Funny enough, I don’t seem to recall the characteristics about Mom that drove me nuts when I was a quasi-rebellious teenager. It’s the quirky things I tend to reminisce about her that make us all crack up.

Mom

Like how she used to have the coldest little feet (even in the summer!) and would always find the need to prop them on our bare legs to warm them up. BRRRR!

Or how she would schmooze with strangers and hustle for us when it was fundraising time. She sold over 100+ pies each year for my cheerleading fundraisers and would be top in BINGO sales for our high school. Yup, don’t even try to step up to her.

girls

Or how she would always call everyone người đẹp (beautiful) instead of using their names.

Mom would also constantly rearrange all the furniture in the house and reposition her incredible bonsai collection. Seriously, I would come home on the weekends from college and there would be a new configuration in the living room—EVERY time! One minute she would bring in a bonsai arrangement into a room and then next, she would have switched it out for a different one. When I used to ask her what she was doing, she would just laugh and say “I’m having fun.”

I guess she was “playing house” in her house.

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And boy, did this woman love her steaks. I mean seriously love her steaks.

Without fail, for Mother’s Day or her birthday, we would be off to some restaurant to celebrate. Now granted, she would do the “mom” thing and say it didn’t matter where we would take her out (or even that we didn’t have to) but the moment we’d be seated at a restaurant, she’d always order a filet mignon or bone-in ribeye.

Petite Filet Mignon

So in honor of Mom’s birthday and her carnivorous love of steaks, I made this tender Petite Filet Mignon. After soaking up some great flavors for a few hours, I seared the filets on a screaming hot cast iron pan and finished it off in the oven.

Absolutely delicious and Mom would have loved it.

Petite Filet Mignon

Have you heard that wonderful saying that I am who I am today because I stand on the shoulders of Giants?

Well, it just so happens that one of my main Giants was a little 4’9” Vietnamese woman. Vivacious, tough, loyal, tenacious—and of course, steak-loving.

Happy Birthday, Mom. We all love and miss you.

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Petite Filet Mignon
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon minced garlic
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced chopped sage
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 6-ounce petite filet mignon steaks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
course sea salt (optional)

In a resealable plastic bag, add the garlic, herbs, chili flakes, 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and filets. Rub the marinade all over the filets. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Remove the filets from the plastic bag and discard the marinade. Use paper towels to dry off some of the marinade and then liberally season the filets with additional black pepper. Allow the filets to sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

After the cast iron skillet has heated in the oven for 15-20 minutes, carefully remove the skillet and place on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the butter, oil and allow it to melt together before placing the filets in. Sear the filets for 2-3 minutes on each side. While the filets are searing, repeatedly spoon the butter/oil over the tops of the meat to baste. Once both sides have seared, transfer the skillet with the filets back into the oven.

Roast the filets at 400 degrees F for 7-8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees F for medium-rare. Allow the filets to rest for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle the tops with sea salt to finish (optional). Serve warm.

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

I’ve been rather bad about reporting on our Family Dinners over the past few months. And not because our menus weren’t delish but somehow amongst the endless events, time slipped by.

December’s dinner menu featured Mexican-inspired fare. We had a variety of fresh salsas, chicharrón, ceviche, salmon-dill tacos, rice, and beans. I whipped up some mango margaritas and my beer braised carnitas. And although it may not have been Latin, our sis, P, made a ridiculously amazing chocolate bread pudding. The icing on the cake? It was our adorable nephew, Leonidas’ 1st birthday!

February Family Dinner

For January, we let my seester, T, and our niece pick the theme as they’re Jan-Babies. So we were off to the islands for mouthwatering, ono grindz! Our spread included mai tais and my take on hamachi-ponzu shooters. Our eldest seester created a wonderfully light yet fulfilling banana leaf-wrapped monk fish with a curry sauce. And for dessert? Big seester made molten lava chocolate cakes and paired them with my toasted coconut ice cream and guava ice cream.

With island music playing throughout dinner, it was almost—almost like we were in Hawai’i. <le sigh….>

Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops

For this month, we revisited Italia. Big seester got me a ravioli mold for Christmas and we were eager to give them a try. For our entrées, we had raviolis three ways: butternut squash with brown butter sage sauce, spicy sausage with a marinara sauce, and lump crab with a pesto sauce. They were quite the success considering it was our first time making raviolis. And because I learned from October’s Family Dinner, I invested in a hand crank pasta machine. Best…idea…ever.

Since I knew it was going to take us some time to get the raviolis to the dinner table, I wanted to make a heartier-than-usual appetizer. We’re a big fan of lamb chops so I turned to my trusted recipe using a ton of rosemary and garlic. By slicing the racks into rib chops while giving them ample time to marinate, the lamb is able to seep in a ton of great flavor. And because my fam loves condiments, I made a quick and herbaceous gremolata to pair with the lamb to help brighten the gamey flavor.

We also found that a light sprinkle of sea salt over the rib chops not only added the perfect seasoning but it also added some great texture. My fam gobbled these appetizers up in no time flat but they can also be served as a mouthwatering entrée.

Can’t wait until next month’s Fam-Din!

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Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Lamb
½ cup chopped rosemary
2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
16 lamb rib chops, Frenched and trimmed (approximately 2 Frenched racks)
kosher salt and black pepper

Gremolata
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper

Optional
sea salt

In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, red chili flakes and olive oil. Place the lamb rib chops in a large shallow dish or gallon sized resealable bags. Season the lamb well with kosher salt and black pepper. Pour the herb mixture over the lamb and turn the chops around to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours (I like mine to marinate overnight).

Prepare gremolata by adding parsley, basil, garlic, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes into a food processor. Pulse to combine. On low, stream in the olive oil until you reach a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the lamb 15 minutes before cooking. Preheat grill to medium high. Grill the chops on each side for 2-3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F for rare or 135-140 degrees F for medium. Allow the lamb to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the lamb rib chops with a sprinkle of sea salt over the top (optional) and gremolata.

Crispy Roasted Porchetta for Sunday Family Dinner

Porchetta

I was first introduced to Porchetta by the beloved San Francisco truck, Roli Roti. A regular at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, Roli Roti draws throngs of followers by the delicious scents of their slow cooked, free range rotisserie chickens. As the chickens spin on the rotisseries, the juices drip down on trays of roasted potatoes. Drools….

Bruschetta

And of course, they have the most mouthwatering Porchetta – an Italian pork roast scented with herbs and enveloped in crispy, crackling skin. They serve their Porchetta on rolls piled high with arugula leaves and needless to say, it’s heavenly.

Porchetta

We were feeling quite ambitious for last month’s Sunday Family Dinner and attempted our own version of Porchetta. We did have a little challenge deciding on which cut of pork to use as some recipes call for whole pork belly with the skin on and other recipes list boneless pork shoulders.

We ended up using both pork belly and pork shoulder rubbed with a TON of herbs and garlic. To cook the Porchetta we enlisted my sister’s rotisserie oven but were not able to fit all the pork in at once. As such, we cooked a portion of it in the oven. As I would imagine that most folks do not own a rotisserie, the recipe below lays out a traditional oven cooking method. The oven Porchetta really is delicious but if you can get your hands on a rotisserie, I would highly recommend it.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

The pork was extremely tender and the crackling—OH THE CRACKLING! Deliciously crispy and juicy! Just forget about your cholesterol for the day because it’s so worth it! We served ours on ciabatta slices with a ton of arugula and Italian pickled veggies. The peppery, slight bitterness of the greens with the tang of the veggies helped balance out the richness of the Porchetta. To accompany our Porchetta sammies we served a fennel salad with citrus and roasted potatoes.

For appetizers, my sis T whipped up some Bruschetta and my niece made her infamous Raspberry Chocolate Cake.

Sunday Family Dinner

We were definitely pleased with how everything turned out and Dad even gave his stamp of approval. And although I’m a little hesitant to admit it, we even had a bit of excitement with a small little fire that occurred in the rotisserie oven. But don’t worry, it was quickly contained.

After all, it’s not a Sunday Family Dinner without a little adventure. :)

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Crispy Roasted Porchetta

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh rosemary
10 sprigs oregano
10 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup Italian parsley
20 large garlic cloves
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
zest of 2 lemons
kosher salt
black pepper
olive oil
5 pounds boneless pork shoulder (skin on) or pork belly with rib meat still attached (skin on)
2 pounds new potatoes, quartered
2 cups white wine or chicken stock

In a food processor, pulse together the rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley and garlic. Add in red pepper flakes, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/2 tablespoon black pepper and 1/2 cup olive oil. Pulse until a loose paste is formed.

If using pork shoulder, take a sharp knife and slice the pork open so that it lays flat. For both cuts of meat, score the skin of the pork. Heavily season the pork with salt and pepper. Rub the herb paste all over the inside of the pork, ensuring that you are able to get inside all the parts. Tightly roll up the pork and use kitchen twine to hold the roll together. Let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. In a large roasting pan, add the potatoes and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and then pour the white wine over them. Place a roasting rack on top of the potatoes. Rub the exterior skin of the porchetta with oil and season with additional kosher salt. Place the porchetta on the rack and roast for about 30 minutes until the skin becomes crispy and brown. Lower the heat to 375 degrees F, tent the the porchetta with aluminum foil and continue to roast for approximately 2 1/2 hours. Remove the foil, raise the temperature back to 425 degrees F and continue roasting the porchetta until internal temperature of the pork reaches 155-160 degrees.

Remove the porchetta to a cutting board and tent for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, turn on the broiler and roast the tops of the potatoes until they are crispy. Thinly slice the porchetta and serve warm with your choice of accoutrements.

Bò Lúc Lắc Xà Lách Son (Vietnamese Shaking Beef over Watercress)

Bò Lúc Lắc Xà Lách Son (Vietnamese Shaking Beef over Watercress)

Bò Lúc Lắc was a staple in our house growing up. Mom would make it in several different variations depending on her mood—with tofu, mushrooms, fried potatoes, or over a bed of fresh and peppery watercress.

The three key components to Bò Lúc Lắc are simple and straightforward. First, you need a high-quality cut of beef for a deliciously tender Bò Lúc Lắc. Mom preferred Filet Mignon but ribeye can be substituted. Second, due to the quality of the beef, you have to stirfry the meat quickly and over high heat. And lastly, the Maggi. Completely unique in flavor, the Maggi Seasoning Sauce is referred to as xì dầu” (soy sauce) in Vietnamese–although completely different in flavor profile than your average soy sauce. In dire circumstances, you could substitute Maggi with light soy sauce. However I would highly recommend stocking up on a bottle if you ever plan on cooking Vietnamese cuisine. Trust me, it’s totally worth it.

Have a great week!

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Bò Lúc Lắc Xà Lách Son (Vietnamese Shaking Beef over Watercress)

Ingredients:

1 Pound Filet Mignon or Ribeye Beef, cubed
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
Maggi Seasoning Sauce
1 Bunch Fresh Watercress, washed and dried (about 3 cups)
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
Black Pepper
Vegetable Oil
Fried Shallots (optional)

In a large bowl, mix beef, garlic, sliced shallots, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season heavily with pepper.

Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and when it begins to slightly smoke, carefully toss in the beef. Quickly stir-fry for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in the butter and add several dashes of Maggi to taste. In a separate bowl, quickly toss the watercress with the rice vinegar and plate. Pour the beef and the juices over the top of the watercress and season with additional black pepper. Optional: Sprinkle the top with the fried shallots.