Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Growing up, our daily family dinners typically consisted of rice (cơm) served with a stir-fried dish (món xào), a soup dish (món canh), and sometimes a braised dish (món kho). Pretty standard menu for a Vietnamese meal.

Truthfully, I took it for granted back then as I preferred to have lasagna, McDonald’s or even Dairy Queen for dinner. Hey- I was a little kid growing up in Minnesota after all.

But as I get older, those are the dishes I crave the most–even if I don’t make them too often. One of those nostalgic dishes is Cá Kho – braised fish. There’s a ton of variations to Cá Kho and it can change depending on the household. I like it two ways–the first in a very salty broth that you eat with vermicelli noodles or Cá Kho Tộ where the fish is braised in a salty sweet sauce.

Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Cá Kho Tộ is traditionally made with catfish and uses a combination of nước màu (caramel sauce), tons of fish sauce, shallots and coconut juice. Although it’s meant to be cooked in a claypot (tộ), you can use any heavy bottom pot that you have on hand.

We use Coco Rico (coconut soda) in a lot of our kho dishes in lieu of coconut juice but if you can’t find it at your local ethnic grocery store, the latter should work out fine. You can also substitute the catfish for salmon, seabass or any fatty fish that can hold up to braising.

Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}

Once done, the fish is really tender and I love to spoon the thick, salty/sweet sauce over rice. So good! But just a suggestion, be sure to turn on your kitchen fan while you’re cooking up cá kho because the aroma can be a bit strong. :)

Ăn Ngon, Folks!

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Cá Kho Tộ {Vietnamese Clay Pot Braised Catfish}
Serves 4

Ingredients:

salt
2 pounds catfish steaks, washed and patted dried
1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped scallions, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, more to taste
2 tablespoons nước màu, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces Coco Rico soda
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
3-4 red Thai chiles, more to taste
fresh cilantro leaves

Liberally sprinkle salt over the catfish steaks. Rub the salt all over the fish and rinse off with cool water. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. The salt “exfoliate” is a great way to clean fish and other meats.

Place the washed fish into a large bowl. Add in the palm sugar, shallots, garlic, all but 1 tablespoon of scallions, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of nước màu and black pepper. Coat the fish well in the marinade and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the fish and allow to marinate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large clay pot or other heavy bottom pot. Place the catfish steaks in a single layer and sear 1 minute on each side. Pour all the marinade over the fish, the remaining nước màu and the Coco Rico soda. Add the ginger, chiles and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes. Gently flip the catfish steaks halfway through the cooking time.

Once the fish has cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened, taste and add more fish sauce as needed. Sprinkle the remaining scallions, additional chiles (to taste), and cilantro leaves on top. Serve warm with rice.

Nước Màu {Vietnamese Caramel Sauce}

Nước Màu {Vietnamese Caramel Sauce}

 

Nước Màu is a “caramel sauce” commonly used in Vietnamese dishes. It offers a sweet, bitter balance to salty, savory ingredients and is often used in braised dishes with pork, shrimp and fish.

You can find a prepackaged version of nước màu dừa in the condiment/sauces section of your local Asian grocery store but why buy it when it’s so easy to whip up at home? Plus, it’s cheaper to make and you know exactly what’s in it. No funky mystery items that can often pop up in pre-bottled stuff.

Nước Màu is typically quite dark in color but I prefer to make my version a bit lighter than others as I find it can be a bit too bitter for my taste. But you can cook down the sugar to whichever consistency you prefer.

Once made, you can jar up the nước màu and store until you get a hankering for some down home Vietnamese dishes.

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Nước Màu

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup boil water

Place the sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and cook over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to melt, swirl the pan around as it begins to bubble. Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a dark brown hue.

Carefully pour in the boiling water. The melted sugar will violently bubble and hiss at this point so take caution. Stir the liquids and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes as it continues to thicken. Pour the nước màu into a jar and allow to cool to room temperature. The nước màu can be kept for several months, unrefrigerated.

 

 

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

It seems almost silly that I’m writing a post on Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage} because it’s incredibly easy and so common. But if you grew up in a Vietnamese family like I did, then you can appreciate what a staple this humble dish is.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

It starts with xôi –sticky, glutinous sweet rice (gạo nếp) that is best soaked before you cook it. I use a bamboo steamer to cook the rice but if you’ve got a nifty electric rice cooker that has the right settings, you can also go with that method. Unfortunately my rice cooker isn’t that snazzy and often burns my xôi, so I opt for the old school method.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

The sticky and slighty chewy xôi then gets topped with slices of lạp xưởng, which are Chinese sausages. They’re a smoked sausage typically made from pork or chicken and has a salty and slightly sweet flavor profile. Our mom used to pan-fry the lạp xưởng or even throw it in the rice cooker while the xôi cooked. But these days I’ve adopted my eldest seester’s method – broiling them in the toaster oven. They make the lạp xưởng wonderfully crisp and makes for easy clean up.

You can also find Xôi Lạp Xưởng topped with thịt chà bông/ruốc (a dried and shredded pork), eggs, small dried shrimp or chicken. But we grew up eating it pretty simple and I like to have it with a small side of Maggi Seasoning Sauce and fresh chiles.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

Xôi Lạp Xưởng can be eaten warm or at room temperature– which is why I think it always had a presence in our home for quick meals, road trips, picnics and was the perfect way to feed a crowd on a budget.

I still enjoy Xôi Lạp Xưởng to this day but it will always be a taste of my childhood…..and that’s a delicious thing.

Ăn Ngon, Friends!

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Xôi Lạp Xưởng (Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 cups sweet glutinous rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup chopped scallions
4 lạp xưởng links (Chinese sausage)
1 cup fried shallots
Maggi Seasoning Sauce or soy sauce
fresh chiles or sambal paste

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Fill a large bowl with cool water, add the rice and soak it overnight. Once the rice has been properly soaked, drain the rice and shake off any excess water. With a clean kitchen towel, gently pat the rice dry, sprinkle in the salt and mix until combined.

Line the bottom of your steamer with a sheet of cheesecloth and then spread the rice mixture evenly on top of the cloth. Depending on how large your stacked steamer is, you may need to add a second layer. Steam, covered, for about 20-25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. *Alternatively, you can use an electric rice cooker if it has the correct settings.

While the rice is steaming, place the lạp xưởng links (Chinese sausage) on a foil lined baking sheet. Broil for 3-4 minutes in your oven or in a toaster oven until all sides have been crisped. Cut the lạp xưởng into thin slices.

Prepare the hành mỡ (scallion oil). In a sauté pan, slowly heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

To assemble, place a few scoops of the cooked rice in a bowl or shallow plate. Brush the rice with the hành mỡ (scallion oil) and top with several slices of lạp xưởng. Sprinkle each serving with fried shallots and serve with Maggi seasoning or soy sauce and fresh chiles/sambal paste.

Enjoy!

Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)

Cà Ri Gà

Vietnamese is easily one of the top requested foods people ask me to post recipes for. Of course it’s one of my favorite cuisines but to actually quantify measurements in Vietnamese dishes is really tricky. Like Mom and our aunties, I kind of throw a bit of this and a couple of more dashes of that until I like the flavor results.

So please bear with me as I try to share more delish Vietnamese dishes this year and know that you can always adjust amounts (more heat, less nước mắm…) to your hearts content.

Cà Ri Gà

Cà Ri Gà is the Vietnamese version of a chicken curry stew and I LOVE IT. It’s hearty, incredibly aromatic and the flavors get better over time. The rich Cà Ri Gà can be served with jasmine rice or over rice noodles. However my preferred carb accompaniment is with crusty, toasted baguette so that you can dunk pieces in the sauce and gobble it on up.

Cà Ri Gà

I kind of think of Cà Ri Gà as the Vietnamese approach to fusion as a lot of components pull from various cultures. The curry spices itself are from South India – the Vietnamese call it “Cà Ri Ấn Độ“. I like to use a Madras curry blend–a paste in fact but Madras curry powder will also do the trick. As for the coconut milk and kaffir limes – I think of those as classic Thai flavors. And of course the baguette comes from the very heavy French influence in Việt Nam.

Cà Ri Gà

Cà Ri Gà is not difficult to make but like so many other memorable dishes, it does take some time to layer flavors. And trust me, it’s completely worth the few extra steps.

Start off by taking a chicken (it is chicken curry after all) and break it down into 8 pieces. Of course you can use whatever cuts you prefer but I would suggest leaving the skin on and bone-in for more flavor. Mo’ flavor, mo’ better!

Slather the chicken in some of the curry paste and other aromatics –then allow it marinate for several hours.

Cà Ri Gà

After the chicken has had ample time to steep in all the delicious aromatics, lightly brown the meat on both sides.

Browned goodness = Awesome flavor

Tip: Before browning the chicken, wipe off some of the aromatics as they can burn from the high heat in the pot.

Burned garlic/ginger = No bueno flavor

Cà Ri Gà

Remove the chicken after it has browned and saute some other goodies. I’m telling ya, Cà Ri Gà is an aromatic party!

Cà Ri Gà

Then add in a few dollops of the Madras curry paste and cook it down for a minute or two. The heat will release the natural oils from the spices that will add magic to your sauce.

Flavor Magic.

Cà Ri Gà

At some point you’ll also want to smash up some lemongrass stalks. But do me a favor and be careful while you’re hacking away.

Cà Ri Gà

In goes the coconut milk, chicken stock, beaten up lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and a few dashes of Vietnamese Liquid Gold (fish sauce)……..

Cà Ri Gà

Then the taters, carrots and chicken…………

Cà Ri Gà

And then about an hour later you’ll be ready to get down on some honest to goodness Cà Ri Gà! The chicken should be fork tender and swathed in the luscious curry sauce that is incredibly fragrant from the lemongrass, ginger and kaffir.

Should you find yourself with leftovers, take a tortilla and spoon some basmati rice in the center. Top the rice with the Cà Ri Gà, a few spoonfuls of the sauce and you’ll have an insane Cà Ri Gà Wrap! It also freezes really well.

Cà Ri Gà

And with that dear Friends – Ăn Ngon!

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Cà Ri Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (4-5lbs), broken down into 8 pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
1 tablespoon finely minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided (*more to taste)
5 tablespoons Madras curry paste, divided
1 cup diced white onions
1 inch fresh garlic, sliced into thin matchsticks
2 whole red Thai chilies, minced (*more to taste)
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock
2 stalks lemongrass
6-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves (2-3 bay leaves can be substituted if needed)
1 pound peeled potatoes, washed and cut into large pieces
3-4 medium sized peeled carrots, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
toasted baguettes

In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, shallots, minced garlic, minced lemongrass, minced ginger, black pepper, sugar, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and 2 tablespoons of curry paste. Thoroughly coat the chicken and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the chicken in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 6-8 hours.

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the remaining oil to medium. Brush off the larger shallots/garlic/ginger pieces from the chicken (to prevent it from burning) and in batches, lightly brown the chicken on both sides—about 5-6 minutes. Place the browned chicken on a large plate.

Once all the chicken has been browned, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the oil/grease from the pot. Throw in the diced onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, chilies and saute for 1 minute before adding in the remaining curry paste. Cook for an additional 30-40 seconds to allow the aromatics and spices to release their oils and bring out their flavors.

Pour in the coconut milk and chicken stock. Take the back of a knife and smash the lemongrass stalks several times to bruise the stalks and release its oils. Add the bruised lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and remaining fish sauce to the pot. Place the potatoes and carrots in the pot and add the chicken. The items should mostly be submerged in the liquids.

Bring the liquids to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook the curry, partially covered, on a low simmered heat for 50-60 minutes. Once done, the chicken should be very tender and the sauce has reduced by about ½.  Taste and adjust with additional fish sauce and black pepper as needed.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot with toasted baguettes (or rice, noodles, etc.).

Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua (Vietnamese Style Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Tofu with Tomato Sauce

What is your Comfort Food?

Mac ‘n Cheese? Chicken Noodle Soup? PB and J sammies?

No matter what it is—one thing holds true for everyone. Comfort Food does exactly what it’s named for….it brings us comfort—and perhaps transports us back to a time of happiness, safety and love.

And for me, that is what Vietnamese food is.

Tofu with Tomato Sauce

It’s about the “everyday” dishes my family would sit down to at dinner time. A plethora of dishes to be eaten with jasmine rice….fried fish, stuffed squid, various stir-fry veggies, soups, and stinky stuff that just tastes so damn good. And wouldn’t you know it? When I was young, I would complain all the time about it to Mom and say “cơm (rice) again?!” Because at that time, I wanted to eat what all my friends were eating…spaghetti, pizza, burgers, etc. But Mom would always say, “Just wait—one day, you’ll miss this”. And darnit! She was right! Moms…..how do they just know?!

This simple tofu dish is something we would eat quite often. It’s quick and tasty—balancing salty and sweet together. I cheat and buy already fried tofu squares at my local Asian markets which makes this dish SUPER quick and easy. But if you don’t have that available, cube up firm tofu and use paper towels to dry them off. Fry them in oil until golden brown and then throw them into the sauce. Easy Peasy!

So tell me, Friends….what’s your go-to Comfort Foods?

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Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua (Vietnamese Style Tofu with Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients:

4 Cups Fried Tofu
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, minced
1/4 Cup Shallots, diced
4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and roughly diced
1 Red Jalapeno, thinly sliced
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
Black Pepper
Garnish with additional scallions and cilantro

In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat and cook garlic and shallots for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until softened. Stir in ketchup and fish sauce. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Toss in fried tofu and coat evenly. Season with black pepper and garnish with additional scallions and fresh cilantro. Serve with steamed rice and Enjoy!

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad) & Giveaway Winner!

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)

Ever had Gỏi?

Gỏi is a general term for “salads” in Vietnamese and can come in all forms using a variety of ingredients. Lately, my favorite Gỏi utilizes thinly sliced Banana Blossoms. I combine it with grilled proteins, pink grapefruit, creamy avocados, a ton of herbs and a healthy douse of Nước chấm “vinaigrette”. It’s absolutely delicious and epitomizes the balance in Vietnamese cuisines.

If you’ve never used Banana Blossoms before, they can be somewhat tricky the first time around. It’s best to remove the outer few petals as they’re quite tough (though you can save them as garnish), use a really sharp knife so you can get thin slices, and be sure to soak the cut blossoms in cold water that has been mixed with some type of acid–citrus juice or vinegar does the trick. The later helps removes some of that chalky flavor that the Banana Blossoms can sometimes have.

And although it sounds a bit laborious—it’s totally worth it and delicious!

 

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)

And now to announce the winner of a fabulous Nambe Pasta Cradle Bowl

Drum Roll please………….

CONGRATS Serena Kim who said she would serve Shrimp Pesto Pasta in the Nambé Bowl. Sounds yummy and will look gorgeous in your new bowl! Serena, we’ll be sending you an email shortly so we can get your new Nambé artwork shipped out.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! And THANK YOU Nambé !

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Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
Nước chấm (Sauce):
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely minced
chili paste, to taste

Gỏi (Salad):
cups chicken breast, grilled and shredded
cups prawns, shelled and grilled
2 medium sized avocadoes, cubed
1 cup Ruby Red Grapefruit segments
4 cups banana blossoms, julienned
¼ cup loosely packed fresh Vietnamese Mint (rau răm), chopped
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup fried shallots
¼ cup roasted peanuts, crushed
cold water
black pepper to taste

Prepare the sauce. In a medium sized bowl, stir the sugar and water together until completely dissolved. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir until combined. Set aside.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the rice wine vinegar. Peel off the dark colored and tough outer leaves of the banana blossom. Use a sharp knife or mandolin to julienne the blossoms. You can either discard the “baby bananas” or chop them up finely. Submerge the banana blossoms into the bowl of water/vinegar after they have been julienne. Allow the banana blossoms to sit in the vinegar water for 15-20 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, prawns, avocados, herbs, and freshly cracked black pepper. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce until the items are lightly coated. Drain the banana blossoms from the vinegar water and squeeze out any excess liquids. Add banana blossoms to the other ingredients and spoon in some additional sauce. Gently toss the salad with the fried shallots and plate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peanuts and serve.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

The other week I did a quick poll via Twitter and Facebook asking folks what Vietnamese dishes they’d like to see on the blog—well, other than Phở :)

I got a range of requests from Bún (Vermicelli Noodles) to Gỏi Cuốn (Spring/Summer Rolls) and even Bánh Mì (sandwiches).

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

But truth be told, outside of the occasional Bánh Mì Chả Lụa (Vietnamese “Ham”/”Sausage” Sandwich), I rarely ever make Bánh Mì.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

By no means is Bánh Mì difficult to assemble but I’ve always been lucky enough to have local Bánh Mì shops nearby and at under 3 bucks a pop (and that’s on the high end), I have been just darn lazy. Yup, I admit it.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

At it’s base, Bánh Mì is made up of a toasted french baguette, pickled veggies, tons of cilantro, mayonnaise, and some type of protein. But don’t let it fool you. Just because it sounds simple, doesn’t mean the flavors aren’t genius!

Bánh Mì is all about balance. The great crunch from the baguette, savory flavors from the protein, bright notes from the herbs and the sweet/tangy aspects of the pickled veggies. Just Perfect.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

But I realize not everyone has access to yummy Bánh Mì shops so I thought it would be fun to share a delish and easy method. For this particular Bánh Mì Gà Nướng, I used chicken thighs marinated with Chinese Five-Spice and Maggi Seasoning Sauce. In fact, this is how our mom would often marinade our poultry—including our Thanksgiving turkeys every year! The Five-Spice gives a deep, earthy flavor from the combination of star anise, cloves, and other goodness. Trust me, it’s amazing.

And with that friends—Ăn ngon! Stay tuned next week for another Vietnamese dish!

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Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 6-inch Baguette Rolls, lightly toasted and sliced lengthwise
Five Spiced Chicken*
Đồ Chua (Pickled Vegetables)*
Mayonaisse*
1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro Leaves, washed and dried
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 Small Cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise


Five-Spice Chicken
:
6 Chicken Thighs, bone in and skin on
1 Tablespoon Five-Spice Powder
¼ Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Maggi Seasoning Sauce

Đồ Chua (Pickled Vegetables):
1 Cup Carrots, julienned
1 Cup Daikon Radish, julienned
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
½ Cup Boiling Water

Mayonnaise:
2 Large Egg Yolks, at room temperature
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Garlic Clove, minced
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped (optional)
2-3 Dashes Nước Mắm (fish sauce)

Prepare the marinade for the chicken. In a large bowl, whisk together the Five-Spice, sugar, and pepper. Stir in garlic, Maggi and oil until the dry ingredients have dissolved. Submerge the chicken into the marinade, being sure to coat both sides. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Đồ Chua (Pickled Vegetables). In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt with the boiling water. Add the vinegar and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Add the vegetables and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the mayonnaise. In a blender, add all the ingredients except the oil. Pulse several times and then slowly drizzle in the oil until the mayonnaise has properly emulsified. Refrigerate until ready for use. *You can also use jarred mayonnaise to substitute*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with oil and place the marinated chicken thighs on the sheet, skin side up. Roast for approximately 30 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Remove the chicken and transfer to a plate. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the meat into pieces.

Assemble the Bánh Mì. Spread a heaping spoonful of mayonnaise inside one side of each toasted baguette roll. Fill each roll with the chicken and drizzle a bit of the pan drippings over the meat. If desired, sprinkle with more black pepper. Fill the sandwiches with pickled vegetables, jalapeno and cucumber slices, and the cilantro. Enjoy!

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.

Xôi Gấc for Tết (Baby Jackfruit Flavored Sticky Rice)

Xôi Gấc (Baby Jackfruit Flavored Sticky Rice)

It’s hard to believe that Tết, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is just a few days away.

Growing up, our parents used to have us scrub down the entire house the days leading up to Tết. It was one of the many important traditions we used to follow to ensure a prosperous and lucky new year. Then, the entire clan would come together, cook up a feast of goodies, offer ancestral prayers at the alter, hand out lì xì (lucky money in red envelopes) to the kids, eat, drink, laugh, and well—gamble and play cards! Needless to say, it was always a fun time.

One of the traditional dishes often found around Tết is Xôi Gấc which is essentially, glutinous rice (sticky rice) that has been steamed with coconut milk and Gấc.

Xôi Gấc (Baby Jackfruit Flavored Sticky Rice)

This is one of those Vietnamese dishes whose name just doesn’t translate well into English. The first challenge is “Gấc”.  It has several English names such as Baby Jackfruit, Cochinchin Gourd, Sweet Gourd, Momordica Charantia Fruit, and my least favorite–Spiny Bitter Gourd. I mean, c’mon now…… How unappetizing does Spiny Bitter Gourd sound? You might as well throw in some other funky words like gelatinous and congealed and call it a day.

But I digress…..

Since I’ve seen Gấc more often called “Baby Jackfruit“—–I’m going with it. But for the record, it does not taste like regular jackfruit or even “young jackfruit”. Could I BE more confusing???

Xôi Gấc (Baby Jackfruit Flavored Sticky Rice)

The flesh of the Gấc fruit is deep red and is well suited to not only flavor Xôi (sticky rice) but also naturally dyes the grains of rice to an intense orange-reddish hue. It’s because of this that you’ll find Xôi Gấc served at celebrations such as Tết and weddings since the color red is considered to be very lucky.

Although fresh Gấc can now be found in many large Vietnamese grocery stores this time of year, I couldn’t convince myself to make the trek to Orange County to pick some up. I resorted to using frozen Gấc puree that my local Vietnamese grocery store has stocked year round. If you can get it, I would HIGHLY recommend using the fresh fruit over frozen as you won’t be able to get the same rich and vibrant hue if you use the latter. Truthfully, my finished Xôi Gấc looked a tad anemic because I used the frozen puree—but it was DARN TASTY all the same.

Oh—and if being healthier is one of your New Year’s resolutions….the Gấc fruit has a supposed astronomic amount of beta-carotene and lycopene.

Xôi Gấc (Baby Jackfruit Flavored Sticky Rice)

Since Xôi Gấc has a slightly sweet profile to it, it’s best served alongside something savory like roast pork or Chả lụa (pork sausage). But it can also be enjoyed as a breakfast item as well.

And with that Dear Friends, I better get back to cleaning my house before Tết is here. But before I sign off, let me wish you and your loved ones a joyous, adventure-filled, and delicious Year of the Dragon!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

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Xôi Gấc (Baby Jackfruit Flavored Sticky Rice)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 Cups Sweet Glutinous Rice
12 Ounces Gấc Fruit, either fresh or frozen puree
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
6-8 Fresh Pandan Leaves
1 Tablespoon Mirin
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Fill a large bowl with cool water, add the rice and soak it overnight.

Once the rice has been properly soaked, drain the rice and shake off any excess water. With a kitchen towel, gently pat the rice dry and then transfer to a mixing bowl.

While wearing gloves, massage and rub the Gấc into the rice, allowing the grains to be thoroughly covered in the fruit. Sprinkle in the salt and mix until combined.

Line the bottom of your steamer with a sheet of cheesecloth. Place a layer of pandan leaves on top of the cheesecloth and then spread the rice mixture evenly on top the leaves. Cover the rice mixture with additional pandan leaves and place the steamer lid on. Steam for about 15 minutes and then remove the lid and top layer of pandan leaves. Using chopsticks, stir in the coconut milk and mirin while fluffing the rice. Place the leaves and steamer lid back on and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Enjoy!

Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crêpes)

Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe)

Bánh Xèo

Bánh = Cake

Xèo = Sound of the “sizzle” from the skillet

Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe)

Growing up, I always considered Bánh Xèo to be a treat when my mom made them. She insisted that they needed to be eaten immediately from the skillet to maintain its crispy exterior. And unlike when you order them from restaurants, she would fill mine with tons of filling. :)

Bánh Xèo gets its yellow hue from the turmeric and is flavored with coconut milk. Traditionally, Bánh Xèo is filled with pork, shrimp, onions, mung beans, and bean sprouts. And just like chả giò (egg rolls), you wrap pieces of the Bánh Xèo with herbs and lettuce leave before dunking it into Nước Chấm–a fish sauce based dipping sauce. The freshness of the veggies is the perfect balance to the slightly fried crêpe.

Enjoy!

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Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crêpes)

Batter:
1½ Cups Rice Flour
½ Teaspoon Turmeric
¼ Cup Coconut Milk
1 Cup Cold Soda Water, more if needed
½ Cup Scallions, diced
1-2 Dashes Nước Mắm (fish sauce)

Filling:
½ Pound Shrimp, peeled and cleaned
½ Pound Pork Loin, sliced thinly
½ Cup White Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Garlic, finely diced
2 Cups Fresh Bean Sprouts
Nước Mắm (fish sauce)
Ground Black Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Nước Chm (Dipping Sauce):
½ Cup Nước Mắm (fish sauce)
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Fresh Lime Juice
¼ Cup Warm Water
1-2 Thai Chilies, finely diced

Accouterments:
Lettuce
Thai Basil
Mint
Cilantro
Cucumbers

In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and turmeric. Add in coconut milk and mix until well combined. Slowly whisk in the soda water until all the lumps have dissolved. Whisk in Nước Mắm and scallions. Set the batter aside for 30-45 minutes.

Prepare the Nước chm. Combine Fish Sauce, Sugar, Lime Juice, Warm Water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add in chilies. Cover and set aside.

In another bowl, add in pork and shrimp. Toss with garlic, white onions, a few splashes of Nước Mắm, and pepper. Heat a pan with a few tablespoons of oil to medium-high heat. Add the mixture and cook for a few minutes until the pork and shrimp are almost done. Remove from pan.

In a large nonstick skillet, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Stir the batter and carefully spoon a ladleful into the skillet. Tilt and swirl the pan to coat the bottom evenly. After 1-2 minutes, place some of the pork/shrimp mixture on one half of the skillet. Top with the bean sprouts. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove lid and drizzle a little bit of oil on the outer edge of the crêpe. Cover the skillet for another 2-3 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully fold the crêpe in half, gently pressing down on top. Transfer to a plate. Serve with lettuce, mint, cilantro, thai basil and nước chm (dipping sauce).

 

 

This is my submission to the final Delicious Vietnama monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. Thank You Anh, Kim, and Hong!