Pork · Vietnamese

Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I’ve been craving a lot of Vietnamese foods lately. It’s comforting, nostalgic and just damn tasty.

I’ve said it many times before but I didn’t realize how good we had it growing up with all of that deliciousness around us all of the time. I definitely took it for granted.

And now when I want good quality Vietnamese food, I have to make the haul up to Orange County where I beg my family to feed me or resort to swinging by one of the gazillion Việt spots in Little Saigon.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

But then there are times where I’m home in San Diego and have to fend for myself.

Don’t get me wrong–I do like cooking Vietnamese foods, I’m just not the best at it. For sure, Mom reigned supreme and the aunties too. And nowadays, I’d say big seester N and our cousies A and T are right up there. That alone makes the idea of ever moving back to OC palatable because they’ve got skills!

There are a few Việt dishes I’m happy to make and feel pretty good about.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
Seestrah T posted a pic the other week of her grilling up some Vietnamese style pork chops which made me think of two things. First — hey! She never makes that for me! And second –sheesh, now I’m really hankering for some pork chops!

It was time to take matters into my own hands and luckily, I had all the ingredients already! My version of the marinade has staples like fish sauce, soy, sugar, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilies. Our cousin T that lives in Đà Nẵng makes the most EPIC sườn nướng (grilled pork chops). Years ago she told us what she marinated them with but I think the woman is holding out on us because mine never taste the same! And maybe it has to do with the fact that she grills them over this teeny-tiny charcoal grill on her patio floor and perhaps that’s where the essence of Việt Nam somehow creeps in and flavors it.

Who knows….

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
For these chops, I generally prefer to use a thinner cut—about 3/4 inch thickness. They remind me more of how we have them in Việt Nam or at the restaurants here. But if you prefer a thicker cut, go for it! Just be sure to marinate them overnight or at least for 6-8 hours.

Next, I throw them on a screaming hot grill and they cook up for 1-2 minutes on each side. Easy peasy! Keep in mind that the grilling time will increase if you choose thicker cuts.

Once finished, you’ll get all of these lovely charred bits from the sugar in the marinade. It’s at that point that you’ll want to quickly brush them with hành mơ — scallion oil.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I serve these pork chops pretty traditionally with a heaping scoop of steamed rice, sliced cucumbers & tomatoes, lots of spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce) and of course – a sunny side up fried egg with crispy edges. Now I know these days, some frown upon crispy edges on eggs. Quite frankly, I don’t know when that became out of fashion—but dang it! It’s darn tasty that way and adds texture.

If you order this dish out, you may also find that instead of a fried egg it will be served with Chả Trứng which is like a steamed egg meatloaf. It may sound strange to you but trust me, it’s awesome. Honestly, I was too lazy to make it (though it’s not difficult) but I promise I will someday soon and will share it with y’all.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

On this particular day, I plated them with a few Chả Giò . It’s not something I always do but seeing how I had a stash in my freezer, it seemed like the proper occasion to bust them out.

And with that dear peeps, Ăn Ngon!

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Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Sườn Nướng – Grilled Pork Chops:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops

Nước Chấm –Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ tablespoon Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste

Hành Mơ – Scallion Oil:
½ cup light olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions

Serve With:
steamed rice
4 crispy fried eggs
sliced cucumber
sliced tomatoes
lettuce or mixed greens

In a bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, oil, soy sauce and sugar together until the latter has dissolved. Stir in the shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili peppers and black pepper. Place the pork chops in a shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the pork, ensuring that the meat is well coated. Cover the dish (or seal the bag) and allow the pork to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. (If using thick chops, marinade overnight.)

Prepare the nước chấm (spicy dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a small sauté pan, slowly heat the canola 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.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Bring your grill to medium-high heat and lightly grease the grates with oil or cooking spray. Grill the pork chops for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned and slightly charred. If using thick chops, add an additional 2-3 minutes per side—depending on thickness. Remove the pork chops from the grill and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Cover and set aside while 4 plates are prepared.

On each plate, place a generous mound of rice and brush it with the hành mơ. Place one fried egg over the rice and add a few slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce/greens on the plate. Add one pork chop along with a small bowl of nước chấm.

Serve immediately.

 

Seafood · Vietnamese

Bún Tôm Nướng Sả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ve more than once (okaayyy….more like a thousand times!) heard me rant that basic, everyday Vietnamese dishes aren’t really difficult and are often times quick to cook — but it’s the “mise” that will get you.

We love our condiments and dipping sauces and every dish has its own specific ones to compliment them. Tons of different textures? A MUST! Garnishes? We’re OBSESSED! And I’m not referring to the last minute little sprig of parsley you throw on once you’re done plating. I’m talking about pickled veggies, crispy fried shallots, all kinds of fresh veggies, scallion and chili oils, roasted nuts, savory caramel sauces, and tons–and I mean TONS- of fresh herbs!

We take it to a whole new level!

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Which brings me back to my initial statement that the actual “cooking” part of the dish can be about 5 minutes whereas the prep and mise en place could add an additional hour!

Mixing sauces, chopping, mincing, dicing, MORE CHOPPING, roasting–and my least favorite as a kid, washing all the herbs. I know it sounds ridiculous but I really hated being on herb washing duty.

Maybe because we had so much of them all of the time?

Maybe because Mom wanted each leaf perfectly plucked from the stems?

Or maybe because I had to meticulously blot them each dry with a paper towel because wet herbs “watered” things down?

Had I even known that a salad spinner existed, I would have gladly used whatever little money I had at age 8 to buy one. It would have saved me from all the trauma—but I digress……

Vietnamese Mise en Place

I don’t mean to frighten Vietnamese cuisine novices from giving my peeps’ food a try—more of just a heads up. And once you start cooking Vietnamese more regularly, there are a few shortcuts such as:

  • Keep a large jar of basic Nước Chấm (dipping sauce) in your fridge. Just leave out the Sambal and doctor it up to best compliment that particular dish you’re fixing up – ie. fresh chilies instead of Sambal, fresh finely minced ginger, etc.
  • Đồ Chua are the pickled carrots and daikon you’ll find in tons of noodle dishes and bánh mì. My recipe below is a quick method using just carrots as I didn’t have any daikon on hand but if you make a large batch, jarred Đồ Chua can last in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks.
  • Lots of Asian grocery stores these days carry sả bằm (finely minced lemongrass) in their freezer section–often in little plastic tubs or bags. This is perfect for those folks who don’t use lemongrass often or just don’t want to hassle with all the mincing—though a food processor can also address the latter issue.

And of course, if you’ve got some good knife skills, then you’ve just cut the challenge in half (yea, I went there). Since so much prep is about dicing, mincing and slicing—it’ll be a breeze for you.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp

Bún Tôm Nướng Sả is a relatively low fuss dish I make quite often when I get a hankering for a big old bowl of Vietnamese goodness. I marinate a bunch of shrimp with lots of minced lemongrass (yup, I keep a tub in my freezer!), throw them on the grill (or grill pan or in this case, my cast iron skillet) and then nestle them on top of a mound of cool vermicelli noodles along with a hefty amount of veggies/herbs, Đồ Chua, Hành Mơ (scallion oil) and crunchy peanuts.

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
The whole thing then gets doused with a generous amount of nước chấm and fresh chilies for an added kicked. The bowl is filled with tons of different textures and crunch, light yet savory with a tremendous amount of freshness from the veggies/herbs and acidity from the nước chấm. If I had some leftover homemade egg rolls in the freezer, I would fry them up and add them to the bowl too! NGUYEN-ing!!!!!

Seriously, my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

And you betcha’ those are my Yoda lightsabre chopsticks below. Because when it comes to mise, Master Yoda would say “Patience you must have my young padawan!”

Yup…anyway to infuse some Jedi lessons…..

Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp
This would be just as tasty if you used thinly sliced chicken instead of the shrimp–or a combo of both! It’s your world, get a little crazy!

As for the prep time these days, I kind of like doing it now. Maybe it’s nostalgic, maybe 30+ years later I’ve become a little more patient….. But oddly enough, i find it rather relaxing—especially with some good music in the background and a glass of vino within arms reach. Because yes, vino should always be involved.

Ăn Ngon!

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Bún Tôm Nướng Sả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass
Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimped, peeled and deveined
quality Vietnamese fish sauce, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping tablespoon finely minced lemongrass
1 cup rice wine vinegar
sugar, divided
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ cup of canola oil
½ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste
cooking spray
2 cups chopped lettuce
1 package vermicelli noodles, prepared according to package directions
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ roughly chopped roasted peanuts
fresh chilies

In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, 2-3 dashes fish sauce, red pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic powder and lemongrass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl or shallow plate, whisk the rice wine vinegar and 2-3 pinches sugar together. Add the carrots and allow to “quick pickle” in the fridge.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a sauté pan, slowly heat the canola 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.

Prepare the nước chấm (dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator 5 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Heat your grill pan/cast iron to medium-high and lightly cover with cooking spray (or prepare outdoor grill). Grill the shrimp for approximately 1-2 minutes on each side until it’s opaque and turns pink. Remove to a large plate.

Divide the lettuce and noodles between four bowls. Add the pickled carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, and cilantro. Top the bowls with the grilled shrimp and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Sprinkle the bowls with the crushed peanuts and serve with nước chấm and fresh chilies.

Seafood

Clams with Ginger and Lemongrass

Clams with Ginger and Lemongrass

Does anyone else pretend like they’re on a cooking show when you’re in the kitchen?

You know, talk out loud as if you’re narrating your own show….

Or try to race against the clock to cook/bake something in 5 minutes….

Just me???

Oh…..ok.

Well, if you did ever time yourself, these Clams with Ginger and Lemongrass would be the perfect dish because they’re done in flash! You can easily be in and out of the kitchen in less than 15 minutes—even faster if you have your fishmonger clean your clams for you.

And for the record, I not only time myself when making this dish but also talk to my puggle as if she was the audience in my live cooking show. She thinks I’m hilarious.

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Clams with Ginger and Lemongrass
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 fresh lemongrass stalks, tender inner white bulbs only, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 Thai Bird chilies, sliced
½ cup dry white wine
½ tablespoon fish sauce
2 scallions, cut into 1″ pieces (more for garnish)
1½ pounds little-neck or Manila clams, scrubbed and cleaned
cilantro

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger, and chilies–stir-fry for 30 seconds. Carefully stir in the wine, fish sauce, and scallions.

Add in the clams, stir the contents, and cover with a lid. Allow the clams to cook for 4-5 minutes or until the shells have opened. Plate the clams and garnish with scallions and cilantro. .

 

Beef · Vietnamese

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

 

 

Growing up, whenever my family celebrated a special occasion or holiday, we would head out to enjoy Bò 7 Món – 7 courses of beef. This may seem strange as Vietnamese cuisine isn’t really known for heavy amounts of beef but maybe that’s why this specialty is often saved for momentous occasions.

These days you can find many restaurants that offer Bò 7 Món, but in my family’s opinion, no one does it better than Pagolac Restaurant in Westminster, California.

 

 

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

My family has been coming to Pagolac Restaurant for over 20 years. Most of the dishes you order, you cook yourself on table top grills or mini boiling pots of vinegar water. All proteins are meant to be wrapped in the rice paper sheets with assorted veggies then dipped in a very pungent and savory sauce called mắm nêm.

And although there are a standard set of items when eating  Bò 7 Món, my family typically orders à la carte as there are some of the dishes that just aren’t our fav. We always order the thinly sliced beef, shrimp, squid, meatballs with shrimp crackers—and my personal favorite, Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt  or Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves. I would always plead for my mom to order extra plates of it as the dish was amazing to me. Just the right mixture of spices in the beef and all enveloped in the fragrant betel leaves that tasted even better slightly charred from the grill.

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Betel leaves are used quite often in Việt Nam in food, medicine and also as a “chew” to produce a kind of stimulant.Though, the latter does cause some serious ICK counter effects over extended amounts of time such as black teeth.  Yikes! However, the leaves are quite fragrant and literally produces a trigger effect for my mouth to start watering when I smell it being grilled.  🙂

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Once wrapped and grilled up, Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt can be enjoyed a number of ways…..with rice or vermicelli noodles and even as a đồ ăn nhậu (beer food). But my favorite is to wrap some in Rice Paper Sheets (bánh tráng) and throw in a few veggies such as the pickled cucumbers or carrots. Delicious balance in texture and taste!

Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)

Truth be told, I can’t recall a time when Mom made Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt at home but that doesn’t stop me from associating them with her.  Because when I think about this dish,  it makes me reflect on happy, celebratory times and images of Mom come flooding back to me as she stood over the table top grills at Pagolac Restaurant laughing and distributing all the sizzling items to our plates.

And when all is said and done, anything that can evoke those precious images while making my tummy happy is a  Nguyen-Win Situation. 🙂

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Thịt Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaves)
Serves approximately 4

Ingredients:

2-3 Dozen Betel Leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
½ Pound Ground Beef
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Shallots, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Lemongrass, very finely minced (s bm)
1 Scallion, chopped
1½ Teaspoon Fish Sauce (nước mm), or more to taste
½ Teaspoon Curry Powder
1 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
¼ Cup Green Onion infused Oil (hành mơ)*

Accouterments
1 Cup Slightly Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers**
¼ Cup Roasted Peanuts, crushed
1 Cup Dipping Sauce (nước chấm)***
Rice Paper Sheets (bánh tráng)

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. Mix well and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. While beef is marinating, prepare the accouterments:

Scallion Oil (hành m
ơ): In a sauté pan, slowly heat ¼ cup of canola oil. Add ½ cup 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.

Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers: Cut carrots and cucumbers into small matchsticks and place in a small bowl. Cover them with Rice Wine Vinegar and a pinch of Sugar.

Dipping Sauce (n
ước chấm): Combine ½ Cup Fish Sauce (nước mm), ½ Cup Sugar, ½ Cup Fresh Lime Juice, ¼ Cup Warm Water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 Teaspoon Chili Paste. Adjust amounts to desired to taste.

To assemble the rolls, take one betel leaf and place it shiny side down. Scoop out about ¾ tablespoon of the beef mixture and shape it towards the center of the leaf in a row. Slowly and tightly roll the leaf from tip to base. Once you get to the base, use a toothpick to prick a hole in the center of the roll and tuck the stem of the betel leaf in the hole to secure it. (Alternatively, you can use soaked toothpicks or skewers to hold the rolls together).

Cover a baking sheet with foil and brush it with the scallion oil (hành mơ). Place the rolls, seam side down, on the sheet and brush them with additional scallion oil (hành mơ).

If cooking with an oven: Turn broiler on high and place baking rack directly underneath it. Transfer baking sheet with rolls to the oven. Broil for 6-8 minutes, turning the rolls every 1½ minute to cook evenly and prevent burning.

If cooking on a grill: Place rolls in a wire mesh grilling basket. Grill rolls on each side for 1 minute.

Transfer rolls to a plate and brush with scallion oil (hành mơ) and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Serve with nước chấm, pickled vegetables and moistened rice paper sheets.

 

 

**This is my submission to Delicious Vietnam #19 a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of  Ravenous Couple. For more information, please visit Delicious Vietnam Thanks to  Sandy from ginger and scotch for hosting this month!**

Drinks

Cheers…with a Lemongrass Mojito!

Lemongrass Mojito

I love me some Cocktails. True Story. So when the holidays come around, it gives me the perfect excuse to go into frantic baking and cocktail-shakin’ mode!

This little number is a spin off of one my favorite cocktails to make–Mojitos. I just heart mojitos as they epitomize some of my favorite flavors—bright citrus, vibrant herbaceous notes, and just the right amount of light rum. 🙂 The lemongrass simple syrup offers a wonderful pairing to the traditional mojito as it mirrors the citrus of the limes but adds a little kick of spice.

And with that dear friends, here’s a toast to you and the Holidays! Salute! Kampai! Prost! ʻŌkole maluna! L’chaim! Gan Bei! Sante! Can ly!

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Lemongrass Mojito

Ingredients:

¼ Cup Packed Mint Leaves
1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Lemongrass Simple Syrup*
2 Ounces Light Rum
6 Ounces Club Soda
2-3 Cups Crushed Ice

*Lemongrass Simple Syrup
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Water
2 Lemongrass Stalks, coarsely chopped

Prepare Lemongrass Simple Syrup by combining water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Remove from the heat and add lemongrass. Allow syrup to steep and cool to room temperature. After 60 minutes, strain the syrup to remove the lemongrass.

In a cocktail shaker, thoroughly muddle the mint leaves and lemongrass simple syrup. Add lime juice, rum and fill the shaker with ice. Vigorously shake and strain the liquids into a tall glass filled with ice. Top off glass with club soda. Garnish with lemongrass stalks and mint leaves.

Cheers!

Lemongrass Mojito