Pastas/Noodles · Poultry · Vietnamese

Phở Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup for My Soul

Phở Gà

Today is Mom’s Birthday.

And like every year on her birthday, I’ll fix up a big ol’ steak dinner in her honor. Our tiny giant was quite the carnivore after all. A trait that was definitely passed on to my sister and many of our munchkins.

In years past, I’d post some variation of a steak recipe for her birthday, but this year I thought I would share something comforting – Phở Gà. Because what’s more comforting than chicken noodle soup?

Phở Gà

When I was digging through old photos last night, I came upon the one below that I just love. Mom (second from the right) was barely in her mid-teens here and our Ông Ngoại, our maternal grandpa, was in the suit in the back row. There aren’t too many pictures of him so it always makes me smile when we do find one.

And what about our grand uncle seated in the middle? He’s definitely putting out some Vietnamese Colonel Sanders vibes, right?

I’m 100% for it.

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I’m also rather obsessed with Mom’s look here. That hair…. those shades!

Very beach chic!

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As time has passed, I often wonder what is it that I miss most of her.

Her eyes that somewhat twinkled when she smiled? Maya inherited those….

Her sharp-witted comments? She was not to be messed with.

Her constant rearranging of her plants and furniture? She used to love changing things up.

Phở Gà

Then a few months ago, I read an article from a woman who wrote:

“When I lost my mom, I also lost her food”.

And that hit me hard.

It’s exactly how my siblings and I feel.

Phở Gà
Of course it’s so much more than just her cooking—which until the day I leave this existence, I will tout that she was THE best.

Cooking was Mom’s way to show her love.

Phở Gà
Whether it be the time and painstaking details she would put into elaborate meals or even the quick cooking tips she would give us to prepare our own food. It was her medium of communication.

Phở Gà
Which, if you have been with me for the past few years, was the genesis of our monthly family dinners. At the root, we sibbies get together and cook a meal together. Sometimes it’s elaborate and I think that I would NEVER put so much effort into an appetizer or other dish if it wasn’t for my family. And sometimes it’s just comfort food that makes us want to do a little food-shimmy. But there’s never a month that occurs where I don’t think Mom would have loved it that we’ve created this tradition.

And of course, I always talk to her while I cook since I have her photo perched in my kitchen. Very fitting.

Phở Gà
One of the reasons why I wanted to share Phở Gà today was because I think this Vietnamese staple really does epitomize some of the cooking lessons Mom shared with us. Although fairly simple, every step and every ingredient counts.

You always have to scrub the chicken with salt and then parboil for a clean broth.

The onion and ginger must be charred for added depth of flavor.

Spices must be toasted — but she also wasn’t opposed to using pre-packaged spice packets.

Phở Gà

And of course, the whole thing must be simmered, low and slow. It takes time but every step has its purpose.

Love in bowl form.

Phở Gà

Happy, Happy Birthday Mom.

I know we’re keeping you amused with all of our cooking shenanigans.

We love and miss you, always. ❤

ps. How did you keep your waistline the same tiny diameter as that palm tree?!?

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Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Makes approximately 6 bowls

Ingredients:

1 4-5 lb. whole chicken
coarse salt
1 whole yellow onion
1 4-5 inch piece of fresh ginger
2 small cinnamon sticks
5 whole star anise pods
12 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
nước mắm – fish sauce
1 package bánh phở – rice noodles
cilantro and other fresh herbs of your choice
scallions, chopped and sliced into 1-inch pieces
bean sprouts
lime wedges
jalapeno slices
nước mắm gừng – ginger dipping sauce

Place the chicken in the sink and liberally sprinkle salt over it. Using the salt as an exfoliate, scrub the chicken well and rinse with cool water. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the heat to high and boil for about 10 minutes. At this point, a lot of the impurities and “scum” will have boiled out. Carefully dump out the water and rinse the chicken thoroughly to remove all the impurities. If you intend on using the same pot for the phở , wash it well before adding the chicken back in.

Pour in about 6-7 quarts of water over the cleaned chicken and bring it to a boil. Once the water has come a boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

While this happens, char your onion and ginger. If you have a gas burner, place the flame on medium heat. Hold the onion and garlic with metal tongs directly over the flame and rotate until they have charred all over. Alternately you can place them on a sheet a few inches under your oven broiler and broil for several minutes—flipping every so often. Once the yellow onion and ginger have been charred, place them into the pot with the chicken. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.

Carefully remove the whole chicken from the pot and place it on a shallow dish. Allow the contents of the pot to continue simmering. After the chicken has rested for about 10 minutes, carefully (it’ll be quite hot!) carve the chicken into slices and bite-sized pieces. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and set aside. Place the leftover chicken bones (I throw the wings in too) back into the pot. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered for about 1.5 hours. During that time, periodically skim and discard any impurities that may have formed on top of the broth. You’ll want a semi-dark but very clear broth like a consommé.

Meanwhile, take the dried spices and place them in a small skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for a few minutes until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Remove them from the heat and place them in a sheet of cheesecloth. Tie the cloth up and place it into the pot with a 2 tablespoons of nước mắm. Simmer for another 45 minutes.

While the broth simmers, prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Usually if using fresh noodles, you’ll want to boil for a few seconds before draining well. If using dried, you’ll want to soak them before a quick boil.

After the broth has finished simmering, taste and add additional nước mắm if needed.

Assemble the phở gà by dividing the cooked noodles between the bowls. Top each bowl with chicken slices, scallions and cilantro. Pour the boiling broth over the noodles and serve with bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, lime and nước mắm gừng on the side.

Ăn ngon!

 

 

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Vietnamese

Hủ Tiếu {Vietnamese Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup}

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
The East Coast has been experiencing some crazy snow storms lately –to the point that I’m sure that the White Walkers are just vacationing around there until Season 8 of GoT is released. Or at least until a release date is announced.

Just thinking about it makes me shudder and want to bundle up. But before you laugh at me, know that it’s actually been cold in San Diego these past few weeks—even by non-Southern Californian terms. We’re talking in the 30 degrees F in the late nights/early mornings! BRRRRRR!!!!

Maybe a straggling Walker wanted to check out Disneyland?

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
I’m constantly cold. Which is why I have been nonstop cooking and eating soups lately–noodle soups, mostly. Can you blame me?

I’ve been getting my full of chowders, ramen, wonton noodle soups and of course, Phở. Hey-I need comfort food! But as much as I love phở, there are so many other noodle dishes in Vietnamese cuisine than the popular soup.

There’s Miến (glass noodles), Bún Riêu (tomato & freshwater crab noodles), Bánh Canh (Udon-like noodles), Bún Măng Vịt (bamboo and duck noodles) and Bún Thang (Northern Vietnamese chicken-based noodles)……

But my favorites are Bún Bò Huế (spicy beef noodles) and Mì Quảng (seafood & pork turmeric noodles).

SUPER NGON!!!

Translation: SUPER DELICIOUS!!!

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang

Though I’ve got to tell  you — I do LOVE me a big bowl of Hủ Tiếu.

Which type of Hủ Tiếu?

Well, that’s where things get a bit difficult because depending on who you ask, the “variations”, well…….vary.

There’s Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang which is considered the Vietnamese version of the Cambodian noodle soup from Phnom Penh.

There’s Hủ Tiếu Mỹ Tho which is the signature noodle dish of the city Mỹ Tho located in the Tiền Giang Province on the Mekong Delta.

And there’s also Hủ Tiếu Tàu, which just translates to Chinese Hủ Tiếu. Yeah…they could have been more creative with that one.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang

What are the origins of Hủ Tiếu?

Whelp, other than the fact that it originates from China and somehow blended its way through Southeast Asia, everything else is a bit fuzzy. But it has become iconic in Southern Việt Nam and most can at least agree that the broth is pork bone based.

Oh…I forgot to mention that on top of the different the types of Hủ Tiếu you order, you can choose to have it khô (dry noodles served with a dark salty-sweet sauce and the broth on the side) or with nước (broth and noodles served together).

I know….we’re a complicated bunch. But we’re a People that like options.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
So which type of Hủ Tiếu do I make?

I can’t really say it’s traditionally Mỹ Tho or Nam Vang. And I’ve got to admit, although it sounds trivial, it’s definitely times like these that I wish I could ask Mom. Would she have the right answer? Eh…questionable. But she’d likely give me a confident answer and just tell me to do what tastes good.

Smart woman.

So that’s what I do.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
I enjoy Hủ Tiếu broth because it’s light, slightly sweet and not as spice-forward as phở. Again, I do adore phở –but it’s good to have options. But like phở, it should be wonderfully clear like a beautiful consommé.

Most Hủ Tiếu broths start off with lots of pork bones but I like to add chicken bones too. Why miss an opportunity to have a richer broth right?

To start on that consommé-like path, you’ve got to give the bones a good scrub down. Mom always taught us to clean bones and all proteins first before cooking by exfoliating it with salt and thoroughly rinsing it. Then you’ll need to parboil the bones for several minutes, dump out the water and rinse off any of the impurities that have come out before starting the broth in a clean pot.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
I then throw in some onions, shallots and to provide some sweetness– daikon and dried shrimp. This is when you can also add dried squid that has been rehydrated. I didn’t have any on hand when I made this batch but I will next time. Following those ingredients are some dried shiitake mushrooms (not traditional but I like the added depth of flavor), salt and rock sugar. Once you’ve gotten to this point, let the broth simmer on very low but steady heat for about 2½-3 hours.

And remember that consommé-like goal we’re aiming for? It’s this low and slow simmer that seals the deal. That and also skimming the broth every 30 minutes or so to discard of any impurities that may have risen to top.

I know —this is a labor of love….for my stomach.

I should note that traditionally the broth is seasoned with only salt and not fish sauce. But I’ll admit it, after the broth has simmered for a few hours, I’ve been known to throw in a few dashes of Vietnamese liquid gold if I feel that it needs a bit more magic.

I’m a rebel.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
Now let’s spend a few moments talking about toppings, shall we?

I believe across the board for Hủ Tiếu, you’ll find that there will be some variation of pork and whole shrimp. But when it comes to everything else–it’s all fair game.

Common items in various Hủ Tiếu are boiled quail eggs, offal, Vietnamese ham, fried shrimp crisp and sliced beef. And when it comes to pork, it can come in the form of poached, ground or  Chinese “barbecue” known as char sui or xá xíu.

They also say that Hủ Tiếu Mỹ Tho should have an abundance of seafood so in addition to the usual suspects, you’ll find toppings like crab claws, squid, fish balls, imitation crab, fish and so forth.

For me, I’m not a fan of many offals, let alone poached pork liver. Don’t get me wrong– I do love a good pâté but liver in this soup form has never got me excited. So I don’t include it. And as much as I love all kinds of eggs, boiling and peeling them are just too tedious for me –so I nix those too. And no–I don’t buy or enjoy canned quail eggs. They taste very metallic to me.

I generally stick to the basics such as poached shrimp, imitation crab and browned ground pork. But if I really feel like going the extra mile (or if I was smart and kept a stash in the freezer), I’ll make xá xíu, too.

Oh–and don’t forget the accompanying veggies, herbs, chilies and fresh lime!

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
Now let’s talk about the noodle types.

One of the reasons why I like Hủ Tiếu so much is that most of the time, it is served with what is called Hủ Tiếu Dai which are tapioca based noodles. The texture is much more firm than phở noodles have — which are typically rice flour based. Hủ Tiếu Dai are chewy in similar ways to why I adore bucatini pasta  – but without the hole in the center of the noodle. Delish.

But you can also find Hủ Tiếu served with standard rice noodles or even Chinese egg noodles. In those cases, it’s called Hủ Tiếu Mi – also good, but just different. And if you can’t decide which you prefer, some places will serve the different noodles mixed together for you!

Told you we like options.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
Lastly, let’s chat a bit more about what I mentioned earlier on having it served khô or with nước.

If you were to ask for a bowl of Hủ Tiếu (whether it be Nam Vang, Mỹ Tho or Tàu), you’ll likely have a wonderful steaming bowl of noodle soup delivered to you. The noodles and broth are in one bowl — and it’s a party. Sometimes they’ll call it Hủ Tiếu Nước (with broth) but generally if you say “Hủ Tiếu”, that’s what you’ll get. And it’s glorious.

However, some spots will have Hủ Tiếu Khô available and I’ll tell you, it’s also glorious. Essentially, the bowls are assembled nearly the same with the exception of two things. The noodles will have a rich salty-sweet sauce either drizzled on top or underneath the noodles and the the broth will be served in a small bowl on the side. You’ll stir the noodles up with that rich sauce — and of course you can pour some of the broth in it too. But this way, you’ll get to enjoy the flavors of the noodles, toppings sauce and then slurp the broth separately. And I’ll tell ya, when I was young, I wasn’t really much into the broths of noodle soups. Sure–I liked some of it but I was more focused on the GOODS! This method was perfect for me! Plus, the sauce adds another level of flavor—yes, it too, is glorious.

Nowadays I enjoy both so don’t make me pick sides.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang

I know. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about Hủ Tiếu but I was feeling wordy today. I blame it on the weather. ❤

Ăn Ngon!

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Hủ Tiếu {Vietnamese Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup}
Makes approximately 6 bowls

Ingredients:

 

4 pounds pork bones
2 pounds chicken bones
kosher salt
water
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 large shallot (or 2 small ones), quartered
1 medium-sized daikon, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
1 small rock sugar piece, about 1 tablespoon
½ cup dried shrimp that has been rehydrated with boiling water, rinsed and drained
3-4 dried squid that has been rehydrated with boiling water, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 pound ground pork
½ tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 package Hủ Tiếu Dai– chewy tapioca noodles
¼ pound imitation crab, cut into 2 inch pieces
herbs and veggies: fried shallots, fried garlic, bean sprouts, cilantro, culantro, chilies, limes, scallions, etc.
other protein options: pork slices (poached or char sui/xá xíu), boiled quail eggs, liver or other offal, sliced squid, etc.

Sauce for serving Hủ Tiếu Khô:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoons minced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon 5 spice powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
½ cup Hủ Tiếu broth

Place the pork and chicken bones in the sink and liberally sprinkle salt over them. Using the salt as an exfoliant, scrub the bones well and rinse. Place the scrubbed bones in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the heat to high and boil or 5-7 minutes. At this point, some of the impurities and “scum” will have boiled out. Place a colander in the sink and carefully pour the bones in to drain. Rinse the bones thoroughly to remove all the impurities. If you intend on using the same pot for the Hủ Tiếu broth, wash it well before adding the bones back in. Do not skip any of the above important steps in order to get a clear and clean broth.

Pour in about 6 quarts of water over the cleaned bones and bring to a boil. Add the onions, shallots, daikon, shiitake mushrooms, rock sugar, rehydrated shrimp, squid, peppercorns and 2-tablespoons kosher salt. Stir until the rock sugar has dissolved and lower the temperature to a gentle simmer. Allow the broth to simmer, uncovered, on very low heat for 2½-3 hours. During that time, periodically skim and discard any impurities that may have formed on top of the broth. At the end, you’ll want a semi-dark but very clear broth like a consommé. Before serving, taste the broth and add additional salt if needed.

While the broth simmers, prepare the toppings.

In a small bowl, mix the pork, fish sauce and pepper together. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium. Sauté the garlic until fragrant but not browned. Add the pork and cook thoroughly while crumbling up the ground meat. Take off heat and set aside.

Place the shrimp in a mesh metal strainer. Dip the strainer into the simmering broth and stir the shrimp around so that it poaches in the hot liquid. Once the shrimp becomes bright pink, shake lightly to remove excess liquids and set aside.

Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Usually it will instruct you to soak the noodles for 10-15 minutes in hot water and then boil for a quick few minutes before draining well. Set aside.

To assemble if serving the broth with the noodles, divide the cooked noodles among the bowls. On top of each bowl, place 3-4 poached shrimp, a couple of pieces of imitation crab and a few spoonfuls of cooked ground pork. Sprinkle on the fried garlic, fried shallots and chopped scallions. Ladle the boiling broth over the noodles and toppings. Serve with fresh herbs, chilies and limes on the side.

If serving Hủ Tiếu Khô (dry noodles), prepare the accompanying sauce by heating the oil over medium low in a small saucepan. Add the shallots and cook until just golden. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, stir to avoid it from burning. Sprinkle in the 5 spice powder and cook for 30 seconds before adding the remaining sauce ingredients. Raise the heat so that the liquids boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow the sauce to cook for 2-3 additional minutes. Assemble the Hủ Tiếu Khô by adding a heaping spoonful of the dark sauce at the bottom of each bowl. Top with the cooked noodles, 3-4 poached shrimp, a couple of pieces of imitation crab and a few spoonfuls of cooked ground pork. Sprinkle on the fried garlic, fried shallots and chopped scallions. Serve with a small bowl of hot broth on the side along with fresh herbs, chilies and limes.

Pastas/Noodles · Seafood

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab
More times than not, you’ll find me rummaging around my pantry and fridge without a plan in mind of what to cook.

Odd for a food blogger?

Well friends, if you’ve been with me for awhile—my quirkiness must have seeped through the screen by now. So there’s really no hiding my “offbeat” approach to things.

Flashback to yesterday night when I was on the verge of turning into a gremlin from hunger. A full blown GREMLIN I tell ya! And I knew I only have a few minutes to pull something together before I passed out on the kitchen floor.

I needed a quick pasta — STAT!!!

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab 2
In dire moments when I’m short on time (or just lazy), pasta aglio e olio is heaven sent! It’s a staple pasta dish from Naples where you infuse good quality olive oil with tons and I mean TONS of garlic and a bit of red pepper flakes. After your pasta is cooked, you toss it in the infused oil and add some herbs and maybe some grated cheese. I do versions of pasta aglio e olio all of the time –sometimes adding a bit of anchovy paste or capers or even a bit of chorizo.

But imagine my utter glee when I remembered that I had some leftover Dungeness crab from the weekend. I seriously squealed “YAYYYYY!” when I saw it in the fridge and did a little dance…… yeah, it doesn’t take much to get a happy dance out of this gal.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab 3
I proceeded with my standard steps for pasta aglio e olio and at the end, tossed in some of the sweet crab meat and just a few pinches of grated parm. I piled a huge mound on the plate, sprinkled some more pepper flakes on top, fresh lemon zest, chives and to add that extra level of decadence for a Monday night–a drizzle of white truffle oil.

HUMINAH! HUMINAH! HUMINAH!!!!!!

It was fantastic! The wonderful sweet and sea flavor from the beautiful Dungeness crab mixed with the garlic punch and bright freshness from the lemon zest—along with the earthy oil. It was all somehow hearty and light at the same time.

Considering I was on the verge of turning into a ravenous monster before/during the cooking process, I hadn’t bothered to take step by step photos to blog about it. But once done, it looked, well–damn sexy! So I took about 37 seconds to snap a couple of pics before inhaling it.

Not only did I manage to suppress the gremlin from emerging but I rocked out a pretty awesome dish in about 15 minutes. That’s a rather successful Monday in this gal’s book.

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Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Dungeness Crab
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

kosher salt, divided
5 ounces dried spaghetti noodles, or other long strand pasta
3 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, more to garnish
½ tablespoon grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
4-5 ounces cooked Dungeness crab meat
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh chopped chives
white truffle oil to finish*

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaghetti noodles and boil for 8-9 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the starchy water that the pasta was cooked in.

While the pasta boils, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes to infuse the oil. Swirl the skillet often to ensure that the garlic does not burn. Add the red pepper flakes and infuse for another minute. Carefully pour in the reserved starchy pasta water, turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Whisk the items together and then toss in the pasta. Stir and toss for about a minute and sprinkle in the cheese and 2-3 generous pinches of salt.

Remove the skillet from the heat and gently fold in the crab. Plate the pasta between two dishes. Sprinkle the tops of each serving with lemon zest, chives and drizzle with white truffle oil. If you do not have truffle oil, drizzle with some additional quality extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

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.

Poultry · Vietnamese

Short-Cut Roast Duck Noodle Soup

Roast Duck Noodle Soup

It’s that time again….

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

Tết – the Lunar New Year! And this year marks the Year of the Monkey….the Fire Monkey. Which means if you were born the years of the Dragon, Snake or Ox — good things should be coming your way. As for me, I’m of the Horse and as long as nothing “ominous” is slated, I’m totally good with that.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup
In honor of Tết, I decided to share with you a “short-cut” version of Roast Duck Noodle Soup. What’s the short-cut? I run out to Sam Woo BBQ to pick up one of their roast ducks! And I’ll be honest with you, there’s not one part of me that feels bad doing it either.

Their Cantonese style ducks are stuffed with bean paste, scallions and MAGIC….before getting a shellac of a honey mixture to get the skin crispy and brown. The duck is then chopped up and served with either a plum sauce or a dark dipping sauce that at first glance looks like an oily soy sauce. But it’s more of a rich, umami filled broth. DEFINITELY ask for extra because that’s what I add to the soup to give it some extra OOMPF!

No Sam Woo BBQ in your area? BUMMER! But any local Chinese BBQ spot – or even restaurant, will do the trick. Just be sure to ask for the broth-like dipping sauce.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup

In addition to the dipping sauce, the soup consists of stock (duck -if you have it, otherwise chicken is fine), toasted spices and aromatics, as well as a few pieces of the roast duck. I usually just throw in the wings and duck head since I’m not one to gnaw on either of those parts.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup
After the soup simmers for some time, it’s ladled over some egg noodles, bok choy and served with pieces of the roast duck. Easy Peasy!

The dish is my quick nod to Mì Vịt Tiềm – which is Vietnamese Roast Duck Noodle Soup. However, since the duck isn’t marinated in Five Spice, the soup and duck itself isn’t as dark as traditional Mì Vịt Tiềm. It’s also doesn’t have the deep flavor that Five Spice imparts which is why I like to make a spice sachet of toasted anise, coriander, black pepper and cinnamon to mimic it.

Roast Duck Noodle Soup
Once again Friends, let me say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!! 

May this Year of the Monkey bring you and your loved ones Health, Luck, Laughter and endless Adventures……

_____________________________________

Short-Cut Roast Duck Noodle Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 star anise
6 cloves
½ cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
1 small white onion
3 inch piece of fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, slightly smashed
4 quarts low sodium duck stock or chicken stock
1 quart water
1 store-bought chopped Peking/Cantonese style roast duck with dipping broth/sauce
kosher salt
fish sauce
Maggi seasoning (or low-sodium soy sauce)
2 cups sliced shiitake or oyster mushrooms
2 scallions, diced
12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles
1 small bunch bok chok, trimmed and washed
½ cup cilantro leaves
Thai chilies, minced

 

Place the star anise, cloves, cinnamon, coriander and peppercorns in a small skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for 2-3 minutes; frequently shake the skillet to toss the spices. You’ll want to toast them until they’ve browned but not burned. Transfer the spices to a small plate to cool completely. Once they’ve cooled, place them with the bay leaves in the center of a square piece of cheesecloth. Gather up the edges of the cloth and tie it into a bundle with kitchen twine. Set aside.

 

Using tongs to hold the onion, carefully char the exterior over an open flame of your stove burner—rotating the onion to char evenly. Set aside and repeat with the ginger. This can be done under the broiler of your oven as well.

 

Pour the duck stock, water, about a cup of the duck dipping broth/sauce and sachet of spices into a large pot. Add the duck wings, duck head (if included), charred onion, charred ginger and garlic into the pot and bring the liquids to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, periodically skim off and discard any impurities that may have formed. Stir in 1-teaspoon salt, 1-tablespoon fish sauce, 1-tablespoon Maggi and add the scallions and mushrooms. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

 

Bring another large pot of water to a boil. Boil the egg noodles according to the package until al dente. Remove the noodles from the pot (save the boiling water) and drain in a colander. Divide the noodles amongst six bowls. Drop the bok choy into the boiling water and stir around for 30 seconds. Remove the bok choy and divide amongst the bowls.

 

Taste the broth and add additional fish sauce or Maggi as needed. Bring to a rolling boil and then ladle the broth into each bowl. Top each bowl with mushrooms and a few pieces of roast duck. Garnish with cilantro and chilies. Serve immediately with a dish of the remaining dipping broth/sauce.

Sunday Family Dinner

Homemade Soup Dumplings & Tonkotsu Ramen–Because We’re Insane…

Nov 2015 Fam Din

It’s been two weeks since Thanksgiving and I think I’ve finally recovered from the madness.

Just in time for 15 full days of holiday craziness with my family.

Pray for me.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

At the close of Thanksgiving and 15+ hours of shopping, we held our monthly Family Dinner. When we had chatted about potential menu options a few weeks prior, my seesters and I agreed that we wanted dishes that were low-key and stress-free since we would have been so wiped out from Thanksgiving.

So obviously, we chose a menu that took hours and hours of preparation, that needed to be started days in advance and was highly laborious.

Apparently our strategy was slightly flawed.

We never learn…..

But as always, we started with some cocktails….. Pomegranate-Raspberry Saketinis!

I muddled a bunch of fresh raspberries with pomegranates in a pitcher. Added sake, a few glugs of vodka, several splashes of Cointreau, some fresh lime juice, pomegranate juice and then topped it off with a bit of pomegranate-berry soda.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Then came the appetizers – Xiao Long Bao or “Shanghai Soup Dumplings”. Normally I would say that dumplings aren’t typically too difficult to make. In fact, I usually love making them and find the folding process rather relaxing.

Not these buggers! We’re all still traumatized!

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Xiao Long Bao are a Shanghainese dumpling with a very thin skin/wrapper. They’re filled with a variety of ground proteins and an aspic that once steamed, becomes soupy–thus the name Soup Dumplings! Dumplings and Soup all in one? BRILLIANT!

Seester T took the lead with these and man, did they take some prep work! Using The Woks of Life recipe, she started with the aspic. Vegans beware because essentially, it’s a natural meat gelatin.

Yes…as in J-E-L-L-O.

Pork bones and other porky bits are thrown into a pot with water and several aromatics. Everything simmers for a few hours and then is strained and chilled.

Voila—Aspic!

Nov 2015 Fam DinShe then made a ground pork filling and threw in some shrimp because surf and turf is always a good idea. Once done, the aspic was cubed up and folded into the filling.

Next, we enlisted our niece Nini to help out with the assembly. Seestrah made the dough according to The Woks of Life’s recipe and used my pasta roller to make thin sheets for the dumpling wrappers.

Remember when I said laborious? It definitely was!

Hand cranking out the sheets so that they were paper thin and then cutting them into perfect circles with a biscuit cutter. Nini then meticulously filled and folded the dumplings to ensure they were all sealed up tightly so that none of the soup would run out during the steaming process. It took about 3 hours for us to make the wrappers and fill them all. Granted, it was our very first time but I will never, NEVER take it for granted next time I have Xiao Long Bao. Those folks can make them in lighting speed!

The XLB had good flavor and paired well with the black vinegar sauce–plus they were fun to eat! If we do ever make them again (and let’s be honest, it’ll be a very LONG time in the future), I’d like to play around with the dough. It was pretty good but I think it could be even thinner, especially on the top where it all purses together so that it’s less dense and chewy.

But heck–for our first time, it was awesome!

Nov 2015 Fam DinFor the main dish, we chose Tonkotsu Ramen where we made everything but the menma and kamboko from scratch.  And if you’re keeping tally, that means the Tonkotsu Broth, Chasu, Ajitsuke Tamago, Mayu and Ramen Noodles—ALL HOMEMADE!

By chance do you recall when I said we wanted a low-fuss Family Dinner?

We’re insane.

A few days prior to Fam Din, Seestrah N started on the Tonkotsu broth because it needs hours upon hours of simmering.  She went with Marc’s route from No Recipe and pretty much followed it to the T.

On the day of Fam Din, she made the Chasu –braised pork belly from Nami at Just One Cookbook. She also threw in an extra few pieces of pork shoulder for some added protein. And let me tell you….that chasu was beautiful, unctuous, pork heaven.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

The night before Fam Din, I prepped Nami’s Ajitsuke Tamago (shoyu eggs) since it’s best to allow them to marinate overnight. They were really easy to make and would be great just atop some steamed rice.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

In addition to the Chasu and Ajitsuke Tamago, we topped our ramen bowls with:

  • Toasted Nori (seaweed) Strips
  • Menma (marinated bamboo shoots)
  • Kamboko (fish cake)
  • Kikurage (fresh wood ear mushrooms)
  • Scallions

I also made Mayu which is a black garlic oil that was drizzled on top of our bowls of ramen.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Now let’s talk a bit about my adventure with the homemade ramen noodles.

I spend a lot and I mean A LOT of time in the kitchen. As such, I’m pretty comfortable with baking breads, working with yeast dough and making pastas. I don’t have the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid but I’ve gotten by pretty well with my hand crank pasta roller over the years. So when I was nominated (was this because I’m the youngest!?) to make the noodles, I just went with it.

I did tons and tons of research and went with Marc’s ramen noodles as well. He was detailed in account and his pictures really captured the process. If you decide to give this recipe a try, note that he was not lying that this dough is extremely dry. You’ll likely want to keep adding water but just go with it and press it all together until it forms a ball. Trust me, it eventually does.

But here’s where I start to kick myself for attempting this method without an electric pasta machine/KitchenAid attachment. Before allowing the dough to rest for several hours, you have to run it through your pasta roller a few times so that it forms smooth rectangular sheets. Sounds easy right? Well I’m sure it would have been had I not used a hand crank roller with a dry dough. It was crumbling everywhere!

I was sweating bullets trying to shove the crumbling dough into the roller….Add the fact that I tripled the recipe and now you’ll have an idea why my biceps were on fire!

Nov 2015 Fam Din

When it came time to cut them into noodles, a piece of me cried inside knowing that my arms were going to get another work out since I would need to pass the dough through the roller several more times. Another wrench was thrown into the situation when the attachment blade that cuts the noodles got stuck. I ended up hand-cutting the noodles which wasn’t ideal since I couldn’t get it as thin as I had wanted to—but it got the job done.

Moral of the story? If you’re not a pro, use a KitchenAid pasta attachment or similar thing-a-ma-bob if you make fresh ramen noodles.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

But once assembled, we were all pretty darn proud of ourselves.

It tasted LEGIT! Like, TOO-LEGIT-TO-QUIT!

Every component had a role and although laborious, had a distinct purpose to the ramen.

Nov 2015 Fam DinAnd just like the Xiao Long Bao, I will never, never underestimate or take for granted the folks who make my ramen.

Heck–they’re freaking amazing in my book.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

After polishing off our noodles and a bit of kitchen clean up, we actually took off for a little more shopping. Why? Who knows….we were delirious.

But when we came home, we tucked right into dessert.

I had made a simple Matcha Mousse-Chocolate Tart. The base was made out of crushed Oreo Cookies and filled with a fluffy matcha mousse. We’re green tea monsters, so a light and matcha-filled dessert suited us just fine.

Nov 2015 Fam DinWas dinner easy and low maintenance?

HECK NO!

Did I perhaps lose a few months off my life from the stress?

WOULDN’T DOUBT IT!

Did my sis say she needed therapy because of the XLB?

YOU BET!

But were we happy with how things turned out over all?

ABSOLUTELY!

It was a true and deep Labor of Love.

And the cherry on top?

My Trojans whooped the Bruins that day and brought back home the Victory Bell!! Aren’t my kiddos adorable in their gear???? ❤

Total Proud Auntie.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

Oh–in case you’re wondering, we went to Target and World Market after dinner/before dessert.

What did I pick up?

A few more additions to my ever growing Nutcracker collection. Priorities people, priorities.

Nov 2015 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pomegranate-Raspberry Sake-tinis
Appetizers: Pork & Shrimp Xiao Long Bao {Soup Dumplings}
Entrees: Tonkotsu Ramen with Chasu, Shoyu Egg, Menma, Kamaboko, Kikurage
Dessert: Matcha Mousse and Chocolate Tart

Pastas/Noodles · Side Dish · Vegetables/Vegetarian · Vietnamese

“You Know Whose” Copycat Asian Garlic Noodles

Garlic Noodles

You know who I’m talking about right?

The one who I probably shouldn’t name.

No, not Volde–DOH!  Man…that was a close one!

Oh to heck with it…… I’m talking about the An family. You know…the gatekeepers of the Thanh Long, Crustacean, ANQI (and more!) Dynasty!

Garlic Noodles

Oh how I love their butter dripping, garlic staggering roasted Dungeness crab and noodles. Many places have developed their own riff off of Mama An’s famed crab and noodles (including yours truly) but I’ll always have a soft spot for the old nostalgic and original Thanh Long in the Outer Sunset of SF. It’s where my seester first brought the family over 20+ years ago when the restaurant looked like a small mom and pop joint with mismatched plates and peeled painted walls.

Aromatic garlic perfumed the small restaurant with the constant sounds of cracking crab. But a lot has changed since then…..a boom of high-end sister restaurants and the creation of an empire.

But one thing remains the same…..those DAMN GARLIC NOODLES!!!!!!!!!!

Buttery, garlicky, decadent…..SOOO GOOD!

Garlic Noodles

So good that although I’ve posted my knock off recipe nearly 4 years ago, I believe they deserve a re-post. Especially with better pictures! Ugh…I cringe at how bad those earlier photos were.

These garlic noodles are so darn easy to make and are the PERFECT accompaniment to seafood—particularly shellfish. But like I said before, you cannot skip out on the magic ingredient – Maggi Seasoning Sauce. Don’t let anyone else lie to you…there’s really no substitute. It’s a couple of bucks and can be found in any Asian grocery store. It lasts a gazillion years so just pick up a bottle and keep it in your cupboard. Just trust me on this.

k2-_7811589a-cadb-480d-98d4-6f9d0287da02.v1

I whipped up these noodles the other week to accompany a quick Asian-style shrimp scampi. The meal was pretty much a BUTTER FEST so obviously it was a hit. But if you want to go vegetarian, sear up some tofu and throw them on a mound of these noodles. You’ll love them just the same.

Now back to trying to scheme–I mean “build” my own empire……

_______________________________

“You Know Whose” Copycat Asian Garlic Noodles
Serves Approximately 4

Ingredients:

1 pound chow mein noodles (fresh if possible)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Maggi Seasoning
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 scallion, chopped
2-3 pinches toasted sesame seeds

Cook the chow mein noodles according to the direction on the package. Drain the noodles, reserving a few tablespoons of the starchy water.

In a wok or large sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic but not browned, approximately 1-2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, sugar and Maggi. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the wok from the heat and quickly toss the noodles into the mixture. Sprinkle in the black pepper and cheese. Toss the noodles ensuring that it is thoroughly covered. You may add a tablespoon of the pasta water as needed to loosen the pasta.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.