Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Thai Fried Fish Cakes

Thai Fried Fish Cakes

Oh…Hey.

So, do you remember when my Fam Bam did a Thai themed Family Dinner? Because if you don’t, let me tell ya it was DEE-LICOUS!

Totes ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK……

And as I said before, my MVP dish of the night goes to my seester’s fried fish cakes. Although humble at first glance, these scrumptious bites are out of this world. Definitive seafood flavor punched with kaffir and something subtly rich—coconut milk.

I wish I had them right now…..like a dozen of them! These beauties poof up when you them and settle down to an even “fritter like” consistency.  And trust me, double the batch because you’ll want more!

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Thai Fried Fish Cakes
From About.com

1 lb (.454 kg) white-fleshed fish fillets
6 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into thin strips
3 tablespoon coconut milk
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste or 1 extra tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
3 green onions, sliced
1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic
1 red chili, sliced or 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chili
1/3 to 1/2 cucumber (to accompany cakes)
oil for high temp. frying
To SERVE: Thai sweet chili sauce, lime wedges, handful fresh coriander

Rinse fish and pat thoroughly dry (if using frozen, the fish will be more moist so be sure to dry it as well as you can). Cut into chunks and place in food processor or large food chopped.

In a cup, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, shrimp paste, chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, and brown sugar. Stir with a fork to combine, then pour into the processor over the fish.

Add remaining ingredients (kaffir lime leaf strips, green onion, galangal/ginger, garlic, and chili). Pulse to create a thick fish paste.

Picking up a small amount in your hand (about the size of a golf ball) pat the paste into a small cake and set on a clean plate. Note that traditional Thai fish cakes are small (about 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 to 1 inch thick) and not too thick. Tips: If your paste is too wet to easily form into cakes, add a little flour or breadcrumbs to the mix. As you continue making the cakes, it helps to rinse your hands every so often with cool water to prevent paste from sticking.

Set plate of cakes in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, prepare your pan for frying as well as your garnishes. Cut the cucumber length-wise, then dice up into small cubes and set aside. Pour oil into a small frying pan or wok (at least 1 inch deep).

Heat oil. When hot enough (a breadcrumb should sizzle and cook immediately when dropped in), gently place cakes in oil. Allow to fry 30 seconds to 1 minute before turning, gently lifting cakes from the bottom of the pan (they may stick a little). Fry until golden-brown and drain on paper towel.

Serve fish cakes immediately with the chopped cucumber and Thai sweet chili sauce drizzled over. Top with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice just before eating. Excellent like this, or served with rice for a main course dish. ENJOY!

Make Ahead Tip: You can make the fish paste up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and set in the refrigerator, then form into cakes and fry.

Sunday Family Dinner

December Sunday Family Dinner – Party of 16

December 2013 Family Dinner

Have I ever mentioned that I’m the youngest of five kids? Four girls and one boy smack dab in the middle—wasn’t our brother so lucky?

Needless to say, it made quite the childhood experience with all of us growing up in one house with our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles.

December 2013 Family Dinner

And it got even more crowded when 8-9 of us would cram into our Oldsmobile station wagon for our annual summer road trips from Minnesota to Texas to visit mom’s brother and his family. I don’t know how we all survived jammed into one car for so many miles (nearly 1200 each way!) but I guess anyone from a big family knows there’s no such thing as personal space. It may also have helped that it was the 80s and seat belt laws were non-existent!

I kind of wished we would have taped some of those road trips as I’m sure they would have been hysterical to look back at. We were kind of the Vietnamese version of the Griswolds.

December 2013 Family Dinner

Nowadays the five of us are a bit scattered around with my brother and his family in New York, one seester in San Francisco, two other seesters & their fams in Orange County and me in San Diego. And although we may never be able to recreate those old summer road trips to Texas, our Sunday Family Dinners have been one of our ways to start new traditions for our kids to look back at.

December 2013 Family Dinner

We’ve been going at this for about a year and half now, rotating the monthly dinners between the homes of my two seesters who live in Orange County. It’s been awesome that our sis from SF has flown down every few months to make our dinners but it’s a little difficult for our brother and his fam to make it from NY. But when we are lucky to have all of us for Sunday Family Dinner, it is quite the celebration–like the N’awlins Seafood Boil we did the first Fam Din we were all together. 50+ pounds of seafood…it was epic. Totally Gluttonous, but epic.

The whole gang was back together this past December to celebrate the holidays and spend some QT with each other. It’s probably the most time that the five of us have spent together in years!

December 2013 Family Dinner

We all attended our cousin’s baby’s first month celebration (Đầy Tháng), Mom’s death anniversary (ngày giỗ), a snow day in the mountains, Leonidas‘ (our brother’s son) 2nd birthday party, Christmas Eve festivities with the entire clan, the New Year’s Eve bash, endless meals in Little Saigon at our old favorite haunts, and of course– December’s Sunday Family Dinner.

8 siblings (including the sibs-in-law), 6 kids and 2 canine kids– a packed house again!

With all of the craziness that was going on, we tried to create a menu that had the least bit of stress and prep time. As for the theme, we did a slight homage to our N’awlins Feast and kept it open to EVERYTHING SEAFOOD! Well, except dessert….that would be a little too hardcore- even for us!

December 2013 Family Dinner

Dinner consisted of:

We kind of pulled everything together at the last minute but I think it was a definite Nguyen-er!

Now if we could just convince my brother and his fam to move back to Cali, we could have dinners like this all of the time!

1978Snapshot of the fam a few months after yours truly was born. I may have been the originator of the faux-hawk.

And a special HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to our seester, TUONG!

Oh those Capricorns…..

Pork · Seafood

“Lickety-Split” Clams with Spicy Italian Sausage

Clams with Spicy Italian Sausage

I think that daylight savings actually stole time from me instead of giving a few extra hours of light. Lately, I feel like I’ve been scrambling around trying to get things done and my overwhelming “to-do” pile is now as enormous as Santa’s delivery list.

Oy vey….

Thankfully, I’ve got some clutch recipes like this Clams with Spicy Italian Sausage in my back pocket that I can whip out on days when I’m racing time. Quick and easy recipes that are no fuss, are scrumptious and can be done in no time flat.

This surf and turf little beauty can be pulled together in under 20 minutes. YUP! True Story! That’s less time than it would take for me to go and grab some take out. And let’s face it, so much tastier too.

While the Italian sausage browns, you can chop up the necessary aromatics and give the clams a little scrub down. And while the clams are bubbling away in the glorious broth, throw your baguettes (or bread of your choice) in the toaster oven to brown. No time wasted here!

The briny clams pair so well with the spicy sausage and the fresh herbs and tomatoes add a brightness and subtle acidity to the dish. And the broth–OH the broth! Quite amazing how much flavor you can get in 20 minutes when you pair sausage, wine and seafood stock. Perfect to dunk your crunchy bread into.

Heck–you’ll save so much time on your meal prep that you can take a few moments to sit down and enjoy a glass of vino. After all, you had to open the bottle to deglaze the pot.

Totally reasonable.

And with that, have a great weekend, Friends!

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Clams with Spicy Italian Sausage
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ pound hot Italian sausage
½ cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups seafood stock or clam juice
2 pounds fresh clams, scrubbed and debearded
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
3 Roma tomatoes, diced and seeded (about 1 cup)
kosher salt
black pepper

Heat a heavy bottom pot with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat while it’s browning. Once browned, use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage to a plate that has been lined with paper towels to drain.

Lower the heat to medium and cook the onions for 1-2 minutes until tender but not browned. Add in the garlic, chili flakes and cook for an additional minute. Turn the heat back up to high. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and use the wooden spoon to scrape up the brown pits. Reduce the liquids by half.

Add in the clam juice and once the liquids come to a slow boil, carefully add in the clams, and parsley. Stir in the cooked sausage and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the clams have opened.

Once the shells have opened, remove the clams and divide them between two bowls. Stir the diced tomatoes into the broth. Check the for seasonings and adjust as needed with kosher salt and pepper. Ladle the broth over the clams and garnish with additional parsley. Serve immediately with toasted bread (baguettes or ciabatta).

Sunday Family Dinner

New England Inspired Sunday Family Dinner

Lobster-tinis

And it all started with these at our New England inspired Sunday Family Dinner.

Don’t they look ridiculous? RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!

When we began toying around menu themes for October’s Sunday Family Dinner, my seester T was hell-bent on a New England spread that featured these beauties—

LOBSTER MARTINIS!

October 2013 Family Dinner

Now before you cringe, I recognize that these cocktails aren’t for everyone. But if you, like many of us, enjoy a deliciously dirty–extra dirty martini, then you’ll adore these.

The Lobster Martinis are made with vodka, lemon juice and most importantly— “lobster essence”.  Lobster essence is an incredibly concentrated lobster stock that is slowly reduced down until it creates liquid lobstah goodness!

Throw it all in a shaker over ice and shake-shake-shake before straining into a glass that’s been garnished with a lobstah claw. Divine!

As for the food, we kept things actually quite low key. Nothing crazy elaborate but just darn delicious. And since we were in New England, we had to have Crab Cakes!

Crab Cakes

Instead of larger patties that I usually make, I formed little cakes so we could nibble on while we put out the other dishes. Click here for the recipe

And in case you’re wondering, my family has Minnesota roots and it’s where I was born. So although we’re struggling this season, we HAD to represent our Vikings as they played those dang cheeseheads that day.

October 2013 Family Dinner

Next up– White Clam Pizza!

Now here’s my confession. We kind of had a crazy morning the day of our Fam-Din and I initially forgot to pick up the fresh clams. So I scrambled to the grocery store with my niece Nina and fixed that problem. After all, what’s a Fam-Din without a snafu or two?

Speaking of Nina, she pretty much took charge of this entire dish. I say this all of the time but when most teenagers struggle with making a peanut butter sandwich, our nieces are fixing up dishes like paella and artisan pizzas. We’re so proud!!!

And the pizza was scrumdiddlyumptious!

Clam Pizza

I just adore our munchkins and can’t wait for our other little ones — Luna and Leo–to come back for the holidays.

October 2013 Family Dinner

What’s a New England menu without Lobstah Rolls?!

Lightly dressed and overflowing with lobstah glory–just perfect!

Lobster Rolls

Mo’ lobstah, mo’ betta’!

Huh…maybe that will be the name of my next food blog? 🙂

October 2013 Family Dinner

And finally, dessert.

Boston Cream Pie!

But I hope you’re pronouncing “Boston” like a true New Englander.

Say it with me now! Baaah-stin’

Boston Cream Pie

Seester P worked with Nini and Maya to create this Boston Cream Pie using a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. And if you’ve ever attempted an America’s Test Kitchen recipe, you know how laborious it can be—-delicious, but laborious.

October 2013 Family Dinner

So I was so impressed with how meticulous Nini and Maya took each step as they created it. It resulted in a wonderful sponge cake filled with a beautiful pastry cream and then coated with a thin layer of ganache. YUM!

Wicked awesome, yea?

October 2013 Family Dinner

A close to another delicious and food coma induced Sunday Family Dinner –that’s a wrap!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Lobster Martinis
Appetizers: Crab Cakes, White Clam Pizza
Entrees: Lobster Rolls
Dessert: Boston Cream Pie

Seafood · Soups/Stews · Sunday Family Dinner

Korean Feast for Sunday Family Dinner + Happy Birthday Nina!

August 2013 Korean Family Dinner

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

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

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

August 2013 Family Dinner

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

As for the menu…..

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

Kimchi

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

Grilled Pork Belly

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

Soondubu Jjigae - Soft Tofu Stew

Plates of Haemul Pajeon – Seafood Pancake……….

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

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

Haemul Pajeon - Seafood Pancake

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

Ddeokbokki - Spicy Rice Cakes

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

Galbijjim - Braised Beef Short Ribs

And there was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap – Kimchi Fried Rice.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

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

Patbingsu - Shaved Ice

And that’s how we roll–Korean style!

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

xoxo!

August 2013 Family Dinner

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Watermelon Soju-tinis
Appetizers: Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake), Homemade Kimchi, Grilled Pork Belly, Soondubu Jjigae 
Entrees: Ddeokbokki, Galbijjim, Kimchi Bokkeumbap
Dessert: Patbingsu, Red Velvet Cake

Drinks · Sunday Family Dinner

Summer Grilling Family Dinner + Fresh Peach Bellinis

Grilled Lobster with Cilantro Chile Butter

We’ve got a fair amount of July Babies in our family. Though, let’s be honest…with a family as large as ours, there are a lot of babies year round. Big Seester N, Big Seester P, brother-in-law, niece, several cousins, an auntie, an uncle….and that just includes the family in the states!

For July’s Sunday Family Dinner, we celebrated 2 of our July babies—Big Seester N and my brother-in-law R. As for theme? We kept the menu quite straight forward but pretty dang delicious.

Summer Grillin’

And of course, since we were celebrating, there had to be a bit of decadence. In the form of lobsters. Lots of lobsters.

N was totally freaking out Lucasaurus with them.

July 2013 Family Dinner

Seester T staffed the grill for a good portion of our meal which totally amused her hubs, the birthday boy.

July 2013 Family Dinner

Now what’s a Sunday Family Dinner without cocktails? Surely not one of ours!

This month we toasted with Fresh Peach Bellinis. Granted they weren’t grilled but they definitely were a nod to summer using wonderfully sweet, white peaches. After adding a few spoonfuls of fresh white peach puree and a squeeze of lime to champagne flutes, I topped off each glass with bubbly Prosecco.

Simply perfect.

Peach Bellinis

And of course, we had to take our mandatory-monthly Seesters pic while holding our cocktails.

Seesters

Our menu included:

Grilled Rosemary Flatbread.

Grilled Flat Bread

Grilled Pacific Oysters……..

Grilled Oysters

A few Grilled Ginormous Prawns…….

Grilled Prawns

Rosemary Garlic Lamb Rib Chops……….

Grilled Lamb Chops

and Grilled Lobsters with Cilantro-Chile Butter…….

Grilled Lobster with Cilantro Chile Butter

Did I mention that our kiddos have quite the refined palates?

And I think they’re uber adorable.

July 2013 Family Dinner

For dessert? Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée that my niece, Nina, made. Although technically not made on the grill, she did torch the tops to brûlée it.

Totally counts. 🙂

Creme Brulee

The kiddos also made this adorable sign for the birthday babies—I loved that they used their nicknames!

image_1

Not only was the dinner scrumptious but it was fairly low maintenance with at least 80% of the “cooking” done on the grill. The cherry on top? It made clean up a breeze!

Peach Bellinis

And for those who cannot travel to Venice to try the original Bellini at Harry’s Bar, give my version a spin. My Seester said it’s pretty darn close to the real thing 🙂

CHEERS to another memorable Sunday Family Dinner!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Peach Bellini
Appetizers: Rosemary Grilled Flatbread, Grilled Oysters, Grilled Prawns
Entrees: Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops, Grilled Lobsters with Cilantro-Chile Butter
Dessert: Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

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Fresh Peach Bellinis
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 ripe white peaches, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup water
1-2 tablespoons sugar, optional
4 lime wedges
chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine

Add the peaches and water into a blender. Depending on the sweetness of the peaches, add sugar as needed. Puree until smooth. Optional: Strain the peach puree through a fine-meshed strainer.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the peach puree into each glass. Squeeze the juice of a lime wedge into each glass and slowly top with the chilled Prosecco. Gently stir each glass before serving. Cheers!

Note: The Bellinis shown here are garnished with yellow peaches, however, the cocktails were made with the traditional white peach.

Seafood · Sponsored

Crispy Fish Sliders + New Foodventures with King’s Hawaiian

Crispy Fish Sliders on Kings Hawaiian Rolls

Happy Earth Day Folks!

I am thrilled to be sharing that I have the honor to join the wonderful o’hana at King’s Hawaiian as one of their Featured Bloggers. As y’all know, I’m OBSESSED with the ono King’s Hawaiian products & since my visit with them back in August, I have gained the utmost respect for the organization and the Taira O’hana.

Check out my first post here where I share my experience with Aloha ‘Aina and a fun recipe for Crispy Fish Sliders.

Stay tuned for more posts to come! Alohas!