The Year in Delicious: Top 10 Recipes of 2012

Pho Bo - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Phở Bò – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

This recipe for my grandmother’s pho bo has been adjusted ever-so-slightly to reflect the sensibilities of modern cooks like myself. While I’d love to have a drainage ditch dedicated to soup scum in my backyard, our current one-bedroom in Pasadena doesn’t allow for such luxuries. Additionally, I’ve swapped out the tin can for a flame-licked grill in order to char the aromatics. While I finessed some of Grandma’s cooking techniques, the soul and flavor of her pho hasn’t been fiddled with one bit. After all, perfection shouldn’t be messed with.

Braised Rabbit with Noodles

Braised Rabbit with Pappardelle

After bathing in an aromatic brew of onions, garlic, orange zest, cinnamon, and red wine, the meat was fork-tender while the sauce was deeply savory with mellow citrus notes. The flavors whisked our taste buds away to the Mediterranean. Dinner was served outside on our picnic table, with snappy asparagus on the side and glasses of red wine to sip.

A-Frame's Furikake Kettle Corn | Hurricane Popcorn

Furikake Kettle Corn

This recipe comes from Chef Roy Choi of Los Angeles’ A-Frame restaurant. I couldn’t keep my hands away from the bowl the first time I tried this Hawaiian-style popcorn. Every fistful of buttery kernels brought a hit of sweetness from Corn Pops, sourness from dried pineapples, savoriness from bacon, spiciness from cayenne pepper and chili flakes, and a whole lot of umami-ness from furikake. This unlikely combination of big, bold flavors had me hooked at first bite.

Old Fashion Lemon Pudding Cake

Ruth Reichl’s Old Fashioned Lemon Pudding Cake

The whipped egg whites created a souffle-like effect, while the egg yolks anchored everything in a tangy pool of lemon curd. In between the two strata was an ever-so-light layer of cake. We dug in with two spoons just as soon as it came out of the oven. It may have singed our tongues and the roofs of our mouths a little, but man, it was worth it. Pudding cake is overdue for a comeback.

Soba Noodles with Kale, Tofu, and Furikake

Soba Noodles with Kale, Tofu, and Furikake

What I really like about this recipe is that even though the ratio of vegetables to noodles is skewed towards the former, it doesn’t taste like bowl of rabbit food. The key is the well-balanced dressing made of soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, rice vinegar, and honey that paints every surface and ties all the elements together. And then there’s the furikake, a delightful Japanese condiment made of seaweed, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar that excites the tongue with a dose of umami.

Hu Tieu Mi - Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

Hủ Tiếu Mì – Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup

To learn the ins and outs of this Chinese-influenced noodle soup, I sought assistance from my aunt Thao. Something that she mentioned more than once was the importance of having a clear soup. To achieve this, the pork bones used to make the broth needs to boiled and cleaned, and one has to be diligent about skimming off any fat or foam that rises to the surface. Clear broth. Full bellies. Can’t lose.

Bun Rieu - Vietnamese Crab and Tomato Soup

Bún Riêu Cua – Vietnamese Crab and Tomato Soup

This recipe, which comes from my Aunt Tina, calls for canned “minced crab in spices” and employs a tamarind powder to achieve the soup’s characteristic sour notes. I imagine that these sort of semi-homemade recipes were developed within the Vietnamese community living outside Vietnam during a time when fresh crabs and tamarind weren’t readily accessible or were perhaps too pricy to afford. These recipes continue to persevere even with the availability of fresh ingredients because they’re not only convenient but are legitimately delicious.

Bap Xao Tom Bo (Vietnamese Sauteed Corn with Dried Shrimp, Scallions, and Butter)

Bắp Xào Tôm Bơ – Vietnamese Sauteed Corn with Dried Shrimp, Scallions, and Butter

While the red pepper flakes, fish sauce, and scallions each play an essential part in flavoring the buttery kernels, it’s the minced dried shrimp that take this dish to the next level. These pungent and salty little morsels punctuate each bite, transforming the corn from a very nice side dish to one that is intriguing and completely addicting.

Momofuku Brussels Sprouts | Spicy Brussels Sprouts with a Vietnamese Twist

Momofuku’s Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Mint

These Momofuku-masterminded sprouts are coated in a fish sauce-based vinaigrette with plenty of garlic, lime juice, chilies, and minced herbs. The dressing reaches every caramelized crevice, wrapping its sweet, sour, spicy, and salty way around each green head. The dish is more or less good to go once the sprouts meet the dressing, but because this is a David Chang recipe, there is a fun and whimsical addition in the form of a toasted rice cereal topping. Imbued with cayenne pepper, these crispy grains were airy and positively spicy.

Meyer Lemon Muffins

Meyer Lemon Muffins

Lemon-flavored muffin recipes usually call for just juice and zest, like these lemon ricotta muffins that I love, but this recipe calls for the whole shebang—juice, zest, pith, and all. The result is a truly moist muffin that’s studded with lemon pieces and laced with a slight bitterness. A sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar on the top of each one successfully mellows the lemon’s astringent notes.

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