Archive for the 'Family Recipe' Category

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Sườn Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ribs

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

One of the perks of having a mother who works for a meat distribution company are the random acts of kindness meatiness that occur from time to time. I love it when Mom surprises me with pounds of jumbo shrimp, bags of frozen chicken fingers, or most recently, racks of baby back ribs. With Memorial Day, the official start of the summer grilling season, around the corner, the timing could not have been any more perfect. These racks o’ ribs were destined to meet the heat, Vietnamese-style.

Sườn nướng was a mealtime staple growing up. Not only was it served often on weeknights for dinner, but it also made regular appearances at beachside family gatherings—La Jolla Shores, represent. The ease of prepping and cooking the ribs, as well as their intrinsic deliciousness, made them a standby for every occasion.

Comprised of just five ingredients—fish sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, and shallots—this easy marinade treats pork to a sweet, salty, and wholly umami bath. Soaked overnight, then grilled over hot flames, the ribs’ exterior caramelizes beautifully, while the innards remain tender and flavorful.

The recipe below produces ribs that are savory enough to pair with a heap of rice, the Vietnamese way, but for those looking to eat their meat straight up, ease up some on the fish sauce and salt.

According to Mom, this is the best marinade ever. And she’s absolutely right.

  • 2 to 3 pounds pork ribs, separated
  • 2 large shallots, finely minced
  • 4 ounces fish sauce (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 ounces granulated sugar (approximately 1/3 cup)

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

To prepare the marinade, whisk together the shallots, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Transfer the marinade to a gallon-size Ziploc bag, along with the ribs, and let the meat and marinade marry in the refrigerator overnight.

Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops/Ribs

Let the ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Over medium-high flames, grill the ribs on both sides until slightly charred and fully cooked through, approximately 6 to 10 minutes per side. Optional: brush the ribs with leftover marinade.

Once the ribs are fully cooked, transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

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Thịt Bò Xào Hành Tây – Vietnamese Stir-Fried Beef with Onions

Thịt Bò Xào Hành Tây – Vietnamese Stir-Fried Beef with Onions

While The Astronomer desires nothing more than a hunk of grilled lemongrass pork atop his bún (vermicelli rice noodles), I’ve got a soft spot for stir-fried steak, a dinnertime staple at my house growing up. Pork is almost always my protein of choice, but beef gets a slight edge here for its intrinsic juiciness, ease of preparation, and sweet onion companions.  The way the meat’s drippings mingle with the marinade and the nước chấm (Vietnamese dipping sauce) gets me every time. You bet your boots I pick up my bowl and slurp up every last drop.

To ensure that the beef is cooked through and the onions are caramelized evenly, I prefer to prepare this dish in smaller batches. The beef to onion ratio can be altered depending on personal preferences. My family tends to go heavy on the onions, about 1.5 onions for every 1 pound of meat. Any uncooked meat can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for a few months.

While I love thịt bò xào hành tây best served over vermicelli rice noodles with fresh herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon, toasted peanuts, scallion oil, and ladles of nước chấm, it also tastes stupendous served simply over steamed jasmine rice.

  • 4 pounds flank steak, thinly sliced approximately 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 large shallots, finely minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup finely minced lemongrass
  • 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional for stir frying
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon MSG (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus additional for stir frying
  • 3  tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for stir frying
  • 6 medium onions, sliced into “half moons” approximately 1/3 inch thick

Thịt Bò Xào Hành Tây – Vietnamese Stir-Fried Beef with Onions

Combine all ingredients from flank steak through vegetable oil in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the mixture to make sure that the marinade is evenly distributed and coats every slice of meat. Allow the meat to soak in the marinade overnight or for up to 24 hours.

Thịt Bò Xào Hành Tây – Vietnamese Stir-Fried Beef with Onions

In a large wok or non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add onions along with a light sprinkling of salt, and saute until desired doneness is achieved, about 5 to 10 minutes. Some people may prefer onions with a little bite, but I like mine cooked through and lightly caramelized.

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Nước Chấm – Vietnamese Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Nuoc Cham Recipe

Of all the family recipes I’ve learned over the years, this nuoc cham is without question the most essential. From com tam (broken rice) to banh cuon (pork and mushroom crepes) to cha gio (deep-fried spring rolls) to thit nuong (grilled pork), nearly every dish in the Vietnamese culinary cannon depends on this sweet and sour “mother” sauce to season, spice, and delight. When paired with a lackluster nuoc cham, even the most carefully prepared dishes can fall disappointingly flat.

This recipe comes from Aunt Phuong, the premier nuoc cham artist in my family. While garlic, chilies, lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce are all standard ingredients, her use of Coco Rico soda in place of water takes the vinaigrette to the next level. Though mostly mild in flavor, the coconut-tinged soda brings a crisp sweetness that water doesn’t possess. The soda’s carbonation fades just as soon as it’s combined with the sugar, so no worries about bubbly nuoc cham. Stir, stir, stir…

When stored in an airtight container, the vinaigrette will keep in the fridge for up to four months.

  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 Thai red chillies
  • 1 can Coco Rico soda (12 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar (77 grams)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  •  1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Nuoc Cham Recipe

Trim and finely mince garlic cloves and chilies. Set aside.

Nuoc Cham Recipe

Combine sugar and soda in a medium-sized bowl, stirring briskly with a large spoon to dissolve sugar completely.

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Phở Bò – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Pho Bo - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

During my visit to San Diego this past Mother’s Day, Ba Ngoai taught me how to make pho bo from scratch. It was a two day affair, one day dedicated to purchasing groceries and another to preparing the soup. Shopping and cooking on the same day is an exhausting endeavor for a senior citizen, so I was happy to divide the tasks in order to finally conquer Vietnam’s most iconic noodle soup.

The leg bones that we had procured the day before were soaking on the stove when I arrived at her house on Sunday afternoon. She switched the flame on high soon after, parboiling the limbs to get rid of impurities. Next, she instructed me to turn off the heat, grab ahold of the pot, and follow her into the backyard. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but what Grandma says goes in my family.

In the backyard, we dumped the scummy water into a ditch of sorts that my grandfather had constructed for this very purpose, making sure not to lose any bones in the process. We then squatted Saigon-style, turned on the garden hose, and rinsed each nub under cold water. It seems that Grandma has a fear of clogging up the kitchen sink, hence this unorthodox, old world technique. After the bones had been thoroughly cleaned, we brought them inside the kitchen and proceeded to make the broth.

When it came time to char the ginger and onion, ingredients essential for perfuming and coloring the soup, Grandma reached into her bag of tricks once more and employed a beat up tin can that was once filled with bamboo shoots. The can’s tight and intensely hot compartment yielded an evenly charred onion with neither fuss nor mess. Grandma’s kitchen genius knows no bounds.

The recipe that follows 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.

I had an incredible afternoon shadowing Grandma and learning how to construct a well-balanced and deeply satisfying pho. I hope you can taste the love.

For broth

  • 5 pounds beef bones with marrow (leg bones, oxtails, etc.)
  • 4-5 ounces fresh ginger root
  • 1 onion
  • 1 daikon, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half or thirds
  • 5 star anise
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 3-inch long cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 5 tablespoons salt, divided
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tablespoon monosodium glutamate (optional)

For toppings and garnish

  • 2 pounds beef plate
  • 1 pound beef tripe
  • 2 pounds beef top round or eye round, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • Fresh herbs such as Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander, etc.
  • Limes, cut into wedges
  • Fresh beansprouts, trimmed
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Chili sauce

For noodles

Make broth

Pho Bo - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Dry roast the star anise, cumin seeds, cloves, and cinnamon sticks in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Pho Bo - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Once the spices have cooled, transfer to a muslin spice sachet and tie the bag closed tightly.

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