Archive for the 'Vietnamese' Category

Cháo Cá – Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

I called dibs on the fish carcass following our baked catfish feast at Phong Dinh. While little was left of the fish’s flesh, I saw great potential in the remaining bones. Namely, an opportunity to transform what would have been waste into one of the most comforting dishes ever: cháo cá (Vietnamese fish porridge).

To start, I made a light stock using the bones along with fresh ginger, scallions, and cilantro. According to Mom, the aromatics are essential for balancing the fish’s intrinsically “fishy” flavor and aroma. Next, I added rice to the broth and let it simmer for the better part of an hour. Once the rice was fully bloomed, thickening the porridge just so, sautéed fish and mushrooms were added in. Chopped cilantro and scallions topped each bowl to finish.

Even though cháo cá  is essentially made with kitchen scraps, the flavor coaxed from the humble ingredients is rounded and rich. It’s hard not to feel utterly satisfied after finishing a bowl of this soulful porridge.

  • 1 large fish carcass
  • Water
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Small knob ginger (1.5 inches long), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated
  • Salt
  • Fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
  • Chili powder (optional)

Make broth

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

In a large stock pot, combine 4 quarts of water, fish carcass, cilantro (stems only), ginger, and half of the scallions (white part only, halved lengthwise). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.

Remove broth from heat and discard fish carcass and aromatics. Season with 1 tablespoon salt and 3 tablespoons fish sauce.

Make porridge

Chao Ca - Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Over medium-low heat, return the broth to the stove and add in rice. Simmer until desired thickness has been achieved, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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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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Tết 2013: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng

Banh Chung

Growing up, Tết was all about not screwing up. It was imperative that on the first day of the New Year, everything ran as smoothly as possible, which meant acing tests, being respectful to my elders, and not arguing with my brother. My mother made me believe that everything that happened on this day, both good and bad, would be repeated throughout the year. This superstitious notion scared me straight into action and, truth be told, continues to taunt me as a full grown adult.

These days, Tết has become less about “being good” and more about gathering with family, cleaning house, and of course, honoring food traditions. There are many dishes associated with the holiday including candied ginger and coconut, braised pork, and preserved pineapples, but the most iconic and essential of all is the square and squat bánh chưng and its cylindrical cousin bánh Tết.

Banh Chung

In honor of the upcoming New Year, which falls on February 10th, a group of friends and I gathered to tackle making bánh chưng from scratch. While we were all wholly enthusiastic about the task, none of us were very experienced, as evidenced by our poor, boiled-over mung beans early in the day.

Banh Chung

Leading the charge was Chef Diep Tran of Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park. Diep didn’t have a recipe (or YouTube tutorials) to guide us this afternoon, just vague memories from years ago of preparing bánh chưng with her grandmother.

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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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