Archive for the 'Vietnamese' Category

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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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Vietnamese Chicken Curry Pot Pie

Good Girl Dinette's Chicken Curry Pot Pie

At Good Girl Dinette, a charming spot in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park, “American Diner Meets Vietnamese Comfort Food.” While The Astronomer and I are tremendous fans of most everything on the menu, from the blistered imperial rolls to the deeply caramelized pork confit, it’s the restaurant’s signature chicken curry pot pie that we find impossible to resist every time we swing in for dinner.

Each pot pie is baked to order, ensuring that the buttermilk biscuit topping is perfectly flaky, while the fish sauce-laced curry bubbles just beneath. There’s something about the way the buttery crust melds with the spice-laden stew that satisfies and surprises with each bite.

Not everyone is lucky enough to live a short drive away from The Dinette, and Chef Diep Tran’s pot pie is much too delicious to be reserved for locals only. Thankfully, those who reside outside the Southland can reproduce the dish at home with the help of this spot-on recipe that first appeared in the New York Times article “Based on an Old Family Recipe.” I’ve had it bookmarked for ages and finally got around to executing last week when the holiday rush died down.

The original recipe makes five hearty individual servings, just like in the restaurant. However, I made two larger pot pies using 10-inch round quiche dishes since I don’t own any gratin dishes. Also, I used chicken legs in place of the thighs because that was the only cut my market had in stock. Even with these minor tweaks, the results were most satisfactory.

For buttermilk biscuits

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 11 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

For chicken curry

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1/4 cup Madras curry powder
  • 2 lemon grass stalks, tops trimmed, bases halved lengthwise and smashed
  • 3 white onions, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fish sauce
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 3 large Yukon Gold or baking potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk

Make buttermilk biscuits

Good Girl Dinette's Chicken Curry Pot Pie

Have ready five 24-ounce oval (or 2 10-inch round quiche dishes) gratin dishes.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder to combine. Transfer 1 cup of the dry ingredients to a food processor, and sprinkle with the cubes of butter. Pulse 5 to 7 times until the butter pieces are pea-size. Transfer to the bowl with the remaining dry ingredients, and stir to distribute the butter evenly.

Good Girl Dinette's Chicken Curry Pot Pie

Make several depressions in the flour mixture with your fingers; add the buttermilk a little at a time, mixing with your fingers, until it is all incorporated. Gently work the dough just until it comes together. Cover lightly, refrigerate 1 hour.

Note: Don’t sweat it if your dough looks a bit hairy and craggy. Chef Diep Tran assured me that the uglier the dough, the tastier the results. She was right, of course.

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

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

When the sun sets in Saigon, the street food vendors specializing in lunchtime rice plates and noodle bowls make way for evening offerings like roasted quail, grilled cuttlefish, and my personal favorite, sauteed corn. It’s impossible to resist the funky, savory, and buttery allure of bắp xào tôm bơ, especially when its enticing aroma cuts through the thick cloud of motorbike exhaust. Only in Saigon does pollution and temptation coexist so harmoniously.

As much as I adored this street side staple, I hadn’t thought much of it recently until I saw corn on sale while grocery shopping this past weekend. I picked up six ears for just over a buck and got to thinking about how to best prepare my loot. With dried shrimp, scallions, and butter ready to go in my pantry, I was all set to recreate my beloved Vietnamese sauteed corn at home.

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.

Bắp xào tôm bơ is traditionally garnished with a florescent squiggle of red chili sauce, but I generally prefer mine without in order to fully take in each caramelized and blistered bite. Now that this dish has come back into my life, it’s definitely going to be a summertime mainstay. Hello, corn season!

  • 6 cobs of fresh corn
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 scallion stalks, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp
  • 2/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (optional)

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

Remove the corn kernels from the cobs using a very sharp paring knife and set aside.

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

Chop the scallions, white and green parts, and mince the dried shrimp. Set aside.

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