Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Thanks to my beloved friend and co-blogger Uyen and her recipes, I am so lucky to try first hand, original, homemade Vietnamese dishes. This is going to be my first experience ever with both cooking and tasting Vietnamese cuisine!
This is my gift of thoughts for this special day, Uyen's birthday! Together with a few friends, we gathered to enjoy Uyen's legacy and to celebrate her. For each one of us, it was the first time to taste Vietnamese dishes, a true initiation.
Out of her recipes that you can enjoy on our blog, I conceived a meal of three courses, I cooked Pork and shrimp salad, Nem, the traditional Vietnamese crispy rolls and Traditional Vietnamese beef curry.
PORK AND SHRIMP SALAD
I followed Uyen's recipe by the book, and the result...well, you will see (better yet, you should try). I found the onion preparation unusual for our local techniques, and a revelation: you get to keep the onion crispiness, sweetness, but enjoy a much more delicate taste, by rubbing it with brown sugar, lemon, salt and pepper, as the recipe shows.
Preparing the fish sauce, for both recipes, was one of my favorite parts, there is something alive and deeply alchemical in its preparation, and ultimately, its taste. My fish sauce turned out lighter than Uyen's in her presentation photos, but I think it is a normal effect of having different qualities/sources of fish sauce, and brown sugar as well. I used lemon (being such a favorite of mine) in both recipes.
My slight deviation from the recipe for traditional Nem crispy rolls was eliminating the meat and keeping them vegetarian, since we were already supposed to enjoy pork meat in the salad. It was delightful and magical to prepare each ingredient, it almost felt like everything is alive. The result, the Nems, although deeply fried two times haha somehow kept a fresh look and feel, which was unusual and wondrous to me. I made spring rolls before, but never used the double-fry technique. They came out quite crispy, I think, I hope Uyen would be proud of me!
VIETNAMESE BEEF CURRY
I got more inventive with the curry. First of all, I chose to use beef knuckle, with bone (osso buco) and marrow. For its preparation, I first soaked it in boiling water for about 6 minutes, until foaming, skimmed the foam, then removed the knuckle from the water, cut out the meat around the bone and then put the bone with marrow back in to boil. I cut the beef into small chunks, let it cool a little and rub it all over with grounded lemongrass and salt for a while, as Uyen instructed. Since I only had dry lemongrass (which was extremely hard to find anyway), the marinade was a little dry, so I also added drops of fish sauce and soy sauce to massage the meat with the spice and the salt.
I then was a good girl and followed the recipe :) Another slight difference was the amount of coconut milk, which should have been more for the desired milky texture, since I used larger quantities of vegetables, but it still got to be so creamy, sweet and flavorful in the end.
With the bones, I made the beef stock to be added in the curry, and I also added the boiled marrow to the final mixture.
My experience: these dishes are amazing. The pork and shrimp salad was a unique, unexpected, I dare say mystical experience to me: light, summery, explosive, crunchy, so different than anything I tasted before, out of this world! As my sister said: this food is magical. The Nem was sweet, hot, crispy and I am delighted by the way rice paper and vegetables combined manage to preserve freshness and various flavors, despite the cooking process, and by their elevation with Vietnamese fish sauce. I loved the light, sweet curry, so creamy and melting in my mouth, perfectly complimented by the cilantro, all of them surprising gifts from my friend, traveling to me from a place far from home that feels so much like another home! You remember our story, we never meet and we get to know each other through the tastes of our lives, together cooking our way towards our first meeting.
What the guests say:
DIANA: Overall, the dishes were full of flavor and texture. The salad was crunchy and delicious. The Nems were easy and fun to make; they were interesting, every ingredient was noticeable, and the combination of flavors really worked. The beef curry was a revelation - soft and sweet, consistent, beautiful colors and great condiments.
ALEXANDRU: The Vietnamese soirée was superb. So was the company. We talked, we had fun, we played and everything was accompanied by exquisite food. Nem: as fun and as intricate they were to make, so was their deliciousness, standing out through a variation of textures and flavors. Beef curry: DELICIOS!!! Harmonious taste, every spice was telling a story, I felt like it synchronizes all my senses, it was something that took me out of my comfort zone, yet relaxed me at the same time, in a way that allowed me to savor the moment completely. Vietnam cooking seems to bring an additional zest of life through food.
GIACOMINA: The Vietnamese dinner, the dishes were wonderful. The shrimp and pork salad is very crunchy and fragrant. Nem are light as feathers. Beef curry with coconut milk...la pièce de résistance. Excellent! Sweet, light and spicy at the same time. Very gourmet. I loved all the dishes, it was a marvelous experience that I wish to repeat with the first occasion. Moreover, I am tempted to try new recipes myself. The cook is very skilled and devoted :D
LAVINIA: First time for me when I even saw a Vietnamese dish: The salad: So crunchy and tasty. Such unusual combination with the pork and shrimps. So veggy and surprising! It's the kind of dish I could eat every day. Nem: Nice feeling, you could see each ingredient. The curry: Well, this was the masterpiece. Creamy, soft, tasty, it gives you a sad feeling when it is disappearing from the plate. Looking forward for other surprises like this. And the friends, with this kind of people you can eat anything, you can give us an empty room and still have fun with them!
Dear Uyen, we thank you so much and we wish to you THE HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY! Happy happy birthday, my amazing, most beloved friend!
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
This is an easy fully-flavored recipe for a quick lunch, dinner or a magician's way to impress your surprise guests. You need (for 2 servings):
1 chicken breast
1 red bell pepper
1 medium tomato or 4 cherry tomatoes (or 1 tbsp tomato paste)
2 spring onions
1/2 tsp chili paste or 1 red chili ( you can play with quantities here, depending on how hot you want it to be or how hot your chilies are :D)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp curry or curcuma (turmeric)
2 tbsp parmesan
300g Basmati rice (or other rice of your liking)
-Wash the rice in cold water and add it in a pot with 600 ml water. Bring it to boil with upper medium heat, cover the pot and turn to lower heat for about 8 minutes. My trick for perfect rice: after the 8 minutes pass, turn off the heat and add about 60 ml warm water in the rice, cover it again and let it sit.
-In the meantime, cut the chicken breast in small cubes (about 1,5 cm per side) and put it aside.
-Cut the bell pepper and the tomatoes in similarly sized chunks and the green onion in larger pieces (not minced). If you use fresh chili, mince it.
-Heat olive oil in a pan or a wok (preferably) and throw in the chicken cubes, browning them on each side under high heat, for about 4 minutes. Add 1 tsp soy sauce and 50 ml water and stir. When the water evaporates and the frying restarts, add the cut pepper, tomatoes (or tomato paste), spring onions and chili (or the chili paste).
-Stir fry them all for 3 minutes.
-Add the rest of the soy sauce (1 tsp), the curry or turmeric and 200 ml of water, turn down the heat to medium and let it boil and the gravy to thicken for 6 minutes. Continue to stir.
Serve on top of hot rice, with plenty of parmesan.
I love to eat it with my favorite salad, a simple lettuce-parsley-lemon juice and zest-olive oil salad.
Today is all about comfort food.
When I think back about the food that I often ate in my childhood, this one stands out the most. I remember my mom used to cook this dish a lot, now come to think of it, the reason must be because I, as a child, loved the dish so much. I remember whenever I saw the pork cutlets among the ingredients mom bought from the market, I just knew she’d make this dish.
Whenever I ate this dish, I’d eat it so slow. I’d chew on a piece of meat for dozens of minutes on end to savor every flavor infused in the pork meat. First the sweetness and saltiness of the gravy would come out, then the natural taste of pork and its texture would provide me with a happy chewing session until the piece of meat'd feel like chewing gum, only then I’d swallow. From my experiences with kids, they love to chew on this kind of braised meat more than the grilled one. Maybe it’s a common trait. How about yours?
This pork cutlets dish is also the first Vietnamese food that I cooked when I came here, in France. Back then everything was still new and strange to me. I met a senior of my Vietnamese college who helped me a lot in settling in. At that time he was about to come back to Vietnam after finishing his degree so he and his mates spent a lot of time packing things up that he didn’t have time to cook anything. So I made this dish for them and they loved it. Maybe because it tasted like home. Whenever I cook this dish, I’m always reminded of happy memories and acts of kindness from people who didn’t know me but helped me out anyway. Those moments are so heart-warming and touching that this dish crystallizes in my mind as comfort food all the way.
The Vietnamese name for this dish is “coc lech” or “cot lech” which derives from the French word “côtelettes”. The ways to pronounce the words are similar too. To this day Vietnamese still use lots of French words for everyday things, like “xo” (seau) for buckets or “ghi dong” (guidon) for bicycle’s handlebar among many others. They’re a result of the colonialism from late 1800s to 1945s. The French culture permeates most aspects of Vietnamese culture that sometimes we’re not aware which is French influence and which is Vietnamese culture. Just take the famous Vietnamese “banh mi” for example. Vietnamese learned to make the loaf of bread from French bread, and then incorporated their own ingredients to make it a distinctly outstanding sandwich. Grew up eating this sandwich for most of my breakfasts, I didn't even think about the similarities. These cultural tidbits always fascinate me!
The Vietnamese “cot lech” means a distinct dish cooked in a certain way. Of course we use pork cutlets for this dish for sure, but the cutlets must be first infused in the marinade, then pan-seared for a beautiful caramel color and lastly cooked in the marinade until we obtain a thick golden brown gravy. It is meant to eat as a main dish in ordinary Vietnamese family meal along with soup and vegetables side-dish. Shall we start?
Ingredients: (4 servings)
4 big pork cutlets (about 150 gr each)
2 tblspoons of sugar
4 tblspoons of fish sauce (or substitute with 3 tblspoons of fish sauce and 1 tblspoon of soy sauce)
200 ml water (nearly 1 cup) or broth
1 pinch of salt and black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, slightly mashed
1 small chunk of ginger of about 2 tspoons, slightly mashed (optional)
1 tblspoon of soy sauce (optional)
1 tspoon of chili powder (optional)
Spring onion or cilantro for garnish (optional)
1. Marinate the pork cutlets at least 2 hours before cooking (or even overnight). Combine 3 tblspoons of fish sauce if use 4 tblspoons OR 2 tblspoons of fish sauce and 1 tblspoon of soy sauce, sugar, salt, black pepper, 2 tblspoons of water with 1 tblspoon of vegetable oil for the marinade. Let the cutlets be marinated in the fridge.
2. When the cutlets are ready, heat vegetable oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Put in the mashed garlic and ginger to infuse the oil with their flavors. Stir them until they turn brown on the edges then take them out.
3. Now turn the heat on higher, on high heat, and sear the cutlets until they’re brown-seared on both sides in the infused oil (it should take about 4 minutes for each). Remember to store the marinade for later use.
4. When the cutlets are beautifully seared, pour in the marinade and lower the heat. Add the last tblspoon of fish sauce and chili powder and cook the cutlets with the lid on until they become soft. This step takes around 20 - 25 minutes or more, depends on the thickness of the cutlets.
The dish doesn’t need any garnish but you can add cilantro or spring onion to your liking.
Slightly cut through the edge of the cutlet will help it keep the shape when cooked. If not the pieces will have funny looking curves, like they can’t handle the heat.
The reason I reserved the last tblspoon of fish sauce for the last step is because the dish may be too salty for your taste. So you don’t have to add it in the end, just adjust and find the right balance for you. Another reason is that I want to build the flavors in layers, so that the gravy is a bit more salty than the cutlet. Because Vietnamese eat this dish by pouring the gravy over rice, it must be more salty than the meat.
You can add the fried garlic and ginger back in the pan when you add the water or broth and let them be cooked with the cutlets. This way nothing goes to waste.
You don't need to add the chili powder. I just love my cutlets to be a bit spicy, that's why I chose the chili powder. If you don’t like the heat, just leave it out.
If you want to experience a Vietnamese 3 dishes meal, cook this pork cutlet dish with taro soup and pickles or stir-fried veggies and garlic. The different textures and flavors will give you a satisfactory meal.
Most of all, have fun with it and do share with me your favorite comfort food. I'm all ears.
Happy chewing session :D!
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Dark. Luscious. Fruity. Tipsy. Simple. A royal dessert for holidays that is sure to impress your guests. Or a guilty, secret pleasure for chocolate lovers. Anytime. Anyplace.
INGREDIENTS (serves 10 guests)
400g dark, high -quality chocolate (72%)
400g whipping cream
100g golden raisins
150g dried apricots
100g dried cranberries
150g dried (optional: smoked) plums
2 tbsp cognac
50g cocoa powder
Prepare one day before serving.
You can use a mixture of different dried fruits, but make sure to include at least two sweet&sour fruit types to complement the sweet heaviness of chocolate and cream.
Rehydrate the raisins in warm water or a mixture of water and cognac about 20 minutes before preparation. If necessary, also hydrate the plums (I used soft, smoked and dried plums). Cut and mince all the dried fruits (small chunks the size of a raisin) and put them aside.
Break the chocolate in chunks (by hitting the chocolate bar, in its wrapping, with a meat tenderizer)
Heat the whipping cream in a pan to the point of boiling (without boiling, however), on low heat. After a few minutes, in the process, add the sugar and mix it well until it melts. You will know the whipping cream is ready for our purpose when it starts forming bubbles and when it starts steaming, and this is when you need to put it aside. Place the chocolate chunks in the pan, so that they are covered in cream, but don't mix yet. Let them melt for about 4-5 minutes. At this point, after adding the chocolate, you also add the butter, cut in squares or if softer, separated in several pieces with a spoon (it is best to use it at room temperature). After a few minutes, mix the chocolate and the butter in the whipping cream (preferably with a wooden spoon) until thoroughly uniform.
We just made a ganache.
Add the minced dried fruits and the cognac. Stir and blend. Let cool.
When cool enough, add the ganache into the fridge for 24 hours, covered.
It will become a thick, dark layer of chocolaty promises.
When ready to serve, put the cocoa powder in a bowl, use a small ice cream spoon to form the delightful balls, roll them in cocoa, while evening them with your fingers. Personally, I like to use a larger ice cream spoon for a special effect. For the rugged effect, you just need to avoid evening their surface all around. You can also form them as smooth balls of chocolate if you roll them in your hands before covering them in cocoa. Rolling them in your palm is a sticky business, but if you can move quickly while the ganache is cold, it can be done. But give a try to my rugged beauties and just mess them around in the powder as they come from the ice cream spoon.
Enjoy their soft, creamy, fruity, tipsy chocolate heart.
Do you know that there was a food festival in Bordeaux the last week-end? I’m highly sure that you don't. Words have it that this yearly event is the biggest food festival in the region. Do I believe that? Well I do, since I witnessed the grandeur of it first hand the last few days.
The weather has been cold lately: this year winter comes sooner than expected, but it didn’t keep the tourists from attending. Especially since this 4th festival is sponsored by three timed Michelin starred chef Pierre Gagnaire. This chef originated from the South East of France but fell in love with Bordeaux when he visited it that he even opened a restaurant here. And who could blame him? I mean everyone I know loves Bordeaux – Bordeaux city, you know, the world’s best city of 2016. As for me, I’ve been landing here for the past 6 years and I’m a goner from the get go.
I was so excited about this event. I always love and admire French cuisine. What I find even more exciting though, is that the festival was not just about the art of French cuisine, it focused especially on South West cuisine and its many specialties from vegetables, herbs, condiments to fruits, meat, seafood AND wine. The wine here is world famous, even in Vietnam when we hear about Bordeaux, we think about wine ;).
There is this French song about how being friends means to share bread and wine with each other, how sweet!
The festival took place right in the heart of Bordeaux city and lasted 3 days, from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 November, with a wide variety of activities offered by many restaurants, chefs, apprentices and local farmers/producers. I found myself wishing for super powers to multiply myself in order to attend all the activities of the festival. From the top of my head, there are local products fair where you get to taste everything from food to wine, cooking workshops for adults and children, showdowns and competitions among chefs, food and music events, banquets at night, food photography conference and film, seafood auction, and of course, a myriad of interesting treats from restaurants who are partners of the event.
There was enough events and food to satisfy the most gourmands out there. Some of the events are prepaid, like the banquets, most are free however. There was also this privileged ticket of only 10 euros that offered you the possibility of 10 tasting treats from restaurant owners and producers along with promotions from partners of the event. And honestly you couldn’t go wrong with this opportunity because the treats were divine, just look at this lobster burger for example...
Quebec is honored this year. I always admire those breathtakingly beautiful mountains and forests and the people's, actually I mean the men's, lethal charm. Just take a look at Garou and see for yourself. And the women are too beautiful for words really with luscious hair and gorgeous complexion... Sigh. But I digress, let's get back to our festival. Since they have great fruits and vegetables there, it's no wonder they have some of the best products too, especially the cranberry cream which is a sort of fruity liquor if I guess it right.
Coincidentally or not, there is an international food photography festival in Paris at the same time as this food festival. And so we had the opportunity to savor the 40 masterpieces created by top photographers and artists. The theme of the festival is 'gastronomy and haute couture'. Below are some examples of when food and fashion collide...
All in all it was a lovely and exciting event. I usually hate to go to events like this alone but surprisingly, I had not even one moment to get bored. All of my time there was spent looking, tasting, discussing and smiling. And honestly just trying to make the choice of which activities to attend was enough to keep my mind buzzing all the time. I just wish myself to be more rigorous and strong to attend all events for 3 whole days but I have to keep myself in check until next year then. I'll definitely come back for the next round ;).
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
We continue our journey through the flavors of my childhood with another Grandma recipe, ciulama, a traditional Romanian classic. Derived from Turkish word çullama, it sits on the threshold of the many influences in Romanian cuisine, and it reflects my paternal Grandmother's mixed Turkish heritage. Ciulama is at its basics a béchamel sauce dish, allowing for one of the most enhanced elevation of the main ingredient: either chicken or mushrooms, sometimes combined. In other words, if you want to taste the essence of the chicken or mushroom flavor in a dish, this is one of the best presentation recipes to achieve that.
Today, I am presenting the honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea) ciulama, but you can perfectly use any kind of wild mushrooms or champignons, or you can use a mix of fresh and dried wild mushrooms, since the main value of the recipe is allowing you to infuse your palate with mushroomy taste. For a perfect Romanian experience, do not miss tasting it with mamaliga, my version of mamaliga for this recipe being a softer, creamier polenta.
INGREDIENTS for honey mushroom ciulama (4 servings)
500g honey mushrooms (or other wild mushrooms)
1 medium onion
75g flour (3 full tbsp all-purpose flour)
100g sour cream
1 chopped parsley bunch
IMPORTANT: this is a dish that you cannot leave on the stove at any preparation stage, so prepare to be glued to the stove and to stir continuously during the following steps. It is quick though!
Sauté the honey mushrooms for about 10 minutes in half of the butter. Do not overcook them (however, honey mushrooms are "harder" mushrooms so for this quantity, 10 minutes is the proper time to soften them). Put them aside.
In a nonstick pot, use the rest of the butter to sauté the chopped onion, until translucent (tip: add a few drops of water to prevent it from browning and use low heat, always stirring). Since this is a white dish, it is important to keep the onion white. It takes about 4 minutes to achieve that. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and mix quickly with the butter/onion, "frying" the flour a little bit, and when it starts coloring (don't let it get brown or burn), begin to gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat and add the sour cream, continuing to whisk for about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms in the mix. The consistency at this point, when you add the mushrooms, should be that of liquid cream. Continue to mix and stir for about 6 minutes. The result should be a thick cream texture. Keep in mind that the sauce will continue to thicken when cooling a little, so put it aside when it already starts to feel like sour cream.
INGREDIENTS for mamaliga (4 servings)
600g cornmeal (malai)
1/2 tsp salt
Mamaliga can be cooked in many ways and it traditionally needs a cast-iron kettle, yet this is a simple recipe you can prepare with any nonstick pot, just make sure the pot is deeper, since it tends to splash a little during boiling and a shallow pot won't do. Add the salt and heat the water to boiling point. When the water is boiling, add the entire cornmeal quantity and use a whisk to mix it (again, you need to prevent lumping). When it starts thickening and begins to "splash", reduce heat to very low and continue to mix with a wooden spoon (traditionally one uses a wooden paddle/stick called făcăleţ, but a wooden spoon or pot stick will do), for about 10-12 minutes. If you feel it is too runny, you can sprinkle a little more cornmeal in the process, towards the end, and mix it in. The final proper consistency should be of a very thick porridge. Overturn on a wooden plate or platter (be careful, it is hot)
Serve hot, with chopped parsley and for an even more authentic taste, use a wooden spoon. Rediscover the taste of mushrooms!
Let's pin it!
Traditional Vietnamese beef curry is a hot-free, creamy, nutty and buttery dish. Dip warm pieces of bread in this salty sweet and nutty flavorful stew for a whole-pot-meal autumnal experience!
The first thing to know about Vietnamese curry is it is not chili hot, and thus is kid-friendly.
In Vietnam we don’t have a curry cult like Thai curries. We only have one kind of traditional curry, and that is the yellow one. The yellow color stems from turmeric and curry powders. The first one is added for color and not for the taste. That’s why you can hardly smell any turmeric in the curry.
The traditional version is made with coconut milk. The whole stewing process will help the beef and vegetables to absorb the coconut milk and in the end we will have creamy buttery rich vegetables and beef. I saw and tasted the newer version of curry where ordinary milk is added. I find that ordinary milk makes the curry creamy and less heavy than coconut milk. You can experiment with ordinary milk if you want. I like both versions by the way.
The chosen meat can be beef or chicken. The vegetables in traditional Vietnamese curry are always carrot and potato but I also see people adding taro root. Taro root has a creamy taste of its own with a distinctive nutty flavor. I find the potato absorbs the flavor of the curry stew more readily than the taro. However the taro root is better suited for curry stew in cold weather as it retains the hot temperature longer than potato, and it is also healthier with more dietary fiber and is gluten-free (!). For today's curry, I'll stick with the traditional version using potato and carrot. Let's begin!
500 gr beef shank, cut into small cubes/chunks
300 gr potato, cut into cubes
200 gr carrot, cut into thick chunks then divided in halves
3 teaspoons of curry powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 tablespoon of grounded lemongrass
1 whole lemongrass, slightly pounded
1 small chunk of Ginger root, crushed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200 ml of coconut milk
150 ml of water or broth
1 teaspoon of salt,
20 gr palm sugar or brown sugar
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
Cilantro and chili for garnish (optional)
Marinate the beef with salt and grounded lemongrass for 1 hour.
In a pot, heat a bit of vegetable oil then sautée the crushed garlic and ginger root until fragrance. Put in the marinated beef, turmeric powder and curry powder and sautée for 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low. Pour in the coconut milk, water then add palm sugar, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce and the slightly pounded whole lemongrass and let’s stew for 45 minutes to one hour with lid covered. If you use pressure cooker, 15 minutes will do.
Next add the carrot and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Lastly add potato and a bit of water if you need to. Again let it stew for 10 minutes.
Serve hot with rice or bread.
The size of the beef chunks depends on your cooking time. The quicker the recipe, the smaller the chunks. I cut mine really small, about 2x2 cm. The same principle applies for potato chunks.
Crush the whole garlic and ginger root with the knife’s blade, don’t cut them into pieces. This way we won’t have to deal with little lumps of garlic and ginger floating in the stew.
We cook the beef curry with the lid the whole time.
You might need to add water now and then. Always keep enough water to cover the beef and vegetables. Only till the very end when you cook the potato that the water can be reduced by letting it evaporate.
The purpose of using whole lemongrass is for it to release the essence into the stew since we used grounded lemongrass to infuse the beef earlier. You can throw the lemongrass away when the curry is done.
If you substitute potato with taro root, the cooking time will be longer.
Foggy, almost rainy. Inside, passing through the walnuts and apples in the window. A bookmark: Bertolt Brecht, I have been waiting for you today. Warm. Light. Smiles. The smell of paper. Pillows: shall I work or shall I dream? Wait, lucky! My work is a dream. Hot tea, crackers, biscuits. Darkest grapes. Seneca Anticafe: charm and inspiration.
A quick and healthy approach to a classic Vietnamese dish for autumn, this hot chili and lemongrass chicken dish will warm you up for days to come
This is a traditional Vietnamese dish for cold weather, and can you guess why? This dish has that subtle heat from red chili and the richness from garlic and soy sauce that can make you feel warmed up in no time.
The specialty of this dish is that it’s borderline between stir-fried and braised food. You will first stir-fry the chicken and then add the marinade and let it simmer and reduce to a thick sauce. This way the chicken will have a soft shiny glaze finish with a beautiful caramel color. Normally for this dish Vietnamese use different parts of the chicken, especially the dark meat of the thighs along with skin and bones. But since I think you’d enjoy a healthier dish made from chicken breast without skin or fat, I’ve made this recipe just for you. And the good news is, not only it is healthier, it is also quicker. All the more reason to hop in and discover this dish right now!
One word about the chili, Vietnamese use red chili because of the color and the heat. Since we will cook it for a bit, its essence will be released into the sauce and looses some of its heat. But if you don’t want the dish to be too hot, you can add only a half the red chili, or substitute it for a milder chili that you can find. Are you ready?
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
2 chicken breasts (about 300 gr), cut into cubes
1 lemon grass, cut thinly then minced (or use 2 teaspoons of grounded lemon grass)
1 red chili, cut diagonally
2 cloves of garlic, minced
250 ml of water
Liquid for the marinade:
3 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of fish sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon of sriracha (optional)
1. First let’s marinade the chicken breast. For the marinade, combine the honey, oyster sauce, soy sauce, vegetable oil, minced garlic, lemon grass and chili.
2. Put in the chicken breast that you cut into cubes and mix. Let the marinade work for 15 minutes.
3. In a hot pan, pour in a bit of vegetable oil and stir fry each piece of chicken for 3 minutes. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked through, it just needs to be seared on the outside.
4. Add 250 ml of water to the left-over marinade and add this to the pan. I usually add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and 1 tablespoon of sriracha at this stage, but this is optional. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with the lid and let it cook for 7 minutes.
5. After that, remove the lid, return the heat to medium-high to reduce the amount of sauce. When the sauce thickens (around 2 minutes), take it off the heat.
Can you guess it? We're done! It’s super fast and easy right?
Serve this dish with rice and some veggies side dish.
Lemongrass is reputed to regulate high blood pressure, and so it is a perfect combination for this salty and spicy dish.
The marination is really important. Usually when cooking with dark meat, you can let it simmer to infuse the meat with flavors without worrying it'd become too dry. And since we use chicken breast for this dish, we must reduce the cooking time. That's why marinating the chicken will help it to absorb the spices and flavors without it being overcooked.
To prevent the chicken breast to dry during the cooking process (yes it still needs a little help), I add oyster sauce and vegetable oil in the marinade. If you don’t like oyster sauce, just add more soy sauce and vegetable oil.
Sriracha is optional since I like the added heat and color from it. The same is for fish sauce. The finish dish is quite salty because this dish is meant to be eaten with rice and vegetable side dish. The veggies should have natural sweetness to balance out the saltiness of chicken, thus cabbage is also a good choice.
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!