Time to get really cozy with the kitchen, and I mean really really cozy. What I want to mention is that one bowl meal with hot broth that just the smell alone can make you feel wonderful. It’s winter already so I cook a lot with ginger root, not only that it is delicious, it’s also very beneficial when it gets cold. Remember the natural remedies for cold and flu that always have ginger in them? Today we don’t have to drink the cold/flu concoction but still get the benefits from it while having a delicious Vietnamese street food. Does that sound tempting?
This dish is not exactly a street food, since lots of folks still cook it at home for special occasions. But because it’s one of those Vietnamese dishes that you most often see and taste on the street, let’s put it in the street food category. For this dish, there are Northern and Southern versions and the ingredients are practically the same for both versions. The difference here lies in the veggies for garnish. Since this dish originates from the North, I will do it the Northern way.
Yes you may wonder, we Vietnamese eat bamboo. Do you use kitchen utensils made from bamboo? This is the same bamboo, only that it’s the young one. The more bamboo grows the harder it gets so only the bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts are edible. A word of caution here: fresh bamboo shoots contain toxins that should be removed through a thorough cooking process. Don’t let this deter the food spirit in you though. It is pretty easy to remove the toxins by the way. You need to repeatedly boil the fresh bamboo sprouts 3 to 5 times. This process won’t change the texture or the color of the bamboo shoots themselves and afterward they are safe to eat. You may wonder how do bamboo shoots taste, right? Being cooked, they’re soft yet not mush, the part near the root can be a bit crunchy even. They taste a bit sweet and are kind of smooth and ‘slippery’: they’re so easy to eat that they’ll slip right into your stomach!
This dish is one of those Vietnamese one bowl meals that are very easy to make, and it’s quite a festive food I must say. If you have guests come over, this is quite the dish to impress, that is, if they can use chopsticks :D. For this dish we will break it down into parts for easy understanding. So let’s dive right in with the recipe then!
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
- 180 gr of Vietnamese vermicelli noodles
- 800 gr duck (choose the part with bones, duck thighs are perfect for this, the whole duck is even better)
- 400 gr fresh bamboo shoots (you can find these in batches at the Asian stores, either already sliced thinly or whole bamboo shoots. If you buy the whole ones, you can cut vertically each sprout in half and tear them into long thin stripes as they’re very soft)
- 2 l of water
- 1 onion, peeled
- 1 small chunk of ginger root (cut out 4 thin slices to put in the broth and peel the rest to make dipping fish sauce)
- Salt, grounded black pepper
- 5 spring onions, cut thinly for garnish
- 5 bushes of culantro, cut thinly for garnish
- 3 cloves of garlic (cut and mince 2 cloves of garlic and mince the last one)
- 1 red chili
- Fish sauce
- Lemon (optional)
How to cook it:
- Make the broth:
As with all Vietnamese one bowl meals where there is broth, we build it up with animal bones and slow heat to create a clear consistency. You don’t need to chop the duck at all, put it all in 2l of water along with the whole peeled onion, 4 slices of ginger and 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the pot on medium-high heat, when the liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat to a soft boil and skim off the foams and duck fat.
I use big duck thighs so I let it simmer for 40 minutes, if you use the whole duck, you may need to extend the boiling part to 1 hour or more. If the water evaporates a lot, you can add hot water. The amount of broth, in my opinion, should double the amount of vermicelli so adjust to your liking.
After the duck is cooked, take it out of the broth and let it cool down. You can remove the onion too, we don’t need it anymore. As for the ginger slices, you can eat them if you want. Keep the broth simmering and adjust the taste, add more water if too salty or salt if it’s bland. We will eat the broth with vermicelli in it, so it’s okay if it tastes saltier than your usual soup.
- Prepare the bamboo shoots:
Boil the fresh bamboo stripes in water for 3 minutes then remove from heat and change the water. Repeat this step 3 times or more.
On a hot pan, saute the crushed and minced garlic for 1 minute or until fragrant, put in the bamboo stripes, 3 tblspoons of fish sauce and half of the cut spring onion and culantro (we keep half of it for garnish). Toss them well for 3 minutes. You can skip this step and put the boiled bamboo stripes directly into the broth that we made earlier. However, saute the bamboo stripes like this make them more flavorful, they’ll shine with a delicate salty - sweet taste when you assemble the dish in the end.
Now you should put the bamboo stripes in the broth that we keep simmering on the stove and let them dance in harmony :D for 5 minutes more. And that’s it, we finish the broth! You should keep the broth hot to assemble the dish. As for the duck thighs, cut out the meat and cut into slices.
- Boil the vermicelli noodles:
Boil the vermicelli for 3 to 5 minutes. The more you boil it the softer it gets so adjust to your liking. After that remove the hot water, take out the vermicelli and wash it thoroughly under cold water to break down the cooking process. This step also prevents the vermicelli to stick like glue together.
- Make the ginger dipping fish sauce:
Use pestle and mortar to ground the ginger chunk and 2 tblspoons of sugar with red chili until you obtain a thick paste. Add 2 and ½ tblspoons of fish sauce with 4 tblspoons of water. You can add lemon juice for a slight sour taste but it’s not necessary. Lastly put in the minced garlic and we’re done!
To assemble the dish, in a big bowl put in a handful of vermicelli and a pinch of grounded black pepper, pour the hot broth over it with bamboo stripes. The best ratio, I think, is 1/3 vermicelli and 2/3 broth. Put the duck slices on top, add the sliced fresh spring onion and culantro for garnish. Serve the bowl with dipping fish sauce and a wedge of lemon if you skipped the lemon juice in the dipping sauce earlier. When you dive in, squeeze the lemon juice on top of the bowl, dip the duck meat, and even the bamboo stripes too if you feel like it, into the ginger fish sauce. I must admit, the fragrantly salty and spicy dipping fish sauce is quite addictive. The dish is warm, smells so cozy with ginger and culantro and has a delicate light taste.
I hope you’ll enjoy this dish for holiday season. May Santa treat you this year ;).
French mulled wine - Vin chaud
As Christmas isn't a big tradition in Vietnam, I don't have much experiences with the food there. So I turn to French dishes and what a treasure I found! Plenty of rich and flavorful dishes to choose from, and there’s something that I made a point to taste each December: mulled wine.
I seldom try red wine as I don't tolerate alcohol well but this one is a must! The wine is infused slowly with Christmas spices and sugar. The end result is a slightly sweet red wine with heavenly smell and low level of alcohol as it evaporates over low heat. The recipe is pretty simple and leaves space for creativity: you can choose the Christmas spices that you like.
Ingredients: (for 4 – 6 persons)
1 bottle of red wine of 75 cl (no need to choose the best quality, the taste of the wine will be modify anyway)
200 gr sugar (more or less to satisfy your sweet tooth)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
The zest of 1 lemon
2 slices of ginger root
1 pinch of grated nutmeg
- To make "vin chaud", combine the wine with all the ingredients (use the juice of the orange and its zest for this recipe) and put on low heat.
- When it starts to boil, let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- Always serve it warm, decorate to your liking.
Spiced corn bread
Traditional "vin chaud" is to be savored with spiced bread. I make a variation of spiced bread though: spiced corn bread. It turns out fluffier than the traditional spiced bread, just what I like.
Ingredients: (for 4 persons)
300 ml milk
4 tblspoons of honey
1 tblspoon of sugar
1 pinch of salt
300 gr corn meal
1 ½ tspoons of baking powder
1 ½ tspoons of cinnamon powder
1 pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tspoon of vegetable oil
1 small cube of soft butter
- Preheat the oven at 160 degree.
- Warm up the milk in the microwave for 1 minute then mix in honey, sugar and salt. Wait for the mixture to cool a bit then incorporate the corn meal, vegetable oil and the egg (you don’t want the egg to be cooked in warm milk). Mix them until well combined and let the mixture rest for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add in the cinnamon powder, grated nutmeg and baking powder. Mix again.
- Prepare the baking mold by rubbing the soft butter around it. Pour in the mixture and bake for 35 minutes.
- Serve the spiced corn bread with mulled wine.
- The spiced bread, true to its name, is about adding spices and honey to your bread. You can get as creative as you want with the spices. The traditional way is to use cinnamon powder, some versions even add ginger root powder, nuts as hazelnuts or pistachios.
- Warm milk helps to dissolve honey faster but if you’re not impatient like me, just use ordinary milk and stir really, really well :) .
- You may think that the corn meal makes the corn smell overwhelming, but when you cut into the bread, the cinnamon and nutmeg smell comes out. The bread is fluffy and spongy, much lighter than the traditional spiced bread. It also has a yellow color, unlike the brown color of the traditional version. You can substitute corn meal with any kind of flour that you like.
- As you can see the mulled wine and the spiced corn bread both have a sweet taste, so if you don’t want to taste two layers of sweet on sweet, adjust the sugar in one of the recipes. From my experience, less sugar in the mulled wine will be just the thing: sweet bread, tangy fragrant mulled wine and sour berries.
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.
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.
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.
Homemade vegetarian stir-fried broccoli with carrot, potato in sweet and sour soy sauce, a side-dish or main dish just under 20 minutes
Autumn is my favorite time of the year for stir-fried dishes. Not only that they are so simple and easy to make, pleasantly healthy and deliciously versatile, they also give you the opportunity to let your creative streak shine. I did an Asian stir-fried beef noodles dish last week too if you want to check it out.
Another reason that I love stir-fried dish so much is that it's one of the few dishes that can’t go wrong. You only need to keep an eye on the dish and give a good stir or a dash of water every now and then to prevent the vegetables from burning.
You can add meat to your stir-fried dishes or just keep them exclusively vegetarian, they’re delicious either way.
You can toss in any mix of vegetables and stir-fry to your heart’s content. So play around with the colors, experiment with the interesting textures, discover the flavors and fragrance of your vegetables’ combination. You just need to let your stir-fry adventure begin and have fun!
When making stir-fried dishes I always love to have colorful veggies on my plate, to feast my eyes on. I also can’t resist the textures’ richness from veggies and legumes combination. The first ones give you slightly chewy crunchiness while the latter just melt into your mouth. For this dish I choose broccoli (healthy deep green florets, anyone?), carrot, potato and mushrooms. My friends and I used to prepare this stir-fried dish when we threw a cooking party and needed an emergency side-dish. This time, though, I add a sour twist to the sauce with apple cider vinegar. Let’s make a party of colors and textures, shall we?
Ingredients: (2 servings as a side-dish)
- 150 gr broccoli, dice into small chunks
- 100 gr or 1 medium carrot, cut diagonally and thinly
- 150 gr potato, cut diagonally and thinly
- 50 gr or 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
- 150 gr mushrooms, diced
- 1 clove of garlic and 1 small chunk of ginger root, minced
- Salt to taste
For the sauce:
- 1 and ½ tablespoons of honey
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 10 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch/glutinous rice flour or like me, use kudzu root starch/flour
How to cook:
- Put in your pan a bit of vegetable oil on medium-high heat. When the oil is heated, add the minced garlic and ginger root and stir for 30 seconds or until they release their fragrance.
- Next add the carrot, potato and onion and stir now and then. Add a generous pinch of salt for them to be cooked faster. They should be cooked for 5 minutes at least, if you see that they’re about to get burned, add a dash of water, just a dash.
- When you wait for the legumes to be cooked, you can prepare the sauce (but don’t forget to give the legumes a good stir now and then). In a bowl add all the ingredients for the sauce except the starch/flour and mix until well-combined.
- When the carrot and potato are partially cooked, add the broccoli (florets and stem) and most of the sauce we prepared earlier (you must keep a bit of the sauce to dissolve the kudzu root starch in the next step). Again give them a good stir occasionally and let them cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add the kudzu root flour or corn starch to the rest of the sauce and stir to dissolve.
- Lastly add this sauce to the pan and stir for 30 seconds. If you use the kudzu root starch, it will thicken in 10 seconds. And we’re done! Serve this immediately with rice and main dish, or with rice only.
Do you often throw away the broccoli stem? You’re wasting good edible vegetable. Just cut around the stem and remove the hard cover, it is like the bark of the tree so we need to peel it off. Once you remove that layer, you will get to the core of the stem which is even softer than the broccoli florets and it tastes even sweeter. You can cut it diagonally and thinly for this dish.
As with all green veggies, keep the lid off when you cook broccoli for it to keep the delicious deep green color.
You don’t have to add the apple cider vinegar and because of that you can use less honey and soy sauce. This way the dish will taste naturally sweet from the carrot and onion.
A small cultural tidbit about the kudzu root starch:
The kudzu root starch is made from the root of kudzu, a beloved plant in East Asia. Eastern medicine believes this starch to have anti-inflammatory and detoxing effects, it can regulate high blood pressure, reduce fever and is a boost for your kidney and liver. It is very sought-after in Vietnam. This starch can be consumed raw in lemonade or cooked into compote, it can also be used to thicken Vietnamese desserts or soup/sauce like I use for this dish.
I read that the practice of growing this plant was spread widely in the US in the 90s' but because it grew so fast and so strong it became a menace to other plants. And so these days it is much harder to find kudzu root starch in the US, and it's pricier.
Unfortunately it’s rare to find kudzu starch here in France as well. I did a scourge of the kudzu here 2 years back, from supermarkets to online stores to Asian stores without any luck. And then finally after some months I stumbled upon it in an organic grocery store where they sell 100 gr of kudzu flour for 8 euros! Needless to say, I didn’t buy it from the organic store. The kudzu root flour that I’m using is brought from Vietnam from my trip there.
If you can find this starch for a reasonable price, you’d do well to bring it home. It is healthier than corn starch, doesn’t alter other ingredients’ tastes and is versatile so it will let your creative streak soar. By the way, if you happen to know where to buy kudzu root starch for a reasonable price here in France, I'm all ears.
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
A classic Italian that happens to be one of my favorites, melanzane alla parmigiana - eggplants with parmesan (also called parmigiana di melanzane) is a simple, healthy and savory autumn must-cook. You can find many variations of this recipe all throughout Italy, depending on the region. This article introduces one of my own variations of melanzane, the simplest, faster version of it, which not surprisingly is also the healthiest.
The dish is the tastiest, perfect mélange of eggplants, cheese, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, a classic feast of Italian ingredients. Normally, to cook melanzane alla parmigiana the traditional way, granny style, one needs to fry in olive oil each piece of eggplant, and then place them in the tray (a technique similar to how we cook the eggplants for the Greek moussaka). However, the easier, healthier way is to skip this step with this recipe and just add the raw eggplants, since the oven cooking is enough to release their sweetness. Another step that I skipped is the standard salting of the raw eggplants before cooking them (which removes some of the bitter juices). Especially when you have exquisite eggplants, sweet and fresh like I had here, you may also skip this part for this dish.
A nice touch to this basic eggplant-cheese dish is that it gives you the possibility to use, apart from parmigiana, a verity of local cheese, which is what happens in Italy as well, where either mozzarella, cottage cheese, fior di latte or even mascarpone and many other sortiments of cheese are added, depending on the region. I do recommend for this recipe to have at least one part of the cheese as melting cheese, mozzarella, cheddar or gouda type of cheese, for part of the charm and deliciousness of melanzane is the mélange of eggplants with melting cheese.
INGREDIENTS (6 servings)
1 1/2kg eggplants
800g chopped tomatoes (or your favorite tomato sauce, you can check one of mine here)
300g grated parmesan
400g mozzarella (or other melting cheese)
300 g other cheeses (I used about 150g cottage cheese and 150g telemea)
50g garlic powder
extra virgin olive oil
basil leaves to taste (I used 5 medium branches of fresh homegrown basil)
One of my secrets of this particular recipe is the use of dry garlic powder instead of fresh crushed garlic, since its taste elevates the eggplant-parmesan combination. If you can't find it, you may use simple crushed garlic (about 1 head for this quantity) that you mix with the tomato sauce/chopped tomatoes before spreading it on the eggplants.
Cut the eggplants in 1cm round slices and add them for your first layer in the chosen tray. I used a ceramic tray that I prefer for this recipe, but you can use any oven tray or pot that allows you to make at least two layers with the eggplants you have. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil. No one will mind if you enjoy a glass of delicious must in the meantime. It will help you concentrate.
Since I had 3 layers of eggplants in this tray myself, I am going to add now 1/3 of the chopped tomatoes and layer them all over. On top of the tomatoes, sprinkle 1/3 of the garlic powder quantity, a few fresh basil leaves, about 75g of parmesan and half of the other cheese quantity, in this case mozzarella, cottage cheese and telemea.
Repeat the above steps until all your eggplants are purposefully lined up in the tray. For the top layer, just add eggplants, sprinkled with olive oil and tomatoes and garlic powder, and only parmesan and a few basil leaves (keep the melting cheese and the other cheeses in the middle layers).
Place the tray in the oven at 220°C for about 45-50 minutes, until the top layer is crispy golden and the eggplants are soft when pinched with the fork. Add more fresh basil leaves before serving.
You can use the same recipe for creating individual servings in small earthenware or ceramic cookware.
Melanzane alla parmigiana can also be served cold, I sometimes even prefer it like this, and you can store it in your fridge for a while and then serve it as part of sandwiches, salads, side dishes or omelettes (chopping this eggplant/cheese yum and mixing it with beaten eggs and sour cream makes for a delectable omelette).
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!