It’s time for me to present to you one of the traditional foods of Vietnamese culture: crispy rolls. It is not to be confounded with fresh spring rolls, the unfried ones. The English translation hasn’t done these two dishes justice, since they are as different as day and night: different in ingredients, the way of cooking and even the sauces to eat them with. I will eventually get to fresh spring rolls “goi cuon” but today I will talk about crispy rolls.
I call crispy rolls the traditional food of Vietnam because from North to Center to South, all cuisines have them. Although they’re named differently (“Nem” in the North, “Cha Ram” in the Center, and “Cha Gio” in the South) and people may add additional ingredients here and there, the main ingredients remain the same. Furthermore, all big celebrations, memorial days are never complete without crispy rolls. This dish is popular to the extent that some Vietnamese claim if you don’t know how to make crispy rolls, you don’t know how to cook. So what is so special about this traditional dish that it becomes the standard for Vietnamese cooking?
I can’t pinpoint the exact time Vietnamese started making crispy spring rolls. The history of the country shows it was first a small land in the North and extended to the South through an immigration process. And since crispy rolls are presented everywhere in the country, it’s just logical to say the recipe derived from the North. Some may say our crispy rolls originated from Chinese spring rolls. But Vietnamese crispy spring rolls are different from the Chinese spring rolls/egg rolls. Chinese spring rolls are made with flour/starch wrappers and sautée vegetables, usually cabbage, to celebrate spring and that’s why, when the Brits took govern of Hongkong in the XIX century, they called these spring rolls or egg rolls. The Vietnamese rolls however are made with thin rice sheets and uncooked vegetables until the frying process, not to mention the sauce to eat them with is purely Vietnamese. And the rolls are not just to celebrate spring, they’re for celebrations in general. When the Brits saw these two kinds of rolls with seemingly similar wrappers, they called them both spring rolls. But by now we know better. So from now on in this article I will call the Vietnamese rolls “Nem” when it is clear they’re not just another kind of “spring rolls”.
The main ingredients of Nem are minced meat, carrot, onion, vermicelli, wood ear mushrooms and rice sheets. The Northern version also has mung bean sprouts and eggs, the Southern version: sweet potatoes. Today I’m going to show you the simplest version of Nem using only the main ingredients. Let’s begin!
- 200 gr of pork, shoulder part with a bit of fat
- 1 medium carrot
- 25 gr of Vietnamese vermicelli/ glass noodles
- 2 to 3 wood ear mushrooms
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 shallot
- Salt, pepper
For the sauce:
- Fish sauce
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 chili pepper
- Lemon juice
- A bit of water
My rice sheets have a diameter of 18 cm and I made around 20 rolls with this amount of ingredients.
First we need to prepare the filling.
Submerge the vermicelli in warm water to soften it because we will cut it short. After 15 minutes, the vermicelli turns soft so use a knife or scissors to cut it into pieces of 3 cm/1 inch long.
Do the same and submerge the wood ear mushrooms in warm water for about 10 to 15 minutes. When they are soft and regain their original shapes, cut them into thin slices then mince.
For the pork, ground the part where the meat has a bit of fat. This fat will help keeping our filling moist when the rolls are fried.
Grate the carrot into thin slices. Dice the onion. Mince the garlic and shallot, they’re to make our filling more fragrant.
Put all the ingredients that we prepared (vermicelli, grounded pork, carrot, wood ear mushrooms, onion, garlic and shallot) into a big bowl and then season with salt and grounded pepper. I use the black pepper here. And then comes a very important step: mixing. Use your hand to mix everything well, really well. You should make sure that there is no lump of meat or vegetables sticking together so that when the roll is cooked and you take a bite out of it, you can taste everything from carrot to vermicelli to mushroom and onion.
I mentioned earlier that for the Northern version, people add mung bean sprouts and eggs to the filling. Mung bean sprouts are meant to add water and make the filling moist, not dry. And because mung bean sprouts may make the filling watery, they add eggs for everything to stick together. The purpose of using sweet potatoes in Southern version is the same, to stick the filling together, and also to add a natural sweetness and creamy texture to the rolls. I myself find the main ingredients stick together well without having to use eggs or sweet potatoes, thanks to the grounded meat; and the fat in the meat keep the filling sufficiently moist so I decided to stick to the main ingredients. But you’re welcome to try other versions for the rolls. Using sweet potatoes to substitute meat is also a great way to make vegan Nem, the rolls are delicious!
And now we roll…the filling.
Prepare a big bowl of water enough to submerge a whole rice sheet or at least a half of it so we can turn it around and wet the other half. We can’t roll the filling in rice sheets when they're in their dry state. They must be softened by water first. The water should be cold or warm? It depends on the thickness of the rice sheets. If they’re thick, you should use warm water to speed up the softening process.
You can use a plate as a base for rolling. I like to use my wooden cutting board for this because they also absorb excess water from wet rice sheets. Now let’s start! Quickly dip a rice sheet in the bowl of water and put it on the plate/cutting board. Use a tablespoon to scoop a small amount of the filling and place it at the end of the wet sheet, as showed in the photos below.
Span the filling evenly and start rolling from the side that is closer to the filling to the other side, remember to close the two “edges”. Do the same for the other sheets until you ran out of fillings. From time to time use a napkin to wipe the excess water on the plate/cutting board away. It wouldn't do if your rolls are squishy with water, they will break.
If you make a lot of Nem and couldn’t eat them all, you can store them in the freezer in their unfried state. You will never run out of Nem this way. When you want to eat them, just defroze them and fry them like you would normally fry the rolls.
It’s time to fry the rolls. Nem must be deep-fried, there’s no other way to cook them. They’re originated from the North and as I said in another article, Northerners love deep-fried food.
In a small pan, put in a generous amount of vegetable oil, enough to submerge each roll, and put it on medium heat. The oil should not be too hot. If it is, the rice sheets will be burned before the filling can be cooked. And if the oil is not hot enough, the rolls become a squishy pale lump. You can test if the oil is ready by putting a wooden chopstick in the oil, when you see bubbles appear rapidly around the chopstick, it’s time to fry the rolls.
Lightly put in the rolls one by one in the hot oil pan. You will notice the rice wrappers become thicker and harder. Roll the rolls around for them to cook evenly. If they stick together at this point, do not worry and just let them cook until the wrappers harden. By then you can separate the rolls without breaking the wrappers. It takes about 3 minutes to cook each roll. When the rolls are cooked, take them out and put them on paper towel. Do the same for the whole batch.
And now comes the secret for crispy Nem: we deep fry them a second time. When you fry the rolls the first time, it is to slow cook the filling without breaking the wrapper. When you fry the rolls for the second time, everything is cooked so this step is all about making the wrappers as crispy as possible and giving them a golden color. This step won’t take much time, just about 2 minutes. You will know if the rolls are done when you touch them with your chopsticks: they feel hard as rocks. But don’t worry, that means they’re crispy.
For the fish sauce, you can follow the recipe here without adding the pickles.
Serve Nem when they’re still warm with salad and herbs.
A dish of Nem is deemed successful if the rolls are crispy not burned, the rice wrappers still intact not broke and the rolls are similar in size and shape. The complexity of Nem made it an aristocratic dish long ago then gradually it became a common dish served in ceremonial occasions to offer love and respect for our ancestral origin. A plate of Nem is not just another exotic dish, it’s a happy celebration of Vietnamese culture.
One of our favorite summer desserts, blending the coolness of yogurt with the refreshing tropical taste of citrus. I usually cook this yummy pastry filling pie in its simple form, without the syrup and confit addition, which is something you should definitely try. This time, I chose tangelo (a grapefruit tangerine hybrid) for a confit to give it a more decadent taste. But you can definitely taste your first yogurt filo in its simple form and it is certain you will feel like tasting it again, in many experimental ones.
Ingredients (for a standard 40x30 cm oven baking pan)
400g filo sheets (1 package)
For the confit
2 medium tangelo fruits (or other citrus like orange, tangerine, grapefruit, pomelo)
For the yogurt filling
250ml sour cream
8 tbsp. sugar
150g golden or mixed raisins (a hand of raisins)
1 vanilla bean (I used black Bourbon vanilla)
First and foremost, for this recipe you need genuine filo sheets (which are made of just water and flour by the way, and a touch of vinegar and/or oil), not margarine pastry dough sheets, but the simple filo sheets used for baklava, for instance. You can find them fresh or frozen in most supermarkets.
Start by making the confit. Use a non-sticky pot to add the juice of one tangelo to the sugar. Remove the skins of both fruits and cut them into stripes. Tangelo doesn't have a thick skin, so there is no need to remove the "whites" as we often do with orange, for the confit to not be excessively bitter. Add the water and boil at low heat until it forms a foam and until by testing the syrup (pour a little on a small plate and see if it caramelizes) you can see it is ready. Since the citrus skin is a little tougher, and we need those orange wonders to be soft and turned into sweets, you can add more water in the process until not just the syrup is ready, but also the fruit skins are soft and cooked. It should take about 45 min for this confit quantity to be ready and in the meantime, you go on and almost finish the pastry.
Turn the oven on, for preheating. While the confit is cooking, separate the eggs as egg yolks vs. egg whites. This part is not compulsory, you can actually mix the whole egg in the filling, but I prefer to whisk the whites separately, it makes the filling puffier. You can use any yogurt of your liking, the experience with this recipe shows it is best to use a more sour yogurt, this way the final dessert is more intense in contrast. This time, I used a delicious mixed yogurt, made of cow, sheep and buffalo milk. Add the sour cream too, and the sugar. Remove the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the mix and then just mix, mix, mix, vigorously (you can use a mixer, if you prefer), until smooth and homogenous.
Put aside and start preparing the sheets. Melt the butter in a small pan, on low heat, until liquid. Use the butter parchment to grease the pan and lay only half of the sheets this way: 2-3 sheets, grease them with the melted butter (either by using a cooking brush, or why not? a goose feather :D All right, all right, you can actually use a simple spoon), another 2-3 sheets, more greasing, until you added the entire half of sheets in the pan.
Time to wake up the egg whites: beat them with the mixer until peaking. Gently incorporate the egg whites into the filling, and when ready, pour it in the pan, over the greased sheets. Sprinkle the raisins all over. Repeat the process above, by adding 2-3 sheets, greasing them, adding more, until the other half of the sheets is on top, buttered.
Put it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 210°C. It turns crispy and golden on top, when ready, and when trying it with a toothpick, the filling is curdled.
The confit should be ready by now (you don't want a real caramel there, make sure to keep it as a syrupy confit). Remove the pan from the oven and while still hot, pour a part of the syrup on the dessert and spread evenly with a spoon or spatula. Cover with a napkin and let cool.
Cut pieces in different sizes of your liking and add more syrup and the confit on top, when serving. You can serve it in many ways, either by cutting the confit stripes in smaller pieces, or leaving them as they are, no matter your choice, it is sure to be a treat. All you need now is to sit as close to the pan as possible.
It would be a great crime to forgo a salad in summer. Especially when it’s hot, too hot that you don’t want to eat anything that is fatty, buttery or starchy. You crave a fresh, crunchy, herbal bowl of food and that’s where a salad comes in to save the day (and by the day I mean you precisely).
Vietnamese salads are meant to be served as an entrée, not as a whole meal dish. You’ll meet these salads when you explore street food in Vietnam (have you ever heard of seafood salads? We have a plenty), also when you attend celebrations such as weddings or memorial days. There will always be a salad there amid the feast because Vietnamese believe that a sweet and sour dish is great to pave the way for main dishes to come. If you attend Vietnamese celebrations you will understand why. The dishes in and of themselves aren’t always heavy BUT there are so many of them that they will end up being a storm in your stomach, not to mention the side dishes and desserts. In far Southern Vietnam, mostly in countryside, the whole village can come to a wedding and eat for 3 days straight. Didn’t I say it’s a feast? So during those occasions, salads are a great choice: fresh, light, sweet and sour, easy to eat and smell great too. Of course this is only occasionally, you’ll survive the cooking storm, we did.
By now I need to clarify what Vietnamese salads are.
I was talking to Blessia the other day and she called the Vietnamese rice vermicelli dish a salad. I was surprised. I googled it and in fact many people call dishes where we mix vermicelli and herbs and sauce salads. Ask Vietnamese and you will discover they won’t call these salads at all. I think the difference comes from languages and translation. It seems everything mixed will be called salad on Western term, so the name salad comes from a way of eating. On the other hand, in Vietnamese a salad means one special kind of dish: vegetables/herbs + meat + sweet and sour dressing. We call it “goi” in Southern language and “nom” in Northern one. There is no vermicelli or rice in “goi”.
There are dozens kinds of “goi” made from different vegetables, sometimes fruits like mango or pomelos, different meat like chicken, pork, beef, shrimp/seafood, herbs and 9 times out of 10 sweet and sour fish sauce (the one time exception is a vegan “goi” in which they forgo meat and create an imitation of fish sauce). The fish sauce to make Vietnamese salads is not like the dipping fish sauce that I presented here. Salad’s fish sauce must be thicker in order to not make the vegetables become a soggy mess. It’s the antagonist of any “goi” story, the chorister for our salad concert. I have never come across anyone who doesn’t like Vietnamese salads. In fact I made a salad for the linguistic meet-up in Bordeaux and everyone loved it. For that event I made chicken cabbage salad but let’s change the recipe this time with pork and shrimp and carrot salad. You will need:
- 7 shrimps
- 100gr pork (the shoulder part)
- 2 medium carrots, cut or grate into stripes
- 1 small onion, cut into thin slices
- 2 celery stems, sliced diagonally (normally we use Vietnamese mint and coriander for garnish but I chose celery over them for this dish)
- A handful of roasted peanuts, crushed
For the dressing:
- Fish sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 red chili pepper, deseeded and minced (I’d say this is optional but a Vietnamese fish sauce is never complete without red chili so you can try adding red chili to this sauce and see if you can stand the heat. Because we remove the seeds of the chili, the fish sauce won’t be too hot anyway)
- Salt, pepper, sugar
I always prepare the onion first. I like to mix the onion before making salads because I don’t like its raw smell. Although it seems extra work, mixing the onion before the salad also elevates the sweet and sour taste of our dish. You’re not obliged to prepare the onion beforehand and can just cut it and set aside like the celery but I promise you this is worth the time and effort.
To mix the onion: Mix salt and sugar and lemon juice in a ratio of 1:3:2 and a dash of grounded pepper (black or white). Mix the onion slices in this mixture and let’s wait for 20 minutes at least. The onion will give up its raw smell along with water while still preserve its crunchiness.
Now for the shrimps: Steam them, remove the shells and black lines and set aside.
Boil the pork chunk with salt and submerge it in cold water to prevent it from darkening. After 10 minutes, take out the pork chunk and slice it thinly, set aside.
You can prepare the carrot and chop celery while waiting for the pork to be cooked and cooled. After cutting the carrot into stripes, put them into a bowl and sprinkle with salt, mix well and set aside. This step is to remove water from the carrot and reduce water in the salad. Remember to turn the onion and carrot from time to time for them to be coated evenly. After 10 minutes, the carrot is ready for use.
And now for the dressing:
The perfect ratio of sugar, fish sauce and lemon juice for salad dressing, to my taste that is, is 2:1:3/4. In a sauce pan pour in sugar and enough water to cover it. Then add several drops of lemon juice to prevent the sugar from being crystallized. Put the pan on medium heat and stir constantly to prevent the sugar from burning at the bottom of the pan. When the mixture starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and keep stirring. When the sugar dissolves completely, take the pan off the heat. Pour this mixture in a bowl and let it cool down a bit. Next start adding in fish sauce, minced garlic, minced red chili and lemon juice in that order.
15 minutes before serving you can begin to mix the salad. First take the carrot and squeeze the water out. Do the same for the onion too. Put them in a big bowl intended for the mixing step. Add the pork and shrimps that we prepared earlier, also chopped celery (keep a bit of it for garnish). Pour in the fish sauce mixture and mix everything by hand: this is when you should give them a loving good massage. When everything is combined with the dressing put in the crushed roasted peanuts and toss them with the salad. Yup, there are lots of tossing and mixing for this dish.
Serve the salad fresh, garnish with chopped and whole celery leaves and crushed peanuts. The salad is great to eat with prawn chips/crackers. Bon appétit!
They have chicken soup for the soul, and here we have one for our stomach.
This soup is best served when the weather is a bit cold. I don’t know how the weather is where you are but here in Bordeaux I can’t believe summer has arrived. It has been hot and cold for the last several days, one day people wear shorts and dresses and the next day coats and boots.
So I was thinking about making this cozy comforting soup made from chicken and sweet corn, especially when it’s corn season right now. This soup stands out for its clear broth, the sweetness of corn and delicate taste of chicken and the fragrance of shitake mushrooms.
1 chicken breast
3 dried shitake mushrooms, washed and soaked in warm water at least 10 minutes before cooking
2 egg whites, whisked well
3 spring onions/scallions
1 clove of garlic, minced
Half of an onion (optional)
Salt, fish sauce, black pepper, vegetable oil.
First we need to make the broth with the chicken breast. We will begin lightly: boil the chicken breast in the soup pot with only water and salt for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
While waiting for the chicken, we can prepare the corn and shitake mushrooms. In my older posts I cooked the corn with its cover and silk but this time we need to discard them in order to strip the corn meat from its core. Use a small knife for this and be careful as this may quickly become messy: Everything nearby will become dotted with yellow corn juice. You should keep the core for this soup. As for the corn silk, don’t throw it away. Instead, make it into tea to give your kidney and liver a boost. Set the corn aside for later.
Next come the shitake mushrooms. They are the star of this dish, along with corn. I don’t know if you’re familiar with these mushrooms, they are very delicious, fragrant and flavorful.
Back to our mushrooms which have been soaked in warm water for at least 10 minutes. When the mushrooms are softened, wash them again. You need to wash them thoroughly and squeeze out the excess water because we will cut them into thin slices and soggy shitake mushrooms will make a mess on your cut board. To prepare the mushrooms, cut out their chewy trunk then cut the rest into thin slices and set aside.
The chicken is now cooked, take it out and let it cool down. (To prevent it to darken, you can place it in a bowl of ice water). Then put corn and its core into the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Let the soup simmer for 15 minutes.
While waiting for the corn to be cooked, we will prepare the spring onions and egg whites. Separate the heads of the spring onion (the white bulbs) from their green parts. Mince the spring onion bulbs along with garlic and set aside. Chop the green onion for garnish and whisk the egg whites. Tear the chicken breast into thin stripes. And we’re ready to assemble the dish!
In a sauce pan, heat a bit of vegetable oil and sautee the minced garlic spring onion heads for 1 minute. Your kitchen will smell a tad wonderful. Then add shitake mushrooms and sautee for 3 minutes. If you see the garlic start to burn, add a dash of water. Last but not least, add the chicken stripes and fish sauce or salt to your taste, I just love fish sauce for this soup. Pour the chicken sauteed into the pot soup and wait for the soup to boil. This is the time to taste your soup and adjust it to your liking. You can add salt or fish sauce if you want, but if you add the fish sauce, don’t add it when the soup is boiling or the fish sauce smell with stick to your whole kitchen, and that include you too.
When the soup is boiling, slowly pour in the battered egg white while stirring with a fork. The stirring action and boiling water will make the eggs white become thin stripes.
Traditionally this soup has a thick texture from corn starch. But from my experiences, not many like this version of soup, so proceed with care. If you choose to add the corn starch, stir 1 tablespoon of corn starch in a cup of water and pour it in the pot soup while the water is boiling, keep stirring the soup to distribute the starch evenly.
Serve this soup hot with spring onion and black pepper.
If you love corn and would like to discover another Vietnamese corn dish, find it here. It's a drink made with corn and milk. I got feedback from my fellow blogger that it is quite addictive, so make sure to give it a try.
Grilled Feta Psiti (φετα ψητη)
The grilled version of Feta Psiti, a Greek inspiration barbecue delight.
For 4-6 servings:
1 kg. Greek feta
1 kg. ripe, juicy, organic summer tomatoes
a few hot chili or jalapeno peppers (depending on how hot they are, and how hot you are :D or, alternatively, how hot you can or want to be)
oregano (preferably Greek; I used dry Thassos oregano from Thassos mountains, the best)
Break with your hands app. 200g Feta cheese on aluminium foil (make sure to use two foil pieces for each pocket, one foil might be too thin and break easily when moved on and from the grill). Add pieces of tomatoes (about half tomato for each portion), a few cut pieces of chili (again, depending on how hot you want it to be - normally this is a spicy recipe), and finally season with lots of extra virgin olive oil (for a full Greek experience, with Greek olive oil) and oregano.
Close the foil around the ingredients and make a pocket, then place it on the hot grill and just leave it there. Depending on the fire, it should be ready in 15 to 20 min, but you might want to check it by taking one of the pockets off the grill, let it cool a little and open it. Be careful to not be burnt by the steam. It is ready when the tomatoes are cooked (Feta doesn't melt, but it will look and smell cooked, when ready). Close the pocket and put it back on the grill, if you feel it needs more steaming.
A chicken skewers recipe of Hawaiian inspiration (but you can experiment with other types of meat as well). I used chicken breasts, cut into pieces, and impaled along with pieces of fresh pineapple and green ball peppers.
Before making the kebabs, you need to marinate the pieces of chicken breasts in:
light soy sauce
coriander seeds (use a mortar and pestle to just break them before adding them to the marinade)
Use just a little of each (depending on the meat quantity) and massage the chicken pieces (don't drown them in marinade), then assemble the kebabs and leave them in the fridge, covered for 1-2h, before putting these babies on the grill.
I served them with a refreshing tomato mint summer salad, consisting of:
Hot Yellow Chick
This quick barbecue recipe goes very well with chicken thighs too, or turkey breasts, but I used chicken breasts this time.
It's all about the marinade:
For 500 g. chicken breasts:
150g thick yogurt
1 tbsp curry
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 crushed garlic head
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp mixed herbs of your liking (I used a mix of: dry basil, thyme, marjoram, cumin, parsley)
You know the drill: mix the ingredients, throw the meat in, massage, rest and cool (in the fridge, for 1 to 2h). Grill!
We finished the dinner with another version of one of my favorite homemade ice cream recipes (here): forest berries (instead of strawberries) and pineapple (instead of lime) ice cream. I garnished it with fresh fruits, and the pineapple took on the colors of the berries and it was delightful not just for the mouth, but for the eyes too.
This is the second article in a series about corn. Find the first here.
This time we will make corn milk, a delicious drink for summer. Children just love this drink. It’s sweet, buttery and smells lovely. I first tried this drink in Hochiminh city. They sell this drink along with street food, just like in Nha Trang where they sell Pho AND soy milk.
Before we delve into how to make corn milk, let’s talk a bit about corn.
Corn is really a sweetheart. Not only it contains lots of vitamins et minerals (Vitamin C, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, etc), the corn silk that seems like a random useless beard is also very beneficial (Vitamins K, A, B1, B6, Calcium, Kalium,…). In summer Vietnamese people drink corn silk tea to help regulate body temperature and keep the kidney and bladder healthy. Just a word of caution here: don’t abuse this tea or your bladder will work too much and as a consequence, you’ll lose too much water.
For this corn milk recipe, we will use the whole sweet corn: corn ears and corn silk, and get the benefits from them all.
First we need to choose good corn as it’s crucial for any corn recipe. How do we know which corn is good to use?
The corn cover should look fresh and new, the corn beard not too dry or too dark. The cut at the end of the corn should still have a white color and not brown. You should also spread the corn cover a bit to look at the corn inside, if it’s shiny, has no corn gap or any abnormal color and spot, it’s good. I suppose these days it’s harder to find bad corn than good corn, but this tip can come in handy from time to time. Choose the corn that has a delicate long shape rather than round, for the sweetness is distributed better with a long shape.
Alright now that we have good corn, let’s make the corn milk.
(I don't have a pot that is big enough so I cut the corn in half)
Put in whole ears of corn with their silk and cover in the pot along with 1 litre of water, add a dash of salt. The sweetness of corn needs a salty contrast to stand out. Boil the corn for 15 minutes then take off the heat. Put the ears of corn on a plate to cool down and keep the water. This corn tea is crucial for the success of corn milk so don’t throw it away.
When the corn is no longer too hot, discard the cover and silk, use a knife to trim the meat off the cores. This step can be messy as the corn is squishy with water now. There are versions that recommend you to do this step before boiling corn, feel free to choose the version that you like.
After this step, the cores can retire: we won’t need them anymore. Put the corn meat, the corn tea (its time to shine is here) in the mixer and mix it well.
Transfer the mixture to a pot using a strainer to separate the tiny corn meat, keep only the liquide to make corn millk. You don’t have to strain the corn meat if that’s what you want but I really recommend you to try and strain the meat off for the corn milk to look good.
Add the milk and sugar or condensed milk to the pot. You can add in water if the milk is too thick for you. Put it on medium heat, keep stirring until the mixture is simmering. And it’s done! It’s very easy, isn’t it?
This drink is yummy serving cold, so let the corn milk completely cool down and then store it in the fridge. It’s good up to 3 days.
Corn milk is not only beneficial but also a great delicious drink with the color of happy summer. It’s no wonder that it’s my favorite corn recipe. Do you like corn? Do let me know your favorite corn dish. I’d like to try out your recipe. Happy corn season!
Summer begins its descent into the Underworld, slowly, and we are hungry to bring its colors and flavors on the plate, we know we will miss it soon. This is not just a fruit plate, but also a game. You can turn this delicious breakfast or snack into a creative relaxation moment, similar to Ikebana or mandala drawing. A coloring page from your favorite coloring book that you get to eat, in the end :)) You can arrange the fruit slices and seeds of your choice and let your imagination run wild. Kids will be delighted to play this game, to arrange landscape, stories, little animals or geometric and abstract forms and it can become a creative trick to make them love and eat fruits and teach them fruit and seeds healthy properties and their journey from the ground, to the sun and onto the plate. This is one game I was playing with my middle sister when we were little, taking turns in preparing creative breakfast plates for each other. Siblings can surprise each other with dedications, learning generosity and the joy of making the loved ones happy.
Your guests would also be delighted to be welcomed with such fruit game plates or take part in the game themselves.
You can play with all fruits and seeds you like or are locally seasonal, naturally. Today I am proposing a seasonal fruit and seed plate from my region, and I chose strawberries, black grapes, green apple, peaches, nectarines, mango and lime. Make sure to combine sweet with tangy and play with different fruit textures (crunchy, soft, silky) for a surprising result.
It would be a good choice to mix the zesty sweetness of the fruits and honey with some salted seeds (they generally go well with conifer honey, for one thing), I used here:
Roasted salted pistachio - delicious, fatty nuts filled with mineral, protein, monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant and the highest "nutty" potasium amount.
Raw pumpkin seeds - Omega 3, Zinc, and antioxidants little warriors.
Roasted salted sunflower seeds - a sunny, tasty source of Vitamin E, more fatty acids, magnesium and selenium.
To my fruit game plate, I added goji berries (potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), dried cranberries (for a Vitamin C and Vitamin A boost) and white raisins hydrated (or shall I say tipsy) in brandy.
The star of our recipe is the Thassos pine honey. Its properties (taste, color, perfume, health benefits) are unique, just like its story. Pine honey is harvested from honey bees originally living on the island, covered by conifer forests, and it comes as the result of a special symbiosis between the forest honey bee and Marchalina hellenica, which alchemically transforms the sap of pine trees into crystallized honeydew for the bees, making Thassos a haven where no insecticide is used (not even for mosquitoes).
If you ever get to Thassos or Chalkidiki, don't forget (all) the honey there. :)
Until you get it on your tongue, drizzle your masterpiece with a conifer honey (or experiment with other honey types). After you feast your eyes and take it all in, your colorful creation, through your eyes first, when you are ready, mix it all with a spoon and enjoy a corner of paradise. I promise!
Drops of Italian blood that we carry generation after generation keep the longing of sounds, smells and tastes from Bella Italia, no matter how far in time and space. My great-grandparents emigrated from Italy during the Great Depression. Whenever me and my family, including the extended family - my friends - feel its call, I have a possible solution: my Cuore d'Italia pasta, a personal recipe that is not based on a regional or traditional recipe, but it is meant to reminisce and relive some of Italy's emblematic ingredients and tastes.
What makes Italian cuisine one of the best in the world, if not the best, is the fact that it is based on the quality of a few main, basic ingredients and the ability to save their characteristics through or even despite cooking them. Brilliance through quality and simplicity, would be the right motto for Italy's most treasured food like pizza, pasta and various antipasti.
Cuore d'Italia (Heart of Italy) as I conceived it is a way to serve pasta with a few nostalgic trademark ingredients: the tomato sauce, parmesan, prosciutto, gorgonzola and rucola, enough to say: What more can one need? for a snapshot of palate happiness and a time-space journey to Italy.
It goes without saying that, for this recipe to work its magic, one needs the best pasta (preferably fresh), a fine gorgonzola, quality prosciutto and parmesan, but I also dare you to use a great Italian olive oil, ripe farm tomatoes, and even a special salt or pepper, and generally to make it based on high quality Italian (and local) ingredients, as much as possible. The local touch would be a way to celebrate Italians around the world, and the culture of food - a perpetual anonymous collective effort - where the spirit of a country mixing in local flavors becomes a relay of traditions leading to new, creative forms.
I chose tagliattele verdi as pasta (green pasta with spinach), they went well with my current cravings, but they generally go well with this recipe. This version of Cuore d'Italia (I will repost the classical version) comes with a summery twist: apricots! You will see...
INGREDIENTS (for 4 portions)
For the tomato sauce
4-6 medium, well-ripened tomatoes
5-6 garlic cloves
a small bunch of basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper
(if the tomatoes aren't ripe enough, you might want to use 1 tsp of sugar)
For the pasta plate
500g green tagliatelle (or your pasta of choice)
100g parmesan (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
150g gorgonzola (I used Galbani)
100g prosciutto (I used Prosciutto di Parma)
Let's make the sauce now. This is one of my special pasta sauce recipes, I only use fresh tomatoes for it, and its main specialty is in the manner of cooking the tomatoes. Take half of the tomatoes and cut each one in 8 slices. Heat your grill at the highest temperature, and when it's hot, place the tomatoes on the grill and when their sugary selves begin to stick to the grill, turn them over with a grill turner. Grill them good, for about 10 min overall, and when charred on both sides, remove from the grill and place them on a plate or wooden trencher for a few minutes, to cool. At this point, they should look like this:
Separately, mince the rest of the tomatoes, the fresh ones.
In your saucepan or favorite pasta sauce cookware, heat some olive oil and add a few of the basil leaves, to flavor your oil. The inviting smell of grilled tomatoes will be now accompanied by the promise of an Italian visit. Then throw in the minced tomatoes, pressed garlic, the rest of basil (you can keep 2-3 basil leaves that you can finely chop and then add when the sauce is ready, to recover a fresh basil flavor), salt, pepper and if you feel the tomatoes are too dry or too green, also add a tsp of sugar. Let it cook on low heat for about 5 min, while mixing regularly.
Time to mince the grilled tomatoes and add them to the sauce.
Leave for another 10 min, on very low heat, while continuing to mix. This is a rather "dry" sauce, it will not drown your pasta in red sauce, its purpose according to this recipe is to mostly add the flavor of traditional Italian tomato sauce to the final mix.
While tending to the sauce, you can boil your pasta. You can use a pasta cooker, but if you don't have one, just fill a pot with water, enough to (this time) drown the pasta, add salt and vegetable oil (which is the best ingredient for not letting the pasta stick). When boiling, add your pasta and cook until al dente (according to label). When cooked, drain the water. Make sure to leave a little bit of liquid in the pot, before throwing the pasta back in. It helps the tagliatelle recover their moisture. Mix the pasta with the sauce, while they're both hot.
We've had enough of just smelling, let's make our plate and devour it. Quickly make a plate with tagliatelle, to which you add a little bit of parmesan, pieces of gorgonzola, then la rucola (you break the rather long leaves into smaller pieces, with your hand, it will make your hands smell like an Italian mamma's), pieces of prosciutto, more parmesan, and finely, thin slices of apricots.
It’s time for us to compile our first Vietnamese street food! This dish is a specialty of the city where I come from: Nha Trang. It’s a beautiful city that lies along the coast, and so the weather is warm and inviting all year round. From the people who have already visited Nha Trang, I only hear positive reviews, never anything negative, ever. And the city owns a great deal of it to its street food. Honestly the food here must be one of the best in Vietnam (I may be a bit biased but many people would agree with me). Now to get back to Com Ga, I must say this is a simple dish, as in there is no complex cooking step. It’s very easy to make and the taste is just sublime. In a small plate of Com Ga, you can find all tastes and textures: sweet and sour pickles, salty and spicy fish sauce, buttery egg sauce; the chicken chunks are juicy and fried shallots crispy; not to mention the freshness of Vietnamese mint and cucumber is just delightedly crunchy. Hmm so yummy!!! The best part of it is you can find most of the ingredients in the supermarket. You only need to go to the Asian store for Vietnamese mint and green papaya.
We will break down the steps to make it more simply. First you need to prepare your pickled carrot and green papaya one day prior. You can find the recipe here.
After keeping the pickles in your fridge for one day, we can start to make the dish.
For the fish sauce recipe, click right here. Be sure to add ginger in this fish sauce, it’s crucial for the success of this dish.
Ingredients (for 2 people):
Half of a chicken (or 3 chicken breasts)
3 cups of Thai rice
Fat of the chicken (optional)
A pinch of turmeric powder
Half a cucumber
1 egg yolk
Half an onion
The finished fish sauce
Pickled carrot and green papaya
Make the chicken:
Now if you want to make rice with chicken fat which is a Vietnamese traditional practice, instead of using chicken breasts, use half of the chicken and don’t trim the fat off of it.
Boil the chicken with salt and half an onion for 25 minutes or until it’s cooked through.
While the chicken is being massaged by hot water, there will be yellow fat floating on the surface of the broth, skim this fat and store it to make rice, or you can discard it and your meal will be healthier this way.
When the chicken is done, put it in a bowl to cool down, store the broth to cook other dishes.
Make that golden rice:
Wash the rice and keep the second batch of water for your fermented rice water if you want. Yes, take care of your stomach with this dish and do a skincare with the fermented rice water that you get from it (article about fermented rice water here).
We will cook rice with a rice cooker and so the water and rice proportion should be 1:2.
Add in a pinch of turmeric powder and salt (and that chicken fat that you skimmed earlier if you want to try the traditional fatty chicken rice) and stir to dissolve. Set the cooker and just wait for your rice to be cooked.
Make the crispy fried shallots:
While waiting for the rice, slide the shallots into rings and fry them just like you would with your crispy fried onion. Sprinkle a little bit of salt in vegetable oil and fry your shallots until they become golden then quickly transfer them onto paper towels. Help the paper towels do their work properly by spreading the shallot rings evenly. Be sure to dry the shallots completely for them to remain crispy.
Make the luscious egg yolk sauce:
It’s a very simple sauce, just like mayonnaise. You just separate the egg yolk and put it in a bowl. Now you can make this sauce by hand or use your egg hand blender. Personally I like to make this sauce by hand. If you use your hand blender, be sure to beat the egg yolk gently. First, break your egg yolk and then add a little bit of oil, just a couple of drops, and beat to mix egg with oil evenly. Then add in more oil and repeat the process. As you go along, increase the amount of oil eventually (up to 1 tablespoon) until you get the consistency of mayonnaise sauce, which means when you raise your mixer the sauce should be glued to the tool for at least 3 seconds before falling down. The finished sauce should have a bright yellow color and no longer smells of egg. It shouldn’t taste like raw egg either.
When the rice is cooked, time to take care of small matters:
Pluck out the leaves of Vietnamese mint and wash them well.
Tear your boiled chicken into stripes
Cut cucumber diagonally or however you like them.
Now to assemble the dish the Nha Trang way: First put in a layer of golden rice then add the chicken stripes. After that, put in a small handful of pickled carrot and green papaya, mint leaves and cucumber slices. Lastly add a tablespoon of egg sauce on top and sprinkle on the crispy fried shallots. Serve this dish with a generous bowl of fish sauce so that every Com Ga bite has fish sauce on it.
Finally, a small reminder: This dish is quite heavy from the chicken fat, the egg sauce and crispy fried shallots, so it may be more fit for a fall meal or in small portion in summer, just a little of it can go a long way. I ate this for lunch yesterday and I was full until dinner time, no snack needed. Have fun with Com Ga!
It's getting itchingly hot again, and this soup is the perfect dish to refresh your insides because:
1. Not only this soup makes you sweat while eating it and instantly reduces your body temperature,
2. It's anti-inflammatory and
3. It's an aromatherapy soup: it smells like the sea.
The ingredients are simple: Napa cabbage, dried seaweed and tofu. I boiled a chunk of pork meat and use the stock to make this soup but you can skip this if you're vegetarian.
How to proceed:
Just cut the napa cabbage and tofu into chunks and break the dried seaweed into pieces (I used the Korean dried seaweed that is easily soften).
Put the napa cabbage and tofu chunks in your pot of boiling water (put the salt in right from the beginning) and let it cook for about 3 minutes then add in the dried seaweed, cook for 2 minutes more. You can add spring onion and coriander and a pinch of pepper like me, but it's not really necessary, the soup is fresh and smells good on its own. That's it, your soup is done! It's as simple as that.
For this dish I really recommend using Himalayan salt because it complements the natural sweetness of tofu and napa cabbage, and because you already get iodine from the seaweed, Himalayan salt is more desirable.
This dish will bring you to the sea in just a short time, eat this and have a good summer night sleep.
Cover photo: Thao Uyen
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!