Easy and fast Asian stir-fried noodles with veggies and beef for autumn. An inspiration from Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines.
This stir-fried dish is inspired from two well-known dishes: the Vietnamese stir-fried Pho noodles and the Korean Japchae.
The Korean Japchae is also a stir-fried dish using special noodles: the ones from sweet potato starch. Japchae is done with beef and colorful veggies. To make Japchae, Koreans stir-fry each of the vegetable separately and in the end mix the boiled noodles with stir-fried beef and mushrooms and veggies. It is basically a stir-fried dish with mixing as a finishing touch.
The Vietnamese stir-fried Pho noodles, on the other hand, is entirely a stir-fried dish. The dish can be made with beef or chicken or even pork but it is most well-known with beef. The marinated beef is the only thing that is stir-fried separately. When it comes to veggies and Pho noodles, unlike Japchae, Vietnamese put them in the pan one after the other. The order of the veggies depends on the cooking time for each, and that means the one that takes the longest time to cook will go into the pan first. The final dish should have smoky noodles with little to no sauce left to avoid the noodles turning mushy and sticky.
Personally I like to have sauce in my stir-fried dish but the noodles must also remain a bit chewy. And I found that perfect fit with the Korean sweet potato starch noodles. The noodles are chewy, they don’t stick to each other and become mush no matter how much water you dump them in. And last but not least, they’re much healthier than the Pho noodles (A bonus too: they look so beautiful with a transparent glow when cooked). So for this dish I will combine the sweet potato starch noodles from the Korean Japchea with Vietnamese orderly stir-fried veggies, and there’s also a Chinese twist somewhere in the marinade ('somewhere' because Vietnamese use lots of Chinese ingredients over the years that the marinade feels to me just like Vietnamese).
The Chinese flair for this dish comes from oyster sauce and hoisin sauce. If you’re a bit familiar with Chinese cuisine, you may know oyster sauce. The sauce is made from, yes, oyster and seasonings. It is mostly used for stir-fried dishes and sometimes as a base for marinade. Hoisin sauce is made from fermented soy and seasonings and has a strong soy smell. Both sauces have a thick brown consistency, are slightly sweet in flavor and can elevate any dish made from beef. Vietnamese cuisine makes use of both sauces. For example, Southern Vietnamese cuisine has hoisin sauce as dipping sauce for the beef from Pho, and oyster sauce is present in lots of Vietnamese stir-fried and grilled dishes.
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
300gr of beef (choose the filet part), cut into thin slices
200gr of sweet potato starch noodles
150gr of pak choy, chopped thinly
1 average tomato or ¾ of a big one, cut into small cubes
Half of an onion, cut thinly
150gr mung bean sprouts
2 handfuls of coriander of about 20gr, chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic and 1 small chunk of ginger root, crushed and minced
First we prepare the marinade for beef. When it comes to marinating beef, remember that it goes well with soy sauce and garlic. You will need an agent to keep the beef soft if you want to stir-fry it, either with oil or butter, or in this case, oyster sauce. So combine the minced garlic and ginger with:
and give them a good mix.
Pour the marinade in a zip lock bag and put in the beef slices. Give the bag a good massage for the marinade to spread evenly. Put the bag in the fridge from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Don’t let the beef marinate too long or the ginger will get fermented in hoisin sauce and have a wet smell. It’s not that the wet smell is offensive but we want our dish, especially the beef, to have that spectacular fresh fragrance, the kind that lifts you up and sets your hunger radar on alert.
The actual cooking part:
When the beef is marinated enough, then comes the cooking part.
- Boil the noodles on high heat for 5 minutes then run cold water on them to stop the cooking process. Put them on a drainer to dry. Use scissors to cut the noodles short, about 8 cm long should be good to go.
- On medium-high heat, put in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the wok. When the oil is heated, stir-fry the marinated beef for 2 minutes.You will notice the beef produces water/sauce, this is what I want for this dish. Set the water/sauce aside along with the beef.
- Back to the used wok, put in 1 tablespoon of oil and throw in the tomato cubes along with onion slices. By now you can add a pinch of salt to help them cook faster.
- After 3 minutes, add the chopped pak choy and 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce. Stir constantly for 5 minutes. Next add the mung bean sprouts and stir for 2 minutes. If you find the veggies are closed to burning, pour in the sauce gotten from stir-fried beef that we set aside earlier. It should solve that problem. Then come the boiled noodles, the chopped coriander and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce along with a pinch of salt. With the noodles now in the wok, we mix all the ingredients together. This is the Japchae influence. When the noodles and soy sauce mix well together, put in the stir-fried beef and mix again for half a minute. This is when our hybrid dish is done.
You will notice the tomato cubes melt and serve as a sauce base for the dish. If you want to have slices of tomato for decoration purpose, just set some slices aside and add them in at the last 2 minutes.
If you can’t find hoishin sauce or if you don’t like its smell or taste, you can leave it out.
You can use a wok or a pan to stir-fry. Always stir-fry the beef separately from the veggies and noodles as the stir-fried beef will produce water and stop the veggies to be stir-fried properly.
Stir-fried dish must be done on medium-high to high heat to prevent lots of water leaking out from veggies. If you find the veggies are about to be burned, add the sauce from stir-fried beef like I showed you earlier or water. When it comes to the mixing part, you can lower the heat to medium.
As you can see, this dish takes about 45 minutes to prepare (including the 30 minutes of marinating beef) and provides much-needed veggies in autumn. It is also a light dish and so is perfect for dinner when you come home from work and don’t have much time to cook. This Asian stir-fried noodles dish is best to serve immediately when it’s still hot. A bit of a warning though: don’t expect to have any left-over when you make this dish for your guests.
The quince is a hard yellow beauty, an archaic fruit of the mighty Aphrodite. Perhaps it is meant to tell us that true love can be found and preserved the hard way. It's astringent and tarty just like how love feels when it brings us down (not to mention you don't want to be down under when shaking the tree, so to speak, for receiving a quince in the head is just like a love blow), yet the same taste brings a special flavor in the mouth, reminding us that love's true sweetness is mostly found within and after lots of chewing and it is forever piquante (just like what love needs to endure: on the edge). An edgy fruit. There's also the other down (the quince fluff), as gentle as makeup moments, when the pain begins to heal. It may grow in Aphrodite's garden, but I would call the quince tough love and if I may be allowed to introduce an astrological analogy here, I would compare the quince with Saturn ennobling Aphrodite:
Some see only you,
Others see only me,
We overlap so perfectly
That no one can see us at the same time
And no one dares to stay on the edge
From where both of us can be seen.
You see only the moon,
I see only the sun,
You miss the sun,
I miss the moon,
Our bones have united,
The blood spreads rumors
From one heart to the other.
How do you look like?
If I lift my arm
And I stretch it so much backwards
I discover your beautiful collar bone
And going up, my fingers touch
Your holy lips
Then suddenly they come back and they crush
My mouth until it bleeds.
How do we look like?
We’ve got four arms to defend ourselves
But I can strike only the enemy in front of me
And you can strike only the enemy in front of you,
We’ve got four legs to run
But you can run only on your side
And I can run only on the other side.
Every step is a life and death battle.
Are we equal?
We’ll die at the same time or one of us will carry
For a while
The body of the other one stuck on them
And slowly, too slowly contaminating it with death?
Or maybe it won’t even die as a whole
And it will carry into eternity
The sweet burden of the other one
Like a hump,
Like a wart,
Oh, only we know the yearning
Of being able to look each other into the eyes
And thus, being able to understand everything,
But we are back-to-back,
Grown like two branches
And if one of us tore oneself away,
Sacrificing for just one glance,
They would see only the bleeding, cold back
From which one had torn oneself away,
Of the other one.
by Ana Blandiana
More poems by Ana Blandiana here
We've always had quince trees in the garden, since I was little, so the quince gives me the opportunity to begin a series of childhood recipes that mostly come from my paternal grandmother, of mixed Greek and Turkish descent. Many of them, just like the ones I present in this article, are essentially Romanian, as having entered in the Romanian cuisine, but they encompass the influences the many visitors have brought to us throughout history. They have been in my family culinary tradition for many generations, and the cultural relay can only go on, just like the golden quince announces autumn every year, and we all try to both preserve them, but also to take the innovation further, to look for the perfect recipe. And enjoy them. Just like I hope you will enjoy four of my essential childhood recipes, dancing around the discreet, yet compelling yellow quince.
They bring hard work, these yellow beauties, even starting from picking them: they mostly fall by themselves, in the morning, and you need to be there soon enough, for they start to decay quite quickly, especially if the weather is humid. And they mostly fall one by one, keeping you on your toes. And then everything is hard about them, including the bite.
Dulceaţă de gutui (quince jam)
1 kg grated quinces
1 l water
The recipe is for just a kilogram of prepared fruit, while of course most times we use a larger quantity when we want to prepare the jam for winter.
One important thing we want to do with the quince when making this jam is to keep its rather distinctive tarty flavor while sweetening it. We don't want to drown it in sugar which is the danger with this jam. That's why I prefer to break the 1 kg fruit/1 kg standard proportion for syrup-based jams and we will use a little less sugar. The lemon will also help with keeping the special flavor, apart from its other purpose that you will discover soon.
We start by washing the quinces pretty well, removing the down and then we grate them on the large grating side, while being careful to not let seeds and little worms and worm houses slide in. The quinces are quite wormy, especially ours, which are not treated in any way. While grating roughly 1 kg 1/2 in order to get 1 kg of prepared fruit, after we grate about half a quince, we put the grated fruit into the jam pot, in about 1 liter of water for this quantity, mixed with the squeezed lemon. The purpose of putting the quince into the water/lemon juice is preserving both the taste and especially the color of the quince, otherwise it turns brown while being caramelized as jam. So the trick is to grate and add in the water, in small quantities, and to keep the fruit covered by water/lemon at all times.
After grating the pulp, it's time to cut and clean the rest of the fruit, the fruit cores, and put them aside, for our next recipe. Make sure to keep the seeds and the seed core too. We don't throw anything from the quince (except for the little worms, their houses and galleries :D )
After we finished grating the entire harvest, we put the jam pot on medium heat, we add the sugar and we just let it cook, following jam rules: low to medium heat, removing the foam when it forms, testing the syrup on a small plate - when the jam makes lots of small bubbles on top - until we get the caramel cord, if you wish, although I prefer this jam to be less thick, so I turn off the heat when after putting a little syrup on a small plate, it turns like runny honey when cooling. Since we also have water in the mix, it should take about an hour for this quantity to be ready.
You will get a colorful, delightful and especially aphrodisiac jam, with lots of perfume and flavor, to be enjoyed all winter with a couple of salted crackers, a good cup of coffee, tea or milk, or to be heavenly tasted on pancakes or crêpes.
Peltea de gutui (quince peltea - jelly)
1 kg quince cores
2 kg sugar
3 l water
From Turkish pelte, peltea is perhaps the most refined quince produce, and the one we most enjoyed as kids, undoubtedly because of its magical light and color qualities and its candy-like taste.
It's a simple recipe, and I love that it uses everything of the fruit (another Saturnian quality, isn't it?), already a bridge to winter, when we will need to preserve all our resources. It does require a bit of skill when it comes to timing.
You might need 2-3 more quinces, depending on the size, to have 1 kg of cores. After you roughly cut and cleaned well the quince cores - remember to keep the seeds and seed sheets, that's where the pectin making the jelly lives - you put them in your designated peltea pot with 3 l of water and you boil them normally, until they turn soft when you pierce them with a fork. The liquid that remains in the pot is what interests us, and we will measure it.
You let it cool a little, you remove the boiled cores and you strain the liquid. You will measure the strained liquid and put it in the same (cleaned) pot or another one. For every liter of juice, you add 750g of sugar (the classic principle would be 1kg of sugar per l of water, but again, I prefer to preserve a tangier taste to the peltea). After the proper boil of 1kg of fruit cores, you should have about 1 1/2 to 2 kg of juice. So you will either put about 1130g or even 1500g of sugar added.
Then you start boiling the jelly until ready, while mixing in the beginning, until the sugar is melted.
The readiness point can be determined by using the jelly point (with a candy thermometer, the jelly is set to be ready when the temperature reaches 220F (104 °C)) or you can use a granny method, by testing the jelly on a plate until it sticks to the finger, like honey, when cooling a little. Just like with the jam, at some point, it will foam and you need to remove that foam in order to keep its final clarity. Don't forget it on the stove, for it can burn, as all caramel dishes. It takes about 1h 1/2 for this quantity to be ready on medium heat.
The result is the essence of quince perfume, its precious golden color becoming translucent and alchemical red gold.
Plăcintă cu mere şi gutui
(Quince and apple pie)
For the Carolina fine pastry dough (French pastry dough)
125 vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
For the apple and quinces filling
2-3 medium quinces
I am not even going to try to convince you how delicious the pie is, I am sure you already feel the quince flavor in your nostrils. The dough is a tasty buttery pastry dough bearing the name of the lady aunt who introduced the recipe to many generations. It's basically a French pastry dough, the result being a crusty, breaking, yet consistent pie dough. And all buttery. Did I say butter enough?
At first, you grate the apples the same way you did with the quinces for the jam, on the large grater. You put them in a pot where you will boil them with the quinces and the sugar (no water added, though, just stewing the apples and the quinces with the sugar). You grate the quinces too and you boil it all on low heat, while stirring continuously, so that the filling cooks uniformly. I don't recommend adding other flavors such as the traditional cinnamon, since it can interfere with the quince taste and perfume.
It is ready when it turns uniformly golden brown and all the fruit is cooked, at which point you can turn off the heat and add and mix the raisins, covering the pot.
For the first part of dough making, you mix the flour, water, oil and the pinch of salt with your hands, just like with bread dough, you mix it well for about 10 minutes until it turns smooth. You cover it and let it rest for another 10 minutes. Before that, you might want to play a little and make Alien hands :P
After E.T. rests a bit, it is time to roll the dough, with enough flour to not let it stick. You roll it just once on the shape of your baking tray (since this dough is elastic, you can use both a larger or a medium tray, like I did here, obtaining a thicker pie crust).
You break the butter with your hands and you distribute it evenly (keep the butter paper for greasing the tray), and then you start a move you will do 4-5 times. You fold the dough, over the butter, from down up, up down, left right, and then finally right left, to make a pouch with it. It's important to remember the order for you will use it each one of the 5 times.
You fold and you roll once, then you fold again, you roll, 5 times.
For the 6th, you just fold and make an uniform ball and you put the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes (or in the refrigerator for up to 24h if you plan to cook the pie the next day).
After the cooling time, you remove the dough from the freezer and you split it in half. You roll one half to make the bottom crust, and you put it in the baking tray, after greasing it with the butter paper. Then it's time to add the filling, and then to roll and place the last layer of crust, on top.
Before putting the pie in the preheated oven (which should be immediately, being a butter dough) you cut it in pieces all the way to the bottom, with a large knife (it will make it easier to cut and serve it when cooked).
The cooking takes about 45 minutes at 210°C. It doesn't necessarily turn golden on top when cooked, so make sure to test it with a toothpick, after 45 minutes. It's ready when the dough is hard all through the bottom and non-sticky.
After it cools a little bit (it most certainly is delicious when hot, too), add the icing sugar on top (you can use a tea strainer if no fancier devices).
A trick for getting an icing is using a plain clean A4 paper and pressing it on the sugar, after straining the sugar evenly on the surface.
Ahh the smell of apple pie, right off the oven is already a killer on the plains of nostalgia, but this quince addition will create a new realm of memories for you.
I don't like to add a lot of sugar in this type of apple pie, especially with the quinces (sugar compliments their perfume and taste, but too much of it can be a bit of an overkill for the delicate quinces), but you are free to add more sugar in the filling, from the beginning, to taste. However, I recommend to save the sweetness for a hearty sugar icing.
Enjoy with...everything and everywhere.
Mâncare de gutui (Quince stew)
INGREDIENTS ( for 4 servings)
1 kg cleaned and cut quinces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 full tbsp flour
I saved the best for last. A dish that is perhaps the best way to taste quinces. A dish that can hardly be categorized, it can be a main meal, a sauce or side dish, but also a dessert. A sweet and salted memory of my grandmother, a bridge through time, a bridge of love.
It's simple. You cut and clean the quinces, cut them in rough pieces, or even cubes if you feel up to (see above image), not long before you want to cook them (to avoid their speedy oxidation). When ready, heat the oil in your cooking pot and throw in the quince pieces, that you will continue to stir for about 10 minutes until they turn a little soft. This way, they release their flavor and absorb the oil, for better cooking under water. After about 7 minutes of the 10, you add the sugar and you mix it well and let it caramelize a bit among the quinces (I prefer to let it melt, mix, but keep it light golden, for a final white result of the sauce).
At which point, you will add water enough to cover them, but do not drown them. This dish does not have a lot of sauce, in the end. They will cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. At some point, after about 10 minutes, you add the salt (about half of teaspoon) and a few black peppercorns. Make sure during the boiling, to keep the water even, almost as in the beginning.
They are ready when you pinch them with a fork and find them soft, yet not mushy, don't let them turn mushy.
As I said, this is a sweet-salty-sour delicacy, so you can actually adjust the sweet salty proportion to your taste, during the boiling stage, especially now, by the end, when the final sauce is ready.
You need that final liquid that you have carefully preserved to mix it with the flour. For this, you mix the flour with cold water in a separate bowl and mix it well for it to not have lumps, and then you add the mixture to the quinces and their sauce, in the pot, and you mix it evenly, stirring continuously and lowering the heat, in order to keep the sauce smooth and you keep stirring and cooking for another 6-7 minutes or so. (Romanian rântaş cooking technique)
You can eat it hot, you can eat it cold; as a simple vegetarian dish, being all veggie; as a snack; a dessert; or accompanying other dishes as side dish, as we did here with veal steak (served with butter and summer savory, a traditional way to eat beef steaks); it's a quirky outsider, a lovable loner, with its special place in my heart and I am sure it will make you taste and see quinces in a different, new, tasty light if you try it.
This dish has been on my mind ever since I tried it for the first time. At work my colleagues and I have this ‘tradition’ in which each one will cook a feast for the others every 2 months. Needless to say we had fun with lots of dishes and this French classic dish has a lasting impression on me.
I’m amazed by how a dish without any kind of meat can have that tasty sweetness and how with just little salt added, the dish is great to eat with rice. For a Vietnamese like me who often eats rice with salty main and side dishes, this is a big discovery in how a dish which is seasoned so delicately can create a party of flavors with bland rice. I tried to recreate the dish for several times and now I think I found the right recipe. So today I will share with you my experience with this French homey delicacy. This dish is very simple with few ingredients, most of them vegetables, and doesn’t take much time to be cooked. It is really fitting when you’re short on time. Also this dish with its warm rich herbal, cheesy aroma will make you feel warm and refreshed in this slightly cold autumn weather. It smells like I’m having a pizza, only it's healthier.
While researching on this dish, I found many variations. You can stuff courgette with its tender meat and tomatoes only or with other added ingredients. Most of the recipes I can find also include mozzarella, onion and herbs. In this recipe I also add white mushrooms as I like to have something to chew on and because I find mushrooms, tomatoes and herbs make a great combination. Doesn’t any dish with mushrooms give you an autumn-y feeling? Let’s get started!
Ingredients: (for one serving)
1 average courgettes (choose the one that is evenly round from one end to the other)
2 small white mushrooms
¼ of an onion, about 10 gr
20 gr mozzarella
10 gr grated cheese (more or less, it depends on how thick the coverage you want to have)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small portion of butter
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
1 pinch of salt
Herbes de Provence
The well-known mix of herbs ‘Herbes de Provence’ consists of thyme, rosemary, oregano, savory and basil, all of them give a Mediterranean flavor and smell. There is no consensus about the kind of herbs in the mix, because sometimes bay leaves, marjoram and sage are used instead of basil. However, the official version has 26% rosemary, 26% savory, 26% oregano, 19% thyme and 3% basil. This mix of herbs is optional for this dish but I find that it really elevates the taste with its aroma.
Cut each courgette in half then use a small spoon (preferably a spoon for dessert) to scoop out the tender meat inside each half. Be careful to not pierce the skin, we want all flavors and aromas to be preserved in the courgette, not leaked out. Mince the meat and set aside.
For the tomato, we will remove its skin for this dish. To do that, make a cross on the tomato. In a pot, bring water to a boil then submerge the tomato for no longer than 30 seconds. Take it out and put it in cold water for 1 minute. You can now easily remove the tomato’s skin. Remove the seeds too before cutting the tomato into cubes.
Cut the onion into cubes, the mozzarella into thin slices. For the mushrooms, cut them into chunks or in a freestyle way, as you like.
Now we take care of the courgette ‘boats’. For this dish the French use a cooking method called “blanchir”, ie “to blanch”. It’s a method they usually do for vegetables before preserving them in the freezer. It consists of bathing the vegetables in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then submerge them in cold water to stop the cooking process. In the end you have soft partially cooked vegetables to preserve. For this stuffed courgette dish, the method has nothing to do with preserving vegetables of course. Instead this step has many purposes:
Put a pot with enough water to cover the courgette halves on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil the courgettes for 1 minute then take them out, immediately put them into a bowl of cold water for 1 minute. Put the halves on paper towel and wipe off the liquid that is left. Your courgettes are now ready to be stuffed.
Now for the filling, use a pan to stir fry the minced garlic with butter on medium-high heat. First add the courgette minced meat and let it cook for about 2 minutes then add the tomato and onion cubes and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add salt to taste and to speed up the cooking process. Stir constantly until the tomato cubes melt into a thick sauce. This step should take about 5 to 8 minutes. Add a pinch of 'Herbes de Provence' and the mushrooms, stir well. The liquid from onion and tomato ensures the filling won’t be burned on the pan, so no water is needed. When the mushrooms soften, take the pan off the heat and add bread crumbs. The bread crumbs will absorb the liquid and make the filling less runny. Alright, it’s time to stuff the boats.
Alternatively place mozzarella slices with spoonful of filling in the courgette boats until the boats are filled. Finish them off with grated cheese on top. Preheat the oven at 190 C then put the boats in for about 15 minutes. I put the courgettes on the upper part of the oven for about 5 minutes more to get the golden color from melted cheese. Your dish is now done.
Serve the stuffed courgette with rice, or not. The cheese coverage will keep the filling beneath hot for a long time. The marriage between melted cheese and soft courgette is divine, not to mention the cozy aroma and delicate sweetness from the filling will make you come back for another taste. It is that delicious!
This is a long overdue article since I heard of Romanian sour soup. I was amazed that although the two countries are thousand miles from each other and have a whole lot of Eastern/Western differences, we do like the same thing: sour soup. I hope Anuca will reveal her delicious Romanian recipe one day, in the meantime let’s discover the Vietnamese version of sour soup.
Sour soup in Vietnam is a particular soup made with fish and herbs and a sour agent, be it herb, fruit or legume. Sour soup’s ingredients vary from North to South however: from the amount of the ingredients to the herbs and the sour agent, they are as different as day and night. For eighteen years I only knew of Southern sour soup, I thought it’s universal sour soup, in Vietnam that is. And then college years brought with them so many culture discoveries, I got to taste Northern sour soup for the first time and it is one of a kind.
The Northern version is a lot more simple in terms of ingredients. It consists of fish, tomatoes, dill and sour fruit called “tai chua”. This sour fruit is usually cut and dried before cooking, and beware, its sour taste is so intense that if you take a bite out of it, you’ll find yourself making weird noises and an endless grimace worthy of Jim Carrey's expression.
The Southern version is made with fish, tomatoes, pineapple, elephant ear stem, mung bean sprouts, a bit of banana blossom, okra, spring onion, rice paddy herb and young fresh tamarinds.
Comparing the two versions, I’d say the Northern version is more delicate in taste since it has few ingredients, you can’t hide the imperfection of your dish. The Southern version is a concert of flavors which is cheerful in colors and has the smells of warm weather. Both versions smell very different. The purpose of dill in Northern version is to disguise the natural smell of fish. As for Southern version, the smell of herbs are so far-reaching, even your neighbors will feel like dying for a taste. Yes yes let’s make your neighbors’s mouths, or at the very least your whole household’s, water today with this Southern sour soup.
Before we start, there are two things that we need to keep in mind about this dish. The specialty of the Southern sour soup does not lie in the fish or the vegetables, it’s all about the sour taste and the herbs.
The spring onion, rice paddy herb and tamarind when cooked release a fragrance so unlike that of any other Vietnamese dish. In fact you can always tell this dish apart just by smell only. Just give this dish a try if only to discover rice paddy herb. This herb originates from Southeast Asia. It tastes a bit spicy, a bit bitter if you eat it raw, smells fresh and the best part of it is it has anti-inflammatory effect.
The sour taste from fresh young tamarind is delicate with a barely noticeable smell. Sour soup is great for dinner because there’s nothing like a sour dish to make you focus after a tiring day and make your stomach ask for more. And because this dish is so healthy, you won’t even need to watch your weight eating it. To make this dish, it’s perfect if you can find fresh young tamarind. I can’t find young tamarind in France, only the tamarind paste made from ripe tamarind so I will make this recipe with it. The sourness of tamarind paste is more noticeable than fresh young tamarind, the color of it will make your broth turn a bit brownish in color but it all comes down to the taste. And your sour dish will taste as good as the original one. So let’s make it!
- 400 gr fish of your choice (I use basa fish today)
- 1,5l of water
- 2 average tomatoes
- 1 piece of pineapple of 100 gr
- 2 average elephant ear stems
- 200 gr mung bean sprouts
- 100 gr okras
- 50 gr rice paddy herb
- 50 gr spring onion
- 30 gr tamarind paste
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 shallot
- 1 red chili (optional)
- Fish sauce, salt, sugar, black pepper, vegetable oil
This dish takes no time at all to cook, only 25 minutes at most. First peel and mince the garlic and shallot then divide them in two parts. Use one part of it to marinate the fish with black pepper and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Let it sit while we prepare the rest of the ingredients and prepare the broth.
Cut the tomatoes into wedges.
Peel the elephant ear stems and cut diagonally into pieces of about 1 inch.
Do the same for the pineapple.
Remove the two ends of the okra and cut diagonally into thin pieces (thinner than elephant ear stem pieces).
Chop the rice paddy herb and spring onion finely as this is for garnish purpose.
Then comes my Center Vietnamese signature: red chili always goes hand in hand with fish. Red chili is spicier in soup than in sauce so proceed with care. If you use red chili like me, cut it into slices.
Time to make the broth! First we need to sautée the garlic and shallot to extract their fragrance. Now on medium heat, add a dash of vegetable oil in your soup pot and sautée the rest of the minced garlic and shallot. This will take about 1 minute or less depend of the thickness of your pot. When those pieces release their fragrance, add the tomatoes and pineapple. Let it sautée for 2 minutes then add the water and bring to a boil on high heat. At this stage you can add salt and fish sauce, half a teaspoon for salt and 3 tablespoons for fish sauce. They will help the water boil faster and serve as a base for our soup since we will add tamarind paste and sugar later.
When the water is boiling, take a small amount of this water and put it in a bowl along with tamarind paste. We need the paste to soften so that we can separate the tamarind meat from the seeds. This takes about 3 minutes, use a spoon to crush and dissolve the meat until all big chunks left are the seeds.
Back to the boiling pot, add the marinated fish in and let it cook for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Don’t lower the heat when you cook the fish, the high heat ensures that that the smell of fish will be reduced. After 5 minutes, take the fish out. This step is to preserve the shape of the fish. If we let it in the pot to cook with other ingredients, the fish will become overcooked and eventually break from its original shape. Set the fish aside.
The soup pot by now is still boiling. Pour the bowl of tamarind water that we extracted earlier into the pot using a food filter to remove all the seeds. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar in the soup and stir.
Now add the elephant ear stems, okras and mung bean sprouts in the pot. This is when you should taste the soup and add fish sauce or salt or even more sugar if you like. Remember to never add in fish sauce when the water is boiling or the fish sauce smell will overwhelm the dish.
When the soup boils again, add the fish back to the pot along with chopped spring onion and rice paddy herb. Let it boil again for 3 minutes then take off the heat. And it’s done!
Serve the sour soup in a big bowl to eat with rice, the fish should be served in a separate plate with raw fish sauce and chili slices. No vegetable side dish should be served with this whole pot meal. Everything you need is in that flavorful, delicate bowl of soup.
As I am saying goodbye to the last days of summer (or saying hello to the first days of autumn), I crave more and more hearty dishes that are full of flavors. Since the weather is beginning to turn breezy and a bit cold, last week I made Adobo, the national Filipino dish introduced to me by my co-blogger Blessia. If you haven’t known about it yet, discover this delicious and easy recipe here and I’m sure you’ll be eager to try the dish as much as I was, and I’m addicted to it by the way. The sour zingy taste of Adobo makes me think of a similar Vietnamese dish that I will present to you today: sweet and sour pork ribs.
The first time I tasted this dish was when I came to visit a Southern Vietnamese friend and she cooked this dish for dinner. Needless to say that I immediately fell in love and have been trying to recreate the dish since then. This dish originates from Southern Vietnam because as you will see, we use sugar to create a sweet taste. For me nothing is better than a sweet and sour dish, perhaps it is only topped by sweet and sour and spicy dish. In this article I will add red chili and sriracha for that spicy boost, that wow moment that makes you breath out fire but can’t wait to dive in for more.
When it comes to the success of the dish, no taste can overwhelm another and should work well with the natural juicy taste of pork. In order to achieve the light sour taste which blends perfectly with sweetness from sugar, a special ingredient is used: tamarind paste. Tamarind is another sign that the dish is from Southern Vietnam as the people usually use it to create sour taste, either with fresh young tamarind or the paste made from ripe tamarind that is easily preserved.
I myself find using tamarind paste for this dish creates a bitter aftertaste, so I use apple cider vinegar instead. You can do this too if you can’t find tamarind paste. I recommend not to use white vinegar as the sour taste is too sharp for this delicate Vietnamese dish. For this dish you will need:
500gr pork ribs, chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or 1 cube of tamarind paste of about 10 gr
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of sriracha or 1 red chili (optional)
Black pepper (optional)
And that’s all, it’s a very simple dish.
If you use tamarind paste, you will need to soften it in order to make it into a sauce. Heat the water and put in the tamarind cube for about 3 minutes. The harden paste will soften so that you can use a spoon to blend the paste with water. When the paste is dissolved in water, use a food filter to remove the tamarind seed and meat chunks. The tamarind water that we get is now ready to be made into sauce by combining the rest of the ingredients apart from pork ribs.
If you skip the tamarind paste and use apple cider vinegar instead, just stir it in water and add in fish sauce, sugar with sriracha and/or black pepper.
Now for the pork ribs, some people like to first poach them in boiling water because they want to remove possible clumps released from the bones as well as the occasional strong pork meat smell.
If you like to do that, simply put pieces of pork ribs in a pot with generous amount of water to cover them and bring it to a boil. Let the water boil for 3 minutes and you will see the foaming chunks floating on the surface. Take the pot off the heat and remove water, keep only the pork ribs and clean them off of any sticky foaming chunks with fresh water. The purpose of this step is not to cook the pork so don’t worry if the pieces come out a bit pink and soft. Use paper towel to pat the pork dry.
If you skip the step above, it doesn’t matter, your dish will still be delicious.
Regardless if you boil the meat first or not, you need to fry pork ribs in order to help them absorb the sweet and sour sauce better. Now we don’t deep fry them but will only make a golden sear around the ribs' edges. Use only a small amount of oil, just like when you sautee vegetables. Sear each piece thoroughly in a pan on medium heat until the edges are golden brown then remove the excess oil, we don’t want the dish to look all fatty.
In that same pan, put all the seared pork ribs in along with the sauce that we prepared earlier and red chili if you want then let it simmer for about 20 minutes. The amount of sauce will reduce over time, the texture of it will become thick and the color will turn into dark honey, that's what we want. If the sauce becomes too thick too fast, you can add in water and taste again by adding more fish sauce or vinegar to your liking. When the pork meat is firm and easy to separate from the bone, it is done and we can dive right in.
Serve this dish when it’s still hot. It is meant to be eaten with rice and soup or sauteed vegetables. You know when this dish is getting on your taste bud when you marvel at how you can consume all that pork ribs in such a short time.
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.
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!