There is a first for everything. I’ve always been against recipes on my blog perhaps because there are millions of them already out there and that it went against my wanting to provide transferable cooking tips. However, I’ve decided that I can still give these tips regardless of a recipe inclusion. Alas, here it is:
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1.5 tablespoons sugar
- 0.5 tablespoons lime juice
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 2 lemongrass stems, finely diced (white part only)
- 2 long red chillies, finely diced
- 600g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
- 300g young coconut juice
- 20g salt
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium sized onion cut into wedges
- cilantro sprigs to garnish
- ginger to garnish
Preperation: Combine the fish sauce, sugar, and coconut juice and dissolve the sugar at a light simmer. Let cool and then squeeze in the lemon juice. Add half of the lemongrass, half of the garlic, half of the chilli and all of the chicken. Brine for 2-3 hours.
Bring a large pan to medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and the remaining lemongrass, garlic, and chilli. Stir-fry for 30 seconds before tossing in the onion wedges. Sweat the onions and the reserve the contents of the pan in a bowl.
Strain the chicken before patting it dry. Make sure to keep the brining liquid. Bring the pan to a high heat and then seal the chicken for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown all over.
Now add in the brining liquid as well as the reserved onion, garlic, lemongrass, and chilli mixture. Cover and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. This is going to be 5-10 minutes depending on how aggressive a definition you’ve attached to the word simmer.
Garnish with julienned ginger and sprigs of cilantro.
I use to have this growing up all the time. It wasn’t until I moved away that I realized how much I appreciated it. As the holidays draw nearer, I am struck with special holiday memories of traditions that only come around once a year. This came around on a weekly basis but I don’t appreciate it any less.
I’ve been MIA for the past month but I hope you are as glad as I am about being back. A friend of mine recently asked me how to make chili which is understandable as it is the perfect time of year for this delicious classic. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, the dishes we had to warm us up during fall were Vietnamese classics such as Phở. My first real memory of chili was in my first year of university where I had a can of Stagg Chili at around 2.30 in the morning while I tried to finish my philosophy assignment. In my experience, standards always drop shortly after midnight…
Last winter I wrote about some chili I made. At the time however, I was living in a place with a closet for a kitchen. This time I decided to pull out all of the stops. First off, I had to decide on the protein. Usually, chili that I have had in the past used ground beef and kidney beans. I imagine the reason for the kidney beans was provide that smooth melt in your mouth tenderness of a mouthfeel. I however, opted to go with a purer beef chili. I was still able to achieve a luxurious texture by using a beef shoulder which falls apart after a long braise. First however, was imparting an extra dimension to the flavour of the chili by barbecuing all of the ingredients. As you can see below, I grilled some tomato, onion, and poblano peppers. Roasting these veggies really intensified their flavour while also adding a bit of a smokey element. I also grilled the shoulder for good measure. I just got the skin of all of the vegetables nice and charred before I let them cool and removed all of their first layers (carcinogens don’t taste great not to mention the whole giving you cancer thing). It is also a good idea to roast some garlic in some tin foil at 350 degrees for a half an hour. I chose to go with a whole bulb of garlic for my chili. After all, I was using nearly 2 kilos of beef.
Another option is to stick a bit of star anise inside the onions prior to the grilling. As a mentioned in my post about Pho (which you can find here), cooking onions and star anise together create sulphurous compounds that amplify the taste of proteins. I highly suggest giving it a try however, it would not be the end of the world if you didn’t.
After removing all of the skin, I finely dice the vegetables and throw it all into a cold pot with the roasted garlic and some spices. I like to use coriander, cumin, and smoked paprika all in equal proportions. Just remember that you can always add more but you can never take away. That being said, I do find it important to get it right the first time as toasting the spices with the diced vegetables really intensify the flavours. After the bottom of the pot is completely covered with spices that are stuck, deglaze the pan with a healthy amount of Worcestershire sauce. I like to use what many would consider copious amounts but I find that the umami affect of Worcestershire sauce would be missed if not enough is added. For the 2kgs of beef I used about 200mL to deglaze the pot. I then added the seared beef to the pot as well as a litre of beer. I chose to go with Mill Street’s Cobblestone Stout as it is extremely rich and full bodied which I felt would add to the depth of the chili as well as aiding the development of a wonderful deep red colour. The stout also has smokey elements as well as a hint of cocoa which I absolutely adore in chili. I cover the pot and let simmer for about an hour and a half per kilogram. In this case, it meant nearly 3 hours. I then hand tore the shoulder apart and put it back into the chili to coat. What I was left with was a wonderful and luxurious texture as well as a complex and rich flavour.
After taking the chili off the heat I like to stir in some unsweetened 90% dark chocolate to taste. I really like finishing my chili with a generous portion of sour cream, spring onion, fresh chili, and chopped cilantro leaves. The homemade baguette provides that crunch you want when eating something as luxurious as this chili. To me, this is what warmth tastes like.
I was supposed to put up something about my thanksgiving today however some technical issues with my hard drive means I don’t currently have any photos of the Turkey. Luckily, my brother decided to make everyone breakfast earlier that day and I had my camera ready.
All you have to do after hard boiling the eggs is scoop out the egg yolk and mix with mayonnaise and dijon mustard until smooth. Then put the mix back where the egg yolk was taken out to complete the egg. I finish the eggs with paprika, black pepper, and some diced celery. I like to serve these eggs with some crispy smoked bacon to add another dimension to the dish.
To me, fresh rolls sum up what Vietnamese food is all about. It is a dish that relies on the quality of the ingredients as there is very little cooking involved. Vietnamese food is all about being in touch with the ingredients and how they work together and it is extremely apparent in this dish. Below is a pretty non traditional presentation of fresh rolls as usually one dips their fresh roll into some thai chilli steeped fish sauce. Below is some traditional fresh rolls in a coconut hoisin reduction which happens to be my preference. I find that the pickled carrots provide enough sourness to the dish and what I really yearn for in a sauce is something sweet. Whatever the sauce, I’ve never met a single person who didn’t appreciate the brilliance of this simple dish. There are really no secrets when it comes to this classic (even the rice paper is transparent to allow viewing of the ingredients!).
Below is all the prepared ingredients ready to be devoured. It is typical for people to gather around these wonderful ingredients and roll their very own version of a “perfect” fresh roll. My brother goes heavy on the tiger shrimp but I like a bit of everything with a healthy amount of various herbs.
The most common fillings growing up for me were rice noodles, lettuce, cucumbers, bean sprouts, shrimp, pork belly, pork sausage, and various asian herbs that were grown in our back yard.
I started Culinary School a week ago. It took me a while to decide whether or not I wanted to do it but here I am. The first week has given me a bit of insight as to what I can expect and it seems like it will be a big change from studying Economics. Never before have I been so excited about the academic side of school!
Unfortunately, I will be tied up with balancing school & work so I will no longer be committing to publishing something I made every single Monday. Instead I will be blogging about what I learn in culinary school in my new section which you can find here. I will continue to update you with my creations however I suspect they may be published on a slightly less consistent basis.
On another note, I wanted to mark my official full commitment to following my dreams with an upgrade in equipment. For the past 3 years I have been using Calphalon’s contemporary 8-incher. It was a gift I received during university and it has been thoroughly enjoyed. It was a massive step up from the Selection/Walmart knives I was previously struggling to cut butter with. However, I felt as if it was time to invest in something serious due to the serious nature with which I am diving into food. After doing countless hours of online research, talking to countless people (truthfully only 7 people), and trying out countless knives, I eventually based most of my decision on how uniquely amazing this knife felt in my hand (compared to the competition in my price range). I present to you my new toy/weapon:
Above is a Mcusta Zanmai Classic Pro Damascus Gyuto. A Gyuto is basically a Japanese version of our western Chefs knife. Gyutos in general have a few key different characteristics which I found I preferred to traditional western knives. My Calphalon had quite the large bolster running down the base of the heel and the Mcusta doesn’t have any bolster at all. This was an unexpected characteristic in a knife I thought I would buy simply because I really enjoyed the large bolster on the Calphalon. However, since first holding the Calphalon, my technique has changed and I find myself chocking up on the handle a lot more these days. Thus, the thinner and harder Japanese blade offers me the option for more sharpness. Furthermore, I have found that food has been less inclined to stick to the blade due to the fact that the knife isn’t pushing through food as much as the Calphalon used to.
The knife is made in Seki, Japan. It measures 8.2 inches long of VG-10 stainless steel. VG-10 is just a cutlery grade stainless steel produced in Japan that consists of many elements including some specific elements that must be in a particular proportion to one another which include Carbon (1%), Molybdenum (1%), Chromium (15%), Cobalt (1.5%), and Manganese (0.5%) to name a few. The blade is finished with Hamaguri form which just means that the edge of the blade is shaped asymmetrically. The left side of the blade comes down on to the food at 90 degrees whereas the right side of the blade comes in just under 90 degrees making it extremely easy to cut through food with minimum force which makes up for the heaviness often found in western Chef knives. Another thing one might notice about the blade is that it has a kind of rippling water design to it. This is caused by the technique used in producing Damascus Steel. Unfortunately, Damascus steel has been found and dated as early as 300BC and even with modern technology, reverse engineering the exact process has not been fully completed. It is a steel used in ancient Asian and Middle Eastern sword making. These are just some of the characteristics that make my Calphalon feel like a clumsy broadsword in comparison.
This week I go back to my childhood again with this Vietnamese classic. Much like what I did with Pho (which you can see here), this post will only be part one of my exploration of Hu Tieu Mi. In this first instalment I will be looking at what makes this classic so delicious in order to understand how to approach modernizing the dish.
Much like Pho, the secret to this soup is in the broth. It is made with pork bones, carrots, radishes, dried roasted squid, rock sugar, oyster sauce, and fish sauce. In the soup are some egg noodles, barbecue pork, pork liver, quail eggs, scored squid, and shrimp. Unlike Pho, this dish as quite a lot of components. This is where I think most of the problems arise. In traditional pho, beef is the very obvious focus. Everything about the dish is made in a way that enhances the flavour of the beef. In mi however, there are many delicious elements and it is challenging to bring the best out of all of them without overshadowing anything.
You would not think that all of these different types of meat would actually go together but it all tastes quite delicious. I usually only use one type of meat per dish and therefore the various types of meat in this dish is a bit unique to me. I suppose it is no different than my eating different types of vegetables in a stir fry.
Classically, one dips the various types of meat in hoisin sauce (or at least that is what I did growing up). However, in the second picture I decide to add a brush of spicy hoisin to the plate before spooning over some broth. I actually enjoyed this method because it mitigated the often overly sweet characteristics of hoisin sauce.
I finish the dish with some deep fried onions and some fresh chives from the garden as well as some black pepper.
I’ve been tweaking this dish for a few weeks before my brother’s birthday. I first saw beets and feta put together a few months ago while browsing through Pinterest. One day I gave it a shot and it turned out brilliantly. Feta and beets do indeed work well together. Shortly after discovering what is now one of my favourite summer combinations, I was given my first catering gig. It was here I decided to test the combination again to see if it could stand up to paying customers. After seeing that it was being extremely well received, I decided to run with it.
This is what I ended up serving for my brother’s birthday salad. Beets are not something that is commonly consumed in a Vietnamese household so I knew that it would be a special experience for him. Again, it was well received. One would expect something that is so universally enjoyed to be something simple and conservative and you would be right. This salad is simply a cooked beet with some embellishments.
The sliced blanched beets sit atop a whipped feta cheese. This is the focus of the dish so I was rather generous with the portions of both the cheese and the beats. I then sprinkle on some pine nuts however most nuts will do. Personally, my favourite nuts I have used with this dish have been pistachios. Afterwards, I place some radishes around the dish and on top of the beets. Next, I place a generous hand full of pea shoots which I’ve been growing in my garden. I must admit that another scoop of whipped feta on top of the beets (as shown here) before the hand full of pea shoots never hurts (can you really ever have too much feta?). Last, I finish the dish with some olive oil and some crushed black pepper.