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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lẩu Bò Nhúng Dấm và Hải Sản Chiên Bơ (Beef Fondue in Vinegar Chicken Broth and Grilled Seafood with Butter)

It has been a little over two weeks since my hand was severely burned from trying out a recipe involving frying with hot oil. Thanks to my husband and friend who provided all the care, burn cream, lotion, ointment, antiseptic, anesthetic lotion, aloe vera, and vitamin ointment. The skin is starting to peel and heal. I am hoping I can return to action in another week.

During this time, I had to ask my mother-in-law to take charge of the cooking. She has been picking vegetables from our garden and feeding us simple, healthy soups at every meal: watercress soup, gourd soup, sweet and sour soup (canh chua), My older girl asked me when I can cook bún bò Huế (spicy beef noodle), while the little one has been craving for bánh phục linh (coconut tapioca powder cakes). 

I was beginning to feel guilty for not being able to cook for the family. So the other night, I prepared a spontaneous meal to make up. We took a family trip to Nugget Market to get all the ingredients. Beef fondue in vinegar chicken broth, pan-fried beef and seafood were perfect to enjoy as the rain  was pouring outside. But I must say, the lemongrass shrimp paste sauce stole the show. 

Fondue, paired with a griddle for grilling are perfect to be enjoyed with your family or friends gathering on the cold days.   With just half an hour, you can still surprise a nice meal for your guests or family when you get home late . This beef, salmon, shrimps, calamari, scallops grilled on a griddle with butter and sweet onion created a nice brown crust with beautiful aroma.  Wrap this with noodle, lettuce, herbs, and cucumber in a rice paper and enjoy with my signature shrimp paste sauce; it will satisfy your palate. Beef fondue is just another dish that I craved for so I served both.  If shrimp paste sauce is not your cup of tea, the fish sauce or almond/peanut dipping sauce would go well too.

Prepare the meal with your favorite seafood and type of beef. 
RECIPE: Lẩu Bò Nhúng Dấm và Hải Sản Chiên Bơ
serve 6 adults


for grilling
2 pounds rib eye steak
1 pound salmon
1/2 pound (16/20 ct) prawns, peeled, tail-on
3 pieces calamari steaks
1/2 pound Scallops
2 sweet onions

for fondue
2 (32 oz), chicken stock
16 oz of water
1 head of garlic, peeled
1/2 sweet onion, for broth
rock sugar or regular sugar
ground pepper
fish sauce

2 heads of butter lettuce
2 English cucumbers
bean sprouts
assorted herbs (cilantro, mint leaves, etc)
2 packs of rice paper

for dipping sauce
click here for shrimp paste dipping sauce
click here for fish sauce dipping sauce
click here for almond dipping sauce

Preparing Broth for Fondue

I bought a 3 pound Tomahawk bone-in rib eye steak of which the bone itself is about 1 pound. This Tomahawk grass fed beef is very flavorful and juicy. I asked the butcher to thinly slice the beef, and cut bone into 3-4 pieces.  However, you can use any type of beef you prefer.

In a stockpot, add beef bone, beef fat from bone-in rib eye, garlic, onion, chicken stock (I used the brand above as they were on sale 2/$5), water, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add sugar, a tad of fish sauce, ground pepper, and vinegar. The broth should be balanced with a natural sweetness and slight tartness. 
When ready to serve, use a strainer to strain the broth into the fondue pot.  Add a few slices of sweet onion.  
Preparing Beef 

Ask the butcher to slice the beef thinly. You can also purchase pre-sliced beef for shabu available at some Asian markets. I like to get it at my local Japanese Oto's Market.  
Arrange beef and sliced sweet onion on a plate or a bowl, garnish it with a red chili pepper and green onion for appeal. 
Preparing Seafood

Rinse seafood and use a paper towel to pat dry. Cut salmon into half an inch thick. Cut calamari steaks into half- inch pieces. Arrange seafood on a plate.  Adorn it with cilantro or your favorite herbs.

Preparing Vegetables and Noodle

Arrange bean sprouts, cucumbers, and herbs on a plate.

Noodle - I have been using a lot of Japanese brand noodle.  Green tea noodle is one of my favorites.  However, you can use any type of noodle you like.  Follow package cooking instructions.

Butter lettuce - is always a favorite of mine for wrapping.  It is velvety soft and tender, sweet with bright green leaves. It's just beautiful to look at. Butter lettuce is packed with roots still attached and in a clear plastic protective shell.

Cut off the root.  Rinse by holding the core under the running tap water.  Turn the lettuce head over and let the water run out. Place lettuce in a bowl.  

Preparing Dipping Sauce

My family and guests love the shrimp paste sauce when I prepare this kind of meal. But if you can't take the aroma of the shrimp paste, fish sauce sauce,or  almond or peanut sauce would pair well too.

fish sauce dipping sauce

almond dipping sauce

Place the fondue pot and griddle in the center of the table and arrange all the dishes around it. 

When the broth is boiling, dip a slice of beef in the boiling broth for a couple seconds or until cooked, dip a rice paper in a bowl of water to soften it, then roll beef together with the vegetables and noodle.  The broth tastes best towards at the end of the meal so enjoy it straight.  

Place butter on the griddle, cook seafood and beef until slightly golden brown.  Roll them along with these wondrous herbs, vegetables and noodle.  Enjoy!

Eat well. Stay healthy. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bánh Ít Kẹp Bánh Ram (Steamed and Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings)

One of my favorite parts of putting a recipe together is photographing the food through the lens of my iPhone camera.  I have to admit I go crazy when comes to capturing food. My daughters probably question my sanity sometimes seeing how consumed I'm with the whole process from preparation to the presentation.

For an example, to execute the photo of Bánh Ít Kẹp Bánh Ram, I had to make a trip to stores to purchase a black plate to contrast with the soft white steamed and crispy golden fried dumplings; ingredients such as micro rainbow mix, and radish for visual contrast.  After shooting over 100 photos, I ended up settling with a few of the best ones for this recipe.   Now onto the recipe . . .

Bánh Ít Kẹp Bánh Ram are steamed rice dumpling stuffed with sauteed shrimps and pork that is stacked on top of a crispy, fried glutinous rice cake. It's a mingling of two textures - a crispy, crackling, golden brown base with a soft, chewy but tender white steamed dumpling packed with wonderful flavors to satisfy your palate. 

After several experimentation with various types of potato, tapioca, rice and sweet rice flour - and a severe burn on my hand to show off -  I am satisfied with the dumpling's texture.    
RECIPE: (Steamed and Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings)
make 12 pairs of dumplings

for dough
3 cups sweet rice
1.5 cups water
1/4 lb shrimp, shell off, cut into small pieces
1/4 lb pork, cut into small pieces
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 green onion, used only the white parts, minced
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 cup dried shredded wood ear mushrooms, soaked, cut into shorter strings, optional
green onion oil, for topping
1 tablespoon oil
1 green onion, finely minced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
a pinch of salt
minced shrimps, for topping, optional
1/4 lb shrimps, shell off
1/4 cup dried shrimps, optional
for fish sauce dressing
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons coconut water or water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 Thai bird's eye chili pepper
1 teaspoon finely diced red bell pepper, optional
1 teaspoon finely diced green bell pepper, optional
24 banana leaf circles or aluminum foil circles


Preparing Dough

In a mixing bowl, combine glutinous rice flour and water. Wear latex disposable gloves to keep hands free of sticky dough. Mix well. Knead until smooth and soft. If the dough happens to be wet or dried, add just a little bit of flour or water as appropriate. You can test for the right texture of the dough by shaping it into a small ball and flatten it down.  The dough is good when it doesn't break apart. Cover and let it rest. 

The glutinous rice flour I used in this recipe is made in the USA and it doesn't have the smell of old flour.  If you use other brands that are made in Thailand or Vietnam, they tend to carry the smell of old flour; you might want to try this method below that I learned from my mother to get rid of that smell.

Place a double layer of good paper towel on top of the colander. In a large bowl, place a small rice bowl inside it. Then place the colander on top of the large bowl. Pour glutinous rice flour into a colander.

Add about 3 cups of water into the flour. Use a spoon to mix it until the water mixed well with flour. Cover the colander and let the water drip into the large bowl for about a couple of hours or until flour is no longer liquidy.

Remove the paper towel. Use another paper tower to blot the dough to remove any remaining water on it.

Sauteing Pork and Shrimps Filling

I like the crunchy texture of the dried wood ear mushroom in the filling.  In this recipe, you don't see this ingredients combined in the filling as I didn't have it available at that time.

In a skillet, bring a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add in sugar, white part of onion, garlic, and shallot, stirring until fragrant. Add pork, mushroom, if used, and stir a few minutes until the pork cooks half way. Add shrimps, fish sauce, and ground pepper, stirring well. Saute for a few minutes until the sauce becomes thick and coats the pork and shrimps and the color changes to brown, remove it from heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning for a good balance of sweet, and salty.

Cooking Shallots and Green Onion Oil

In a small saute pan, bring oil over medium heat. Add shallots, stirring occasionally until the shallots begin to turn golden brown. Turn off the heat. Remove shallot from the hot oil and set aside. Shallots will lose its crispiness if combined with green onion. Add green onion and salt into the oil pan, mix well.
Preparing Minced Shrimp Topping

I like the combination of both the aroma and taste of fresh and dried shrimps but using fresh shrimps alone is good too. 

Preparing dried shrimps - rinse shrimps a few times. Soak it in water for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain shrimps. Pound shrimps into a coarse paste with a mortar and pestle.

Preparing fresh shrimps - bring water to a boil. Add shrimps and cook for a minute until shrimps turn pink. Remove shrimps, peel, and smash shrimps with a meat tenderizer or the back of the knife. You can also pound shrimps into a coarse paste with a mortar and pestle.

Place a frying pan on low heat, add the crushed dried and fresh shrimps. Use a spatula to mix the shrimps for about 5 minutes or until shrimps are completely dry and bluff.  Season it with a dash of salt, or fish sauce, if preferred. Set aside.
Mixing Fish Sauce Dressing

Combine all the ingredients for the fish sauce dressing and mix well. The purpose of adding finely diced red and green sweet bell peppers to the fish sauce dressing is to add sweetness and appeal.
Forming Dumplings

Rub a little cooking oil on your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Divide dough into 24 balls for steaming  and frying.

Forming Dough for Steam Dumplings - roll each ball into a smooth ball in the palm of your hands and flatten into a thin flat round. Put about a teaspoon of filling onto the center of the dough and bring up the edges of the dough to cover the filling completely. Roll it gently in circular motion with the palm of your hands to smooth out the surface of the ball. Set the ball on a banana leaf circle.

Forming Dough for Fried Cakes - roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball in the palms of your hands. Place it on a banana leaf circle and flatten into a 1/4 inch flat round.

Cooking Dumplings and Cakes

There are two methods of cooking dumplings and cakes.

Boiling - it is not necessary to use banana leaf circles in this boiling method. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the dumplings and cakes into the boiling water and cook in gentle boiling water until they rise to the top. Let them cook for another minute to ensure they are cooked through, then lift out with a slotted spoon. Place dumplings and cakes onto a lightly oiled plate to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the plate.

Steaming - In a bottom layer of a steamer, add water, about half of the pot, and bring to a boil.  Steam dumplings and cakes gently for about 20 minutes until they are cooked and have a nice and soft texture.

Making the Crispy Cakes

In a pot or a skillet, bring oil over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the steamed flat cakes to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.  It's important not to fry it too long to maintain a soft center and a crispy cover. Remove and drain on paper towels.


Place a steamed dumpling on top of a crispy cake. Top with green onion oil, fried shallots, and minced shrimps. 

Serve with a sweet and tangy fish sauce dipping. I also like to serve sweet and tangy pickled cucumbers, cubed daikon or radish on the side to help cleanse the palate. Enjoy!
Eat well.  Stay healthy.