Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sticky rice with Chinese sausage, pork floss & fried onions

There are people in our lives that even though are not close to us, stay in our mind forever. They are part of our everyday life for a while, and then are gone, but we will always remember them because without them, that part of our lives wouldn't be the same.

For me, there was many when I was a kid growing up in Vietnam. There was the lady with the newspaper stall that my mom & I would stop by every Wednesday to pick up our reading. There was the stick thin man who was so poor that all he had was a cubic shack made of pieces of tole & raincoats; he would guard people's motorbikes while they would go eat at one of the many restaurants on our street. The Chinese man with his small glass cart of green papaya & beef jerky salad who would click his giant scissors to let us know that he was around. Once in a while there was the peanut candy man with a boombox playing loud cheesy music who made me turn up the volume on my Walkman.

But there was one in particular that I would see almost every morning during my summer vacations: the sticky rice lady. She would walk from street to street balancing her two baskets of different kinds of sticky rice while simultaneously chanting: "Sticky rice! Sticky rice! Who wants sticky rice?" and her pace would slow down whenever she reached our gate. She would stay a little while longer in the front until I faithfully ran down the stairs yelling: "Sticky rice lady!" She always had many kinds of sticky rice in one basket: red grain, cochinchin gourd, corn, pandan, peanut, and in the other one, there was condiments: mung bean paste, sesame seeds, ground peanuts, sesame salt, tapioca strings, coconut flakes.


I tried everything she made, but my favorite was always the combination of pandan sticky rice, slathered with mung bean paste, topped with a few fat chewy tapioca strings, sprinkled with coconut flakes and all wrapped into a roll with a rice paper (the kind we use in torrone)

Don't judge me.

Now that I'm older, I make my own sticky rice and  here I share with you another of my favorite: "xoi lap xuong cha bong" that I made for Tet which everyone really enjoyed.

Xoi lap xuong cha bong ( Sticky rice with Chinese sausage & pork floss)
(serves 4)
  • 2 cups of glutinous rice
  • 4 Chinese sausages 
  • 2 sprigs of green onion, sliced
  • a handful of pork floss (I bought mine at the Asian grocery store)
  • few drizzles of soy sauce
  • fried onions (also bought at the Asian grocery store)
Soak the rice in cold water over night & make sure the water line is way above the rice line. When ready to cook, drain & steam in a bamboo steamer or a regular one for about 10-15 minutes. You should check after 10 minutes to see how much longer you need, because it all depends on how long you've soaked the rice.You can also cook the rice in a rice cooker but the texture will be a bit more gooey.

Boil the sausages for a few minutes so they don't dry out when cooked and get too hard to chew, then slice them up. Heat a pan over medium heat, cook the sausages for a few minutes, then a minute right before it's done, drizzle some soy sauce over it and toss in the green onions.

Mix the sausages into the sticky rice. Top with pork floss, fried onions and serve!

Many years later, after I've moved to Canada, one of the first things my grandma said to me when I came back to visit was: "The sticky rice lady still asked about you for a long time after you were gone. She doesn't come around anymore because she knows you don't live here anymore"

...I realized that I never asked her name. After all those years!!! *sigh*

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vietnamese mango & shrimp salad

As a kid, Tết (Vietnamese New Year / Chinese New Year / Lunar New Year) meant that I'd spend days munching on water melons, melon seeds, sweets & tart kumquats that I'd secretly pick from the kumquat trees we had in the house, the equivalence of the Christmas tree here (We were not supposed to pick at them because they end up not looking as nice anymore by the time it's the new year, so I'd take the fruits from the side that was against the wall hoping it wouldn't show. LOL!)

 (Image from here)

On the first morning of Tết, my cousins & I would dress up in our new clothes & greet our grandparents, uncles & aunts with extravagant wishes of health, happiness & longevity. Then, they'd hand us "li xi" of crisp new bills in red pouches. The upcoming days were visits from and/or to friends and extended family. Tet was exciting. Tet was lots of yummy food. Tet was the only holiday I'd look forward to.

Now, I mostly spend Tết with close friends instead of family because they are all far away. No flower festivals that line the main strip downtown for weeks on end. No firecrackers popping away through the night. The kumquats have been replaced with tangerines. I'm the one to make the food & give "li xi" because I am now the adult. Things have changed but one thing for sure, the love stays. Be it with friends or family, Tet is the time to spend with people you cherish and I wouldn't change it for the world!

This year, I continue the tradition.

One of the dishes that I will be serving at Tet dinner is this yummy mango salad (Other recipes will come soon) You can use the Asian green mangoes or the greener Fat Cat ones, which will be a bit sweeter. 

For a one-person lunch size:
Mix the  first four ingredients together, then top with mint & Vietnamese coriander. Sprinkle the peanuts on top just before eating to keep them crunchy.

*The advantage of making a jar of daikon & carrot pickle instead of buying it in the store, is saving money, having it on hand at anytime and you can add it in home-made "banh mi" (Vietnamese sandwich) I must warn you though, daikon smells strong.

**I don't really have a recipe for mixed fish sauce, simply because it all depends on your own taste. Some like it sweeter, some like it saltier, etc. But as the base recipe states: "one part lime or lemon juice, or occasionally vinegar, one part fish sauce, one part sugar and two parts water"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Soy sauce drumsticks

Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới!!! Happy New Year!!!!  Bonne Année!!! Feliz Año Nuevo!!! Buon Anno!!! La Mulţi Ani!!! 새해 복 많이 받으세요!!!

Whichever language(s) you speak, write or understand, I wish you and your loved ones a new year filled with happiness, health, joy, laughter, smiles, and yummilicious food in your bellies.

Speaking of which, here is a short & savory "recipe" for your drumsticks. Simply delicious.

No, not YOUR drumsticks, but chicken drumsticks that you bought at the store/farm first thing this morning because almost nothing was opened yesterday on the 1st of January and you didn't want to purchase them in Chinatown for personal reasons... Don't worry, it'll be our little secret...

Calling this a "recipe" is really a stretch. All you need is:
  • enough soy sauce (to fill about 5mm high of a shallow baking pan or dish or whatever you want to marinade in) 
  • minced garlic (of about 3, 4 cloves)  
  • chopped shallots (1-2) 
  • drumsticks (I scored them with 2, 3 deep lines almost to the bone, horizontally so that they'd soak up the marinade better and cook well at the more meaty part without drying out or burning)
Line the chicken in the pan with the marinade and turn them over once in a while to ensure that the soy sauce coats all. Let stand for about an hour or two, or refrigerate over night and let cool before cooking.

Cook in a pan over medium heat with a bit of olive or vegetable oil, turning over once in a while to cook all sides. Once done (mine took about 30-35 minutes) place them on a big plate and sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the top.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crockpot pasta meat sauce with a twist

Ok, so I know what you're thinking: "ANOTHER pasta sauce recipe!?" because of course, we all have enough pasta sauce recipes in our closet!

But hear me out!!!

1-You won't have to keep going to check up on it
2-There is a twist that will give your pasta sauce a whole new depth.
3-No cleanup to do for splatters on the counter!!!

Seriously, if you have a crockpot, DO IT!

DO IT NOW!!!!! Ok, maybe not right now because for all I know, you're reading this in bed on your laptop at 1am while your significant other is snoring away on the left side of the bed. But do it when the sun is up because you won't regret it. You will have enough to freeze and the kids will ask for seconds (And I say this so firmly because I've got proof. Picky-eaters proof!)

So, what's the twist? Ha-ha, very funny, it's not squirrel meat! (Although, those little cute furry punks who dig up our back yard are really asking for it....)

It's fish sauce. Oh, don't make that face, it's really not attractive. That's the same face my better half made when I first talked about cooking with fish sauce. Then he tasted the sauce I made the first time and hasn't stopped eating it since. Didn't even leave me when he found out what I put in it! LOL!

It's really quite quick to prep. The only part that takes more time is cooking the beef. So let's get to it!

Tramie's pasta meat sauce with a twist:
(serves... a lot...)
  • 2 pounds extra lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes n the juice, 796ml / 28oz each
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes, 796ml / 28oz
  • 4-6 tbsp fish sauce (to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 branches of fresh oregano, washed 
  • 2-3 branches of fresh parsley, washed, discard stems and mince
Cook the ground beef with the garlic in a skillet over high heat. Draining the fat is optional. I don't :) Let it cool down.

Pour the 3 cans of tomatoes into your crockpot. Blend thoroughly with a handheld blender (Or in a blender and then put them in the crockpot.

Add the fish sauce. Now, this is important: I don't actually measure the exact amount, this is totally eyeballed. So add and taste slowly. It doesn't have to be salty right away, remember, you can always add more after.

Then add in the meat and the rest of the herbs. Set your crockpot on low for 6 hours.

Now go finish up your holidays shopping, because THAT will not do itself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hugs & kisses cookies

I'm having one of those times, you know... bloggers' block. I've literally been twiddling my thumbs for days now to come up with something interesting to say, and I've got nothing. Nada. Niente.


Good thing the pictures speak for themselves, *PHEW!*

 XOXO or Tic-tac-toe, they all taste delightful!!!

I've seen these checkerboard cookies for years, and have meant to make them for a while, but well, pretty much procrastinated til now. They're the type of cookies that you make for people you really REALLY love (Yes, keep reminding yourself of the love when you're kneading, rolling and cutting the dough, it will all be worth it in the end, LOL!!! )

Lemon sugar cookies:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon oil (omit if you don't have any)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
Cream butter and add sugar. Blend in egg, lemon juice, lemon oil, salt and flour. Roll dough into a block or ball and chill until firm.

Chocolate sugar cookies:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
Cream butter and add sugar. Blend in egg, vanilla, salt, cocoa powder and flour. Roll dough into a block or ball and chill until firm.

When you're ready, roll the two dough out to your desired thickness (I went with an approximate of 1/2 inch thick) Baking Obsession made a really great diagram of how to stack the dough strips to make the cookies, so I'm not gonna sketch the same one because hers is already too awesome.

I will though, make one to show you another method if you want the quick checkerboard version instead :) (without the wrapping on the outside) The red lines are cut lines. After step two, refrigerate the block again until firm before moving onto step three.

Of course, if you lose patience with all the rolling, measuring, cutting, re-refrigerate, etc, just bring out your favorite cookie cutters and skip all the steps...

Once the cookies are all cut, put them back in the fridge, on a lined baking tray until firm again. Heat oven to 375*F and bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. They shouldn't brown :) (Well, I'm talking about the lemon part obviously!)

Pour yourself a glass of milk, sit back and enjoy the goodies. I really like the contrast of the lemon against the chocolate and I hope you will too. Happy baking and share these hugs and kisses ;) 

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE best cinnamon chocolate chip cookies


There are tons of recipes out there for the best chocolate chip cookies and I don't claim to have tried them all, but the ones that I have, were always missing one thing or another. The one thing that they all had in common, was that they WOULD NOT FLATTEN! The pictures would show so, but not the result!!! *sigh*

Now, don't get me wrong, the taste was never an issue, but for me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie means a flat yummy buttery chocolatey cookie that is crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside.


It's important that the cookies are flat. NOT by me flattening them before baking, no no! Flat, by melting and spreading all on their own.

Well, THESE cookies are. They spread and flattened all on their own like the big cool kids do. And they are GOO-OO-OO-OOD!!!!! *drool*

Make them, I PROMISE you, scout honor, that this is the last recipe that you'll ever need.

Chocolate cinnamon chip cookies (makes 46 three-inches cookies)
(from original recipe of The Silver Palate)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips    
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (I used Hershey's) 

Heat oven to 350 degrees & line your cookie sheet with parchment papers or use a silpat if you have. Cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and stir in, mixing thoroughly. Add chocolate chips & cinnamon chips to batter and form cookies by using a small scoop. I used one of 1 & 1/2 inch diameter.

Make sure to space them out on the sheet. About 2-3 inches between them. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool on sheet before transferring them onto rack to cool completely.  

Share them or not, I won't tell ;) Enjoy!!!