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.