July 22, 2012

Green Mango & Papaya Salad w/ Beef Jerky & Dried Squid | Goi Du Du Xoai Bo Kho & Muc Kho

A few months ago, I was invited to my little niece's birthday barbeque. Her mom made a few side dishes to accompany the grill meats...she made eggrolls, shrimp salad, and the green mango salad I am posting today. I've never had mango salad before and with my first bite full, I was in food heaven! The mingled flavors of sweet, sour, spicy, and fresh herbs...total delishnessss.

My plate. Piggy status! Eager to learn how to make this wonderful salad, my cousin invited one of my other nieces, sister, and myself over one afternoon to show us how it was made. The dish I am posting today combines what I learned from her with what I normally add in my vietnamese salad dishes. Instead of just green mangoes, I'm also adding green papaya and carrots. This is a very easy dish to make. The prep work, however, can be quite time consuming. If there are more people to help, it's very quick to throw together.

What you'll need (excludes seasoning/condiments) 
- 1 pack shredded dried squid 
- 1 pack Curry flavor Vietnamese Beef Jerky 
- 1 green papaya (with a large one such as this, I would just use half) 
- A few green mangoes 
 - Carrots 
- Raw peanuts 
- Tamarind seasoning 
- Shrimp/Prawn Chips 
- Garlic, shallots, thai chillis, vietnamese cilantro, and limes

Pan roast the raw peanuts by adding it to a frying pan or skillet on med-lo heat.

It will take the peanuts 10-15 minutes for it to roast, stir continually so that it does not burn in certain areas. When it is ready, the skin will be a dark color, start to crack and fall off of the peanut.  If you decide to do some prep work while roasting the peanuts, make sure to keep a close eye on it.

Remove from heat and let cool. When it's warm enough, use your hand to rub the skins off, revealing a nice light toasted brown color and a wonderful aroma.

Take the pan outside and flip the peanuts like you would an omelet. With the breeze outside, the skins will fly out and you are left with the roasted peanuts...go ahead, have a taste! They're wonderful.

When I was younger and saw my mom pan-roast peanuts, I thought to myself, why would she waste time doing that when she can just go to the store and buy dry roasted peanuts in the jar? Of course, now I know the difference...dry roasted peanuts just does not deliver the same flavor and results.

One of reasons why this dish is so easy to make and why I make it so often lately is because of this nifty shredding tool that can be purchase at the asian market. It saves so much time!  A must have in all kitchens!

With the shredding tool, shred the papaya. Squeeze a lime over it and toss to mix. Set aside.

With your hands, shred the dried squid even finer than what's in the package.

Continue with shredding the carrots with the shredding tool. With kitchen shears-cut the beef jerky up into thin, 2 inch long strips.  Cut the green mangoes in french fry size strips.  

You'll need a few cloves of minced or finely crushed garlic, sliced shallots, more limes, thai chillies cut into small pieces, and Vietnamese cilantro (or your favorite aromatic herbs like mint, basil, or cilantro)

Toss/Mix in a large mixing bowl or aluminum tray/pan:  Papaya, squid, beef jerky, green mango, carrot, shallots, garlic, and chillies with some tamarind seasoning, salt, fish sauce, sugar and more lime juice. You just need a little bit of each of these seasoning ingredients because a lot of the flavor is already in the mangoes, squid and beef jerky. Don't over season because you will taste and adjust as you continue to mix the ingredients together. Tip: The more papaya you have will require more fish sauce.  *I like to add the seasonings a certain way...since the beef jerky and dried squid is sweet, I add the sugar to the papaya, I add the fish sauce to the mangoes, papaya, carrots, and a little over all, the tamarind  seasoning and lime juice goes over all except for the mangoes since they are already tart.  Get my reasoning for the seasoning? (Lame! haha) 

Once it suits your taste (more thai chillies for a more spicy kick, more tamarind seasoning or lime juice for more acidity, more sugar for a sweeter pallet), add the roughly chopped Vietnamese cilantro. Toss.

Once your ready to serve, add some of the chopped roasted peanuts that you made. I don't like them too finely chopped because larger pieces add a nice crunch.

Optional: Fry up some shrimp/prawn chips 

These stay crispy for quite some time. 

Dig in! Another great party/potluck dish to share.  A balance of spicy, sweet, sour...soft, chewy, and crunchy textures.  Enjoy.

May 21, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Baked Baby Back Ribs

I use very similar ingredients in my marinades, but to change up the flavors, I do try to change up the ingredients. Most of what I cook is based on ingredients readily available in the kitchen so dishes are never really the same every time. Sometimes when I'm shopping (which I don't do much of surprisingly!), I'll pick up ingredients that I wouldn't normally use in my cooking. I few months ago, I picked up a bottle of Clay Pot glaze with the intention of re-attempting to make Ca Kho To, a vietnamese dish prepared by braising catfish steaks in a clay pot. Of course, that never happened, so I decided one night while making baby back ribs, that I would incorporate the glaze in my marinade! It actually turned out pretty delicious and I've made it a few times since, each time - it turned out a little different.

The first time I made it, I got a nice glaze and char on the ribs. I documented the second time making these ribs, my attempt to re-create the ribs pictured above... This is the marinade for 3 racks of ribs, so you'll want to adjust your seasonings and ingredients depending on how much you are cooking
Prepare: 2 yellow onions, 10 garlic cloves, 6-8 stalks of lemongrass.
Wash the racks of ribs with salt and water. Let drain in a colander.
Cut them into pieces by bone-length.
Cut the lemongrass into 1.5-2 inch pieces and mince them in a food processor.
Add the garlic and onions, process until all three ingredients are minced.  
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ribs, lemongrass mixture, 1 cup of the clay pot glaze (1/3 cup for each rack of ribs), fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sambal chili paste, light brown sugar, hot pepper flakes, garlic salt and black pepper to taste. If you want sweeter - add more brown sugar and  clay pot glaze. For a more spicy kick - add more chili flakes.

Let marinade for 30 minutes or longer

While the ribs marinate, cook the vermicelli rice noodles
When you're ready to bake them, place them onto a baking sheet (marinade and all) lined with two layers of aluminum foil (will help prevent the pan for burning from the sugar. Sprinkle on some sesame seeds. Bake them for about 45 minutes. Flipping the pieces ever so ever so often. Then set to Broil-Hi to give the ribs an nice color and char, the marinade will thicken and coat the ribs as you continue to turn them to give each side time under the broiler heat. Each side will only need about 1-2 minutes if the broiler is set on Hi.
While the ribs bake, prepare the raw veggie/herb platter (Lettuce, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, etc). Cucumber and mint would be must haves for this dish, but...I didn't have any cucumbers in the fridge
Also prepare fish sauce to pour over your noodles. In a bowl, stir sugar and warm water until sugar is dissolved, add fish sauce, lime juice, crushed/mince garlic and thai chilies that's been cut into small pieces with kitchen shears.
They're done! ( I should have broiled it just a tad longer)
 If you want, garnish with more sesame seeds.
Serve with the rice noodles, raw lettuce and herbs, and fish sauce.

A great summer dish that can be prepared indoors! I'm sure it's would taste even better coming off the grill  or on some chicken wings... =)

April 25, 2012

I'll be back...

Such a terrible blogger huh? I know... =(
I've been slacking and I apologize for my lack of updates.  I recently started a new job and I'm still trying to adjust to my new schedule. Please bare with me as I hope to come back soon with more posts.  Thanks for reading!
 - LeLe

March 24, 2012

Mommy of Two Blog

Please check out my niece's blog - Mommy Of Two for recipes made for the sweet tooth and more!

March 22, 2012

Pan-fried Chicken w/ Tomato Coconut Milk Sauce

As mentioned before, lately I've had the urge to try out new dishes or just tweak the dishes I know to make them a little more different (inspired by Top Chef!). This dish is one of them.

Chicken cut into serving size pieces. I'm using 6 legs that I cut into 3 pieces each.
Season with salt and pepper.

Prep: 1 minced shallot, 4 cloves crushed garlic, and 1/2 a yellow onion cut into small pieces.

Also prep 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fresh diced tomatoes

Heat up a non-stick pan with enough oil to just coat the bottom, as the chicken cook - it will render more fat needed to fry. Add the chicken skin-side down. Fry on medium heat until the skin is crisp and golden brown (about 5-10 minutes depending on how high the heat is set to and how large/thick the chicken pieces are, try not to brown it too fast to give the meat time to cook)

Once the skin side is golden brown, turn them over and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

Just when the chicken is about cooked, move them onto a plate - set aside. The chicken will cook a little longer in the sauce. Discard the rendered fat from the pan, rinse and wipe down the same pan (or you could use another).

Set the pan to medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil, brown the shallots and garlic. Then the yellow onions.

Add a tablespoon of sambal chili paste and some soy sauce.

Add the tomatoes and the following ingredients to taste: black pepper, salt, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and hot pepper flakes.

Add 1 cup of water, stir and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the chicken - Skin-side up to the sauce. Let simmer for about 5 minutes for the chicken to absorb the flavors.

Add about 3 tablespoons of coconut milk. I incorporated the the coconut milk in by shaking the pan and moving the chicken around with some chopsticks.

Cook for about another 2 minutes.

Top with scallions, cilantro or basil. I wanted to try basil with this, I'm sure it would have made a good difference in the dish - but no basil was on hand. Can't wait until mom get her herb and vegetable garden going this summer! =)

Serve by itself or with white rice.

February 16, 2012

Ginger & Scallion Lobster

Is anyone keeping up with the latest season of Top Chef?? Who are you rooting for? I'm all for Paul! He's amazing. Watching Top Chef inspires me to step a little out of my comfort zone in the kitchen - I still stick to a lot of the same ingredients, but I'm hoping to work with more different ingredients as I attempt to try out new things.

Lately I've been using the ginger and scallion pairing a lot in my food. I love the aroma and taste of the two ingredients together. Before, I would only use it on steamed fish. In my previous post, I started using it on fried fish. Now, I'm using it on lobster.

You've seen this dish many times before - served at your favorite Chinese restaurants and also a popular dish on wedding reception menus. With the inspiration from my childhood friend combined with some tips from the baker of QQ Bakery, I attempt to make the dish myself.

It was Valentine's day and I had no plans for the evening, so I decided to make dinner a little more special than usual for the folks. I stopped by the grocery store on my way home from work and pick up a lobster - my first time preparing one of these bad boys!

Fresh from the tank. I gave it a good wash.

Since I've never prepared lobster before, I turned to youtube for an instructional video on how to cut the lobster into serving size pieces - making sure to whack the claws a little bit to expose the meat, allowing the sauce to seep in.

Prep: 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 minced shallot, some slices of ginger, and a few scallions cut into 1.5 inch pieces.

In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sambal chili paste, 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce, and chili flakes to suite your spicy level.

Pat the lobster pieces off to remove excess moisture. Coat the lobster pieces well with tapioca starch.

Deep fry the lobster pieces (I used a small pan and finished the frying in about 3 small batches). Be careful - the moisture from the lobster may cause some splattering. When they're just about cooked- remove them from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

Start the glaze as the lobster is frying up: In a shallow skillet or wok, brown your shallots in a little bit of oil on med-low heat.

Add the ginger and garlic and continue to saute for another minute when the garlic turns a light brown - making sure to keep an eye on the lobster (kitchen is starting to smell so good!)

Add the soy sauce mixture and about 1/2 a tablespoon of palm sugar. Stir and let reduce for about 2 minutes

Add the fried lobster to the sauce. Toss and cooked the lobster in the sauce for another 2-3 minutes. Stirring well to let the sauce get into the crack of the lobster shell.

Add the scallions, give it another good toss to wilt the scallions and it's ready to serve!

I want some more...