Vietnamese Food

Cuisine culture in Vietnam

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Someone asked me the other day what my favorite food was..."Vietnamese!" I quickly replied, "At least for the moment."

About Viet Nam...

Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea, referred to as East Sea (Vietnamese: Biển Đông), to the east. With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.

Vietnamese Kumquat Preserves

As promised, here is the recipe for the kumquat preserves that I used with the homemade yogurt (without using a yogurt maker) that I made a few weeks back.

Surprisingly, whereas the best part is the skin while eaten fresh, the inside white membrane of the kumquat becomes the best part of the fruit once it's preserved. It has a creamy sweetness to it.  The kumquat-infused syrup is a perfect sweetener for any desserts or drinks.  Be creative!

Ingredients

Yields: 2 cups
4 cups kumquats
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
4 star anise seeds
1 tsp anise extract
2 1/2-pint Mason jars

Preparation

Wash the kumquats and half them using a sharp chef knife. Discard all the seeds.
Place the halved kumquats, water and sugar in a pot. Let the sugar macerate for at least 3 hours in a cool area. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a medium low and cook until the fruit becomes transparent and the syrup thick (about 10 minutes). Remove from the heat. Remove and discard the star anise seeds. Cover, set aside and let it sit overnight (at least 6 hours) at room temperature.

The following day, bring the kumquat syrup to a gentle boil. Stir every now and then using a wooden spoon. Skim any foam that develops on the top before pouring into the Mason jars. Add the anise extract.
Fill a big pot of water and bring to just under a boil. Place the Mason jars, lid, heat-proof funnel and tongs in the pot and let it boil for 10 minutes. Be sure to read the instructions that come with your Mason jars. They'll give you exact time and techniques.

Remove the jars from the water and fill with kumquat preserves leaving about a 1/4-inch head space or whatever your canning directions say. Carefully place the lid on the jar. Tighten the collar around each jar. Bring your big pot of water to a boil and place all the sealed jars in it for 15 minutes.
Remove the jars from the water. If the top of the lid still pops, the vacuum didn't form and you'll need to consume the product in the next couple of weeks, storing it in the refrigerator. Otherwise you can store it in your pantry for up to a year.
Enjoy!

Tips

To insure a good sterilization of the product, I stack a dozen magnets together to create a stick and use it a gripper to place the lids on the jars without touching them. Just make sure the magnets are clean!
The next day, when you bring the preserves back to a boil, your candy thermometer should read 220°F. Remove from the heat and start canning.

The preserves will taste better if you let the sealed jar sit for at least a week before opening. Patience is a virtue.




Source: phamfatale.com

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Stuffed Bell Peppers with Shrimps and Pork

Since this is our first season with an abundance of bell peppers in our vegetable garden, I have to come up with some dishes to take advantage of these wonderfully tangy, crunchy,  juicy vegetables packed with powerful antioxidants and full of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
I have always wondered why green peppers are so much cheaper than the red, yellow and orange peppers; I finally did some research and found out that green peppers are less sweet and slightly more bitter than red, yellow or orange peppers.  Compared to green peppers, red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. The level of carotene, another antioxidant, is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers also have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers. 
Luckily, our bell pepper plants produce a variety of sweet orange and yellow bell peppers so this is perfect for my Ớt Chuông Nhồi Thịt và Tôm. Oh the combination of shrimps and pork mixed in the fish sauce, seasoned with fresh garlic, spring onion, black pepper, and other essentail ingredients such as sesame oil produces a distinctively delightful, sweet and nutty in aroma sure to make your mouth water. 
This dish will not only pack your palate with full of flavors, it can also do wonders for your health by ways of the vitamins and antioxidants; These bell peppers are not hot, so my kids enjoyed them as much as the rest of us.
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RECIPE: Ớt Chuông Nhồi Thịt (Stuffed Bell Peppers with Shrimps and Pork)
Ingredients
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6 bell peppers (any color), stems and seeds removed, cut in half
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil

Filling
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound  shrimps, shelled and deveined, cut into half inch pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 white parts of spring onion (củ trắng của hành lá), finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion
1/2 - 1 teaspoon  pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon  paprika
1 tablespoon sesame oil
*
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.  I didn't have time to measure everything while preparing this dish, therefore, this recipe doesn't have correct measurements so make sure to adjust the seasonings.  You can give it a taste by cooking or microwaving a teaspoon of the mixture, then adjust the ingredients to your liking. 

Fill bell peppers with pork mixture.  Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top.  Brush olive oil all over the bell peppers and the top to prevent it from shriveling up.   
Place bell peppers in a baking tray and bake, uncovered for about 20  minutes in the preheated oven.  During the baking process,brush oil on the bell peppers to keep it from being dried. Turn the oven to Broil and broil it on high for a few minutes or until the top is a little bit golden brown. Serve hot.

Enjoy !

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Vegetable Chana Dal Recipe

Vegetable Chana Dal Recipe Recipe
Turai chana dal is a dish that Baji, my husband Lulu's late grandmother, would make for the family. It's a healthy dish made of ridged gourd vegetable and lentils.
The ridged gourd vegetable, also known as turai or beerakaya, has the shape of an elongated starfruit squash. You can find it at any Indian grocery stores. This time, I made my own interpretation of her dish using a similar looking Vietnamese vegetable called mướp, which is a loofah gourd. Like the ridged gourd, mướp also belongs to the squash family. I've made this recipe with other vegetables such as zucchini and opo squash (trái bàu in Vietnamese) before and it’s come out well because once cooked, the texture of all these vegetables is quite similar. The flesh is soft and tender with a mild, natural sweetness.
No matter which vegetable you end up using, this dish will make a great veggie main course for your next meal.

Ingredients

Yields: 6 servings
1 large loofah gourd (or ridged gourd)
2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, julienned and cut about 1" long
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste 
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
1 jalapeño green pepper, cut into thirds
10 fresh curry leaves, torn in half
½ cup cooked chana dal
¼ cup urad dal
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried mango powder (see tips)

Preparation

Trim and peel the loofah gourd. Slice it in half, lengthwise and cut into 1"-chunk, horizontally.
In a deep pan, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, the julienned ginger, green chile peppers and red chili powder. Once the mixture is fragrant, add both lentils (chana dal and urad dal). Cook for about 3-4 minutes over high heat. Add loofah gourd, the curry leaves and garam masala. Stir well. Add ¼ cup of water (up to ½ cup). Cook for about 3-4 minutes, on high heat. Cover with a lid, so the water doesn't evaporate too fast (keep an eye on the level of moisture so the dish doesn't burn). Lower to a gentle simmer for 8 minutes. Season with salt. Once the water evaporates completely, check the softness of the dal and make sure the vegetable is very tender (it should look a little translucent). Add more water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked. Add cilantro, ground coriander and finish with mango powder. Stir well. Cover until you're ready to serve.
Serve warm with basmati rice.
Bon appétit!

Tips

If you've never heard of ridged gourd (turai in Urdu) before, you've probably heard of loofah, like the exfoliating sponge. If you decide to cook the dish with turai, make sure to peel the tough skin and ridges and cut the soft inside lengthwise.
Whether you buy loofah or opo squash, these vegetables usually don’t keep for more than 2-3 days. So use them quickly, otherwise they turn a little bitter. For a sweet and non-bitter taste, pick young-looking thin, long squash. If the skin looks wrinkled and drooping, pass; chances are there won't be much flesh inside.
In Vietnamese cuisine, you will often see mướp cooked in canh ("soup" in Vietnamese).
For an acidic and tart taste, dried mango powder (also known as amchur) is added to the lentils. Amchur is made of the finely ground flesh of sun-dried green mangoes. It's an important step toward the end of cooking. You can find the beige-colored powder at any Indian store. If you don't have any, you could replace it with 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice. It adds a unique sour flavor to the dish.
I usually pre-cook chana dal (urad dal cooks much faster). Just soak chana dal for about 30 minutes and use a pressure cooker for a faster cooking time. 
You can find fresh curry leaves in any Indian grocery stores.

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Vegetarian Fish Sauce (Nuoc Cham Chay)


After making the Japanese vegan soy sauce concentrate from Elizabeth Andoh’s new Kansha cookbook, I tried using it to concoct a vegetarian version of the basic Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce. Right off the bat, I realized that I could just dilute the vegan soy concentrate to make a vegetarian fish sauce. It was dull tasting, like the bottled veggie nuoc mam that I discussed a while back.

I had to doctor up the soy concentrate to best utilize its umami-ness without letting its soy sauce flavor become too pronounced. Given that, I aimed for a fish sauce-less alternative to nuoc cham, the ubiquitous dipping sauce served with rice paper rolls (goi cuon), bun rice noodle bowls, etc.

What I came up with looked like a dark version of the basic nuoc cham dipping sauce but wasn’t as punchy. That is just fine because Vietnamese vegetarian food has a light flavor profile. I’ve had similar dipping sauces that were much lighter in flavor and color.

To test the vegetarian fish sauce dipping sauce out, I dipped a few raw herb leaves into it and tasted. It was quite serviceable. Then I tried out the sauce on my skeptical husband, Rory.
We had an impromptu lunch of bun rice noodle bowls and I served the sauce. It worked well, Rory said, and then he shot some regular fish sauce into this noodle bowl. It didn’t quite taste right – mixing the nuoc mam with the soy sauce concentrate.

The lesson there is that you’re better off adding more of the soy concentrate to the dipping sauce and creating something dark in color. I’m not about to turn into a vegetarian, but Elizabeth’s Japanese soy concentrate has certainly broadened my culinary vista. The recipe below is for you to experiment with.

Vegetarian Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce - Nuoc Cham Chay

The reason why this recipe yields a small quantity is because if you make a smaller amount first, you can tinker with it easier. When you’re satisfied with your ‘formula,’ triple or quadruple the sauce to make enough for a meal.

Makes 1/4 cup

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice or unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • About 2 teaspoons Japanese vegan soy concentrate
  • 1/2 Thai chile, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice, sugar, water, and soy concentrate. Taste and adjust the flavor for a balance of tart sweet and savory. Don’t expect huge flavors, but rather a pleasant finish.

After you are satisfied, add the chile. Set the sauce aside for about 10 minutes to allow the chile to add its spice note. Then serve. 
 
Try this recipe out and let me know your tweaks!

Source: vietworldkitchen.com

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