Friday, April 29, 2016

Vietnamese Mango Shrimp Salad

In Asian cuisines, the salad is a combination of sweet and spicy. Mango salad is very tropical and a popular snack sold on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand or Saigon, Vietnam. With many salads that I grew up with and loved, Mango salad is one of my favorites. In Vietnam, we use a really green mango, called Soai Tuong, but I seldom see this kind of green mango in Asian groceries in America. However, the other kind of green mango that is often used in Mexican or Donica recipes can be substituted. The Thai mango shrimp salad and the Vietnamese green mango salad share the same dressing. The components of the dressing that are included are the Thai hot chili, garlic, and fish sauce. Some mango recipes use shrimp paste to add the pungent taste in the salad. I am not fond of this paste, so I leave it out. The carrot and red bell pepper is used to create the contrast color for the salad.

½ lb. shrimp (with shell on)
2 tbs dried shrimp, soaked in water and roughly chopped
2 mangoes, peeled and shredded
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced red onions
Dressing ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut water
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Thai chili, sliced

Chopped mints, cilantro, and basil
Crispy shallots
Chopped roasted peanuts

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
To poach shrimp:
In a saucepan, add 1 cup water with a few pieces of lemongrass, sliced onions, 1/4 cup sake or wine, 1 tsp salt, and lemon zest. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer shrimp until the shrimp turn pink or become a C shape. Remove and shell the shrimp.

To make crispy shallots:
Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a saucepan. Peel and slice one large shallot and add to the hot oil. Turn the heat down and fry until crispy (it takes 10 to 15 minutes). Remove the crispy shallot and save the flavored oil for other dishes..

In a small nonstick frying pan, add 1 tsp of the flavored shallot oil. Add the chopped dried shrimp with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1/4 tsp sugar and salt..  Stir-fry for a few minutes; remove from heat.

Assembling the salad:
In a mixing bowl, combine mango, carrot, bell pepper, and red onions; Mix well.

To serve:
Place some of the mango mixture on a serving plate. Layer some of the crispy shallots and dried shrimp with the chopped herbs. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Top with cooked shrimp and peanuts. Serve extra dressing on the side.

Baked Tilapia with Sour Cream & Dill Sauce

Whenever time is limited, this recipe comes to the rescue. Just a few healthy ingredients is all that is necessary and dinner will be served. This recipe is very tolerant. Use any fish that is available to you. Bake in a toaster oven, a NuWave oven, or regular oven.

Two 4 oz. tilapia fillets
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs fresh dill, chopped
1 tbs fresh mint, chopped
2 tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
3 button mushrooms, sliced
 2 tsp avocado oil

2 baking dishes


Combine the sour cream, dill, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and oil. I like to add 1 tsp honey for my taste. Divide the mixture for the two fish and top with mushrooms. Bake in the oven set at 350° for 15 minutes (more or less depending on the make and model of your oven). Enjoy.

Four Spiritual Rules

1. The first rule is: "Anyone whom you meet that is also true is the person you need to see.” This means that no one appears in our lives by accident at all. Everyone around us, with whomever we communicate, represents something – perhaps to teach us something or to help us to improve the current situation.
2. The second rule is: "Whatever happens is exactly what should have happened.” Nothing, absolutely nothing we experience should be different – even the smallest/should happen or the least important thing. Don't do that or if I did that ... otherwise, it would have been different. What has happened is exactly what should happen and must happen to help us learn the lessons to move forward. Any circumstance in life that we face is absolutely perfect, even as it challenges the understanding and our ego.
3. The third rule is: “At every moment, everything starts at the right time.” Everything started at the right time, not earlier or later. When we are ready for it-something new in our life-then it will be there, ready to start.
4 The fourth rule is: "What we have had in the past, is for the past.” This rule is very simple. When something in our lives is over, it means that it is done to help our evolution. That is why, in order to enrich our experience, it’s best that we let go and continue the journey.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sour Cream with Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

Sour cream will make any cake moist and the nutty almond streusel will make this cake a keeper. A hint of cocoa powder and cinnamon will top the chart. Maybe someday, I will make a wedding cake, but for today an easy cake is my favorite.  I am almost down to mastering  with making cake to entertain my family and guests. This recipe is very easy to achieve. As I have mentioned all the time, I am not a baker, but baking a simple cake for friends for in afternoon tea is not hard to do.

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 tbs vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
Streusel topping ingredients:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped almonds*
3 tbs cocoa powder
2 tbs cinnamon

Use some of the oil or butter to grease and flour a 9 inch cake pan, tube pan, Bundt cake pan, or any kind of cake pan that is available to you.

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine the streusel topping ingredients and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift two times. Make a well in the center.

Combine the wet ingredients in a Vitamix or other blender container and blend for 30 seconds.

Pour the wet ingredients mixture into the dry ingredients mixture. Use a spatula to fold them together. Count to 50 and you’re done.

Pour half of the batter into a cake pan and add half of the combined streusel topping ingredients into the batter. Pour the other half of the batter and top with the rest of the streusel topping.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


* Any kind of nut of your choice, such as walnut, pecan etc...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Vegetarian Rice Noodles Soup (Pho)

Traditionally, Vietnamese Pho is made with chicken or beef. It is fair to say that the deep amber broth from the beef or chicken bones with the fragrance of spices infused in the broth makes Pho the best food in international magazines. However, for the vegan world, Pho can be made with similar effects if the broth is carefully made with healthy root vegetables, such as chayote, turnip, squash, daikon, etc... When making soup, the broth is the main point that makes or breaks the recipe. For that, I always prepare my broth with the utmost important step to insure the best outcome of my soup. Throughout my blog, I posted the recipes for making vegetable broth and also meat broth. For quickly made soup, if the broth is available, soup can be prepared in no time. Vegetarianism had been confined mainly to Asian societies, to Buddhist temples, and the devoted Vietnamese-Thai-Chinese population. Vegetarianism has been and essential Buddhist precept for many decades. Now, vegetarianism has become more and more popular to promote healthy eating habits. I am happy to share the vegan Pho recipe that has been my family’s recipe since I was a baby. My mom made vegan pho for the temples of the Buddhist celebrations in her homeland which is Vietnam, and, later on, when she resided in America. My mom now is 88 years old and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I do not think she remembers all of her good times. Therefore, I make vegan pho every week to remember the good time when mom was in the Quang Minh Temple’s kitchen preparing vegan pho for thousands of Buddha’s followers.

For the vegetables broth:
1 piece of kombu
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
2 carrots peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 daikon, peeled and cut into chunks
1 chayote, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
1 piece Kopacha pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 Asian squash peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 jicama, peeled and cut
1 Fuji apple, cut
1 piece of white cabbage
A few dried shitake mushrooms
2 oz. rock sugar and salt to taste

To make the broth:
Toss everything except the salt into an 8 quart pot filled with water to just cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes to 1 hour. Turn of the heat and let the vegetables steep in the broth until cool off. Strain the stock over a large container or bowl and season with salt. Now these are the basics of the vegetables broth. For the vegan Pho, I use 12 cups of the broth and transfer the remaining broth into containers to freeze for future use.

To make the Pho broth:
1 onion
1 about 5 inch of fresh ginger, unpeeled
5 shallots, unpeeled
Spice bag ingredients
5 Star Anise
5 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon, 2 inch length
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 cadamom seeds three

1 lbs fresh or dried rice noodles
One 8 oz. tofu, cut into chunks and fried
3 dried bean curd sticks, soaked in water for 1 hour and fried
1 leek, the white part, thinly sliced
1/2 lbs of combination of fresh mushrooms:
Oyster, king oyster, porcini, etc., your choice
½ lb. bean sprouts
Lemon, Thai chili, fresh herbs, basil, mint, and cilantro

White the broth is cooking, place ginger, shallots and onion in a baking dish and bake in oven set to 350° for 30 minutes or until they are charred but not cooked. Remove and peeled off the burnt skin and set aside.

In a frying pan, dry fry the spice bag ingredients until fragrant about 2 to 3 minutes. Place into a tea bag or cheese cloth.

In a stock pot, add about 12 cups of vegetable broth and bring to boil. Add the charred onion, shallots  ginger, and spice bag ingredients (I like to add a handful of green onions and cilantro, but you can skip it). Bring the stock to gentle boil and let it cook for 45 minutes. Remove everything and now the Pho is ready.

While the Pho is cooking, place a sauté pan over high heat with 2 tbs oil. Add leek. Stir and cook until fragrant.

Stir in fried tofu, and all mushrooms. Sauté and season with soy sauce, salt, sugar, and black pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender.
To Serve:
Bring a pot of water to boil. Place a handful of noodles in a sieve with a handle and lower into the boiling water. If using fresh noodles, it takes a few seconds. Remove the sieve and shake a little to drain off some of the water. For each serving, you have to do this part each time.

Place cooked noodles into bottom of a serving bowl. Top with tofu, bean curd stick, and some mushrooms. Ladle a generous amount of boiling broth over. Sprinkle with chopped green onion and cilantro. Serve with bean sprouts, lime and fresh herbs.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables

I love stir-fried noodles because it becomes a one pot meal. The vegetables cook quickly and so do the noodles. Growing up in a family with deep roots of Buddhist tradition, every month our family stays away from consuming meat from 4 to 8 days. Although the Buddha did not make a prohibition against eating meat, there were certain conditions that pertain to eating meat. According to the Vinaya, meat-or any kind of food- could be eaten so long as the monk or us did not know that the food has been especially killed for the purpose of feeding the Sangha. Anyway, these philosophies are for Buddhists followers. However, I am almost vegan myself and love vegetables more than meats. The trend now for healthy eating habits is in line with Buddhism; A recipe for cleaning the mind is also the recipe that I will create today is a simple vegan noodles dish.

½ lb. fresh or dried rice noodles
4 oz. tofu, cut into cubes and deep-fried
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 white onion, sliced
3 tbs peanut or canola oil
1 cup total of sweet red, yellow and green peppers, julienned
1/2 cup total julienned carrots and daikon
2 button mushrooms, sliced
3 baby bok choy, cut up
A handful of bean sprouts
Stir-fry sauce ingredients:
1 tbs mushroom sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Garnish with chopped chives , roasted peanuts, and chopped cilantro

Soak fresh rice noodles in warm water for 15 minutes (a longer soaking time is required for dried rice noodles – perhaps 1 hour). Drain well.
Prepare the vegetables and set next to the cooktop.
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
Heat 2 tbs oil. Then stir-fry the garlic and onion until fragrant.

Add the vegetables starting with the julienned carrots and daikon (cook for 1 minute).

 Then add mushrooms.

At this point, I like to add a pinch of salt. Then add the rest of the vegetables and fried tofu. Stir in half of the sauce. Make a quick stir and remove from the wok.

Add 1 tbs oil into a wok and add noodles. Stir and cook.

 Then add the other half of the sauce.

Cook for 1 minute and return the vegetables to the wok. Mix well.

 Adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce or salt to your taste. Add chopped chives.

 Place on a serving plate and sprinkle with roasted peanuts and chopped cilantro.


Indian Curry with Eggplant and Sweet Potato

Eggplant is my favorite vegetable. For vegetarians, the combination of eggplant and sweet potato is best to create a healthy and delicious dish. I love Indian curry more than any other Asian curry because it has a depth of flavor with a lot of spices other than just curry powder. Today, I will introduce one of my favorite Indian dishes. I include the tomato-onion gravy as one of the sauces that should always be kept on hand if the Indian cuisine is the choice of food. Making this sauce is very easy, and, after making that, the rest of Indian cooking will prevail.

Tomato-onion gravy ingredients:
1/4 cup total consisting of equal amounts of chili powder. turmeric, cumin, and coriander
2 tbs total consisting of equal amounts of ginger and garlic paste
1 lb. tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. white onions, chopped
1/4 cup oil
Salt to taste
1 cup water
Eggplant curry ingredients:
1 large eggplant
1 sweet potato or any potato of your choice
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp garlic
1 bay leaf
2 tbs oil
2 cups gravy
1 can of coconut milk (about 14.5 oz.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with chopped cilantro and mints

To make the gravy:
In a sauté pan, add oil. Heat until hot. Stir in the mixture of chili powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and ginger garlic paste. Stir and cook until fragrant.

 Stir in tomatoes and onions. Make a quick stir; Cover and cook for 1 hour.

 You also can cook the gravy in a slow cooker on the low setting for 3 to 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper.

For the eggplant curry:
Wash and cut eggplant into bite-size pieces (I like to soak eggplant in a bowl of water and lemon). This method will make the eggplant less bitter. Drain.

Peel and cut the sweet potato. You can steam the sweet potato or cook it in a microwave. I have a NuWave oven, so I bake my potato until cooked.

In a pot, add oil and sauté the curry powder, mustard, and fennel seeds until fragrant. Add ginger and garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

Add eggplant and stir. Cook eggplant until almost soft and tender.

 Add 2 cups gravy and bring to boil.

 Add cooked sweet potatoes and coconut milk.

Bring it back to boil and season with salt and pepper. Now it ready to serve with rice but do not forget the cilantro and mints.