Monday, April 14, 2014

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà ri Gà)

Chicken curry is the traditional dish that most serve in very special events. In the South of Vietnam, this dish has a little sweeter and heavier taste than others because a heavy volume of coconut milk is added. Different kinds of potatoes can be used for this dish. Some recipes bake or fry the potatoes; some others just cook potatoes with broth. All the spices are typical Southeast Asian from India, Thailand, or China. In Vietnam, the curry powder to use for this dish is "Cà ri Ấn Độ", but I am using the combination of both curry powder from India and red curry paste from Thailand because I love the taste and the color when adding the red curry paste to the broth. The desire for authenticity is always behind most of my Vietnamese recipes with only concessions for the Westerners’ preferences and the healthy purpose--I never use the MSG (monosodium glutamate) and less of the fish sauce as the main seasoning for Vietnamese food  just as soy sauce is for Chinese food. In my not so humble, subjective opinion, Vietnamese Chicken curry should be at least as popular, if not more, as Thai or Indian curry.

2 lbs chicken thighs, bone in, skinless
Spice paste:
1 large shallot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs lemongrass chopped  very fine
2 tbs curry powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Other ingredients:
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
1 small white onion, thickly sliced
1 kaffir lime leaf or bay leaf
1 stalk of lemongrass, lightly crushed
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
3 cups chicken broth
2 dried red hot chilies

More salt and fish sauce to taste
1/2 cup oil

Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro

Cut the chicken thighs into big chunks.

Mix all the spice ingredients in a large container. Add chicken, cover, and marinate for a few hours – it is best when marinated overnight.

In a large sauce pan, heat oil until hot. Fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove from pan.

Wipe off some spice paste from the chicken and reserve the spice paste
In a sauce pan, heat oil until hot; Fry all the chicken until brown.

Add white onions, cook, and stir until softened. Add the reserve spice paste and red curry paste into the sauce pan.

 Mix well with chicken. Add chicken broth, the crushed lemongrass, the carrots and the kaffir leaf. Bring to boil (skim off some residue if any rises up on the surface).

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add  potatoes and continue cooking on medium heat for another 15 minutes.

Add coconut milk and simmer further for 10 minutes. Season with fish sauce and salt, if needed.

Sprinkle green onions and cilantro over it. Remove and discard the lemongrass. Serve with a crusty French baguette or plain rice.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easy Apple-Pear Bread

This bread is much easier than its presentation. With basic sweet dough bread, the fillings are any fresh fruit on hand. It is a bread that not only just tastes good but also makes a good welcome gift to new neighbors, as well.

Basic sweet dough:
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 stick margarine or butter
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbs melted butter or margarine
1 pear and 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbs flour
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
For icing:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp milk

Place the basic sweet dough ingredients in bread machine pan. Select dough setting and press start. When dough has risen long enough, remove dough and place onto a lightly floured countertop

Butter a jelly roll pan or two pie tins and set aside

de.Using a rolling pin, roll out dough into a large 20” x 12” rectangle or two 10” x 12” rectangles.

Brush dough with melted butter. Then add apples and pears. Sprinkle with flour. Continue adding raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

Starting with the long edge, carefully roll up dough. Pinch edges and end to seal. Place dough seam-side down on prepared pan.

 Shape dough into a round or crescent shape by pulling the two ends slightly together.

Cover and let rise until double in size (about 40 to 50 minutes depending on the temperature of the room).
Preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar and milk to make icing. Drizzle icing on top of the bread when bread is completely cool.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mock Pork Skin (Bì Chay)

I have no idea where the name, Bi Chay, comes from, but Bì means "skin". There are many Vietnamese dishes related to this recipe, such as Bún bì chay, Bánh mì bì, Bì cuốn chay, and Cơm tấm bì. If not a vegetarian, pork skin and pork meat are the main ingredients for this same named recipe. I will make this dish for vegetarians because it is much healthier. When my mother was young, she was a chef for the Quang Minh Temple in Chicago. At every Buddhist celebration, this dish was a hit. My mom told me, “Serving this dish to and pleasing a big crowd is easy because people have choices.” I used to help her cut carrots, jicama, or deep-fry the cellophane noodles, but for the final stage, she was the only person to finish the preparation. For many years now, I make this dish to remind me of the wonderful time that my mom and I had at the Quang Minh Temple.

8 oz firm tofu, drained
1 small jacama, julienned
2 carrots, julienned
2 potatoes, shredded
1 oz cellophane noodles
2 oz fresh king oyster and button mushrooms, julienned
1 oz rice powder (Thính)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, sliced
1 cup of peanut oil
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Heat oil and fry the shallots until crispy. Remove the crispy shallots.
Slice tofu and deep-fry in the shallots oil until golden. Julienne the tofu.

Deep-fry the cellophane noodles in the same oil in small portions, until crispy. Set aside.

Deep-fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove.

In a sauté pan, add 2 tbs oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in jicama, mushrooms, and carrots.

Season with soy sauce, salt, black pepper, and sugar. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted.

Remove and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add tofu, potatoes, rice powder, crispy shallots, and crispy cellophane noodles to the jicama-carrots. Gently mix them well. The cellophane noodles still have their crunchiness after mixing together. Season again with salt, if needed. Now the Bì Chay is ready to serve.

Bì cuốn chay
Bún bì chay

Hawaiian Sweet Bread

Hawaiian sweet bread has a unique tropical taste. It includes pineapple juice and coconut oil to replace some butter. The King Hawaiian rolls sold in the supermarket cannot compare the taste of this one. The recipes are numerous, but mine is simple using a bread machine to assist. The dough a little soft, but do not use any flour to shape the dough. This recipe is manageable and makes a lovely light bread for eating alone or serving with dinner.

6 oz pineapple juice
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
Zest of one lemon
3 cups bread flour
2 tsp active dry yeast

Baking 13” x 9” pan
Egg wash

Place all the ingredients into the bread pan in the order listed above. Select the dough setting and press start. When the dough has risen long enough, the machine will make a. Remove dough and let dough rest in a bowl for 5 minutes.
Butter a 13” x 9” pan . Divide dough into 12 portions.

Dust your hands lightly with flour and roll each portion into a roughly shaped ball. Place each ball into the prepared pan. 

Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise until double in size (a5 minutes). Beat an egg with a little water.

Use a pastry brush to brush egg wash on the top of rolls.

Preheat oven to 350° and bake roll for 20 minutes. Remove rolls from the oven and cover with a kitchen towel to cool off (this will keep dough soft when cooling).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fish Fillets with Mango Sauce

The Vietnamese cuisine has been greatly influenced by major factors from neighbors such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and China. However, when cooking with tropical fruit, such as pineapple or mango, the names of prepared dishes always come up as being either Mexican or Thai. Most Vietnamese recipes are unique and should be recognized as being Vietnamese. I hope my recipe here will eventually earn respect and something special to be shown off as part of the Vietnamese cuisine.

Two 6 oz salmon fillets
2 tbs olive oil 
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs soy sauce
Pepper to taste (1/4 tsp)
Freshly chopped cilantro
Mango sauce ingredients:
1 large ripe mango
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp honey
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°.
In a shallow oven-proof dish, place a fish fillet and drizzle with oil, lemon juice, and sprinkle with cilantro. Season with soy sauce and pepper.

Cover fish with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

To make mango sauce:
Peel and dice mango. Place the diced mango in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add lemon juice and hot sauce. In a small sauce pan, heat oil and cook the onions and garlic until fragrant. Pour the mango into pan and simmer. Season the mango sauce with honey and salt. More lemon juice or sugar can be added to make a more sweet and sour taste.

Remove foil from the dish and pour the mango sauce over fish. Garnish more with chopped cilantro.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chicken Stew in Tomato Sauce

This recipe is like the famous Italian Osso Buco casserole made with veal, tomatoes, and white wine. I love the sauce, and I like to make the casserole with chicken instead. The cooking time for chicken will be shorter, and this recipe will be a winner because it makes an easy, healthy meal.

2 chicken breasts, cut into 4 pieces
2 large tomatoes
1 small white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the topping:
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and slip off the skin and then chop both tomatoes into small pieces.
In a sauce pan with lid, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry chicken until brown. Remove.

 Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook until softened (about 5 minutes).

Return chicken into the pan and pour in the wine.

Let simmer to reduce a little before adding the tomatoes and tomato paste.

Season with salt and pepper.

 Cover the pan and lower the heat. Cook gently for about 50 minutes. Remove the lid and let sauce reduce.

Before serving, make the topping. Mix all the topping ingredients, and then sprinkle over the chicken. with bread or mashed potatoes.