Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Vegetarian Fish Sauce

When my mom still volunteered her time to prepare vegetarian dishes at the Quang Minh Temple in Chicago, she used to make this sauce with fresh pineapple and red delicious apples. Her sauce was always a big hit when it was served. I know some other cooks use apple juice. However, apple juice makes sense to me even though my mom’s sauce is very good. I combine the two method to create this sauce and am very happy with the result. Here it is.

1/2 fresh pineapple, cut up
1 gallon of apple juice
2 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup soy sauce for color
4 oz. rock sugar

Place all the ingredients in a medium pot and bring to boil.


 Turn heat down to simmer and cook further until the apple juice is reduced in half.

Drain through a sieve and pour into a clean glass bottle with lid. Refrigerate to use as a dipping sauce for noodles, egg rolls, etc.


Potato Salad

Potato salad is among the quickest dishes to prepare. Almost every American family has its own potato salad recipe passed down from generation to generation. Some potato salad recipes are warm, and some are cold. Other recipes use oil instead of mayonnaise.  I tried a few potato salads, and the one I’m introducing today is quite simple but delicious nevertheless.

1 lb. red potatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet white onion
1 cup diced celery
1/4 cup total of fresh chopped chives and parsley
Sauce ingredients:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup ranch dressing
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp honey mustard
2 tbs sweet radish

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Wash the potatoes very well if retaining their skins. I like to leave the potato skins on.

Put the potatoes in a pot of water with some salt and bring to boil. Cook potatoes until soft and tender but not mushy (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Let potatoes cool and then cut into cubes.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs and then roughly chop.
Place potatoes, celery, eggs, and chive-parley in a mixing bowl.

 Add the sauce and gently mix them well.

This salad can be made in advance. If doing so, refrigerator a day before. Bring potato salad out of the refrigerator to assume room temperature before serving.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Power Energy Rice Bowl

The Oshawa brown rice diet is very popular in Asian societies.  The treatment of disease by eating brown rice and sesame salt called "methods of care" (Macrobiotics) was launched by the Japanese professor, Sakurazawa Nyoichi, but now, it is commonly known as the Oshawa method. Follow this link to read more on this diet: I have tried it for awhile, and I learned that another combination of red and black rice will contain increased proteins, as well.  The ratio of liquid is the same to cook these other rice types, so I think that combining all these healthy grains in a bowl of rice is a good thing. However, quinoa is another grain that can be added to this mix to make it what I call a Power Energy Rice Bowl. I often make it for breakfast and top it with salted roasted sesame seeds. To make this a healthy way for the body, we have to eat very slowly. One bowl of rice should take about one hour to finish. I called eating this way, "eating meditation". Eating a bowl of this powerful rice is as a method of healing and preventing illness.

1 cup each of brown rice, red rice, black rice, and quinoa
(there are 2 kinds of brown rice- the long grain and short grain. Feel free to add both kinds of this rice into this mix. Place in a mixing bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight plastic container with lid and use as needed. This also can be a good gift for friends who like to eat healthy rice.)

To cook rice:
1 cup of this rice mixture
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

Wash rice well and add all into a rice cooker. Use the brown rice function to cook.


To make salted sesame seeds:
Wash and drain 1/2 cup sesame seeds.

Use a saucepan over medium heat and fry sesame seeds slowly until they make a popping sound.

Reduce the heat to low and constantly stir the seeds to prevent burning at this point. It is ready when the seeds turn golden and become fragrant.

 Place in a mini food processor and pulse a few times.

Place in a bowl. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of salt (your taste). Mix well. Store in a dry place in the airtight container.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Banana-Plum Butter Cookies

Baking cookies are much loved in American tradition. They are an easy way to welcome guests into your home. Having baked cookies for awhile, I can say that it is an easy task for a beginner inexperienced with baking to make a good batch of cookies. It does not matter what kind. All the cookies are welcome to everyone of any age. Whipping up a quick snack for family and friends is as easy as a basketful of cookies, and you will be a star!!

Dry ingredients:
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Wet ingredients;
2 eggs
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup banana-plum butter*
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine the dry ingredient in a bowl and set aside.

In a KitchenAid stand mixer with a beater, beat sugar, butter, vegetable shortening, and banana-plum butter until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and continue beating. Add vanilla. Add flour to the butter mixture and beat them well until the batter is well blended.

Because the batter is a little wet, use the smallest size ice cream scoop to scoop out the batter onto a baking sheet. Place them an inch apart.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. The cookies will be soft like a small little banana cake. Let cool. Enjoy!

*To make banana butter:
3 very ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup dried plum
Place bananas and plum in a blender and blend until smooth. Remove and refrigerate until needed.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chicken Tagine or Morrocan Chicken Stew

This is a dish from the Northern Africa region or Moroccan. I like the spices in this dish because it includes turmeric, ginger, and garlic, which is considered as very useful medicine in Asia. My recipe is not authentic tagine because I like to use leftover roasted chicken, but it does not compromise the dish. The tagine sauce is processed the same way as making Tagine except that the chicken will be placed into the sauce just to heat it through. This way of cooking will save quite a lot of time on a busy day. Some tagine recipes include dried apricots, adding sweetness to this dish. Others use some Garam Marsala and Indian spice. I created this recipe for my own taste based on the cooking tagine and the availability of the spices which I have in my kitchen, and it turns out delicious . I am very happy with the results. So here it is.

12 oz roasted chicken, shredded
Tagine sauce:
2 tbs canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 knob fresh ginger, minced (about 2 tsp) 
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
Pinch of saffron

One 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes, drained
1 cup green olives, sliced
1 white onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Garnish with 1/2 cup cilantro 

In a medium heavy pot, heat oil until simmering. Add onion, garlic, ginger, paprika, turmeric, cumin, and ground cinnamon with 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Stir and cook for a couple minutes or until onion is softened and the spices are fragrant.

Stir in flour and cook for 1 more minute.

 Slowly whisk in broth, scrape out any brown bits, and also smooth out any lumps. Add tomatoes, olives, saffron and parsley and bring to boil.

Turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. Add chicken and heat it through.

Add  cilantro. Serve with rice.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hà Nội Noodle Soup --Bún Thang

This noodle soup is very popular in northern Vietnam. Therefore, it translates as Hanoi noodles soup, but I do not understand why the Northerners called this noodle soup, “Thang”. My family is originally from the North, so since childhood I have been enjoying this dish by the skillful hands of my mother. According the tale of this dish from my Mother, every New Year with all the food available during Tet’s festivities, such as boiled pork, chicken, Vietnamese sausage (cha lua) and eggs, this dish was also created as a way to consume leftover foods. Although it does not seem very appealing, in reality, this noodle dish is delicious and is very easy to prepare. This dish has a slightly sweet broth and a wonderful fragrance from the crispy fried shallots, and there are not many spices like bun bo or pho. My mom always has a broth made with pork bones or chicken bones depending upon which is left after the meats are used to make other dishes for the New Year, and her advice for making good soup is always start with a tasty broth.  In short, to create this popular noodle dish, every kitchen should have an already made delicious broth, then this dish can be served to guests without a bit of effort. For me, every time I remember her dish and advice, or Tet facilities in Vietnam, I make this dish. I also have an even simpler recipe for preparing this soup and hope to contribute more to the Vietnam cuisine with this delicious and  healthy dish.

10 cups good homemade broth
1/3 cup dry shrimp
2 egg, lightly beaten
1 chicken breast 
Seasoning ingredients:
Fish sauce and sugar
3 oz. Vietnamese sausage, homemade or store-bought
1/2 lb. rice noodles or 2oz for each person

Garnish with:
A Vietnamese salad plate (dia rau song)
Shrimp paste (optional)
Lime wedges, and hot chili
Fresh mints, polygamum,(rau ram) cilantro, and crispy fried shallots* 
White onions and green onions, thinly sliced

Bring broth to boil and add dried shrimp. Bring back to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Season the broth with fish sauce and sugar. Adjust according to your taste.
In another small pot, bring about 2 cups of water to boil. Add chicken breast and bring back to boil.

Skim off the scum that rises up to the surface. Cook for 5 minutes. Cover and turn the heat off.
While the broth and chicken are cooking, use another pot of water to cook the rice noodles (just follow the instructions from the package). It should take from 5 to 7 minutes. Drain.
In a skillet, add 1 tbs of oil and pour the beaten egg to make a thin omelet. Let cool.

When the chicken and egg are cool enough to handle, cut them into strips similar to sausages.

Place noodles in a soup bowl. Divide the meat, egg, and sausages equally into each bowl.

Ladle the broth on top with some cooked dried shrimp, if desired. Sprinkle with white onions, crispy shallots, and green onions. Serve dia rau song on the side with herbs. 

*Making crispy fried shallots:
In a sauce pan, add 1/4 cup peanut oil. Add about 5 sliced shallots and fry on low heat until crispy. Drain and save the fragrant oil for other dishes.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sweet Mango Jelly Pudding

This mango pudding recipe is unforgettable. It is very attractive to serve at a party, big or small. I like to make this pudding during the hot summer, and also I can get very good mangoes from the local Vietnamese store.


4 ripe mangoes
3 tsp of powdered gelatin or agar powder
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (your taste)

Peel mangoes and remove flesh from mangoes. Discard the seeds.

Place coconut milk and flesh from mangoes into the blender to puree.

Add water into a pot with sugar and gelatin. Whisk well and bring to boil.

Simmer until sugar and gelatin dissolve. Remove from heat and pour into coconut milk-mango flesh mixture. Mix to combine.

Ladle the mixture into a serving cup and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve cold.