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Friday, April 18, 2014

Kem Flan (Crème Caramel)

It has been flan fever in my kitchen since I got this new recipe. Thanks to Ha V who visited me recently.  After a big lunch, I served her my flan. She then shared a favorite of hers and said that everyone who's ever had it, loved it; she was not over-exaggerating. I like my original flan recipe but this one is even better.  The texture is silky smooth.  Even my girls agreed.  They were asking for more.  Though I did make some minor changes to the recipe for my own taste,  I am sure it wouldn't have made a difference.  

Flan is served cold and back in the old days - at least in Pleiku where I grew up - I recalled that flan was served with shaved ice to keep it cold.  Flan is delicate and decadent; it's usually served as a small and round cut.  I like to garnish flan with fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to not only balance the flavor and sweetness of the caramel sauce, but also to bring out its beauty.
make 7-8 flans

400 ml Milk (1 3/4 cups)
300 ml Heavy Whipping Creme (1 1/4 cups)
5 Egg Yolks
1 whole Egg
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Powder
6 tablespoons Sugar

For Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup Sugar

Turn oven to 350 degree.  Make a water bath for flan by placing a baking tray in the middle rack of the oven and add hot water to 1/3 of the tray.  
Making Caramel Sauce

Bring a sauce pan on high heat.  When the pan is hot, add sugar and let it melt first without stirring. Stirring can cause the sugar to form clumps.  When sugar is melting and turning light brown, stir gently until sugar turns into liquid and brown.

Immediately, spoon a couple teaspoons of caramel sauce into each ramekin.  Set aside.

Preparing Eggs

In a bowl, add eggs and gently mix until it's well blended.  Set aside.
Preparing Milk Mixture

In a pot combine milk, heavy whipping cream and sugar and cook until the milk mixture is warm and sugar is dissolved.

Turn off heat and let it cool down.  You might want to transfer it to another bowl to speed up the cooling process.  
Preparing Flan Mixture

Once the milk mixture is cooled down, add eggs and vanilla powder. Gently mix until blended.

Use a strainer to strain the mixture to remove any egg shell or tiny pieces of egg white.

Pour mixture into ramekins.

Baking Flan

Arrange the ramekins in the water bath.  Place a piece of foil loosely on top of the flan tray to prevent flan from burning.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, depends on your oven and the size of the ramekin.  You can test the flan for doneness with a cake tester or a toothpick.  Just stick it into the center of the flan  If it comes out clean, it's done.  Remove from the water bath and let them cool down.


Keep flans cold in the fridge until serving  When ready to eat, use a knife to loosen the edge by going around the ramekin before flipping it onto a plate.
Serve by it self or with a scoop of shaved ice placed on top of the flan.

As an extra, you can also add a half teaspoon of fresh coffee or espresso onto the flan for a more complex flavor.  

Bon Appeite!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bánh Bột Lọc Trần (Shrimp and Pork Tapioca Dumplings)

It's Sunday night and I am sandwiched on the couch by my two girls. It's nothing unusual as they often fight to sit or lie next to their mommy every night. It's hard to blog while they are still awake but by the time they fall asleep, I'm tired too :-). So to keep myself alert to blog, I usually need a glass of freshly squeezed, iced cold orange juice made by my husband. Thanks darling!

I was asking my Facebook page readers what I should blog next among the three choices: Roasted Pork (Thịt Heo Quay), Noodle (Bún) or Shrimp and Pork Dumpling (Bánh Bột Lộc Trần). As you may have guessed, the majority voted for Shrimp and Pork Dumpling (Bánh Bột Lọc Trần).  Don't worry...these other two recipes will be next on the list. Also I still owe someone a chè bánh lọt (sweet jelly drink) post and I promise I will get to that when the weather is a little warmer.

Bánh Bột Lọc is one of my favorite Vietnamaese snacks.  I can never forget the tasty, irresistible Bánh Bột Lọc made by this one lady who strolled around our neighborhood in Pleiku every afternoon with a basket of Bánh Bột Lọc on the side of her arm .   Her Bánh Bột Lọc was bite-size - maybe about the size of a teaspoon - but the filling was bursting with wonderful flavors.  It's been many years and  not only do I remember her food but also her face with the curly short hair. See what food can do to you? LOL.

I'm salivating just reminiscing of her special Bánh Bột Lọc.
RECIPE: Bánh Bột Lọc Trần


For the Dough

1 bag 14oz (400g) Tapioca Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 and 1/4 cups Boiling Water

For the Filling

1 pound shrimp (71/90), shelled on
1 lb Pork Shoulder
1 Shallot (củ hành khô), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Spring Onion (Hành Lá), finely chopped, optional
2  tablespoons  Oil
3 tablespoons Brown Sugar or White Sugar
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon Black Pepper

For Scallion Oil
3-4 Spring Onion, finely chopped
2 Shallots, finely chopped
a pinch of Salt

For Dipping Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Warm Water
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
1 clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1 Red Chili Pepper, finely chopped

Preparing Filling

Heat oil sugar and garlic in a pan at medium high heat until sugar melts and turns golden.

Add the remaining ingredients and saute at medium low heat  for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

When the sauce becomes thick and coats the pork and shrimp and the color changes to brown, remove it from heat.  The meat should taste sweet and salty.

Preparing Scallion Oil 

Heat a tablespoon of oil and slices of shallot in a pan over medium-low. When shallot starts to turn a little golden , turn off the heat and stir regularly until shallot turns golden brown. Add spring onion and salt. Mix well. Set it aside.

Preparing Dipping Fish Sauce

In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, sugar and warm water. Mix well until sugar dissolved. Add lime juice, garlic and chili pepper. 
Preparing Dough

Empty a bag of flour in a mixing bowl. Add salt and mix well.

Add oil and mix well.  Pour boiling water over the flour (be sure the water is boiling) and stir it up.

Kneed it with your palms until dough doesn't stick to the bowl or your hands. Dough should be warm and soft. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Put it in a Ziploc bag to keep it from drying out.
Molding Bánh Bột Lọc

When using the dough, take one dough out of the bag at a time and kneed it with your hands again to get it soft evenly.
Use your palms to roll out the dough into a long string and cut into small segments about the size of a walnut.

Store them in a bag to prevent from drying.

Use your thumbs and index fingers to press it into a flat circle or you can use a dough roller.

To make perfect circles, I used circle cookie cutter as you've seen in the picture. I bought a set of 3 cookie cutters at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $4.

Be sure not to roll out the dough too thin to prevent it bursting when you boil it.
Add some meat on the middle of the circle dough. Fold dough together to make a ball. Press the edge together to close it up. Repeat this step until you have used up your dough and filling.

Raw Bánh Bột Lọc can be stored in freezer and used immediately without thawing.
Cooking Bánh Bột Lọc

Set aside a large bowl of cold or ice water.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add raw dumplings.  When the water is boiling again, lower the heat down to medium low. High heat could cause dumplings to burst.
When dumplings are floating, wait for a few minutes until dumplings are translucent and cooked before removing them with a strainer and pour them into a bowl of cold or ice water.

Let them cool down for about 30 seconds, then scoop them up with a strainer and place the into an oil scallion pan.


Place Bánh Bột Lọc on a plate. Sprinkle some fried shallots on top if preferred. Drizzle fish sauce over and enjoy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thịt Heo Xiên Nướng (Grilled Pork Skewer)

March is already here! We're going into the third month of 2014 already?!  Time sure waits for no one. For the gardeners like my mother-in-law, this is when she prepares her garden with fresh, fertile soil and begins planting her herbs and vegetables. For the lawn enthusiasts such as my husband, this is when he starts detaching and aerating the lawn. But forget all that because we are foodies. So, let's get going with a recipe that will last you from early Spring to early Fall or anytime of the year really: Thịt Heo Xiên Nướng (Grilled Pork Kabob)

It was last August when I first made this for my daughter's 6th birthday and it was a big hit.   The meat was tender, succulent, and tasty.  The secret to making the meat tender is really an Asian secret - literally. You'll find this in the Asian pear which contains enzymes that act as meat tenderizers.  I also added caramelized sugar into the marinade to increase the browning and boost the flavor.  Sometimes, I toss in  finely chopped lemongrass just because I love the aroma.  Sesame seeds would be another wonderful ingredient to use - my husband thinks this really defines the taste. 

I love to enjoy Thịt Heo Xiên Nướng as an appetizer or with sticky rice. For the guys, it's great beer food. My girls love to grill it on their cute little piglet grill that I got for them at Cost Plus World Market.

Once this Thịt Heo Xiên Nướng is on the grill, it's hard to resist the wonderful aroma and smoked flavorings! If you are using coal briquettes to grill, be sure that they are bright orange to get the best result.
RECIPE: Grilled Pork Skewer

For the Pork
2 pounds Pork Shoulder, sliced
2 Shallots, finely chopped
4 Spring Onions, white part only, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1/2 small Asian Pear

 For the Caramel
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water

Making Caramel

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Stir a few times and allow to simmer until sauce turns deep brown.  Bring the saucepan to the sink and carefully add 1/4 cup of hot water.  Make sure to hold the pot away from you to prevent the hot caramel from splattering on you. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Set aside.

Preparing Asian Pear

Pureeing Asian pear and set aside.

Preparing Meat

Slice meat into thin slices. Set aside.
Marinating Meat

In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients with half of the caramel sauce.  Mix well.  You might want to taste test the sauce and adjust the ingredients to your liking.  Add pork and mix well.

Marinate the meat overnight in the refrigerator. 
Skewing the Meat

Skew the pork onto bamboo sticks that have been soaked in water for about 30 minutes. You can also use the meat cage to load up the meat.  Now, they are ready to grill.


Serve Thịt Heo Xiên Nướng as an appetizer or with sticky rice.

Ăn Ngon!