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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gỏi Mít, Ngó Sen trộn Chân Gà và Chả Lụa (Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad with Chicken Feet and Vietnamese Ham)

Young jackfruit and lotus roots salad is a popular Vietnamese salad. These two main ingredients are usually tossed with blanched shrimps and boiled pork to add protein to the dish but if you like exotic food, chicken feet is the way to go. 

Chicken feet is surely an acquired taste and it doesn't seem all that appetizing but I am fond of its texture, especially when you cook it with the right ingredients. The chicken feet's skin is delicate and soft. It's tendons appears gelatinous and yet chewy when steamed. It can be crunchy and chewy when prepared the right way. Both of my daughters love to chow down this delicatessen especially when it steamed in a sauce flavored with a sweet fermented black bean sauce as served during dim sum.

But for now I will introduce an authentic Vietnamese salad using chicken feet: young jackfruit and lotus root salad tossed with chicken feet and Vietnamese ham. It will make a great appetizer as it is served as is or with roasted sesame rice crackers. I am sure my husband will enjoy this dish while watching the Super Bowl.
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RECIPE: Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad

2 packs Boneless Chicken Feet 
5 celery stalks
2 cans (20 oz each) Young Jackfruit
1 large jar (24oz)  Lotus Roots
1/2 roll Vietnamese Ham (chả lụa)
1/2 onion, cut in half
1 bag Laab Namtok Seasoning Mix
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cup Fish Sauce
2-3 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 Onions
Vinegar, for pickled onion and pickled lotus root
1 tablespoon White Roasted Sesame Seeds
1 bunch Mint Leaves, finely chopped
1 bunch Vietnamese Coriander (rau răm), finely chopped
Roasted Sesame Crackers 

Preparing Boneless Chicken Feet

Bring a pot of water with half of an onion and 1 celery stalk cut into 1-inch pieces, and a teaspoon of salt to boil. 

Add chicken feet to the boiling water for about 3-4 minutes.

Transfer only chicken feet to a bowl and keep it in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until it's cold enough but not frozen. This process is to obtain the crunchiness of the chicken feet.

Cut into long strips.

Preparing Vinegar Mixture

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 3 cups of water. Set aside.
Prepare Young Jackfruit

Wash young jackfruit with salt water. Slightly squeeze young jackfruit pieces to extract the water if any. Slice jackfruit into strips. Set aside.
Preparing Lotus roots

Wash lotus roots with salt water. Slice into thin diagonal slices. Soak it in half of the vinegar mixture for at least 15 minutes.  Set aside.

Preparing Onion

Cut an onion in half.  Use a knife to cut the onion thinly but not too thin.  Soak onion in the remaining vinegar mixture for at least 15 minutes.  Set aside.
Preparing Laab Namtok Seasoning Mix 

Laab namtok seasoning mix comes in different brands. I have tried a few brands and this is my favorite one as it has the perfect balance of acid, salt, and spices.  If you can't find it at your local store, don't can create your own seasoning mix.  The ingredients to create this seasoning mix are combination of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, roasted rice powder, sugar, salt, msg and citric acid which you can use lime juice or tamarind powder. 
In a sauce pan, mix seasoning mix with fish sauce and sugar.  Cook it until it's about to boil. Make sure to stir it during the process. Remove the seasoning mixture and let it cool down. 

Preparing Vietnamese Ham 

Vietnamese ham can be bought at store or homemade.  Click here for the recipe.  
Slice ham into thin strips. Set it aside.
Preparing Celery

Use a knife to thinly cut the celery diagonally. Set aside.
Preparing Herbs

Finely chop coriander and mint herbs.  Set aside
Mixing the Salad

In a large mix bowl, mix well all the ingredients and the seasoning mixture.


Transfer salad into a serving bowl. Then take in a big breath; breathe out a sigh of relief. Pick up a piece of roasted rice cracker and scoop up some chicken feet salad. Then, pop open a cold bottle of beer or a nice chilled chardonnay and put on a grin - because you're going to enjoy this one.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Xôi Lá Dứa (Pandan Sticky Rice)

Though I am a stay-at-home mom, I always look forward to the weekend to spend more quality time with my family.  It's a blessing to be able to wake up in the morning and take my time to prepare an authentic Vietnamese breakfast and have my girls and husband sniffed out what kind of  food I'm about to feed them. No matter how busy our day may be, at the end of each day, it's wonderful to hold each other's hands, give thanks for what we have, and enjoy our meal together.  Our weekend breakfast is no exception.

Xôi (sticky rice or sweet rice) is one of the simply irresistible dishes that I often serve for breakfast. It can be as simple and quick as cooking a pot of regular rice in a rice cooker. Yesterday, while xôi lá dứa (pandan sticky rice) was steaming in the cooker,  my husband took a break from yard work only to find himself surrounded by the sweet aroma that was wafting through the house. The wonderfully subtle and inviting fragrance of pandan and sweet rice is simply irresistible.  Hence, pandan is throughout Southeast Asian cuisines and in many of the desserts. One of the Asian cuisine focused chef tweeted it this way: "Pandan leaves are to vanilla what silk is to cotton".

This delicious xôi lá dứa - cooked with pandan juice that I extracted from the pandan leaves -  hints of notes of roses, almond, and vanilla. To top it off, add fresh shaved or shredded coconut and sprinkled with crushed roasted peanuts or sesame seeds. And voila! What you have before you on your plate is an exotic breakfast!
RECIPE: Xôi Lá Dứa
yields: 8-10 servings


for Rice
4 cups glutinous rice
3 1/2 cups water
20 frozen or fresh Pandan Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Pandan Paste, optional
1/2 teaspoon Salt
for Topping
1/2 bag Shredded Coconut
6 tablespoons Sesame Seeds 
4 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt

Extracting Pandan Juice

Cut pandan leaves into about 3 inch segments. Place pandan leaves with water in a Vita mix or any blender and blend it until finely.

Strain the juice with a strainer. Use a spoon to press the pandan residue down to extract all the juice. Discard the pandan residue. 

Measure 3 1/2 cups of pandan juice. Add pandan paste, and salt to the pandan juice and mix well.  

pandan paste

The purpose of adding pandan paste is to bring out the vibrant green color of the rice.  Omit it if prefer.  Set aside.
Cooking Sweet Rice

Rinse sweet rice a few times until water is clear. Drain. Pour the rice, and pandan juice in a rice cooker.  Stir to combine all ingredients well.  

Set rice cooker to ‘Cook’.  Allow to cook until the button switches over to ‘Keep Warm’. Stir the rice.  Cover and let it cook for another 10 -15 minutes to ensure the sweet rice is cooked evenly. 

Steaming Shredded Coconut

Since the shredded coconut I bought is frozen so I like to steam it before serving.  If using fresh shredded coconut which you can shred it straight from a mature coconut, steaming it is not necessary.  
Roasting Sesame Seeds

In a frying pan, roast sesame seeds on a medium low heat until golden.  Let it cool down.  Place sesame seeds in a ziploc and slightly crush it to release the nutty aroma of sesame seeds. 

Mixing Sweet and Salty Sesame Seeds

Combine roasted sesame seeds, sugar and salt and mix well. Set aside.


Place pandan sticky rice on a plate.  Sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seed mixture over it.  Top with shredded coconut then sprinkle a little more of sesame seed mixture. 

Ăn ngon! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have had a chance to share your precious time with your family and friends and have drawn up and laid out your resolutions for the New Year. As for me, another year had just passed and I have yet to fulfill one of my lifelong goals. 

A while back, one of my blog readers sent me an email asking me a few questions in Vietnamese: "Mục đích của Loan đăng trên blog về ẩm thực là có mục đích gì? Và ước nguyện của Loan sẽ làm gì sau này về ẩm thực?" Translation: " What is the purpose of your food blog? And what do you wish to pursue with your food blog?" I recall writing back to him a long note. I told him that I wanted to use my blog Vietspices to create the Spices of Life (Hương Vị Cuộc Sống) Foundation to help others. I envision something that extends beyond my daily bread to encompass the basics of daily living – food, clothing, shelter - for those less fortunate. 

My goal is to reach out to the less fortunate in third world countries with the main focus being Vietnam. It has been on my mind constantly for the past 12 years. Seeing the children and elders laboring on the streets without a home to live, eating other people's leftovers at the restaurants and hoping to make enough money to survive from day to day just tore me apart. There is hardly a day that passes by that I don't think about it. I yearn to help them so badly but didn't have the financial means nor the connections to get this up and running.

Many years have passed and I just can't sit idly by and wait until I have enough money. That day may never come. I need to start this mission in whatever capacity I have. Time is just too precious to let it pass by. Recently I shared my thoughts with my cousin who currently resides in Saigon. What a wonderful joy it was to hear that she and a group of her friends have been doing this good cause for some time. They raise money to buy food and collect used clothes to pass out to the orphans and the poor. She's willing to help me fulfill my goal when I am ready. 

Well, 2015 is here. My resolution is to take actions that will propel me towards achieving this goal. To start, the focus will be on providing meals and items for basic personal needs on a monthly basis. But to expand and grow to where supplies and food can be provided on a more frequent basis, I will need your help and support. Anything you can do to help will make a difference in their lives. I have over 2000 Facebook page readers, not including my blog readers. Assuming each person gives $1 per month, imagine how many lives we can transform. 

I am going to create a donation link on my blog. All the money that I collect from donations and generate from ads posted on my blog will go towards the Spices of Life Foundation for charity. I like to invite you to the table to partake in this wonderful, life-enriching mission.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bò Lúc Lắc (Shaking Beef)

Bò Lúc Lắc  is such an interesting name. Bò means beef and Lúc Lắc refers to the way you shake the wok or pan to cook the beef. Hence, you'll see it referred to as Shaking Beef.

Bò Lúc Lắc is the small cubes of beef that is coated with savory seasonings and hinted with the fragrance of five heavenly spices (pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel). This is then cooked by shaking the wok until the beef is charred beautifully browned on the outside, keeping it perfectly rare on the inside.

I love serving this dish with lettuce and assorted vegetables especially in the spring and summer time. This dish is as tasty as it is beautiful. The charred cubes of beef are arranged on top of a bed of green lettuce or watercress surrounded with gorgeous red tomatoes. To add more protein and color, you can - like I sometimes do - scattered some slices of  hard-boiled eggs.

The other day, I served my family this Bò Lúc Lắc on a bed of garlic egg noodle mixed with asparagus and mushroom for dinner. I know a dish is good when I don't have to constantly remind my girls to finish their plates.

Bò Lúc Lắc is a popular Vietnamese dish. This is an easy shaking beef recipe that's delicious and simple to make.
RECIPE: Bò Lúc Lắc

1 pound Rib Eye or Beef Sirloin
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
1 tablepoon Oyster Sauce
1 tablespoon brown or white Sugar
1 teaspoon Five-Spice Powder
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 cloves of Garlic
1 red or white Onion, wedged
2 Tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch Lettuce or Watercress
3 hard boiled Eggs, optional, wedged

Cutting Beef

Cut beef into small, about 2/3 inch cubes.  Set aside.
Marinating Beef

Combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, five-spice powder and garlic in a bowl.

Add the beef and stir to coat. Cover and set aside for at least 10 minutes to marinate.
Preparing Vegetables

Arrange lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, and eggs if used on a serving plate.  Set aside.

Cooking Beef

Heat the oil in a pan over high heat. Add onion and cook until fragrant and charred.  Transfer onion  bowl.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in the same pan over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the garlic and beef and shake the pan.

Cook for 1-2 minutes until the beef is charred but still pink in the center. Transfer to a bowl.   If you double the recipe, make a small batch at a time to ensure the beef is charred. Repeat with the oil, garlic and beef.

If serving with garlic noodle, click here for the recipe. Add a little less soy sauce mixture than the recipe calls for since the beef is already packed full of flavor. If adding mushroom and asparagus to the noodle dish, heat a pan with butter and garlic.  Add sliced asparagus and mushroom.  

Saute for a couple of minutes then add the soy sauce mixture.  Turn of heat.  Mix in the noodles and finely chopped cilantro.  

Saute garlic and onion and use it as a garnish for the Bò Lúc Lắc noodle dish.


Mix beef and onion together. Place it on top of a vegetable serving plate.  Serve on the side with  a dipping salt mixture made with a dash of salt, ground black pepper and fresh lime juice.

Another way of presenting Bò Lúc Lắc is combining 11/2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 2/3 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl. Drizzle the sauce over the beef plate. Serve immediately.

Enjoy Bò Lúc Lắc on a bed of garlic noodle for dinner. Don't forget to drizzle on some sirracha sauce to give it a kick. Open up a bottle of your favorite red and it will pair wonderfully with this dish.

Bon Appetite!