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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Đậu Hũ Dâu Tây (Strawberry with Soft Silken Tofu in Yuzu Dressing)

Thank you everyone for your prayers, emails and messages of support and care during my absence from the blog and FB. April was a difficult month for me and my family as my dad passed away. It was difficult to be in the right mindset to blog given the circumstances. It's sad thinking of his passing, but at the same time I am happy for him, knowing that he's free from our physical limitations. The part about grieving that has helped me the most is realizing that there's life to be lived and what my husband has shared with me about resilience:

Never stop loving, never stop living
Never stop learning, never stop earning
Never stop growing, never stop giving

I want to dedicate this post to my dad. He was a vegetarian for many years until he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's that took away his memory and eventually bodily functions.

This strawberry with soft silken tofu is a delightful and healthy appetizer dish. It's seasoned with a savory yuzu citrus dressing, topped with the nutty, chili oil with crunchy garlic.  The shiso leaves that are garnished in this dish add a pleasantly mild minty, gingery taste, lending depth to the flavor. 
RECIPE: Strawberry with Soft Silken Tofu in Yuzu Dressing
Printable Recipe

1 block of soft silken tofu, available at Costco
a few fresh strawberries
shiso leaves, available at Japanese or Korean market
yuzu citrus dressing
crunchy garlic in chili oil sauce
Preparing Strawberries

Cut strawberries in any shapes you prefer.  I cut mine in heart-and flower shapes.  Set aside.

Preparing Tofu

Cut tofu in half. Cut each half into squared slices.
Preparing Shiso Leaves

It's always nice to be able to pick the shiso leaves in my vegetable garden whenever I need it for my dishes. Shiso plant is so easy to grow but it's quite expensive to buy the shiso at the market. I used to pay $2 for a bunch of about 6 leaves.  If you are interested, you can find the seeds at your local Japanese market.

Cut shiso leaves in half. Cut leaves the same size as tofu pieces.
Assembling Strawberry Tofu

Where I live is surrounded by farmers.  I can spot fruit stands, cows, horses, fresh chicken eggs signs all around.  When the strawberry season comes, my family would make a mini trip to pick up some fresh, delicious strawberries. 


Gently stack together a piece of shiso leaf between the tofu and strawberry.

Garnish tofu with crunchy garlic chili oil.

Gently pour the yuzu sauce on the bottom of the tofu.  Add a few drops of chili oil onto the sauce. 


Scoop up each piece of tofu with the strawberry and some sauce with a spoon and enjoy.

Eat well.  Stay healthy.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Loaves & Fishes

Every two months, I recruit a group consisting of my neighbors, parents from my kids' school, friends, and my blog readers gathered in my kitchen to cook, prepare food, and deliver to Friendship Park at Loaves and Fishes the next morning to serve 300 homeless men and women.

This all started when my daughters and I decided to drop off some essentials on Thanksgiving to the homeless children at Loaves and Fishes. Now it has transformed into a recurring opportunity to serve our community.  It's not much but every little act of kindness that we create from what little time we have left in our busy schedule can mean so much to someone in need.

I hope you can join us.

Next serving is Thursday April 7, 2016 from 7:30 am-9:00 am.

Please join me in any capacity you can; you can help in one of three ways or participate from beginning to end: 

1. Food preparation 
2. Donating food/drinks 
3. Serving breakfast

Food Items Needed:

1. 300 Breakfast Burrito (sausages, potatoes, eggs) = $180 ($100 donated by Wendy Tran+ $80 by Sandy)

2. Hot Oatmeal = $50 (donated by Sarah)

3. 300 Hard Boiled Eggs = $60 (donated by HK PH)

4. 300 Granola Bars = $50 (donated by Jenny)

5. 300 Cups of Instant Noodle = $78 (donated by Kristine)

6. 300 Bananas = $55 (donated by Thuy)

7. 300 Tangerines = $60 (donated by Van Hoang)

8. 300 Bottles of Water = $50 (donated by Sarah)

9. a box of Plastic Spoon = $12

Please let me know if you need a donation receipt so I can notify Loaves and Fishes.

I leave you with some reflections from two of our recent participants:

"I had a humbling experience at Friendship Park. Just the tiny things can put a smile on someone's face. I learned to appreciate the things you get. When I looked at the homeless' faces after getting a burrito, ramen, socks or water, they had gigantic smiles on their faces. It made me feel good and I can't wait to go back and serve the community some more" 
~Simeon (12 years old)

"Got the chance to serve breakfast this morning for those who are less fortunate. Just seeing their genuine happiness for a simple bag of food and socks was a huge reminder of all of the times I took my luck and blessed life for granted. While we were serving today, I couldn't help but think that this is their daily routine, coming here for a warm meal or any help they can get, while I wake up every day in a warm bed, with the ability to choose between cooking a meal or going out for take out, or how hot or cold I want my home to be. And I don't even think twice about others who aren't allowed this luxury. A small gesture really made a difference in another person's life today and I am so glad I was allowed this opportunity to be reminded that I have that ability to do so." 
~Kristine O.

I couldn't do all this alone without the support of all the donors, dedication and hard work of many wonderful volunteers.  Thank you!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lẩu Vịt (Duck Hot Pot)

Nothing makes a chilly day and cold night more bearable than something hot, spicy and hearty like a hot pot. Hot pot and its communal cooking process is ideal to be enjoyed and shared with good company.

Irrespective of the weather, I serve hot pot to my family quite often, especially when the vegetables start to flourish in our garden. I have to incorporate them into our meals. You can't go wrong with hot pot, romaine lettuces, mustard greens, napa cabbage, but water morning glory (aka water spinach = rau muống), and edible chrysanthemum (rau tần ô) are my favorite to pair with a duck hot pot.

What I love about duck hot pot is the earthy ingredients of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, water spinach, and taro imparting their unique textures and depth of flavors to the hot pot that make you want to keep on eating.  It's a fabulous way to keep your cooking connected to nature.
RECIPE: Duck Hot Pot
1 duck about 5 lbs, fresh duck available at Costco
1/2 cup fish sauce 
about 1 lb taro
2 stalks lemongrass
1 whole garlic
3 shallots, thinly sliced
 about 7 cups water 

for color and spicy oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne or paprika powder
2 tablespoons annatto oil
2 tablespoons cooking oil 

assorted mushrooms
morning glory aka water spinach 
mustard greens

for ginger dipping sauce 
ginger, 1/2-inch piece
2 cloves of garlic
fish sauce
1/2 lime,  juiced 

Preparing Duck

Rinse a duck under cold running water. No need to rub duck with ginger or alcohol to eliminate the gamey flavor. Pull away and discard any excess fat from the duck. Trim the excess skin near the bottom of the legs and around the edges. Chop duck into big chunks of about 2-inches.

Preparing Lemongrass, Ginger, Shallots, and Garlic

Cut each stalk of lemongrass into 3 pieces, smashed.  Peel garlic and slightly smash each one to release the flavor.  Slice the shallots. 

Preparing Taro

Cut taro into big chunks, set aside.
Cooking Duck

In a large pot, saute oil, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, shallot until fragrant.

Add duck to the pot and cook until brown.

Add enough water to cover the duck and bring to a boil. Add fish sauce.

Simmer it for about 1 hour or until duck is soft. Skimming duck fat occasionally.  Add taro. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until taro is half way cooked. Taro breaks down and becomes gooey and thickens the  broth if it cooks for too long.

Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.  Toss in the spicy oil to add color and spice to the broth.
Preparing Spicy Oil

In a sauce pan, cook garlic in oil on medium low heat until fragrant. Turn of the heat, and take the pan off the heat then add cayenne (less spicy) or paprika powder (more spicy), and fresh red chili pepper. Mix well. Pour it into the duck pot. Chile peppers, cayenne and paprika are particularly sensitive to heat, and become bitter when burnt.

Preparing Condiments

Wash and cut vegetables.

water spinach

mustard greens

king oyster and enoki  mushrooms

water spinach, edible chrysanthemum, taro, assorted mushrooms

Cook your choice of noodle according to the directions. If you prefer sweet potato starch clear noodle, soak noodle in water until serving. Clear noodle cooks very quickly in hot pot.

rice noodle

sweet potato starch clear noodle
Preparing Dipping Sauce

Smash the garlic and ginger together using a mortar and pestle until smooth. Add sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Mix well. 

Transfer duck, taro, and broth to an electric skillet. Place it on a table along with vegetables, mushrooms, noodle, and dipping sauce. When the broth is boiling, toss in vegetables and swirl your raw ingredients in the boiling broth until they are cooked. Using a slotted spoon to scoop out cooked ingredients without taking too much broth. Ladle it over your bowl of cooked noodle and eat with a side of ginger dipping sauce. Yum.
Eat well.  Stay hungry.