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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gà Hấp Muối Hột (Whole Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt)

Happy New Year!'s been over a month since my last post. Time sure does fly especially when the holidays are around. There are a million things to do but so little time. When winter comes, the icky cold is going around. I tend to catch it easily and it would drag on for 3-4 weeks. I've been wanting to share with you a few new recipes that I cooked for my family recently. My mind screamed, "Blog it," but my body was too tired to listen. 

Besides the cold, we've been drenched by the Pineapple Express particularly here in northern California. Can you believe this short storm added over 33 billion gallons to Lake Tahoe?  I am sitting on my couch looking out the window and watching the pouring rain. It's quite relaxing, but I had to muster some courage to put together this post.

So, here is the Whole Free-Range Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt and Earthy Herbs. My husband would do anything to eat this steamed chicken, so he didn't mind weathering the storm and venturing out to our garden to gather the lemongrass and pick the kaffir lime leaves for me to prepare the chicken. After her first bite, my little one expressed how she didn't like it only to ask for more moments later. The older girl didn't bother to try because one of our chicken just passed away due to the bitter cold. 

This dry steamed chicken recipe would make a wonderful dish for the up coming Luna New Year. It's simple, quick, and super easy to prepare. And by dry steamed I mean there is no liquid added. As it heats up in the clay pot, the natural moisture from the chicken and herbs is sufficient to not only cook the chicken but keep it tender and moist. Once done, the chicken reveals a beautiful super moist and golden chicken. The sea salt bed locks in the moisture and flavor making it juicy and tasty. In addition, it has a wonderful aroma imparted by the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and ginger. It tastes even better with the spicy ginger dipping fish sauce.
RECIPE: Whole Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt

1 whole free-range chicken, about 2.5 pounds, about $11-$13 each, available at Asian supermarkets
1 pound coarse sea salt, available at Asian markets in a 2 pound bag
3-4 lemongrass stalks 
a handful of kaffir lime leaves or lime leaves or lemon leaves
1 large piece ginger root
for Spicy Ginger Dipping Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic 
1-2 red chili pepper
about 1-inch ginger root, peeled
a few prigs of cilantro, finely cut, optional
some Asian basil leaves, finely cut, optional
1 clay pot to fit a whole chicken, available at most Asian markets, cost about $17
6.5" diameter opening
about 29.5" circumference of widest part of the clay pot
7" tall
Preparing Ingredients

Remove and discard innards such as gizzards, etc, from inside the chicken, if included, and rinse the chicken inside and out, draining thoroughly.
Cut lemongrass stalks into 2-3 segments, long enough to fit in the clay pot. Bruise the lemongrass stalks with a heavy knife or a meat tenderizer hammer to release the essential oils from the lemongrass which will then add more flavor to the chicken.  If your lemongrass stalks have leaves, keep the leaves for later used.
Cut ginger roots into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Wash lime or lemon leaves, and set aside.
Steaming Chicken

In a clay pot, pour in sea salt and make about 1/4 inch thick layer at the bottom. 

Arrange lemongrass, lime or lemon leaves, ginger slices on top of a bed of sea salt. 

Tuck the chicken feet inside the chicken to keep them in place. Place the chicken on top of the herbs. If you have the lemongrass leaves, use them to cover the chicken to seals in moisture and flavor and infuses the contents with a subtle, grassy aroma. Banana leaves would also work.

Cover with a lid and cook clay pot at medium-high heat for no more than 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. 

Preparing Spicy Ginger Dipping Fish Sauce

While the chicken is cooking, place chili pepper, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and pound them into paste to release their fresh flavors. Add sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, chili garlic sauce if used instead of fresh chili pepper. Mix all the ingredients well. Toss in some cilantro and basil leaves. It should have a subtle balance of sour, sweet, salty and spicy.


Transfer the steamed chicken to a serving plate and serve with some herbs such as cilantro, Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), and of course the spicy ginger dipping fish sauce. 

You can also chop it up and pour the sauce over before serving. However, we are fond of tearing the whole chicken apart and eating it with our bare hands.  

Eat well. Stay healthy.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Loaves and Fishes - Serving the Homeless - December 2016

As our flight was landing, the Southwest flight attendant announced, "Welcome to San Antonio," along with a reminder for everyone to go out and do something nice for someone to pay it forward. Somehow, it always warms my heart to hear someone say this out loud.

With holiday excitement in the air, there’s so much to be joyful about during this time of the year. It's the time to appreciate the gift of life by reaching out to someone less fortunate than ourself, despite their circumstances. It is the chance to nourish our soul and others and spread some love through human kindness. When we give the poor food, clothing, warmth and love, what they give us in return is the gift of learning to appreciate the little things.

Last October marked The Spices Of Life's one year anniversary of feeding approximately 1800 homeless people. I am overwhelmed by the amount of support we have received and proud to see this dream become a reality. Our goal is to continue our mission of serving the less fortunate when we can.

Please join me in serving breakfast to the homeless on Wednesday, December 14th. You can help serve by participating in one of three ways or if possible, all of the above:

- Cook 20 lbs of oatmeal - 2 volunteers 
- Cook sausages, bell peppers, and onion for burritos - 1 volunteer (Themmi)
- Cook scrambled eggs for burritos - 1 volunteer (Parm)
- Cook potatoes for burritos - 2 volunteers
- Wrapping burritos - 4 volunteers (Sandy Lombella, Stacy Giacomini)

2. SERVING BREAKFAST at 7:15 am - 9:00 am - 12 volunteers (Kristin Barrett, Sophia Rooney, Thuyet Dang, Kristin Nebiolini, Patty Wiscombe, Stacy Giacomini)

3. DONATING Food, Drink, Basic Items, or money to purchase to serve nearly 300 homeless guests.

1. Breakfast Burritos = $160 (funded by Van)

2. Cereal; Hot Oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and milk = $45 (funded by Linda)

3. Tangerines = $64 (funded by Thuy)

4. Trail Mix Bars = $47.45 (funded by Thuyet)

5. 12 boxes (24 each) Cups of Instant Noodle = $59 (funded by Patty)

6. Bananas = $45 (Stephanie Parker)

7. 2 cases (28 each) V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kelly Phan)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kelly Phan)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kelly Phan)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kelly Phan)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kelly Phan)

8. Bottles of Water = $50 (funded by Duyen)

9. Hot Chocolate Packets = $40 (funded by Duyen)

10. Socks, 2 packs (20 pairs) x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Channary)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Channary)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Tram Ly)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25  (funded by Tram Ly)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Trang)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Trang)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Teresa)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Teresa)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Teresa)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Teresa)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Van's friends) 
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Van's friends)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Vivian)
Socks, 2 packs x $12.5 = $25 (funded by Vivian)

11. Gloves = $145 ($100 funded by Kristine; $45 funded by Van's friends)

12. Beanies Knit Hats = $145 (funded by Kristin Nebiolini )

13. Gently used adult jackets, and sleeping bags

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

Below are some pictures from our October serving.

it was a cold and raining morning..

hot oatmeal


delicious burritos

our little helper...thanks Hailey!

loading up food and getting ready to head out the next morning
May Your Days Be Merry and Bright !!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

UPDATE: Living Water Project in Vietnam (Dự Án Nguồn Sống)- part II

The best feeling in the world

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you ate well, laughed often, and gave lots of thanks for what we have. I am thankful for my family, friends, my neighbors, all of my blog readers, and everyone involved with The Spices Of Life charity work. 

But even more basic, I am grateful for food, clothing, shelter, clean air and water. These are necessities that I seldom take time to think about, but how my life would be so different without them. And through the work that The Spices Of Life has been involved in, it reminds me to be grateful and humble for there are so many people around the world lacking these necessities. I am also learning that simple acts of kindness can bring purpose and so much fulfillment. They bring more peace, and joy to my life and to others. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you the amazing work we have done together for which I'm thankful. As of today, we have completed the building of all 31 water wells and 100 out of 220 water urns for the poor in the remote villages of Ca Mau and Vinh Long, Vietnam! Since the area of Tan Hung commune in the district of Cai Nuoc, Ca Mau Province doesn't have a high water table, we had to dig very deep to depths of 120-140 meters to access potable water. And because a deep well means that the water has to be lifted farther from underground, each home needs to have its own well and its own electrical pump to deliver the water from underground to the house.

1st phase: 1 of 16 water wells

2nd phase: 1 of 15 water wells

providing well materials to the villagers

passing out electrical pump to each household

transporting materials into each household

transporting equipment


While the water wells were completing in Ca Mau Province, we simultaneously build water urns in Trung Thanh Dong commune in the district of Vung Liem, Vinh Long Province. Every $50 donated provides the funding for one complete water urn. On a sunny day, they are able to complete two water urns. It then takes another 3 weeks to pour the water into the urns slowly to prevent them from cracking.

This project will be completed shortly. Your generosity helps make The Living Water Project possible so that we can provide access to clean drinking water to nearly 2000 people of all ages who were coping with this severe scarcity. 

On behalf of The Spices Of Life, we would like to thank anh Ba for all his hard work and dedication to this project. As I mentioned in the previous post (click here), anh Ba has been working directly and closely with each household to ensure that each family get the quality buildinng materials for the wells and water urns. The villagers have expressed their sincere appreciation for his dedication to this project. Anh Ba has been gracious for the opportunity to serve and we could not have found a more trustworthy project manager to handle the job. His job, however, is not done as there are 120 water urns remaining to be made for the third remote village of Trung Thanh Tay commune in Vung Liem District, Vinh Long Province. Our hope is to have all urns completed by year's end.

anh Ba - Loved by the villager

the lack of infrastructure - this is how you go from one household to the next

The Spices Of Life could not do what we do without your love and support. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many people around the world! May God bless you and your family this joyous holiday season.