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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cánh Gà Nướng (Grilled Chicken Wings)

Though spring is not yet over, summer appeared to be gloriously long on Memorial Day; it is the unofficial kickoff to summer. And in just one more day, my girls will be done with school and that for me is really the beginning of summer.

'Summertime, and the livin is easy. . . One of these mornings, you're gonna rise up singing' Heard of that? Nothing ushers in summer like the lyric of this song.

Lazy days on the beach, boating, biking, drive-in movies (yes, we still have this for you Apple generation), bonfires, cookouts - the list goes on.  My favorite thing to do in the summer is firing up  the backyard barbecue grill surrounded with friends and family and winding down on the hammock,  appreciating the glory that's around me.

And what better way to spend time with family and friends around the pool than eating, especially chomping down a perfectly grilled piece of chicken wing.  This delicious, tasty, and addictive chicken wing recipe that I am about to share with you will not only please your tummies and guests' palates, but elevate you to grilling greatness. Okay, maybe not greatness but I can guarantee that your guests will likely take down an entire 6-pound batch in about 5 minutes! These wings are truly  finger lickin’ good.

The key is to cook them over a moderate flame so that the fat renders out and the skin gets nice and crispy. 

This chicken wings are delectable as they are but the extra ingredients of fresh lemongrass, or kaffir lime leaves takes it to another level.  The red pepper flakes are one of the ingredients in the sauce and it's just mild enough for the kids My girls can never get enough of these wings.
RECIPE: Cánh Gà Nướng


about 6 lbs Chicken Wings 
1 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
1tablespoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes 
1/4 cup Oil
3 tablespoons  finely chopped Kaffir Lime Leaves, optional 
4 tablespoons finely chopped Lemongrass, optional

Preparing the Wings

Buy the package of pre-cut wings (also called party wings).  If you buy them whole, the wings will consist of three parts: the drum, the flat/double-boned “wing” part, and the tip. To cut up a whole wing, start by cutting off the tip and discarding, then cut between the drum and the wing part.   I use my hands to break them apart at the joints, then cut them off.  It’s easy once you get the hang of it.  You can also grill the whole wing if preferred.  

Wash the chicken wings, rinse and drain.  Set aside.
Preparing the Sauce

Combine all the ingredients and the lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves,  if used.  Mix well.

Marinate the wings for at least an hour or overnight

wings with lemongrass

wings with kaffir lime leaves

I love incorporate kaffir lime leaves in my food whenever I can, therefore, it's a must to have a kaffir lime tree in my vegetable garden.

Grilling the Wings

Grill the wings just under 400 degrees F with the inside of wings down, covered until the temperature reaches up to 400 degrees, then lower the heat to maintain the temperature at about 400 degrees otherwise the wings will burn quickly.  Lift to lid as needed to release the heat and maintaining grilling temperature.

Continue to cook until the underside is golden then turn and grill other side. Keep an eye on this side as it can flame and burn easily. 

Again, you may need to adjust temperature or opening the grill lid to drop the temperature. As soon as the skin turns golden brown, flip and return the wing to original underside for about 5 minutes and remove to serve.  If not serving right away, transfer wings to the top rack to keep them warm while grilling the vegetables. 

Enjoy these tasty grilled wings with pickled cucumber, daikon, assorted grilled vegetables, and grilled sticky rice with some beer or beverage of your choice to kickoff the summer party.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tôm Hùm Nướng Bơ Tỏi-Roasted Garlic Butter Lobster Tails

Put on your apron. That's right. It's lobster tail time!

Often time, we crave for lobster tails but don't know what to do with them except boiling or grilling then eating them with butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Since my girls and husband are seafood fanatics, I feel motivated to create a new lobster tail recipe with Asian-inspired twist for my family to enjoy. 

These lobster tails dressed in a sauce mixture of butter, garlic, brown sugar, cracked pepper, and chicken bouillon powder pack a punch scintillating with flavors. Broil these in the oven for a few minutes. You will absolutely fall in love as soon as the aroma comes wafting your way. For those who love the Asian fusion lobster tails style, this will be simply enjoyable to make.

RECIPE: Tôm Hùm Nướng Bơ Tỏi

5-6 medium (about 8 oz) Lobster Tails
1 stick Butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped Garlic
1 tablespoon Chicken Bouillon Powder
4 tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon cracked Black Pepper

Preparing Lobster Tails

Use a scissor to cut the center of the shell all the way to the base of the tail.  Remember to cut only the shell not the meat.  
Crack the shell firmly along the incision, then pull the meat up through the shell.

Sauteing Lobster Tails

In a large skillet, cook the butter and garlic on medium heat about a minute until fragrant and butter melted.  Add chicken powder, sugar, and black pepper.  Mix well.

Add lobster tails in the skillet.  Slather sauce over the lobsters and let it cook for about 2 minutes.

Flip lobsters over and cook for another 2 minutes until the shells turn pink.

Roasting Lobster Tails

Transfer lobster tails to a baking tray.  Pour the sauce over the lobsters.  Place the tray on the middle rack and broil at medium heat for 8-10 minutes.  Remember to keep your eye on the oven to prevent the lobster from being overcooked. 

Enjoy roasted garlic butter lobster tails with your favorite side dishes.  The sweet, tasty, and finger-licking goodness of the sauce can serve as a great dipping sauce for french bread.

I also used the sauce to mix with udon noodles as a side dish.  The udon noodle first needs to be blanched in boiling water for a couple minutes then toss in finely chopped garlic that was cooked in  hot olive oil.  Add a pinch of salt then transfer the noodle to the sauce tray and mix well.  Toss in some blanched asparagus to add a nice complementary color and  make it look healthy.  Then whip out your bibs and dig in.

Bon Appetite! 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Chả Cá Lã Vọng - Dill and Turmeric Fish Noodles

On our first trip together to Vietnam in 2005, my husband and I took a private tour to learn about our birth country and enjoy the sights and sounds and food from different regions. We started in the south from Saigon and worked our way up north to Ha Long Bay. While in the northern city of Hanoi, we were recommended Hanoi's iconic dish Chả Cá Lã Vọng by our tour guigde. This original Chả Cá Lã Vọng house is located in Chả Cá Street and has remained in business for five generations. That's over a hundred years and is legendary despite the fact that they only serve one dish –Chả Cá!. Chả Cá means “grilled fish” and Lã Vọng refers to the ancient Chinese poet and revolutionist.

There are many places serving this dish, but to come back to its place of origin in it's own ambience certainly evokes wondrous emotions. I remembered we climbed the extremely narrow and steep rickety staircase to reach an antiquated small dining room on the second floor of the house. The room is small but packed with communal tables, tourists and locals alike. We could hear everyone's conversation because it's that close.  The wonderful unique aroma of turmeric, dill, fresh fish, and charcoal wafted through the entire upstairs. It didn't matter if you sweated your ways trying to get to this place under the sultry sun because the aroma will take it all away.

This famous Hanoi dish made with only one type of fish: chunks of fresh fish called a langfish  or hemibagrus (cá lăng) because it has few bones and tasty white meat.  The fish is smothered in an array of spices including fermented cold rice, turmeric, and galangal. Dills and spring onions are grilled on a small stove at your table along with the fillets of langfish until they are crispy and golden brown. This is then served with noodle, roasted peanuts, herbs, and shrimp sauce or fish sauce. All of these ingredients blend into a unique exquisite flavor.

Over all, I think it's worth the experience if you're heading to Hanoi; it's been featured as "one of the 1,001 dishes to eat before you die".  It's been many years and both my husband and I still can't forget the wonderful aroma, the bustling crowd and how pricey  it was for a local delicacy; it costs $8 USD per person for  4 measly pieces of fish per person.  Next to our table was a group of local students and who were ordering multiple rounds making us think that it might be an all-you can-eat until the bill came.  We couldn't believe these high schoolers would have so much money to order multiple rounds and feeling that we were mistreated as tourists.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng is a dish to be desired but you don't need a plane ticket to traverse the Pacific to savour it.  You can prepare and enjoy from scratch in your comfy kitchen now that I am about to share with you my version of this Chả Cá Lã Vọng's recipe.  It is delicious and aromatic healthy.   The complexity of flavors will surely leave you craving for more.  
RECIPE: Chả Cá Lã Vọng


for the fish
3-4 lbs Talapia (catfish, basa, cod can be used)
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
2 tablespoons Onion Powder
3 piece fresh Galanga (củ riềng), about 1 inch block
1 fresh Turmeric (củ nghệ), about 1 inch block
2 tablespoons cooking Oil

for dipping shrimp sauce
2 tablespoons Shrimp Sauce 
1 piece Pineapple, finely chopped
1 tablespoon, finely chopped Lemongrass
1 tablespoon, finely chopped Garlic
1 tablespoon Shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup coco Rico soda
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 Lime, juiced

for the dipping fish sauce
1/4 cup Fish Sauce
1/4 cup Water
3 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped Garlic
Chili Garlic Sauce or Fresh Red Chili Pepper, finely chopped 


a bunch of  Spring Onions, cut into 2-inch segments
2 bunches of Dill, cut into 2-inch segments
Sweet Purple or White Onion, cut into wedges
Assorted Vietnamese herbs, optional
1 bag Rice Vermicelli 
Roasted Peanuts, slightly crushed

Preparing Fish

Cut fish into big chunks about 2 in x 1 in. Set aside.

I prefer fresh galangal and turmeric to ground but you can also use the ground if fresh ones are not available at your local market.  Left over fresh galangal and turmeric can be stored in the freezer for later use.

Put on a pair of gloves or plastic bags to avoid turmeric stains.  Peel off the skins of galangal and turmeric. Since galangal is dense and hard, cut galangal into thin slices. Put the fresh turmeric, and galangal in a mortar and pound with a pestle into a smooth paste.  Wash mortar and pestle immediately to prevent staining.

Add fish sauce, oil, garlic and onion powder and mix well. 

Transfer paste mixture into the fish bowl and toss until each piece of fish is well coated in the paste. Set aside to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Cooking Noodle

While bringing a pot of water to a boil, soak the noodle in a large bowl of water. When the water reach the boiling point, drain the noodle, then add noodle and a pinch of salt to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes at medium heat until the noodle until softened. Remember to stir the noodle occasionally to avoid noodle sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Drain, refresh under running cold water. Drain and set aside.
Preparing Shrimp Sauce

At the restaurant, they served pure fermented shrimp paste mixed with garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, and sugar.  The pure shrimp sauce itself  has a thick consistency and it's quite pungent.  I like to cook and dilute the sauce with variety of ingredients to enhance the flavor and also to reduce the strong aroma of the sauce.

In a sauce pan, bring a tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Once it's hot, add lemongrass, ginger, shallot, and garlic.

Saute until they start to turn slightly brown. Add pineapple, shrimp sauce, coco Rico soda and sugar. Mix it well.

Once the sauce is blended well and start to boil, remove from heat. Add lime juice. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl. Add garlic chili sauce for spicy flavor. Set aside.
Preparing Fish Sauce

This Chả Cá Lã Vọng goes well with the shrimp sauce. Fish sauce is another option if shrimp sauce is too advance for you. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

Place noodles, accompaniments and turmeric flavored fish to the table for everyone to cook and assemble their own dish.

spring onion is missing on this plate
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. I used the electric griddle.  Add the marinated fish and sweet onion and fry until crisp, golden brown on both sides. Add the dill, and spring onion.   Cook for a few more seconds until wilted.  I was intrigued with the large amount of dills and spring onions in the dish, but it makes sense once I had the first bite.

Place grilled fish, dill, spring onion, and sweet onion on a bed of noodle, herbs, and garnish with peanuts. Drizzle your favorite sauce over and enjoy.  

It's fun to serve this dish for a large get-together. So fire up the grill, throw in some dill and just chill in Lã Vọng style. Okay, enough rhyming.