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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Seared Rare Beef on Fresh Plantain (Bò Tái Me Lót Chuối Chát)



My husband and I used to dine out frequently when we were still dating. We would follow our noses around to good food in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco mostly. Eight years of dating meant an abundance of good food and one fat check, but the experience was worth every morsel. One of our favorite restaurants is Ana Mandara on Beach Street located in San Francisco. This exotic, beautiful restaurant is owned by Don Johnson, Cheech Marin and executive chef Khai Duong. What we like about this place is chef Khai Duong's modern, sophisticated, French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine and of course the beautiful and romantic atmosphere. 

I used to watch chef Khai Duong's cooking show on the Vietnamese channel when I still lived in San Rafeal.  Every time when his show was on, I sat on my bed with my laptop eager to  jot down his recipes.

We haven't been back to Ana Mandara since the birth of our kids. So to stir up the nostalgia, tonight I made four dishes using most of chef Khai Duong's recipes: Seared Rare Beef on Fresh Plantain; Garlic Crab Butter Noodles; Banana Blossom Salad with Chicken and Grapfruit ; and Crispy Skin Salmon with Yellow Chives & Sweet Chili Sauce.

Since I made all the dishes at once and tried to get them done before my husband came home from work, I didn't have enough time to take pictures of all the dishes.

Enjoy a wonderful recipe of one of the dishes that I experimented: Seared Rare Beef on Fresh Plantian.  A hearty, yet elegant appetizer that can be served at room temperature up to an hour from preparation. Great for entertaining.

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RECIPE: Seared Rare Beef on Fresh Plantian
Serves: 4
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Making Tamarind Sauce
1/2 package of tamarind pulp (7 ounces), cut into small pieces
2 cups of water
10 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh red chili paste)
 8 tablespoons of  fish sauce
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Put the tamarind pieces into a saucepan with the water. Bring
to a boil and simmer for about 8 minutes. Drain and pour the mixture into a fine mesh strainer.

Wet Tamerind, Seedless come in a 14 oz bag

 Press the pulp to extract the thick tamarind liquid into a bowl. (Makes about 1 1/2 cups tamarind liquid). Add the sugar, sambal oelek, and fish sauce. Stir until smooth.  Taste test the sauce and adjust the fish sauce and sugar for salt and sour-sweetness.  The orignal recipe called for only 3 Tbsps of sugar and 4 Tbsps of fish sauce but the tamarind sauce was still very sour.  I ended up adding a lot more of sugar and fish sauce. 

Pour tamerind sauce in a glass jar and store in ther refrigerator for later use.
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Making Beef
1/2 teaspoon of 5-spices powder
1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
Several twists of black pepper
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
8 ounces New York sirloin strip, trimmed of fat
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of tamarind sauce (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon of crisp shallot flakes
1 tablespoon of Thai basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of mint (rau hún), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), roughly chopped
1 small firm fresh plantain with the peel left on
3 tablespoon of white vinegar to mix with a bowl of cold water
Chopped peanuts for garnish
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Combine the first four ingredients in a shallow bowl and stir to distribute ingredients. Place the sirloin strip whole into the bowl to coat each side of the beef evenly with the marinade.
Prepare a grill or skillet until it is hot. Sear the beef for about 30 to 45 seconds on each side or until there are grill marks, leaving it rare inside. When cool enough to handle, cut crosswise into thin slices. Put the beef slices into a bowl and toss with lemon and lime juice. Let sit for about 2 minutes.

Add two tablespoons of the prepared tamarind sauce to the beef and then fold in the crisp shallot flakes (I made my own crisp shallot flakes, but you can find at Asian markets), mint and basil. Make sure to taste it and adjust tamarind sauce to your liking.  The original recipe didn't call for mint but always like to add some mint (rau hún) and Vietnamese coriander (rau răm) to salad dishes.  Toss to mix. Set aside.
Do not peel the plantain, but use a vegetable peeler to remove any black spots. With a mandoline, cut the plantain crosswise into thin slices and put into a bowl of cold water with the 3 tablespoons of white vinegar to prevent discoloration.

You can find Plantain at Asian Supermarkets.

When ready to serve, pat the plantain slices dry and arrange the slices on a platter. Arrange a small mound of the rare beef on top of each slice of plantain.


Next to Seared Rare Beef dish is Banana Blossom Salad with Chicken and Grapfruit.

Garnish with chopped peanuts and crisp shallot flakes

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Serving Suggestions:
Serve with roasted sesame rice paper.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kem Chuối (Banana Ice Cream Bars)


Have you ever tried Vietnamese Banana Ice Cream Bar with roasted peanuts and shredded coconut? It's very simple to make and actually tastes pretty good. I haven't had it for so long. It's not that bananas are rare  by any means in the U.S. It's just that we have abundant food here and sometimes forget the simple good old day food that we used to eat.

Banana ice cream bar (we called Kem Chuối) brings back so much memories from my precious childhood in Vietnam. Since 3rd grade besides going to school, everyday a few of my close friends and I walked to our tutors's houses for Math, Vietnamese and English.  After our tutoring session over we often walked to a dessert house for yogurts, banana ice cream bars and glasses of cold water.

During the summer time, my neighbor friends and I made kem chuối at her house and sold them to the other kids.  We didn't make much profit but we enjoyed being little entrepeneurs.
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RECIPE: Banana Ice Cream Bar (Kem Chuối)
Make: 4-8 banana ice cream bars
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4 ripe apple bananas or any types of banana, peeled
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon or more of fresh durian (optional)
1/2 cup of roasted peanuts or roasted pecan, chopped
1/2 cup of shredded coconut
plastic food wrap

4 bamboo sticks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon tapioca flour + 2 teaspoon water, mixed it
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Prepare Coconut Milk
Bring coconut milk, salt and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Coconut milk should taste sweet and a little bit salty. Do a taste test and adjust sugar and salt if needed.  When coconut milk starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium.  Stir the mixed tapioca flour, slowly pour it into the saucepan and constantly stir it for a few seconds. Coconut milk needs to be thicker.  Remove from heat. Pour it on a plate. Let it cool down. If used durian, add it to mixed coconut. Mix it well. 

frozen grated coconut (white bag)
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Assemble Banana
Use spatula to press a whole banana down.  If you want to make a smaller size of banana bar, split a banana into 2 pieces and press it down. Dip it in coconut plate, sprinkle shredded coconut and roasted peanuts or roasted pecan. Repeat it on the other side of banana.  Stick a bamboo stick in the middle of banana.  Wrap banana with plastic food wrap.  Freeze it until firm.
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I made 2 kinds of dip: coconut and durian coconut

Bananas are ready to freeze.

My girls are enjoying delicious Kem Chuối.

Brrr...it's too cold!

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*The orange stripes you see on the banana ice cream bars (picture shown on top of the page) are carrot stripes. If used carrots, shred carrots into thin stripes. Sprinkle carrot stripes on the banana.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Phở Gà Khô (Vietnamese Dry Chicken Noodle)


In my hometown in Vietnam, there was a delicious Pho house named "Á Đông" (translated Southeast Asia) .  Whenever I craved for Phở Gà Khô, this was the place to be. Its specialty was dry chicken noodle served with a bowl of chicken broth, green scallion, and sprinkled with black pepper . That was about 20 years ago.  I am not sure if this chicken noodle house still exists but the place, the aroma of their chicken noodle and the broth have not faded from my mind. 

Just the other day, I craved for a bowl of dry chicken noodle. I began to make a list of what I remembered was in Á Đông's chicken noodle.  Eventhough, it's been such a long time, I still can recall all the ingredients in that bowl of noodle.  I invited a few friends over to test my version of the chicken noodle.  They liked it very much.  I thought it tasted exactly like the bowl I had 20 years ago. 
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RECIPE: Dry chicken noodle soup

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Ingredients
1 Hen  (I prefer free range whole chicken,available at Nugget Market or Whole Food Market)
1 piece Pork Fat
3 slices of Ginger Root
1 bag fresh Stick Noodle
1 cup of Soy Sauce
     1/2 tablespoon of Annatto Seeds (Hột Điều) 
2 cloves of Garlic, sliced
Salt
Sugar or Rock Sugar Chilli Pepper
Fried Shallots
Fresh Cirlantro, for garnish noodle and soup
Basil Sprigs, for garnish noodle and soup
Curlantro (ngo gai), for garnish noodle and soup
1 bags fresh Bean Sprouts
Culantro (Ngò Gai)
1 Limes, cut into wedges


Directions
Discard any excess fat from a hen.
Rinse hen with cold water and place in a stockpot.
Add the water just enough to submerge the hen and ginger slices and bring to a boil.
Skim any foam that rises to the surface.
Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until hen is cooked.
Do not allow the liquid to boil to ensure a clear broth.
Remove the hen. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve.
Return the broth to a large soup pot. 
Season with salt
Add sugar if needed.
Add a bag of Vietnamese noodle soup spices and continue to simmer for about 1/2 hour.
Remove spices bag.
Keep  broth hot while you assemble the remaining ingredients.

Prepare Sauce
Heat the pan with oil and Annatto Seeds in hot oil pan at medium for about 4 minutes.  Add slices of garlic.   Turn off the heat. Remove the seeds.  Pour annatto oil into soy sauce bowl.  Add a teaspoon of paprika.  Mix it up. 

Remove pork skin.
Dice the pork fat in small cubes.
They will shrink during the process.
Put them in a large pot and render the pork fat cubes over medium heat, occasionally stirring.
As the cubes release more fat, the rendered fat tends to splatter quite a bit.  It's done when the pork fat cubes are golden brown; remove them from the oil. 
Place a piece of paper towel on top of a plate and pour fried fat pork over it to keep fried fat pork cubes dry. 
Save pork oil for later. 


Prepare the Hen

Discard the hen's bone and shred or sliced meat into small pieces.

When ready to serve the noodle and soup, place a handful of bean sprouts in
the mesh sieve and dip it into boiled water for about 5 seconds. 
Remove the mesh sieve and shake it to drain the water; then put the bean sprouts into a large bowl.
Put the noodle into the mesh sieve and repeat the process. 
Wait for 10 seconds then pour noodle on top of the bean sprout.
drizzle a teaspoon of  pork oil.
Laying shredded chicken over the top of the noodle.
Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of fried pork fat.
Sprinkle some fried shallots.
Drizzle mixed soy sauce over the top.
Drizzle about a tablespoon or a soup spoon of chicken broth if you don't like the noodle is too dry.
Sprinkle on some black pepper.
Ganish with chopped green scallion, chopped cirlantro and chopped culantro.
Ladle chicken broth into a separate smaller bowl. 
Ganish with chopped green scallion, chopped cilantro.
Serve the noodle bowl and  soup immediately.
Place  basil, lime wedges and chili peppers in a plate on the table for each person to garnish their own noolde as desired.

chicken, fried shallots, fried pork fat, bean sprout, pork oil, mixed sauce, black pepper, basil, culantro, cirlantro, green scalion, lime, chilli pepper

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tép Mỡ (Fried Pork Fat)



Fried pork fat might not be the heathiest due to the high amount of saturated fat but it's certainly delicious. You may use fried pork fat to sprinkle on anything.
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RECIPE: Fried Pork Fat 
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Ingredients


2 pounds of Pork Fat - availabe at any Asian stores. 
They usually have it in the back. So just ask the person at the meat department. 
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Prepare Pork Fat

Remove pork skin. Dice the pork fat into small cubes.
They will shrink during the process. Put them in a large pot and render the pork fat cubes over medium heat, occasionally stirring. As the cubes release more and more fat, the rendered fat tends to splatter quite a bit. It's done when the pork fat cubes are golden brown; remove them from the oil.


Place a piece of paper towel on top of a plate and pour the fried pork fat over the top to drain.


You can store the left over fried pork fat in a glass jar and keep refrigerated once it has cooled. They should be fine for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Raspberry Palmiers...a perfect treat for Valentine!


Every month I try to experiment with a new recipe for my daughter's preschool class. A friend of mine suggested to try puff pastries with raspberry since I have lots of puff pastries in the freezer. That sounded yummy and I think the kids would love it.
So yesterday, I made Raspberry Palmiers for the first time. My daughters and my husband devoured them. I made some extra rolls and freezed them. Today my oldest daughter begged for them so I took one roll out from the freezer and baked it. She ate them all through out the day.

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RECIPE: RASPBERRY PALMIERS
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Ingredients:
1 box of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheet or any brand you prefer
Smucker's Raspberry Jam or any flavors of your choice
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water
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Make the Palmiers:

Sprinkle a cutting board with 1/2 cup of the sugar.
Dredge one side of  puff pastry  in the sugar. Roll out the dough into about  a 11-by-12-inch rectangle and make sure it absorbs as much of the sugar as possible.   
Spread jam on the dough. 
Fold each 12-inch side two-thirds of the way in towards the center.
Fold each side in again so that the folded edges meet at the center point. Fold the dough over again from the center forming 6 layers of dough. 
Wrap it well in plastic wrap.
Place the dough on a tray and freeze it for about 15 minutes or until firm.

Preheat to 375°F. Get ungreased baking sheet ready.

Remove dough from freezer.
Trim off the ends, if uneven.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch slices. 
Spread both sides of the top of slice to form a V shape.   
Arrange the slices cut side down on the baking sheet, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
Cut only as many slices as will fit on the baking sheet.
Rewrap the uncut portion of dough and refrigerate until needed.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water until smooth.
Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture over the top of each cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar.
Bake the cookies for 12 minutes until they are golden brown.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
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Not a huge fan of jam?  you can use cinnamon powder instead.  Just sprinkle cinnamon powder over the dough.
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Puff Pastries, Sugar, Egg, Jam

My puff pastries are already precut into small squares so I connected 2 squares to make a small rectangle.



 With this small size of rectangle, I can only formed 4 layers of dough
Freeze it for about 15 minutes or until firm before cutting it into 1/2 inch slices


Unbaked Cinammon Palmiers

Final result of Cinammon Palmiers

Unbaked Rasberry Palmiers

Final resutlt of Raspberry Palmiers