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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bò Nướng Cuốn Măng Tây (Grilled Beef Wrapped Asparagus)

I threw a surprise birthday party for my husband a few days ago. Ironically, he was the first one to arrive. That was not really the surprise I was going for.

Usually I prepare all of his favorite dishes for family and friends to enjoy with him.  For the last couple weeks, he's been craving for Cơm Hến, grilled beef-wrapped asparagus a combination sweet-dessert drink of sương sáo hột é và đười ươi with young coconut juice, and dried logan. And although I just made an asparagus dish recently, I guess he didn't get enough.  So grilled beef-wrapped asparagus was one of a few appetizers for his birthday.

My older daughter didn't forget to make this card for her daddy

Grilled beef-wrapped asparagus is a new dish that we first tasted at the Asparagus Festival in Stockton a month ago.  My children and husband really like it, so he asked me to replicate the dish while the asparagus season is still around.

Recently in this wildly unpredictable weather, we had a beautiful afternoon and  my husband suddenly wanted to barbeque and invited my brother-in-law's family to join us for dinner. This was the very first time I experimented with the grilled asparagus dish.

I love the delicate fusion of fresh asparagus wrapped in a slice of beef, topped with slices of red onions and jalapeno that is slightly soaked in a savory sweet and tart sauce.  This dish is simple and yet very tasty and versatile. It can be an appetizer or you can make it the main dish.
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RECIPE: Bò  Nướng Cuốn Măng Tây


A large bunch of asparagus
2 pounds thinly Sliced Rib Eye Beef (Japanese supermarkets usually carry it)
1 Sweet Red Onion, thinly sliced
4 Jalapeno, thinly sliced
A few prigs of Cilantro
1/2 cup Ponzu Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Sugar
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped Garlic
Prepare Asparagus

Wash asparagus under cool running water. Chop off the tough ends, usually about 1 inch of the stalk.  
Steam or cook  asparagus for about 2 minutes.  Be sure not to overcook asparagus.  Remove from the pot.  Set it aside.
Wrapping Asparagus

Place  a slice of beef on a cutting board, roll it around the two asparagus.  

Grilling Beef Wrapped Asparagus

Grill it on high since the beef slices are thin and they can be overcooked easily.  If using the oven, broil on high on the top rack with the oven door slightly open. 
Preparing Sauce

Combine ponzu sauce, soy sauce, sugar and garlic.  Mixed it well.  
If you don't have the Ponzu sauce, just combine soy sauce with  finely chopped garlic, vinegar, some lemon or lime juice, sugar and  dilute it with a little bit of water.  The sauce should be sweet and tart.  

Arrange a single layer of Grilled Beef Wrapped Asparagus on a plate.  Top with onion, jalapeno and cilantro.  Pour on the sauce and it's time to feast!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Cơm Hến (Clams Cooked Rice)

Cơm Hến was a very popular low priced specialty dish used to be enjoyed by the commoners in Central Vietnam, Huế. But it's exquisite and wonderful texture and taste could not be kept hidden for long from those who crave for great food.  These days, people from many regions find cơm hến refreshing and simply irresistible. 

Cơm hến is simple yet an intricate dish that fuses together a variety of flavors from clams, fried pork fat, clam broth, roasted peanuts, crunchy rice cracker, chilli pepper, banana flower, star fruit or crisp, juicy and tart Granny Smith apples which make it perfect for cơm hến, mint herb, Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), bac ha (taro stem), fermented shrimp sauce and room temperature rice. These ingredients culminate in a distinctive balance of sweetness, saltiness, sourness,  and spiciness with  two separate crunchy textures.   It's sure to give your taste palate a workout! And once you've had a bowl, you couldn't help but ask for  more . . .      
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15 to 18 Servings


For Hến
4 cans of 51 oz  Clams, drained, keep the juice (available at Sam's Club and Costco)
1-2 tablespoons of minced Shallot
1-2 tablespoons of minced Garlic
1 diced Onion
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
a pinch of MSG, optional
For Broth
A can of Clam juice
2 Lemon Grass, clean, lightly pound them
1/2 teaspoon White or Black Pepper
For Sauce
4 tablespoons Fermented Shrimp Sauce (Mắm Ruốt)
2 cups  Clam Juice or Water
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 tablespoon of minced Shallot 
1 tablespoon of minced Garlic

Cooked rice, cooled to room temperature
Fried Pork Fat
Fried Shallots
Roasted Peanuts, chopped
4 Sesame Rice Paper, roasted (bánh tráng nướng), break into small pieces

5 Granny Smith Apples cut into small stripes, soak them into a bowl of salted water for about 1 minute to keep them from turning brown

1 bunch of Mints, chopped
1 bunch of Vietnamese Coriander (Rau Ram), chopped

3 Taro Stem, (Bac Ha), peeled and cut into small stripes

1 Banana Flower (Bắp Chuối), cut into half lenghtwise, then sliced, soak in water for 10 minutes, then drain.
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Prepare Hến

Heat 1 1/ 2 tablespoons of oil on a pan and saute shallots, garlic and onion. Once the mixture is slightly golden, add the clams, salt, sugar, pepper, a pinch of msg and paprika. Stir for another two minutes. Remove it from the heat.
Prepare Fried Pork Fat

Click here for Fried Pork Fat recipe
Prepare Sauce

Mix shrimp sauce with clam juice or water, sugar and paprika. Set aside.
In a small pan, saute the shallot and garlic. Once the mixture is slightly golden brown, pour the mixed shrimp sauce in. Remove it from heat when it starts to boil.
Prepare Clam Broth

In a pot, bring broth and lemon grass to boil. Remove from heat and add ground pepper. If used clams that doesn't come with clam juice, bring 2 cups of water and lemon grass to boil. Add fresh lived clams, a little bit of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes or when it's boiling again. Pour the broth in a bowl and add ground pepper. Set it aside.
Presentation of Cơm Hến

Cơm Hến is served with a little rice and lots of vegetables, herbs and fruit.  Place a just a little rice about 1/2 rice bowl to a large bowl. Place herbs, vegetables, rice cracker around a bowl. Add clams in the center. Top with fried pork fat, roasted peanut, fried shallots. Drizzle on some fermented shrimp sauce and clam broth.

Enjoy a savory bowl of Cơm Hến!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chè Bắp (Vietnamese Corn Pudding)

My younger daughter apparently has more of a sweet tooth than I thought; she didn't have enough of Chè as she is requesting me to make more.  I ran out of canned white beans but I still have a bag of froze shaved corn kernel.  She loves corn in general, so Chè Bắp would please her palate. 

I usually cook shaved corn with sweet rice but this time I wanted give it a try with tapioca pearl instead and it would be a good way of cleaning them from the pantry.  The corn I used is a white corn, therefore, the color of Chè Bắp won't reveal the beautiful, vivid yellow color that we usually see in Chè Bắp.  So, while I was cooking it, I remembered there are tons of kumquats sitting in the fridge; I had plan to trade these for sugar cane juice at the local store that makes kumquat flavored sugar cane.  The rinds of these kumquats are super sweet and delicious.  I thought it would go well with Chè Bắp and it will add a niece contrast to Chè; so I finely chopped the kumquats rinds and nervously added them into the Chè Bắp pot and hoped that it won't  overpower the flavor of Chè Bắp.  Luckily it turned out well.

This Chè Bắp is rich in flavours of  coconut sauce, the gelatin of tapioca pearls mixed in with the sweet corn, sugar, the aroma of fresh pandan leaves and the beautiful fragnance and sweetness of kumquats rinds that's so delicately infused into the pudding which make it nearly impossible to resist.
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Chè Bắp
1/4 cup  Tapioca Pearls
4 1/2 cups Water
1 (16 oz) bag frozen Shaved Corn Kernels (Bắp Bào), thawed or
4 ears of  Corns, used a vegetable peeler to shave the kernels off the cob
3 fresh pandan leaves, tied togheter, optional
4 Kumquats, used only rinds, finely chopped, make about 2 tablespoons
about 1 cup Sugar
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon,  Pure Vanilla Extract
1 bag Vanilla Sugar, optional
Coconut Sauce
Click here for Coconut Sauce recipe
Making Chè Bắp

Bring water and pandan leaves to boil.  Add tapioca pearls and bring it back to boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook it until the tapioca pearls are half way transculent.  It should take about 10 minutes.  Make sure to stir it  to prevent tapioca pearls from sticking together.  Add corn, sugar, salt and  kumquats rinds. Bring it to slow boil for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add vanilla extract and vanilla sugar.  Stir it well.
Chè Bắp Presentation
Ladle Chè Bắp in a small bowl.  Add a few teaspoons of  coconut sauce on top.  Enjoy Chè Bắp while it's still warm.  Eating cold or at room temperature would be just as delicious.