Vietspices Search

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dầu Hạt Điều (Annatto Oil)

Vietnamese cuisine often use annatto oil to enhance a dish with its taste and the vibrant color. Annatto seeds release a beautiful orange color when added to hot oil, but it also adds warm, rich flavor to your dishes. The oil imparts a slightly peppery scent with a nutty hint. 

Annatto shrub with flowers and fruits

Annatto seeds sometimes called roucou or achiote, can be found at spice markets, Asian markets, and in the Mexican foods section of some grocery stores.

If you want to read more about annatto seeds, click on this link:

I use a lot of annatto oil in my cooking. I often pre-make a jar of annatto oil and keep it at room temperature for a a few weeks. 

To make annatto oil, add 2 tablespoons of  oil and 2 teaspoons of annato seeds in a saucepan and bring the heat to medium.

As the temperature rises, the red color will leach from the annatto seeds.  The more annatto seeds added to the oil, the deeper of color you will get.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand for a minute. Strain and discard seeds.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bánh Canh (Banh Canh Noodles)

I started to make fresh bánh canh when I was in High School. At that time, I was still pretty much a newcomer and there were many things that I needed to adapt to including the popular food. I still recalled how difficult it was for me to eat pizza, hotdog, chili, and hamburger. Though my mother cooked wonderful Vietnamese food, I often found myself in the kitchen making a small batch of bánh quai vạc, bánh canh and bánh bao to sastify my craving for Vietnamese food.

Before I launched this blog, my style of cooking was based on eyeballing everything, especially when it came to making the dough for bánh quai vạc, bánh bao or bánh canh

Recently, I  tried this bánh canh recipe again. This time I measured all the ingredients and revealed step by step the details  to my blog fans so that they can try this delicious dish  at home.

One caveat, creating the right dough can be very tricky. I  tried three batches back to back with the same total amount of flour but different ratio of  rice flour and tapioca and each batch gave me a different result; one batch was too mushy and I had to keep adding more flour; another was a little bit dry and so I had to add more boiling water. The more tapioca added, the more chewy the noodles will be.  To create a less chewy noodles, add more rice flour but too much rice flour can create harder noodles.   So be prepared to adjust the amount of boiling water added to the flour mix  as this will change depending on  the ratio of flour used. 

The recipe below is the best bánh canh texture I came up with.  I hope you have better luck of making bánh canh with the exact measurements.  I will update this post when I have a more consistent approach to creating the perfect bánh canh dough using a potato ricer.

RECIPE: Bánh Canh (Banh Canh Noodles)

2 cups Tapioca Starch
1 1/2 cups Rice Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
about 1 1/4 cups Boiling Hot-Water

Making Bánh Canh

Place tapioca flour, rice flour and salt in a mixing bowl and mix it well.  
Pour boiling hot-water into flour slowly (make sure the water is boiling. Hot water will not work).  Use spatula to mix it up since the flour is very hot and it can burn your hands. Knead flour while the flour is still hot until dough is soft and it doesn't stick to your hands and the mixing bowl.

Dough that is relatively dry will be too thick and too difficult to press through the plate. If the dough is dried, add a little bit more of boiling hot-water to soften the dough so it can be easy to press through the plate. Add some extra flour if the dough is too tacky. How much water all depends upon your brand of flour, how old it is, and the temperature and humidly of the room.

Wrap dough in a plastic wrap then aluminum foil to keep dough from drying out. Let it rest for about 5 minutes. 

On a clean work surface, dust a little flour and take your dough mixture out and roll it flat.

Cut it into thin stripes and separate noodle strings with a little bit of flour immediately to prevent from sticking together.

To speed up the cutting process, dust flour on the surface of flatten dough, fold it up and cut. 

Noodles can be stored in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a long time.

When making bánh canh soup, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the raw noodles into the boiling water. Cook for a few minutes until the noodles become transparent and float to the surface. Drain and rinse. The purpose of cooking the noodles before adding to the broth pot is to prevent the broth from turning cloudy and viscous due to excess flour.

click here for Bánh Canh Cua recipe

click here for Bánh Canh Chả Cá recipe
Eat Well!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chim Cút Rôti Chiên Giòn ( Deep Fried Quails)

Thanksgiving is approaching fast and I couldn't wait to prepare fresh homemade meals for my family.  I told my husband that throughout this week, I will serve him Thanksgiving dishes everyday . . . only for him to have seconds on Thanksgiving day.

Every Thanksgiving I would start out in the kitchen from the early morning.  The first order of business,  bake a turkey.   I would cook up at least eight dishes plus desserts to feed the whole army which includes my own family, my husband's brother's side of the family and our friends.  Our traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals usually start at noon and end late at night after the dinner. A full day fulfilled with good food, love, warmth and gratitude.

Usually on Thanksgiving day, I'm usually steeped with the preparation that I can't blog. This year, I decided to make my favorite Thanksgiving dishes a head of time to share with my blog readers through my Facebook page.  Thanks to my family who is willing to sacrifice their normal meals so that I can achieve my plan.

If you haven't checked it out yet,  head over there for more food:

One of my favorite dishes to serve on this holiday season is Chim Cút Rôti (deep fried quails).  I like to serve Chim Cút Rôti with mashed potatoes or black rice  (xôi nếp than) with Chinese sausages (lạp xưởng) and thousand year eggs (trứng bắc thảo)  and a side dish of pecan butter sweet potatoes. Quails marinated with some of my favorite ingredients like garlic, shallots, curry powder and five-spice powder give this dish a full, wonderful aroma.
RECIPE: Chim Cút Rôti Chiên Giòn (Fried Quails)


For  Fried Quails
A pack of 6 Quails, washed thoroughly with salt, pat dried with paper towel
2 tablespoons chopped Garlic
2 tablespoons chopped Shallots
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) Brown Sugar
3 tablespoons Oil
1/2-1 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
1/2 tablespoon Curry Powder
Oil, for deep fry
Making Fried Quails

Combine the marinate ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.  Add quails to marinate and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight  in the fridge.

Put oil in a wok or a saucepan over high heat. To tell when oil is hot enough for deep frying, dip a chopstick l into the oil as it heats up. If the oil starts to bubble steadily, then the oil is hot enough for frying. Reduce the heat to medium low. Remove the quails from marinate and fry the quails for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. During the frying process, use a strainer to remove the marinated garlic and shallots and save it. Remove quails from oil then place onto paper towel. Brush quails all over with melted butter for a glossy finish and enhanced flavor.
Making Roti Sauce

In a saucepan, cook the left over marinate sauce over medium heat for about a couple minutes.  Add the fried marinated garlic and shallots.  Pour into a small bowl and serve it as a roti sauce.  Last year, instead of deep frying, I seared the marinated quails then combined the roti sauce with the quails and baked, then broiled for the last couple minutes.

Enjoy quails with a mixture of salt, pepper, and lime juice dipping sauce.
Have a warm, sweet, joyful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bánh Canh Cua Tôm (Crab and Shrimp Tapioca Noodle Soup)

One of my fondest childhood memories was having a delicious steamy bowl of bánh canh for breakfast sold by a lady who always sat at the same spot nearby my elementary school; her specialty was bánh canh chả cá (fish patty rice noodle soup). In the afternoon, there was another lady who made a wonderful bánh canh giò heo (pork hock rice noodle soup). I love both types of these bánh canh. You have to realize that it's extremely difficult for me to not eat out as food vendors permeate every corner of my hometown Pleiku.

When I arrived in the United States, I didn't want to lose the flavors that have been so fundamental to my upbringing. I thought the only way to preserve this was to start cooking these recipes the way I remember eating them. Now that I'm married to my husband who is a seafood fanatic, I started incorporating seafood into my recipes; I thought making Bánh Canh Tôm Cua would be the ideal way to combine what I enjoy and what my husband loves to eat.

Bánh Canh Tôm Cua is a crab tapioca noodle soup packed with fresh crab and shrimp flavors. The broth has been slightly thickened with tapioca noodles which has a more chewy texture compared to the rice noodles. My husband prefers the less chewy noodles as he thinks that they have just the right texture. It's hardy, comforting, and delicious!
RECIPE: Bánh Canh Cua Tôm


For Broth
8 cups Chicken Broth
4 cups Water ( no water or chicken broth needed, if used homemade pork stock)
1 cup Crab Meat
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 tablespoons Salt
1 1/2 tablespoon Fish Sauce
1-2 tablespoons Annatto Oil

For Crab Claws and Shrimps Topping

16-20 Crab Claws
1 pound Shrimps, peeled, deveined, tail on
2 tablespoons chopped Shallot
1 tablespoon chopped Garlic
3 tablespoons Annatto Oil
1 teaspoons Fish Sauce
1 /2 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 tablespoons Crab Paste in soy bean oil

prefer this brand since it's less
purgent than a jar of shrimp or
crab paste labeled as gia vi nau
bun rieu.

For Shrimp and Crab Balls
1 pound Shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/3 -1/2 cup Crab Meat (available at Costco or Sam's Club)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Annatto Oil

For Bánh Canh Noodles
Tapioca Starch
 Rice Flour
 Boiling Hot-Water

Spring Onion, finely chopped
Cilantro, finely chopped
Fresh Black Pepper
Fresh Chili Pepper, thinly sliced

Making Noodles

click here for the recipe

Alternatively, you can purchase premade bánh canh noodles at store.  
Making Annatto Oil

Click here for the recipe
Making Shrimp Crab Balls

Place shrimps in a food processor and grind until fine grind is achieved. Transfer to a bowl and add crab meat, salt, pepper, fish sauce, sugar and annatto oil. Mix it well until smooth paste is achieved. Keep it in the fridge or freezer until the shrimp paste mixture is cold. This process will help the shrimp mixture to bind together and become crunchy.

Cooking Broth

Bring a pot of water and chicken broth to a boil. If used whole crab, add crab in the broth pot and cook until crab is cooked. Remove any scum at the surface.

Remove the meat from the body and claws. Scrape out the gooey stuff that is in the center of the body's two equal solid parts. The greenish stuff is the tomalley, or mustard; it's the liver. You can eat it, and many love this part of the crab. Save the gooey stuff to saute it in crab claws and shrimps.

In a frying pan, saute garlic and and shallots until fragrant. Add crab meat and give it a quick stir. Transfer crab meat into the broth pot. Seasoning it with salt and fish sauce.

Remove the shrimp paste mixture from the fridge or freezer. Use a spoon to scoop the shrimp paste and make it into balls. To avoid the shrimp paste from sticking on our hands, wet your hands and a spoon with water. Place shrimp ball into the boiling broth.

Sauteing  Shrimps and Crab Claws

In a large pan, heat 1/2 annatto oil and saute garlic and shallots until fragrant and lightly golden brown.

Add shrimp, crab claws, crab meat and crab paste in soy bean oil, fish sauce and pepper. If you have the gooey stuff from fresh crab, add it in. Stir and cook for until shrimps are cooked. Set aside.


Bring a broth pot back to a boil. Add noodles into the pot over medium heat until the noodles are cooked, about 5 minutes. If you only need to make a few bowls, just cook a small batch of broth and noodles to keep it fresh. Noodles wont taste and look good when they soak in the broth for too long as the noodles do expand.

Ladle bánh canh into a serving bowl, top with crab meat, shrimp balls and shrimps. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, and fresh black pepper. Serve with a side of sliced fresh red chili pepper and fish sauce.

Ăn ngon !

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

What could be better than eating a bowl of Bò Kho (Vietnamese beef stew) in these cold days of Autumm. Bò Kho blends flavors of earthy spices and popular ingredients from all over Asia.  The lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallots, star anise, and curry powder all spice up this warm, aromatic, comforting unique flavored beef stew. 

Beef shank, beef flank and beef chuck are the three types of beef used in the stew.  They are tough and chewy but  are perfect ingredients for bò kho.   Beef flank cuts has a layer of tendon on top, while  beef shank and beef chuck have lots of dense muscle tissues. After a long, slow stewing, these become very tender and impart a luxurious depth of flavor and texture.

Curry powder is also one of the important spices in the beef stew. Choose curry that includes a mixture of curry, turmeric, chili, coriander, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, allspice and salt. 

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to cook for a group of 20 who came to our house for bible study. I cooked a 16 quart pot of bò kho and served it with bread and noodle. As I still have quite a few puff pastry sheets left in my freezer, I  decided to use them to make a few pot beef stew (similar to Pot Pie). My girls loved breaking down the flaky and light puff pastry crust and dipping it in the beef stew sauce. It was a good sign that an entire big pot of stew was quickly consumed. It was a good thing that I made a bunch of Pate Chauds to make sure my guests leave with satisfied tummies.

So the next time you need a cure for a cold, windy, rainy day, try on this Bò Kho recipe for size.


2 pounds beef chuck (bắp vai bò), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 pounds beef flank (nạm), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 pounds beef shank (bò bắp), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
16 cups or 4 quarts of water
6 lemongrass stalks
 1 large piece of ginger root
6 shallots  
3 garlic heads
9 star anise
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
9 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chili flakes, optional
2 tablespoons annatto seeds, for annatto oil
1/2 cup oil, for annatto oil
12 carrots, cut into big chunks
3 sweet onions, cut into big chunks
A handful of basil leaves, for the broth
a bunch of cilantro, for garnish

Bring a pot of water and 3/4 of lemongrass to a boil.

Making Annatto Oil

Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a sauce pan over low heat for about 2-3 minutes. As the temperature rises, the red color will leach from the annatto seeds. Let it cool down for a few minutes, then strain and discard seeds.  Store it in a jar for later use.
Toasting Star Anise

Place star anise in a small pan over medium low heat. Toast until fragrant.  Set aside. 

Preparing Shallots, Garlics, Ginger Roots,  Lemongrass

Lemongrass - lightly crushed with a meat tenderize or the flat side of a knife, cut each into 3 pieces.
Shallots and Garlic - mince. Split shallots and garlic in half.  You will use half of shallots and garlic for sauteing the beef and the other half to make the curry paste.  
Ginger Root cut into fine strips.  Make about 6 tablespoons.
Sauteing Beef

Divide the meat into 3 batches if your skillet isn't large enough for one batch. Heat a tablespoon of annatto oil in a skillet. Add ginger, garlic and shallots and stir until slightly golden brown. Add the beef and stir until seared. 

beef flank

beef shank

beef chuck

Transfer seared meat into the boiling water pot. Add toasted star anise, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender. 
Making Curry Paste

Heat about 1/4 cup  annatto oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the remaining shallots, garlic and stir until fragrant and slightly golden brown.

Add curry powder and chili flakes and stir for a few seconds until well blended. If you can’t take spiciness, decrease the amount of chili flakes or omit it.  Set aside.

Simmering Stew

Thirty minutes before the beef is done, remove the star anise.  Add the remaining lemongrass, carrots, and onion.

Cook until carrots are tender. Add the curry paste and toss in the basil leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, fish sauce, or sugar if necessary.
Making Beef Stew Pot Pie 

In an oven safe bowl, add 2/3 bowl of beef stew. Place the puff pastry sheet over the top of the dish.

Brush the top with egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water or milk) and place in oven at the middle rack. Bake at 350° until pastry puffs turn golden, about 15 minutes.

Ladle beef stew in a shadow soup bowl. Garnish with cilantro and fresh basil leaves. Serve with toasted bread or noodle. Serve with salt, fresh black pepper, and lime dipping sauce for beef cubes.

Bon Appetite!