Tết is short for Tết Nguyên Đán, which means “Feast of the First Morning”. It marks the arrival of spring and the new year when the Vietnamese reflect on the past and make resolutions for the new year. Around this time of the year, flowers are blossoming and business is booming as the bustle of shopping is everywhere. Many Vietnamese are busy preparing for Tết by shopping, cleaning the house, cooking traditional food, and waiting to be reunited with their love ones.
I was fortunate to grow up in Vietnam. The culture and customs have been rooted deeply in me. There are certain values, customs that I don't necessarily share, there are some that I would not want my daughters to miss out on. One of the fun traditions to get my daughters into the Tết spirit is by simply decorating our house with hoa mai (ochna integerrima) and hoa đào (cherry blossom) as these distinctive blossoms symbolize life, growth and prosperity, while hoa cúc vàng (yellow chrysanthemum) symbolizes optimism and joy. Preparing traditional Tết food is also a must. It's the time where my girls and I get together in the kitchen and make candied coconut ribbon (mứt dừa, click here for the recipe), and other sweet treats.
This coming Tết, I am going to bring in a new dish for my family to enjoy. Though it's not a traditional dish, I love the fresh, vibrant, beautiful purple, creamy yellow and light green colors of the endives used in this dish. It reminds me of the springtime- when the new rhythm of the sun rejuvenates all living things and we as human beings can be reinvigorated as well.
The endive is not only attractive, beautiful and elegant, but apparently healthy. It has very low calories, however, it contributes about 8% of daily-required intake (DRI) of fiber. The high inulin and fiber content in endives help reduce glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels in diabetes and obese patients. Endive is enriched with good amount Vitamin A and many essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3). Additionally, endive is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, and potassium.
Endive has a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor with a pleasantly mild bitterness that makes wonderful boats to serve the spicy ground turkey. This dish promises to bring you not only freshness but also spice bursting with flavors. The best part - it couldn't be easier to make!
RECIPE: Spicy Ground Turkey Endive Boats
1.25-1.5 pounds Ground Turkey
1 1/2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce or Fish Sauce
1 1/2-2 tablespoons Laab Namtok Seasoning
4 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
6 white and light green parts of Green Onion, chopped, about 1/4 cup
Vietnamese Coriander, Rau Răm
1 tray Endives
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in green onion, and garlic, and cook until fragrant.
Add the turkey and season with oyster sauce, and laab namtok seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs.
Laab namtok seasoning mix comes in different brands. I have tried a few brands and this is my favorite one as it has the perfect balance of acid, salt, and spices. If you can't find it at your local store, don't worry...you can create your own seasoning mix. The ingredients to create this seasoning mix are combination of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, roasted rice powder, sugar, salt, msg and citric acid which you can use lime juice, lime juice powder, or tamarind powder.
For your convenience, pre-made toasted rice powder is available in many Asian grocery stores. But if you can’t find it in the store, you can make toasted rice powder at home in a jiffy. In a skillet on a low heat, add the rice and stir constantly to make sure the grains are evenly toasted. After a few minutes, the grains will turn medium brown.
Remove the skillet from heat and let the rice cool completely. Once the rice has cooled, grind it in a mortar, a tablespoon at a time or grind it in a grinder until a fine powder is achieved.
Cut root ends off endives, remove the leaves and arrange on a serving plate with spicy turkey in the middle. Spoon the turkey mixture onto the endives.