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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dự Án Nguồn Sống (Living Water Project in Ca Mau, Vietnam) - Part II - Final Update

It’s hard for us to imagine life without a constant supply of water, let alone potable water. But at this very moment, this is life for many people in remote villages in Vietnam. 

In July, we wanted to provide the basic need of clean water for 32 of the poorest families who lack access to clean water in a remote village of Hop Tac Xa, Ca Mau Province. Your support and generosity have fulfilled the dream for not only these vulnerable villagers but also their future children. 

Our goal of building a community water well was completed in August of this year. The estimated cost was $7000. We not only funded the project, but also helped to rebuild 6 damaged water wells for a nearby village. 

rebuilding water well

As I mentioned in the previous post (click here), the water well system includes:

- a 840 ft deep well
- powerful pump
- a 2000 liter storage tank
- a 6-meter high platform to house the tank
-1,200 meters of main pipes that are installed underground along the path right in front of the villagers' homes. 

The water is pumped continuously to the tank to ensure that it stays full. Each household is connected to the main line to access the water. We also installed a meter for each house to measure consumption and ensure that no one family is overusing the supply. 

It's been 3 months since the community well was built. These families are thrilled to have direct access to a constant supply of clean water suitable for drinking, bathing, cooking, and cleaning. They no longer need to collect rainwater to store. They're no longer forced to use dirty water to wash their hands and clothes, to drink and cook. Their hopes no longer dash by broken promise after broken promise in the past.

The villagers express their sincere gratitude for the simplest of blessings - something that many of us take for granted on a daily basis - and millions around the world lack. 

Together we delivered on our promise and helped this corner of the world to become a little cleaner, a little less thirsty, and a lot more joyful - all because you decided to pitch in. 

Thank you!

Happy Holidays.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Malaysian Char Kuey Teow (Hủ Tiếu Xào Khô kiểu Malaysia)

I have never felt this productive in my life since my older girl decided to join the cheer team. While there's certainly a lot of joy involved in parenthood, it is not unusual to also feel overwhelmed with  a busy schedule between my two girls' band lessons, art classes, seven days a week of gymnastics and cheer practices, and competitions, leaving me exhausted by the end of the day. It's one of the main reasons why I have been blogging less. But today I was determined to block everything else out and just stay focus on the task at hand.

If you've been following my Facebook page, I have mentioned that I have been cooking up a frenzy to fundraise for a koi pond for my dear husband. We had a beautiful little pond at the old home and I know he misses it.  

One of the dishes I've been making is a Malaysian dish called Char Kuey Teow per a friend's request who misses his homeland food. I have never seen or tasted it but I gave it my best shot. After carefully studying the ingredients of Char Kuey Teow,  I made a first batch and waited for my daughter to come home from school to taste test it. She gave me thumbs up. After delivering Char Kuey Teow to my customers, I anxiously waited for my critiques as if I was on Chopped. I received high marks on my first try, it gave me the confidence to challenge myself even more. Ever since, I have more Malaysian customers who requested me to make Char Kuey Teow almost every week. My husband has been complaining because I sell out every single order of Char Kuey Teow every time and he still hasn't had a chance to taste this dish yet. 

Char Kuey Teow literally means Stir-Fry Rice Cake. It is one of the most popular street food in Malaysia, and is considered a national favorite in Malaysia and Singapore. Many people from all over Asia travel to Penang just to indulge in a plate of it. Char Kuey Teow is made from fresh flat rice noodle and stir-fried over very high heat with shrimps, slices of Chinese sausage, fishcake, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives. It is is traditionally stir-fried in lard, with crisp pork fat cubes to add the smoky flavor, richness, and crispy texture to the dish. I am fond of banana leaves so I like to serve Char Kuey Teow on a piece of banana leaf on a plate not only to enhance the lovely subtle aroma that it lends to the dish but also to achieve a more Penang authentic style.
RECIPE: Malaysian Char Kuey Teow
make 2 servings


12 oz fresh noodle
8 large shrimps, tail-on, peeled, deveined
12 slices pan-fried fish cake
1/2 Chinese sausage, sliced
3 duck or chicken eggs
a handful bean sprouts, rinsed well and drained.
1/2 handful garlic chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon bacon grease, or lard, or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon crispy pork fat cubes, optional

for the sauce

1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce

Preparing Crispy Pork Fat Cubes

Pork fat can be purchased at Asian stores. Ask the butcher. 
Crispy pork fat can be prepared a few days ahead. Remove pork skin. Dice the pork fat into small cubes but not too small. 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 so be careful. It's done when the pork fat cubes are brown and start to float and not burn. Turn off the stove. The lard pieces will continue cooking in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown. Remove them from the oil. Drain the crispy pork fat cubes on a paper towel or a strainer. Let it cool and store in a air tight jar. Store pork oil separately. Crispy pork fat that is stored on top of the counter top near the stove or in the pantry will last about a month and stays, the freshest longest about a year when you keep it in the refrigerator between uses.

Preparing the Sauce

In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and mix well.
Preparing Noodle

If you don’t have access to fresh noodle, you can make your own rice noodle (click here for the recipe). Noodle can be kept at room temperature for a day. Do not keep the noodle in the fridge as it becomes brittle. Separate the noodle strands. Set aside.

Preparing Fried Fish Cake

Fried fish cake can be homemade or purchased at Asian stores. You can prepare fish cake days ahead.
To make fish cake, combine a pound of tilapia fillets, a shallot or white part of green onion, a tablespoon of fish sauce, ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon tapioca starch in a food processor and whip into a smooth paste. Transfer 1/2 of the fish paste onto the plastic wrap. Wrap it up and flatten it to make a patty. Chill the fish cakes in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Thaw fish cake before frying.
Heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add in the fish cakes and fry for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the cakes occasionally so they brown evenly.

Cooking Char Kway Teow

For your Char Kuey Teow to taste like the one in Malaysia requires the right fresh ingredients, tools, and the correct techniques. You need a good quality wok such as cast iron or carbon steel. Non-stick will not work well as it can't withstand super high temperatures. I don't have a wok so I used my All Clad pan.  As I mentioned earlier, Char Kuey Teow requires cooking with lard in high heat to add the smoky flavor, and richness to the dish. It's requires cooking one batch at a time and a quick stirring  of the noodle.  The result is a perfectly soft, slightly charred, smoky flavored noodle.

So be sure to have all the ingredients by your side.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add the lard or vegetable oil. Once the wok is almost smoking, add the shrimps, sausages, and fish cake. Stir quickly until shrimps are almost pink. Add garlic last as it can get burned easily.

Give it a quick stir then add noodle. Quickly pour 3 tablespoons of the sauce over the noodle and stir the noodle quickly in the circle motion starting from the center of the pan with a spatula.

When the noodle is soften and mixed well with the sauce, push the noodle aside or create a spot in the middle.  Crack the eggs (prefer duck eggs as they have a richer flavor) and stir to break the yolks.

Stir the eggs with the noodles until the eggs have almost set. Finally, add chives, bean sprouts, and a tablespoon of crispy pork fat cubes. Continue stir frying noodles and vegetables until combined.


If you want your Char Kuey Teow to look authentic like Penang style, transfer noodle to a serving plate lined with banana leaf, serve hot and enjoy as is or kick it up a notch with chili sauce.

Eat well. Stay healthy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Đậu Hũ Chiên Giòn (Crispy Fried Tofu)

This crispy fried tofu is simple and yet tasty to have as an appetizer. The bite-size fried tofu has a natural sweetness and tender center; the beautiful golden brown skin is full of hearty savory notes.

Firm tofu is best for frying as it holds its shape and browns better than other varieties. There are many brands and types of tofu in the market but not all tofu are created equally. When time allows, I would make a trip to a local tofu store to buy their fresh daily made tofu, otherwise, the next best bet is buying packaged organic tofu with the farthest expiration date from my local Costco.
RECIPE: Crispy Fried Tofu


2 blocks firm tofu
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder or
2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon
2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoons fresh minced garlic or
4 shallots, thinly sliced
4 stalks green onions, finely cut
2 tablespoons olive oil
rice bran oil, vegetable or canola oil, for deep frying
Preparing Tofu

Place tofu on a couple layers of paper towel or a kitchen towel. Slice tofu into bite size cubes. Remove excess moisture content in the tofu by placing another paper towel or kitchen towel (doubled over) on top and gently press out the excess water, until the paper towel is no longer drawing out much water.

When I am not feeling lazy, I take an extra step  to soak the sliced tofu in a bath of salty water (a bowl with salt and water) and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes then pat dry before frying. Using this method draws out the moisture and add seasonings, resulting in a better crust and texture. 
Preparing Green Onion Sauce


Cut green onions. Set aside. 
Put about a tablespoon of olive oil and garlic or shallots (I prefer shallot) in a sauce pan over medium-low heat until the garlic or shallot begins to turn pale gold. Turn off the heat. Continue stirring until the color deepens.  Add chicken bouillon powder, and sugar in the hot oil and mix well.
shallot sauce

Pour the fried shallot or fried garlic mixture over a bowl of green onions. Mix well. 

garlic sauce
Deep Frying Tofu

Heat oil for deep frying in small saucepan on high (oil should fill pan to at least 2 inches). To test if your oil is hot enough, dip the tip of a chopstick into the oil.  If it begins to sizzle then the oil is ready for frying.  

Blot dry tofu with a clean dish or paper towel to avoid splattering. Carefully add the tofu cubes to the pan. Don’t crowd the pan. Do not flip tofu too soon as it will break apart. Let it cook until the edges start to look brown. Flipping the tofu occasionally to prevent tofu from sticking to pan and also to ensure that all sides of the tofu are golden brown.

fresh daily made tofu

organic tofu from Costco 

Transfer the tofu to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.


Place tofu on a serving plate. Drizzle the green onion sauce over the fried tofu. Mix it all up so the sauce coats the fried tofu pieces. My little one loves seaweed, so I topped tofu with shredded seaweed.  Serve while it's still warm and crispy.

Eat well.  Stay hungry.