Vietspices Search

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pickled Lemon Chicken and King Oyster Mushroom Soup (Súp Gà Chanh Muối Nấm Bào Ngư)

Despite the sweltering summer heat, I enjoy eating hot soup anytime of the day. Peculiar isn't it? Yet, it's so comforting to be able to enjoy - slurp to be exact - a nice bowl of well balanced soup, preferably one with a zesty hit of citrus.

One of my favorite soups is the pickled lemon chicken and king oyster mushroom soup. I preserve the lemons every year around the winter season. It's when I harvest them from my friend's lemon tree and preserve them in salt and water to make salty lemonade and use them in cooking such as in this chicken soup. The downsize is there's not enough heat from the sun during winter to help with picking the lemon and there is chance of getting mold/fungus growing in the brine. I usually just let them sit at room temperature near by the stove. It takes a long time, at least 2 months, for the pickle lemon peels to soften, and for the flavors to fully mature. When Spring comes and the sun is out, I let them bake in the sun to hasten the process. Click here for preserved lemons recipe.

What I enjoy most about this chicken soup is the zestiness of the broth.  The roasted rice and the preserved lemon in this soup give it a nutty and sharp citrus kick. Cooking the king oyster mushroom in this soup also brings out a savory umami flavor that goes well with the velvety, meaty texture of the mushroom that reminds me of abalone. And lastly, the distinct earthy aroma of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and garlic make this a hearty, comforting,  yet light and nourishing soup.
RECIPE: Pickled Lemon Chicken and King Oyster Mushroom Soup

1 whole free range chicken, available at Asian market
about 3-4 king oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 whole garlic, peeled
1/2 - 3/4 cup rice
2 lemongrass stalks, slightly smashed, cut into 4 inch pieces
5-8 kaffir lime leaves, optional
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1-2 preserved lemons, optional 
1 bunch culantro leaves, optional, roughly chopped
a bunch of green onion, finely chopped
Roasting Rice

I always toast my rice first when cooking porridge or any kinds of soup to give it a nutty flavor that complements the soup perfectly. This process takes only a few minutes and it will add an extra layer of depth to the  dish. Wash the rice for a few times until water is clear.  Drain well. Place rice in a skillet over low heat and stir the rice in the skillet constantly for about 10 minutes until you start to smell the nutty heat and the rice start to turn golden brown. Remove the rice from the heat.
Cooking Chicken

I am obsessed with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, therefore, kaffir lime tree and lemongrass are must-haves in my vegetable garden.  If lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are not available for you, you can substitute them for a few slices of ginger root.

For this soup, I like to use free range chicken from an Asian supermarket. It is smaller and less meaty than chicken from American supermarket but when cooked, it produces an intense chicken stock with a beautiful yellow hue.  The chicken skin becomes yellow and looks amazing. 

Rinse the chicken well under cold running water. In a large pot, about 8 quarts, add chicken, roasted rice, mushroom, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and enough water to cover it at least by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low to maintain a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to extract as much flavor as possible from the bone and meat so all the goodness goes into the broth, and the rice grains expand and become soft. Add sugar, salt, and fish sauce. Use a fork to break the chicken apart into small pieces. 

At this point, smash a preserved lemon one at a time and add to the chicken pot. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Add more preserved lemon if you want a bit more punch. Eliminate preserved lemon if you prefer. The flavor won't be the same but broth is still hearty and delicious. You can substitute fresh lime juice and serving it on the side. Cook the chicken soup for another 10 minutes.


Ladle chicken soup into a serving bowl. Garnish with green onion, and culantro leaves. Serve with lime or lemon wedges on a side if you don't use preserved lemon in the dish. I like to add a few slices of fresh red chili pepper to my bowl as hot, fragrant and sour is how I like.
Eat well. Stay healthy.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Living Water Project in Vietnam - Final Update

I am beyond excited to announce that we've accomplished our mission of providing clean water access to at least 250 families who reside in impoverished conditions in these 4 remote villages of Trung Thành Đông, Trung Thành Tây, Tân Qưới Trung in Vĩnh Long, and Tân Hưng in Cà Mau of Vietnam to alleviate some their hardship and help ensure their survival. 

This Living Water Project is The Spices Of Life's first grand scale and most challenging project we've ever done. And it couldn't have been accomplished without your love, support and prayers. The cost estimate for this project was $17,200 and we received approximately $19,000 for 31 water wells at the cost of $200 each and 220 water urns at $50 each. The 31 wells were fully funded by a couple with a servant heart. Thank you Tony and Kayla! In the process of drilling for water wells and producing water urns, we ran into unforeseen obstacles that resulted in additonal cost and project delays. I am so grateful for all the help from chị Vân whom I barely knew at the time for her enthusiasm and financial support to move this project along.

Our Living Water Project success was truly a team effort. Together, we did something awesome! The pictures speak for themselves.

Once again, thank you to everyone for your love, trust, and generosity. As a token of appreciation, there is a dedication plaque with your name on each well and water urn that you donated. Please let me know if you haven't received the pictures. For those who wanted to remain anonymous, your plaques were engraved under The Spices Of Life. 

On behalf of The Spices Of Life, I would like to extend my gratitude and deepest appreciation to anh Ba, and chị Trâm for all the hard work and sacrifice that you've given for this life changing project. It warms our hearts to know that so many families now have safe drinking water for years to come.  The villagers have expressed their sincere appreciation for anh Ba's dedication  and The Spices Of Life's generosity.  As I mentioned in the previous posts, Anh Ba has been gracious for the opportunity to serve and we could not have found a more trustworthy project manager to handle the job.

a villager who shows anh Ba  her appreciation

Here's to our next project together. I prefer to work directly with a group so that we know exactly what we are doing and where our money goes. Any great suggestions are welcome. Please touch base with me via my email or messaging.

Click the links below for previous posts regarding the Living Water Project:

Living Water project part I

Living Water project part II

Living Water project part III


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pan Fried Oysters with Anchovy Filet Sauce (Hàu Chiên với Cá Cơm Biển Phi Lê Sốt Dầu Ôliu)

A Japanese housewife is what my friend Akiko described me as when I was in Japan a month ago :-). I spent the first and last few days in Tokyo sightseeing, and of course tasting delicious food, but the majority of my time in Minamiashiga was spent grocery shopping, cooking and eating authentic Japanese food with my host family, their neighbor, and friends. I had an unforgettable time experiencing the life of a local and seizing the opportunity to learn the culture, custom, and culinary delights. I didn't leave, however, without introducing them to a few Vietnamese culinary flavors and teaching them how to cook a few of our favorite dishes. Despite the language barrier, we managed to understand one another through broken English, sign language and Google translator. What would we do without Google?

I posted most of my trip photos on my facebook page, but here are some pictures of food, shopping, and gathering when I was in Minamiashiga.

Phở - Vietnamese beef noodle soup

steaming rice cake for phở noodle

teaching these ladies how to make pork buns

bánh xèo - savory crispy crepe

introducing chè trôi nước  - sweet mung bean ball

I am learning how to cook miso soup 

oden - one of my favorite Japanese food

enjoying roasted sweet yam

One of the treasures I brought back was a recipe for oyster and shirako which I'd learn by observing Yuko's cooking. Now shirako is quite rare as it's the milt or sperm sacs of male cods. (Aren't you hungry now? Stay focus here). She pan-fried the oysters and the exotic shirako, then she cooked anchovy filet, smashed it into a paste and poured it over the fried oysters and shirako. It was mouthwatering watching her cook up this dish. I thought how my husband would really enjoy this dish with a beer or better yet some premium sake.

When I returned home, I tried to find shirako but it was impossible. I even attempted to text a head chef at a well-known restaurant in town to ask him to check with his vendor for shirako, but to no avail.  When pan-frying shirako, it needs to be coated with flour to protect its delicate and tender texture. The outside is crisps and golden brown while the inside is marvelously soft, and creamy - kinda like pork brain - which I love to eat it when I was a little kid. Little did I know how dangerous that could have been. 


So, with this recipe, there's only oysters.  If you're lucky enough to find shirako, you can prepare it the same way as oysters.  As exotic as this sounds, the flavor is in the anchovy.
RECIPE: Pan Fried Oysters with Anchovy Filet Sauce

1 glass jar oysters, small or medium size
1 slice  anchovy filet
potato flour
kolser salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
baby spring mix or rainbow mix
Preparing Oysters

Remove the oysters from the jar and let drain. Wrap the oysters in paper towel to draw out the excess fluid.  Sprinkle oysters with salt, and toss gently in the flour.
Pan-Frying Oysters

Warm the pan, add oil and butter on medium-high heat.  Place the oysters in the butter and cook for about a minute until the bottom of the oysters are golden brown, gently turn them over and cook until golden brown.  Don't cook oysters too long as they will get dried out and tough. Remove the  fried oysters and let drain on a paper towel.

Preparing Anchovy Fillet Sauce

In a small pan, cook olive oil and garlic over medium heat until fragrant, without letting it brown. Stir in the anchovy, and cook until anchovies are broken down, then turn off the heat.

Preparing Baby Spring Mix

Arrange baby spring mix on a serving plate.  


Arrange oysters on a bed of baby spring mix. Drizzle anchovy sauce over. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over oysters. The lemon juice adds a robust acidity and concentrated floral sweetness to oysters.

Eat well.  Stay healthy.