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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chè Xoài (Mango Pudding)

Sweet mango is one of my kids' favorite fruits.   I usually buy it in a big box.  Sometimes we couldn't finish them on time and they would spoil.   A few weeks ago, I bought a box of ripe mangoes at such a good deal, but knew that we won't be able to finish them in a couple days, so I thought of using some of these mangoes to make chè xoài, mango pudding. It turned out great! The nice thing is you can enjoy it either hot or cold, but I like it best cold when it's hot. 
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Recipe:  Chè Xoài

4 ripe mangoes, peeled,
1/4 cup of bột bán (tapioca pearls)
1/2 cup sugar
1 small can of coconut milk
1  cup water
Making Mango Pudding

Separate mangoes from seeds.  Add 2 mangoes in a food processor and puree it.  Dice the other 2 mangoes into small cubes.  Set them aside.

In a pot, boil water then add tapioca pearls.  Reduce the heat to medium.  When tapioca pearls turn color, add coconut milk and sugar.  Bring it to boil again.  Adjust the sweetness to your liking.  Remove it from heat.  Add vanilla, then transfer it to a glass bowl or any bowl. 

I made the tapioca a day before; therefore, it looks so thick :( 

Let it cool down then add mango puree and cubes into tapioca bowl. 

Chill it in the fridge and you're done! 

Enjoy a bowl of fresh, sweet and chunky mango pudding!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bánh Canh Chả Cá (Vietnamese Fish Patty Udon Soup)

A few years back, my husband and I traveled back to Viet Nam. We hunted for good food from Saigon in the south to Ha Noi in the north. Bánh canh chả cá was one of the great dish that we tried out in Da Nang and Nha Trang. These cities are well-known for bánh canh chả cá (Fish Patty Udon Soup). The cha ca was soft and yet chewy and the soup was filled with a bold flavor. Fried cha ca has a wonderful smell while steamed cha ca added more sweetness to soup base. I love the combination of both types of cha ca as this brings out a nice contrast.

bánh canh  using potato ricer
There are two types of bánh canh - bánh canh bột gạo (rice udon) and bánh canh bột mì (tapioca udon). The tapioca udon has a chewy consistency and it goes well with bánh canh cua (crab udon soup) while the rice udon pairs well with chả cá (fish patty) or pork hock (giò heo).

My family enjoys fish a lot. Beside Cá Nướng, Chả Cá, Cá Nhúng Dấm (slices fish dip in vinegar broth) , Bún Cá (Fish Noodle Soup) , I also often make home-made bánh canh chả cá with my home-made fresh bánh canh (udon). The entire process of making fresh udon takes less than 30 minutes.

making bánh canh with hands 
The other day, we bought a big piece of King Mackerel Steak from the Saturday open market . I used it to make the broth for bánh canh broth. Both fresh bánh canh and the broth turned out wonderfully. 
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RECIPE: Bánh Canh Chả Cá

Printable Recipe


For Bánh Canh Broth
3-4 pieces of Mackerel Steaks, cut into big chunks
5 quarts of Water
1 pound of Fish Paste, fried, cut into small pieces

Fish sauce
For Bánh Canh
click here for recipe
or use store-bought bánh canh
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped, for Annatto Oil
1 shallot, sliced thinly, for Annatto Oil
1/2 tablespoon Hột Điều (to make Annatto Oil), for garnish
Spring Onion, chopped, for garnish
Rau Ram (Vietnamese Coriander), chopped, for garnish
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Black Pepper, for garnish
Making Fish Broth

Boil 5 quarts of water in a large pot. Add Mackerel Steak chunks into the boiling water and cook it for about 5 minutes or until it cooked. Use a strainer to remove the foam that is floating in the pot to keep the both clear. Add about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Taste it and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Reduce the heat to low.
Making Fish Patty (click here for recipe)

Making Annatto Oil

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil and sautee garlic and shallots. Stir it until it begin to brown. Pour it in a small bowl and set it aside.
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoon oil and 1/2 tablespoon annatto seeds over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the oil becomes a rich, orange-red color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain the oil into a garlic and shallots oil bowl. Discarding the seeds.
Presentation of Bánh Canh

Bring a broth pot back to a boil. Add udon into the pot over medium heat until the udon is cooked, about 5 minutes. If you only need to make a few bowls, just cook a small batch of broth and udon to keep it fresh.  Bánh canh doesn't taste and look good when it soaks in the broth for too long as it expands.

Transfer the bánh canh soup to a serving bowl, top with fried fish patty. Pour the fish broth and mackerel steak in the bánh canh bowl. Garnish it with cilantro, Vietnamese coriander and spring onion. Drizzle a little bit of annatto oil.  Sprinkle some pepper. Heat your bánh canh bowl up with a few slices of fresh red chili. 


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sương Sáo Hột É và Đười Ươi (Grass Jelly with Basil Seeds and Poonparai Drink)

I often make Sương Sáo Hột É và Đười Ươi  in the summer.  Everyone in my family loves to drink this fresh, cold, sweetened drink, especially in sweltering summer days.  My husband is actually addicted to it.

Hột é is basil seeds.  When soaked in water the seeds of  basil become gelatinous. 

Đười ươi  is Poonparai or Sterculia Lychnophora.  The flesh surrounding the dried seeds swells to eight times its original volume when soaked in water, forming an irregularly shaped, reddish gelatinous mass. After being soaked and the seed kernel removed, the flesh is mixed with granulated white sugar, ice, and soaked basil seeds, and drunk as a cooling drink. This is quite popular in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia.

Both hột é and đười ươi  are used for their medicinal properties.  According to the Chinese medicine, the use of  hột é and đười ươi is to remove heat from the lung, cure sore throat, counteract toxicity, and relax the bowels. This recipe is not intended to treat any symptoms but is offered mainly for your enjoyment. So drink up at your own risk. It is quite refreshing and delicious nonetheless.
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RECIPE: Sương Sáo Hột É và Đười Ươi

1 can Grass Jelly
1/2 bag Basil Seeds
1/2 to 2/3 bag Poonparai
2-3 teaspoons Banana Extract (dầu chuối)
1 1/2-2 bags of Brown Sugar (substitue granulated sugar if preferred)
3 quarts Water

Boil water with sugar until it dissolve.  Add more sugar if the water is not sweet enough for you.  Transfer it into a jar or a large bowl.  Let it cool down.
Soak basil seeds and poonparai in two seperate bowls of warm water for about 20 minutes.
Dice grass jelly into small cubes. Add it into the sugar bowl. 
Use a strainer to remove basil seeds from water and add it in the sugar bowl. 
Separate seed and skin from poonparai flesh.  Squeeze out the water that was absorbed by the poonparai.  Add the flesh into the sugar bowl.
Pour banana extract into the mixed bowl.  Mix it up and keep it cold in the fridge. 


Monday, August 9, 2010

Kem Flan (Vietnamese Crème Flan)

Espresso Caramel Flan

My family used to run a coffee house when we were still in Vietnam. One of the specialty desserts we served was Flan which is a delicious custard dessert inherited from French colonialism. I was under 10 years old at that time but i still remember how the flan was served; perhaps it was one of my favorite desserts or perhaps it was just anything culinary related that captured my selective memory.

I love the delicate, beautiful amber color and its smooth, velvety texture. The cold of shaved ice reduces the sweetness of the flan's caramel, maintains it's texture and keeps it nice and cool. 

I remembered each flan was made in a very small round, 2/3 inch thick tin cup, about the size of a condense milk can. After it was done, the flan was flipped into a plate, and topped with shaved ice. Flan was made of eggs, milk and condense milk and these ingredients were expensive; therefore, flan was one of those expensive desserts in the 80's. 

A couple weeks ago it was my husband's birthday so I decided to make flan as one of the desserts. Instead of eating plain flan, I garnished fruits on top of the flan to enhance its taste and beauty. 
RECIPE: Kem Flan


1/2 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Espresso, optional

5 eggs 
5 egg yolks 
1 can 14oz sweet condensed milk 
1 can boiling hot water (use the condensed milk can to measure)
1 can whole milk 
1 bag of vanilla or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Caramelizing the Sugar

Cook sugar in a sauce pan over a moderate heat. Watch the sugar closely as it heats. As the sugar begins to melt and turn from a clear liquid to a golden brown color around the edges, use a spatula move the liquefied sugar from the edges of the saucepan to the center. Be careful not to over stir the caramel- the sugar may start to clump up before it has a chance to melt. Caramel is done when it is just past the smoking point, and it has a deep amber color. At this point, turn off the heat and add the espresso if you like the taste of it.

Immediately pour the caramel into a baking pan and tilt the pan to make sure that the caramel is coated evenly at the bottom of the baking pan. 

At this point, preheat oven at 350 degree.  Make a water bath for flan by placing a baking tray in the middle rack of the oven and add hot water to 2/3 of the tray. 
Making Flan

Whisk eggs until blended. In a separate mixing bowl, stir boiling hot water and condensed milk until dissolved. Add whole milk and mix well. Pour the mixture into the eggs bowl and do a quick whisk. Add 1 bag of vanilla or vanilla extract.  Strain it.

Baking Flan

Pour flan mixture in a baking pan, place baking pan in the hot water bath.  Place a piece of foil loosely on top of the baking pan to prevent flan from burning.

Bake for about 45 minutes to 50 minutes depend on the type and size of your baking pan. The flan is ready to be removed from the oven when the edges are set. Gently shake the baking pan, the center of the custard should jiggle slightly. You can also insert the tip of a toothpick into the custard near the center. If the flan is still liquid, it needs more time in the oven.  Remove from the water bath and let them cool down.

disposable foil cake pans make a convenient carrier for flan to-go


Transfer flan to the fridge and chill it for a few hours. Refrigerating the flan overnight is best.  When it's ready to serve, loosen it from the pan with a knife and transfer onto a dessert plate and top with your choice of fruits or just eat it plain.