Vietspices Search

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Đậu Phộng Da Cá (Crispy Fried Peanuts)

Every year around this time, my house would be filled with quince and soft apricot blossoms and red envelopes dangling from their branches. The aroma of homemade Tết food permeates every corner . My girls adorned in áo dài (Vietnamese traditional dress) through out the week would chase each other around the house occasionally practicing a few broken Vietnamese New Year wishes. Well, the year of the Horse is fast approaching in a few days but there's hardly any signs of Tết to be found around the house - except of my mother-in-law's bánh ú!

I feel lazy, mostly from having to fend off a bout of upper respiratory infection and hosting my sister's recent visit. The guilt, however, of not preparing anything for Tết is killing me inside. I needed to muster up some motivation so I can make something for Tết for my family to enjoy.  More importantly, I wanted my girls to carry this joyful Vietnamese tradition in their hearts forever. 

My first inclination was to make Bánh Phục Linh (Pandan with Coconut Milk Tapioca Cookies).  So I  collected all the ingredients, but when I reached into my tool box, I realized I don't have the cookie mold. I was so disappointed, but fortunately my sister's mother-in-law who was visiting us from Texas came to the rescue with a different idea:  Đậu Phộng Da Cá.  According to my husband's loose interpretation,  Đậu Phộng Da Cá means Fish Skin Peanuts aptly named for the texture of the outer coating. I hope he didn't make it up as he knows how gullible I am (I'm sure y'all will keep him honest).

We made a batch together and it was a hit.  The combination of peanuts soaked in salt and sugar then coated with layers of flour to create that perfect crunch makes it irresistible I think.

Today after my little sous chef got home from kindergarten, we made a couple more batches of Đậu Phộng Da Cá so that I can perfect a recipe to post just in time for Vietnamese new year and Super Bowl XLVIII. As I was frying the peanuts, my sous chef kept coming to the peanut tray and grabbing handfuls of them.  I had to tell her to save her tummy for dinner, but she replied in Vietnamese, "Đậu Ngon!" meaning "delicious peanuts" as she scuttled away. My older daughter tasted it and said, " It's not good mommy . . . it's great!" See what I have to put up with?!

Below is the simple recipe for this delicious treat.  Add cayenne the same time with sugar and salt to spice it up or toss in some garlic powder if you so incline. I suppose cinnamon flavor would be wonderful too!
RECIPE: Đậu Phộng Da Cá

2 bags Redskin Peanut, 12 oz each bag
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
Self Rising All Purpose Flour
Frying Oil

Preparing Peanut

Separate the half peanuts and the skin flakes from the whole peanuts. Only use whole peanuts.

Wash peanuts gently by dipping a strainer bowl of peanuts into another bowl of water so that the red skin will not separate from the peanuts.

Drain it well. It's okay if the peanuts are moist but not too wet. Excessive water can lead to clumping when flour is added. Transfer peanuts into a bowl. 
Mixing Peanuts with Sugar and Salt

Add sugar and salt into the peanut bowl. Mix gently. Let it sit for at least an hour until sugar and salt melt and absorb into the peanuts.
Mixing Peanuts Mixture with Flour

Sprinkle a few tablespoons of self rising flour into the peanut bowl and gently mix it with a spatula. I used a flour sifter instead. 

Continue sprinkling flour into the peanut bowl until peanuts are coated evenly with a thick white layer of flour. 

Transfer peanuts into a straining bowl and shake off the extra flour.

Frying Peanuts

Bring a frying pan with cooking oil and a couple of smash garlic to a medium heat until fragrant. Discard garlic. Adjust the heat to medium-low. 

Carefully add 1 cup or 1 rice bowl of peanuts at a time into the oil pan using a strainer spoon/ladle to dip the peanuts into the oil. Stir the peanuts often to prevent clumping and allow for even browning. Fry for about 4 minutes until the peanuts turn golden.

Remove peanuts from the oil with a strainer spoon/ladle.

Spread them on a paper towel tray to drain off the oil.  Continue working on the next batch until done. 

Serve your guests these delicious peanuts while sipping hot tea on New Year's days. I'm sure it's great with a cold bottle of your favorite beer as well. What can be better than watching the Super Bowl and munching on these delicious, crispy - and might I say addicting - treat?!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hến Nấu Tỏi và Bơ (Clams in Butter and Garlic Broth)

Being sick for the last few days certainly doesn't lend my appetite to any seafood delicacy. But I've been bedbound slurping white rice porridge endlessly. It's fortunate that I can afford to lose a few pounds. I guess there's an upside to being tied down by a viral illness. It seems like I'm frequently ill these winter days. Only if this were a sickness of just wanting to be mollycoddled.

Just then, my sister's family decided to fly in all the way from San Antonio to visit. On their first day here, I managed to muster up some energy to prepare them a meal. On the menu was bánh canh tôm cua (Shrimp and Crab Udon Soup), boiled crabs and another of my family's favorite appetizer - Clams in Butter and Garlic Broth. The latter was a hit, especially with the kids. They devoured every clam and slurped every drop of the broth in their bowls. Unfortunately, the demand was higher than supply.

What makes this dish is the delicious broth. It's buttery, garlicky but smooth. The secret ingredient in this dish is Hon-Dashi. It's a Japanese seafood soup stock made from a smoked and dried fish called the Bonito. Hon-Dashi is a versatile seasoning. It is the base of most popular Japanese dishes such as Miso soup, noodle soups, meat and vegetable stew, stir-fried noodles, dipping sauce for tempura, the Japanese rolled omelet, and fried rice. 

If you are in the mood for some clams, here's a version you may want to try.
RECIPE: Clam in Butter and Garlic Broth

About 4-5 lbs Clams (I usually get fresh clams at Costco)
1/2-2/3 stick of  Butter
1 whole Garlic, finely minced
About 6-8 Mushrooms
1 1/2 -2 tablespoons Hon-Dashi Stock (available at most Asian supermarkets)
2 Green Onion, chopped
Basil Leaves, optional
3 cups Water

Preparing Clams

Soak clams and rinse it a few times until the water is clear and there's no sand residue.  Set aside.
Preparing Mushroom

Chop mushrooms into small pieces, set aside.
Cooking Clams

Saute garlic and butter over medium low heat until fragrant.  

Add mushroom and give it a stir.  

Add water and bring it to a boil. Then add hon-dashi and give it a stir. When the broth is boiling, add clams, cover the pot and cook just until shells pop open wide. That's how to tell when they're done.

Turn the heat off.  Add spring onion and basil leaves.  Give it a stir and serve.


Enjoy clams while they are still steaming.

Clams, roasted garlic crabs, crawfish and eggrolls

Eat well.  Stay hungry!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Khoai Lang Chiên Tôm (Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritter)

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013. It's been such a long time since my last blog. My previous laptop decided to die on me so I had to postpone posting for a while - okay a long while. Thank goodness for Facebook. As some of you know, I cook daily and post them on my Vietspices Facebook page. This has kept me sane. But 2014 is here! So lets begin the new year with a new recipe, one of my family's new favorite appetizer Khoai Lang Chiên Tôm (Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritter).

 I like the french fries size of the sweet potato as this makes it easy to enjoy. The crispy fried batter layer is a good contrast in taste and texture to the sweet and tender center of the sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters can be enjoyed as is or it can be wrapped in a fresh leaf of lettuce with a sprig of cilantro and a few mint leaves. Dip this into a sweet and tangy fish sauce with carrot pickles and you have yourself a wonderful snack or quick meal. Bon apetite!
RECIPE: Khoai Lang Chiên Tôm


About 3 medium Sweet Potatoes (Japanese or Garnet or both )
About 20 Large Shrimps, cleaned and deveined

For Batter
1 cup All Purpose Self Rising Flour
1 Cup Rice Flour
1 1/2 cups warm Water
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Turmeric (nghệ)
1/4 cup chopped Green Onion

Mixing Batter

In a mixing bowl, mix all the batter ingredients well.  Let the batter rest for at least about 10 minutes.
Preparing Sweet Potatoes

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into thin strips like the size of french fries. Soak it in water as you cut to prevent it discoloration.  Drain the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Set aside. 
Frying Sweet Potato Fritter

Heat oil in a frying pan to medium high.
Add a handful of potato sticks into the batter then arrange it onto large slot spoon then slide it down into the hot oil. Make sure the potato sticks stick together. Fry the potato sticks until almost golden brown on both sides.  
Remove it from the oil and place it onto another clean spoon. Coat a shrimp with batter and top the fritter off with a shrimp. Use a tong or chopsticks to press it firmly down to keep the shrimp sticking to the sweet potatoes, then dip it into the hot oil again for a minute until fritter is golden brown. The reason I don't fry the shrimp and sweet potato sticks at the same time is to prevent the shrimp from over cooking. 
Remove fritter and shake off the excess oil and set on paper towels or a rack to drain. 

Serve immediately or you can make some in advance and quickly heat it under the broiler to regain that crunch.