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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chè Bắp Mochi Bí Đỏ (Sweet Corn and Pumpkin Mochi Pudding Dessert)

November is here! The days are shorter and colder. The leaves are falling along with some rain. Soon my backyard will cover in layers of yellow and red leaves. Soon we'll busy raking the leaves into gigantic piles. My girls always have a blast shuffling their feet through these piles or relishing the simple pleasure of jumping into it and rolling around in them. It's silly little things like this that can really brighten our day. Happy kids = Happy mom.

When November arrives, our vegetables turn yellow and wilt. This is when we harvest vegetables and save them to eat through out the year. Pumpkin is one of the vegetables that we grow every year. We usually harvest, store them in a cool place, and they can be kept for at least 3 months. We have been eating pumpkin soup and steamed pumpkin too often throughout the October month.

A couple weeks ago, I brought home some sweet corns from the store to make sweet corn pudding as I had wanted to create a dish while the corn season was still in, but I didn't get a chance until when the season is about to be over.  As I always like to incorporate natural ingredients in my food, I decided to add tangerine zest in this sweet corn pudding. The pleasantly fresh, sweet and citrusy aroma of tangerine zest mixed with the sweet corn, creamy coconut milk, blended in the white tapioca pearls is just perfect.

Just when I finished shooting some pictures of the sweet corn tapioca pudding, the idea of incorporating pumpkin into the dessert popped into my mind. I prepped a quick pumpkin mochi and added it to the corn pudding. I was excited to see the beautiful vibrant orange pumpkin mochi among the tiny white tapioca pearls. What a pleasing sight.
RECIPE: Chè Bắp Mochi Bí Đỏ

for corn pudding
6 Corns, make 3 cups
1/3 cup Tapioca Pearls
7 cups water
1 can (400 ml) Coconut Milk 
1 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Powder
2 knots fresh or frozen Pandan Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Tangerine or Orange Zest, optional

for pumpkin mochi
1/2 cup steamed smashed Pumpkin
2/3 cup Sweet Rice Flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
Preparing Corn

It was kind of messy when I cut the corn off the cob. The kernels jumped off my cutting board and the juice squirted across the kitchen island so I switched to a large bowl and a small knife. Cut down the side of the cob to remove the kernels but don't cut the kernel too deep into the cob. Continue rotating the corn and cutting until all the kernels are removed. Use the same knife to scrape down the remaining corn and juice. Set aside.

Preparing Pumpkin Mochi

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  In the meantime, combine smashed pumpkin, sugar, and sweet rice flour in a mixing bowl.

Mix well with a spoon then knead the dough with your hand until smooth.  Take a small amount of dough one at a time to form small balls by rolling between your palms.   

Once the water is boiling, drop the balls into the water pot and cook until the balls float to the surface.

Let them cook for another minute.  Strain the mochi and set aside.

Cooking Sweet Corn and Pumpkin Mochi

Bring a pot with 7 cups of water, and knots of pandan leaves to a boil. In the meantime, soak tapioca pearls in a bowl of water.

When the water is boiling, strain the tapioca pearls and add them to the water pot.

Reduce the heat to medium, stirring occasionally until the pearls become transparent.

Add sweet corn and cook for about 10 minutes. Add pumpkin mochi, salt, sugar, tangerine zest if used and coconut milk.

Continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add vanilla powder. Give it a stir. Turn off the heat.


Ladle sweet corn and pumpkin mochi into a dessert bowl. This can be served warm or cold.

sweet corn pudding without pumpkin mochi
Eat well. Stay Hungry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bánh Khọt (Miniature Crispy Shrimp Rice Cake)

I drifted away while my guitar teacher ran his fingers over the piano keys and the class strummed along on their guitars. Beautiful harmonies made from the delicate piano with subtle overtones of the guitar on a crisp autumn afternoon make me crave for some sizzling bánh khọt. Weird right? Food is so distracting and it's making me such a bad guitar student. 

I like to cook food with fresh ingredients as much as I can. Hence, I 'm fond of making my own batter directly from the grains. Not only do I like fresh tasting  ingredients but I am also into the old school ways of creating things from scratch.  But anything to speed up this process is more than welcomed. Nowadays, food has become a lot easier to prepare. With the advancement of technology, smart and efficient cooking tools help make cooking so much easier. One of the best decisions I have ever made was investing in a Vitamix blender. I use this daily to create smoothie, juice, and turning  grains into drinks and fresh batter for such delicacies as bánh khọt.

Bánh khọt is a small spherical hearty rice cake that is fried in a cast iron pan or clay pan until golden brown and crispy on the outside but soft in the middle. Bánh khọt's ingredients and condiments are very similar to the popular  bánh xèo (sizzling savory crepe). They both use the same batter which consists of rice flour, turmeric and coconut milk. Although, certain regions of Vietnam skip the coconut milk and sometimes the turmeric powder altogether.The beauty of these dishes is that both bánh xèo and bánh khọt are served with lots of herbs, lettuce or mustard greens. It gives you a chance to catch up on your vegetables. Nonetheless, it's the herbs and lettuce along with the savory fish sauce served with carrot and daikon radish pickles that enhance its flavor.

My version of bánh khọt doesn't contain coconut milk but if you prefer the creamy and rich texture, you can add this to the  batter.  I like to add broken bean sprouts into the batter so that every bite of bánh khọt is filled with a crunchy texture.  In addition, the natural sweetness of shrimp and octopus fills up the center of the bánh khọt keeping it moist and tasty on the inside but still crisp on the outside.
RECIPE: Bánh Khọt

3 cups Rice, rinsed, soaked overnight
6 cups Water
2 teaspoons Salt
2 Egg, beaten 
2 tablespoons  fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
1 tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 1/2-2 cups broken Bean Sprouts
1/2 cup finely cut Green Onion

Substitute for Fresh Batter
1 bag Bánh Khọt Flour or
3 cups Rice Flour
3 cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Egg, beaten 
1 tablespoon fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
1/2 tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 cup broken Bean Sprouts
1/4 cup finely cut Green Onion

2 lbs Shrimps, peeled, deveined
Octopus or Squid, optional
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Black Powder
2 Sweet Onions, cut into small cubes
1 small carton Coconut Cream, optional
Healthy Condiments

Fish Sauce Dip, click here for recipe
Lettuce Leaves or Mustard Greens
Daikon and Carrots Pickles, click here for recipe 
assorted Herbs

a cast iron bánh khọt pan, available at most of the Asian supermarkets, about $14
 a cast iron Ebelskiver pan, available at most of the kitchenware stores. 
a cast iron takoyaki pan, available at Japanese stores.

Preparing Batter

Method 1: making batter from rice

As for rice, I used Homai California Calrose rice. I just happened to have this brand of rice in my pantry but you may try any type of rice you prefer. 

After the rice has been soaked overnight, rinse it one last time. Drain the rice. In a Vitamix blender or a high-powered blender, add rice with water. Let your Vitamix blender run at maximum speed of 10 on high for about 30 seconds or until blended. You want to blend the rice as smoothly and finely as possible. Strain it with a strainer to remove bubbles. Let it sit for at least an hour or overnight to allow the batter to absorb the liquid and the air bubbles to settle before cooking.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the batter ingredients except bean sprouts and green onion. Mix well until batter is smooth. Add bean sprouts and green onion. Set aside.

Method 2: making batter from dried rice flour

In a mixing bowl, combine  dried rice flour  and all the ingredients except bean sprouts and green onion. Mix well until batter is smooth. Add bean sprouts and green onion. Set aside.

Preparing Shrimps and Octopus

I like to use large shrimps to prevent dry-out during cooking. Cut shrimps into 1/2 inch size.  Slice the octopus, if used.

I bought cooked octopus at Otto's Market, a local Japanese store. This octopus is cooked in a Japanese style with mirin, sake and soy sauce. Hence, it has a nice bite with a slight sweet and salty taste, and significantly less chewy. 

In a large bowl combine shrimps, octopus, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Toss well.  Set aside. 
Preparing Onion

Cut onion into small cubes.  Set aside.
Frying Bánh Khọt

Place the  iron pan on stove over medium heat. When the pan is hot, brush oil then add about half a teaspoon of onion in each mini cup.

Stir the batter well.  Fill each mini cup to full.

Take a small spoon to scoop out the batter in the center of the mini cup, then add shrimps, octopus, and a half teaspoon of coconut cream (if  you prefer the rich and creamy texture).

Cover the pan up with a lid for about a minute.  Remove the lid. When cake is crispy on the outside, cooked the inside for a bit longer and it releases easily from the pan, use a spoon to scoop bánh khọt out.


Atlas, take a leaf of lettuce or mustard green; throw on some herbs; place a bánh khọt on it and top off with some freshly daikon and carrot pickles. Now,  roll everything together. Then dip it in the savory tangy fish sauce and take a nice bite. Yum. I'm definitely strumming the right chord now.
Eat well.  Stay hungry!

Đồ Chua (Carrot and Daikon Pickles)

The classic tangy, sweet, and crunchy carrot and daikon pickles make wonderful condiment for many Vietnamese dishes such as bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich), rice noodle dish, salad, and many fried dishes. This carrot and daikon pickle are incredible easy to make. I also use the same brine to pickle cucumber and red radish to go along with grilled  chicken wings and pan-fried pork chops.

RECIPE: Carrot and Daikon Pickles

1 large Carrot
1 Daikon Radish, about same size as carrot
 1 cup cooked Water, room temperature
1/4 cup Vinegar
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Preparing Carrot and Daikon Radish

Peel and julienne carrot and daikon. Place them in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt. Mix them well with your hands to extract any impurities. Drain and rinse under cold water, then press gently to extract any excess water. 
In a mixing bowl, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add the carrots and daikons into the brine. Let it sit for about half an hour before eating. Left overs can be stored in the glass mason jar and  kept in the refrigerator for a month.