Vietspices Search

Friday, November 25, 2016

UPDATE: Living Water Project in Vietnam (Dự Án Nguồn Sống)- part II

The best feeling in the world

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you ate well, laughed often, and gave lots of thanks for what we have. I am thankful for my family, friends, my neighbors, all of my blog readers, and everyone involved with The Spices Of Life charity work. 

But even more basic, I am grateful for food, clothing, shelter, clean air and water. These are necessities that I seldom take time to think about, but how my life would be so different without them. And through the work that The Spices Of Life has been involved in, it reminds me to be grateful and humble for there are so many people around the world lacking these necessities. I am also learning that simple acts of kindness can bring purpose and so much fulfillment. They bring more peace, and joy to my life and to others. 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to share with you the amazing work we have done together for which I'm thankful. As of today, we have completed the building of all 31 water wells and 100 out of 220 water urns for the poor in the remote villages of Ca Mau and Vinh Long, Vietnam! Since the area of Tan Hung commune in the district of Cai Nuoc, Ca Mau Province doesn't have a high water table, we had to dig very deep to depths of 120-140 meters to access potable water. And because a deep well means that the water has to be lifted farther from underground, each home needs to have its own well and its own electrical pump to deliver the water from underground to the house.

1st phase: 1 of 16 water wells

2nd phase: 1 of 15 water wells

providing well materials to the villagers

passing out electrical pump to each household

transporting materials into each household

transporting equipment


While the water wells were completing in Ca Mau Province, we simultaneously build water urns in Trung Thanh Dong commune in the district of Vung Liem, Vinh Long Province. Every $50 donated provides the funding for one complete water urn. On a sunny day, they are able to complete two water urns. It then takes another 3 weeks to pour the water into the urns slowly to prevent them from cracking.

This project will be completed shortly. Your generosity helps make The Living Water Project possible so that we can provide access to clean drinking water to nearly 2000 people of all ages who were coping with this severe scarcity. 

On behalf of The Spices Of Life, we would like to thank anh Ba for all his hard work and dedication to this project. As I mentioned in the previous post (click here), anh Ba has been working directly and closely with each household to ensure that each family get the quality buildinng materials for the wells and water urns. The villagers have expressed their sincere appreciation for his dedication to this project. 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. His job, however, is not done as there are 120 water urns remaining to be made for the third remote village of Trung Thanh Tay commune in Vung Liem District, Vinh Long Province. Our hope is to have all urns completed by year's end.

anh Ba - Loved by the villager

the lack of infrastructure - this is how you go from one household to the next

The Spices Of Life could not do what we do without your love and support. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many people around the world! May God bless you and your family this joyous holiday season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bò Thăn Vai Quay (Prime Rib Eye Roast)

Every major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, my girls have no desire of traveling anywhere but being comfortable, enjoying the holiday decorations inside our home, and helping me cook a traditional meal. My little girl Ân-Hy loves the magical feelings of the holidays so much that she said it's the coziness that "keeps her warm and happy throughout the cold season." 

A few days ago as we were heading out to the airport to visit my family in Texas, they again expressed how much they wanted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner instead of a Vietnamese version and requested me to prepare the meal no matter where we will be. 

Usually when we're at home on a holiday, I like to invite friends who don't have families nearby to spend the holiday with us. I spend the day before on my feet prepping the food so that early the next morning I can start cooking to get the feast ready by lunch time. It's certainly no simple task but just simply satisfying. We would gather around the table to give thanks for what we have, enjoy the feast and each other's company, converse and laugh. We'll take a short break from eating and resume in a few hours to finish out the evening. Last year, Akiko, a good friend of mine since high school flew in to spend Thanksgiving with our family. My girls and Akiko were in charge of desserts while I cooked a few dishes. We stayed up pass midnight and got up at 6 am to finish up the dishes. I love the variety of aromas fighting for space in my kitchen. By noon, the dinning table was replete with a feast.

caramelized pecan sweet yam

honey roasted baby carrots

every year they're in charge of mashed potatoes

grilled lemongrass ginger quails

my older daughter Nhã-Hân's center piece creation :-)

Is it just me or is the table never quite big enough? While we were all gazing at the beautiful, mouthwatering turkey, grilled quails and ribs, the colorful vegetables, fruits, desserts, the sparkling drinks, and the smiles on everyone's faces, I was oblivious to all the spasms in my neck and the aches in my feet - at least until the next morning. But it was worth every bit of it. 

black rice with Chinese sausage, mushroom, carrot, and preserved black egg

dessert table


time to rest and digest after a feast

end the evening with s'more and dried squids?!! 

One of the main dishes on my holiday menu is the roast beef which I turn to every holiday season for the last several years and it's still a big hit. I always buy my prime rib eye roast from Costco. The beef is marinated overnight with several spices, garlic, and herbs. Then, cook it to a medium rare. Every slice of the beef is tender and packed with fabulous flavors satisfying your every taste buds. This is absolutely a wonderful centerpiece to a holiday table and to enjoy with your family and friends.
RECIPE: Prime Rib Eye Roast 


1 rib eye roast, bone-in or boneless, about 5 to 6 lbs
1 whole garlic, peeled, slightly smashed
about 6 prigs of fresh thyme
1 onion, sliced 1/4 -inch thick
1 tablespoon freshly black pepper, cracked

for Mixed Spices
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Mixing Spices

It is less expensive when purchasing spices from bulk bins and you can buy just what you will need. I usually buy them from my local Winco store. 

Combine all the mixed spices and mix well.

Preparing Rib Eye Roast

I like this piece of rib eye roast as it's easy to create a pocket.  Use a sharp knife to make a slit  to create a pocket between the top fat layer and the meat. Rub the entire roast generously inside out with mixed spices. Place the garlic, thyme, and onion slices in the pocket.

This piece below is a little bit harder to create a pocket.

Cover the fat cap with with cracked black pepper. This fatty layer is what gives this cut it’s distinct and juicy flavor. Tie around the roast with cotton butcher's twine. This step is to ensure it holds its shape during the cooking process, which ensures it cooks evenly, and keeps it nice and tight so the juices are more prone to staying in instead of running out. I skipped tying my roast just because I ran out of twine.

Marinate it overnight in the fridge. Before cooking, bring the roast to room temperature

Cooking Rib Eye Roast

If your rib roast is bone in, there is no need for a rack as the bones are the rack. If cooking a boneless roast, use a roasting rack to elevate the roast from the bottom of the pan. Place on a rack set inside the roasting pan. Place the roast with fat cap up on a rack. You can accent with some of your favorite vegetables around the roast.

Place the roast in the oven on the center rack. Roast for 1 1/2 until reddish-pink and juicy in the center, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 125 degrees F. Remove the roast from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and  allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes before slicing. Cutting into the meat too early will cause a significant loss of juice.

Approximate Cook Time Internal Temperature:

2 ribs (4 to 5 pounds) – 60 to 70 minutes 
3 ribs (7 to 8.5 pounds) – 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours
4 ribs (9 to 10.5 pounds) – 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 hours
5 ribs (11 to 15 pounds) – 2-1/4 to 3 hours
6 ribs (15 to 16 pounds) – 3 to 3-1/4 hours
7 ribs (16 to `8.5 pounds) – 3-1/4 to 4 hours

Beef Roast Cooking Internal Temperatures:

Rare – 120 to 125 degrees F. – center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion
Medium Rare – 130 to 135 degrees F. – center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion
Medium – 140 to 145 degrees F. – center is light pink, outer portion is brown
Medium Well – 150 to 155 degrees F. – not pink
Well Done – 160 degrees F. and above

If your roast gets done an hour before the guests arrive, just remove roast from oven, turn off the oven and leave the oven door open for about 15 minutes to reduce the heat temperature. Cover roast with aluminum foil, keep roast in the oven and close the door. The roast will rest and still be tender, moist and ready to carve. Large roasts can be held for up to 2 hours this way.

Transfer rib eye roast and vegetables to a serving platter. Slice the beef to serve. If your rib eye roast has bones, save them to make beef stock. 

If there are any fat and juice that drip down from the roast, take advantage of this luscious beef fat drippings to make some savory pastry known as yorkshire pudding to serve with the roast. This could be called the quintessential British dinner.

Left over roast can be used to make sandwiches or panini.

Eat well.  Stay healthy.  Happy Holidays!