Treat from the sea: Vietnamese spicy stir-fried squid (Mực xào cay)

Just simple as that, a bowl of rice and a dish of this spicy stir-fried squid and I’m good for the night! If you’re living in the seaside then this dish would be perfect as fresh squid just caught from the sea will taste so much better than the frozen ones and it’s still one level above the “fresh” squid that you can buy at the market. You travel along the coast of Vietnam, you stop at the beach and get a sun bath and after that, you should find those small Vietnamese ladies who sell these beautiful little creatures and take them home and … cook them 😀 I used to hate seafood but well, when I prepare it myself and they are fresh, I can eat the whole thing alone! This dish is simple, it’s truly Vietnamese and it’s healthy too! But wait…the best part is that it takes about 10 minutes to cook 😀 perfect for my impatience. Here’s how you do it.

*Ingredients:

– 500 gr fresh squid, cleaned and sliced into medium-large pieces (keep the tentacles as a whole if the squids are small)

– 2 fresh tomatoes, slice into big wedges.

– 1 tbsp of minced ginger.

– 1 onion, sliced thinly.

– 1 red chili (huge, long chili which are not so spicy)

– a lot of spring onions (as much as you want) chopped into large pieces.

– 1-2 tbsp of sriracha chili sauce/ chinsu chili sauce.

– 2 tbsp canned tomatoes.

– 1 tsp sugar.

– 1 tbsp fish sauce.

– salt and pepper to taste.

*Method:

1. Prepare all the raw ingredients so that they are ready for some quick action!

2. Put the pan on the stove and set fire on high. Only add the oil when the pan is extremely hot, do not put the oil in before otherwise it will burn easily.

3. As soon as the oil is in, throw in the onion and the ginger and chili.

4. After 30 sec – 1 min, add the squid and stir them constantly.

5. Add the fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes along with the chili sauce.

6. Continue to stir fry the squid, season with salt, pepper, sugar and fish sauce.

7. After 5-6 minutes, turn off the stove and add the spring onions.

8. Give it a good stir and serve. DONE!

I know you’re gonna love it 😉

Le Degustationator.

Back to childhood: Vietnamese stuffed and grilled tomatoes (Cà chua nhồi thịt)

I loved  this dish as a child and still love it now. One embarrassing memory was when I was 4-5 years old, one day, Mom decided to invite some guests over for lunch, she made this and since I was so so so hungry and I loved this dish so much (okay, I’m trying to make it sound more justifiable 😀 ) I decided to ate several pieces on the dish mom put on the table for the guests BEFORE they arrived!!! Mom was really angry I remember, lucky I didn’t eat all of them otherwise… let’s say it would get really messy and I mean really messy… for me and for her (mostly me 😦 probably ). Anyway, the point is this dish is simply beautiful. Large vine-ripe juicy tomatoes, stuffed with a fragrant and flavourful traditional Vietnamese filling that would blow your guests away. Even better, it’s HEALTHY! YAY!

*Ingredients:

– 600 gr minced pork

– 10-12 medium/large tomatoes

– 100 gr vermicelli

– 100 gr wood ears

– 100 gr sun-dried shiitake mushrooms

– 1 large onion

– 3 medium/large eggs

– 2 tbsp pepper

– Salt to taste

– 2 tbsp tomato puree (to thicken the sauce)

– 2 tsp sugar

– Chicken/Pork rib stock

*Method:

1. Soak the wood ears and mushrooms in warm water for 20-30 minutes in total to hydrate and soften them. Squeeze out all the dirt inside them and change the water every 10 minutes. Finely chop them or put in a food processor to save time.

2. Soak the vermicelli in warm water for 15 minutes. Change water once and soak for 10 more minutes until it’s soft. Cut into short threads. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

4. Finely chop the onion, mix together with the minced pork, wood ears, mushroom, vermicelli in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, a little bit of sugar if you will. Add 3 whole eggs and thoroughly mix them. Set aside.

5. Cut the tomatoes in halves. Use a spoon with sharp edges, spoon out all the meat of the tomatoes and set aside in another bowl. They will be used to make the sauce later on.

6. Stuff the tomato halves with the meat. Lay them on a baking tray with the tomato side on the tray.

7. Bake the tomatoes for 45 minutes.

8. Blend all the meat of the tomatoes in a food processor into a smooth paste.

9. In a pan, add finely chopped onion, 1 tsp of sugar, 2 tbsp of tomato puree and the tomatoes. Stir and add the chicken/pork rib stock to the sauce. If you need to thicken, add more puree. If you think it’s too sour, add a little bit more salt and stock, add a little more sugar. The sauce should not be too runny in the end.

10. Spoon the sauce over the grilled tomatoes and SERVE!

Enjoy 🙂

Le Degustationator.

Street of Hanoi: warm and crunchy eel vermicelli (Miến Lươn Trộn)

Hi all!

Have you been to Vietnam? If you’ve been there and if you’re observant, you will probably see some small street vendors selling this dish called “Miến Lươn” in Vietnamese which basically means “Eel Vermicelli” if translated literally. The dish comes in three main versions: stir-fry (I love that one), soup (popular but doesn’t really suit my taste because the soup destroys the crunchiness of the eel) and finally, the third version, which is very modern and is loved by all Vietnamese teenager, is sort of in between, it has a very thin sauce but it’s not stir fried or a soup. That’s the one I’m gonna show you how to make today. So what to know about this beautiful dish? I guess vermicelli (some call it “glass noodle”) isn’t too common outside of some Asian countries (not so sure though). It’s a transparent sort of spaghetti, quite thin, and comes in two versions: brown and white. The brown one is normally made from “Arrowroot” but then it can be processed so it turns white (I hate that…), I think brown is sexier 😀 And there is the white one that is made from mung beans, they don’t taste so different from each other but the brown one is just better ^^ (because I said so!) I also admit that the “eel” sounds kinda gooey and disgusting but it’s not! (Well the fresh and alive ones are really slippery and annoying, looks ugly as well :D) The eel that is used for this dish is crunchy  (you can buy these fried/crunchy eels or make them yourselves, I didn’t make them myself). It’s just so amazing! Let’s see how we should proceed.

*Ingredients: serves 2

– 200 gr vermicelli

– (100 gr bean sprouts to add some crunch if you want, I didn’t have that day so…)

– 120 gr fried eel

– 3 tbsp light soy sauce (or Maggi)

– 2 tbsp oyster sauce

– 1 tbsp fish sauce

– 1 tsp sesame oil

– spring onion (as much as you like)

– 1 tsp sugar

– Vietnamese fresh herbs (Vietnamese coriander or Persicaria odorata is a MUST!)

– 1 tsp fried onions/shallots for garnish

– 1-2 tbsp of pork/chicken/beef/eel stock

– 1 tsp chili oil*

*You can find the recipe for making this sauce in my Snail noodle soup post at:

https://foodloverguy94.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/a-taste-of-home-vietnamese-snail-noodle-soup/

*Methods:

1. Soak the dry vermicelli in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Blanch the vermicelli in hot water for few minutes until it’s cooked (you gotta taste). Make sure it’s not overcooked. Drain and set aside.

2. Put the stock in a sauce pan. Add all the sauce together. Add the fresh herbs. Add spring onions last.

3. Mix the vermicelli in the sauce, transfer to a plate.

4. Mix the fried eel in the vermicelli.

5. Garnish with some more fresh herbs and fried shallots. Dress with a little of chili oil.

!!!SERVE IMMEDIATELY!!!

Have fun!

Le Degustationator.

A taste of Home: Vietnamese Snail Noodle Soup (Bún Ốc)

You visit Hanoi and you will definitely see this dish being sold literally everywhere, it’s a big hit with the locals and maybe the tourists as well !? The key is to get over the “snail” part which sounds kinda scary but actually tastes quite nice if done properly. The snails have to be fresh, not gooey, slightly chewy (Vietnamese people love chewy food 😀 ) but it must never be so firm as giving the person eating it the feeling of chewing on a bullet!!! But the tough part is the soup which the dish totally depends on for it’s success or failure. The perfect soup should not be too oily, too cloudy, too sour or too sweet/salty. It’s all about a delicate balance. The subtle sweetness and flavour of the broth comes from the snail borth in combination with the juice of the pork ribs which are slow cooked for hours prior to making the soup. Now let’s fine out how to make this traditional Vietnamese favourite… MY WAY!

*Ingredients: (everything must be cooked to taste, I don’t have the exact amount)

a) Main ingredients: serves 4-5

– 2 medium shallots, chopped
– 4-6 fresh tomatoes, seeds removed, quartered
– 300 gr canned tomatoes
– 400 gr fresh snails (w/o shells)
– fish sauce to taste
– salt to taste
– 100 ml of special rice wine vinegar (in Vietnamese we call it “giấm bỗng”)*
– vegetable oil
– 400-500 gr rice noodles
– 10 cups of pork broth (recipe follows)

b) Broth:

– salt to taste
– pork ribs 400 gr
– pork belly 500 gr
– 1 medium shallot
– 1 small ginger

c) Chili oil:

– salt to taste
– 1 tsp sugar
– 200 ml neutral oil
– spring onion: as much as you want!
– chili powder 3 tbsp
– 1 clove of garlic, chopped
– 4-5 fresh red chilies

d) Garnishes:

– morning glory (Rau Muong, aka Chinese Spinach ‘ong choy’), stems only, thinly sliced or curled
– bean sprouts
– Vietnamese coriander (rau ram)
– Perilla leaves
– Fried tofu
– shrimp paste (if you will, it has a very strong smell and pungent taste)
– fresh Chilies
– lemon/lime

*This type of vinegar is difficult to find if you’re not in Vietnam, it’s not the common rice wine vinegar you find, it has a very nice and subtle acidic flavour and quite unfortunately, it is extremely crucial for a successful “Bún ốc”. I don’t even know how it is actually made 😀 Sorry!!!

*Method:

1. Cook the rice noodles according to instructions on the package. Shock in cold water afterwards.

2. Put pork ribs and pork belly, water, ginger and shallots into a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium low. Simmer for 3 hours, skim any scum as it appears. Reserve the pork belly, we’ll use them later.

3. Add vegetable oil to turn on on medium heat. Sautee  shallots until translucent about 2 mins. Throw in fresh tomatoes and season liberally with salt and sauteed until soft about 5 mins.

4. Pour in canned tomatoes including the juices and pork broth and bring to a boil.  Turn down to low heat and simmer until ground pork is cooked. Season with fish sauce, salt and sugar (shrimp paste if you will)

5. Stir fry the snails in some shallots, season with salt.

6. Pour the 200 ml of oil in a sauce pan, turn on medium heat. Add the white parts of the spring onion and stir fry until fragrant. Add chopped garlic. Add chili powder and fresh chili. Finish off with the rest of the spring onions. Season with salt and a bit of sugar. Transfer to a jar to use later.

7. Blanch the rice noodles in hot water to heat the noodles up.

8. Slice the pork belly into thin slices.

9. Plate the dish up and serve with fresh herbs!!!

Leave comments if you love it 😀

Le Degustationator.

A little nostalgia with Southern-style beef noodle salad (Bún bò Nam Bộ)

Just 3 days ago, I and my girlfriend celebrated the anniversary of our first real date 😀 We’ve been together for a several years, there are ups and downs but we still love each other and … we both love food!!! This dish is so special because it brings me back to the day when I came to her house to prep some food for a party the next day, wearing a chef’s jacket. No doubt it was a beautiful moment. In fact, the photo you see is taken at her house about a year ago, made by me and my girlfriend with a lot of love. She did some prep and help out cooking as well (by the way she makes some awesome cakes and pies, gotta try them out some time 😉 ). So what to know about this dish? Southern-style beef noodle salad is a typical Vietnamese dish, it’s a street food but you can also find it in restaurants. The bottom line is that the dish is comfort food for us Vietnamese, and it’s so typical because of that delicate balance between sweet, sour, hot and salty in combination with the freshness and crunch of the beautiful fresh herbs you can find in Vietnam. Every mouthful has to be full of different textures and has to be unforgettable. If you have a chance to visit Vietnam, it’s the dish to try. But why not try this at home and impress your family and friends? (maybe cook with your girlfriend like me? 😀 )

*Ingredients: (approx.) serves 2

– Rice noodle 220 gr (Bún tươi/khô)
– Beef (tender cuts would be great) 200 gr (Bò)
– 2 asian shallots finely chopped (hành ta)
– Minced garlic 3 tbsp (tỏi)
– Roasted peanuts (unsalted) 3 tbsp (lạc rang)
– Fried shallots 2 tbsp (hành phi)
– Fish sauce + Rice vinegar + Sugar = Sweet sour sauce (Nước mắm chua ngọt)
– Light soy + Oyster sauce = 3 tbsp (Magi + Dầu hào)

– Non-aromatic oil (do not use olive oil) 3 tbsp (Dầu ăn)
– Green/red chilies to taste (Ớt xanh/đỏ)
– Been sprouts (100 gr) (giá đỗ)

– Salt and pepper (Muối + Tiêu)
– Cucumbers (Dưa chuột)
– An array of fresh herbs: lettuce, coriander, mint, spearmint,… (xà lách, mùi, bạc hà, húng, kinh giới, etc.)

*Methods:

1. Cook the rice noodles according to instructions on package. Immediately shock in ice-cold water afterwards to stop it from cooking. Rinse and put aside.

TIP! In Vietnam, you can go straight to the market and get the rice noodle done for you 😀

2. Slice the beef into thin slices and marinate in some garlic, shallots, 1 tsp of sugar, the oyster and soy sauce. Set aside for 15 minutes.

TIP! In order to slice the beef thinly, you need to froze it beforehand until it is quite firm (but not hard), and please get an extremely sharp chef knife otherwise it would be 99,99% impossible to cut it thinly.

3. Add sugar and water in a bowl and mix well. This is the base for the sweet source sauce that will give the distinctive taste for the dish. After the sugar has dissolved, add fish sauce (nước mắm) and rice vinegar. The catch here is that I didn’t put any measure for the sauce since I’ve never made it according to any recipe but just taste and adjustment. You should try that out too! Just add everything (even more water and sugar) until you hit the right balance between sweet, sour and saltiness. Lastly, add minced garlic and some finely chopped chilies.

4. Wash the fresh herbs carefully, drain all the excess water out, slice into smaller pieces and set aside.

5. Put the flame on highest possible, make sure your pan is hot, add oil, garlic, shallots to the pan. Add the beef and bean sprouts, stir-fry until just done. Set aside.

6. Use a peeler and peel the cucumbers into thin, long pieces. Wrap it around your finger to make a ring for plating up later.

7. Assembling the dish: put a generous handful of herbs at the bottom. Put some sauce on top. Add the rice noodle and then the stir-fried beef. Spoon more sauce on top. Put the cucumber rings on the edges of the plate. Sprink some peanuts and fried shallots on top. DONE!

This is how it looks like when I made it

Image

*Pressure points:

– Don’t over cook the rice noodle. Mushy rice noodle is …

– Don’t over cook the beef. Chewy and stringy beef is …

– Always taste and adjust along the way, there’s no recipe that fits everyone’s taste.

Hope you enjoy it!

Le Degustationator.