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.

Simply elegant: Steak and garlic sautéed potatoes with pan gravy (Bò bít tết và khoai tây áp chảo kèm sốt thịt)

We ran out of rice yesterday so for lunch we had some spaghetti bolognese and for dinner we had this beautiful dish: Steak and garlic sautéed potatoes with pan gravy , which tasted amazing. The meat could have been a little tender but overall, the elements of the dish worked well together so it was fine in the end. The trick is that if you don’t have the best cut of meat, have it medium or medium-rare, it will be much more tender and juicy. Last note: you can always change the sauce into something like Bearnaise, demi-glace or mushroom sauce instead of a pan gravy.

*Ingredients: serves 1

– 180-200 gr of Sirloin/Tenderloin (thăn bò)

– 100 gr of new potatoes (the round and small ones with a very thin layer of skin) (khoai tây mới)

– 5 cloves of garlic (tỏi)

– Dry herbs: rosmary, parsley, sage, thyme, basil,… 2 tsp (gia vị lá khô)

– Steak pepper mix (hỗn hợp tiêu cho bít tết)

– 20 gr of butter (bơ)

– 1 tbsp of oil (dầu ăn)

– Sea salt (muối biển)

– 1 tbsp balsamic reduction (dấm balsamic cô đặc)

*Method:

1. Season the beef with 1 tsp of the dry herbs, a splash of oil, sea salt, steak pepper mix and 2 cloves of garlic. Rest for 10 minutes.

2. Boil the potatoes for about 8-10 minutes until quite soft. Drain water and slice into 2 halves.

3. Put oil in the pan and fry on the potatoes with the skin side up. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of dry herbs.

4. Finish the sauteed potatoes with garlic and butter.

5. Transfer the potatoes to another plate. In the same pan, add the meat. Sear each side for 4 minutes until medium-rare.

6. De-glaze the pan with beef stock and some gravy powder if you want.

7. Plate the dish and serve!!! (dress a little balsamic reduction on the side)

Le Degustationator.

Cuts of Beef and Temperature of Beef

Beef is definitely one of the most widely used proteins in the food industry, doesn’t matter if it’s an Asian take-away, an American steakhouse or a fine-dining restaurant, beef is on the menu! I personally love Beef, so tasty and versatile but the bad news is that there is no cut of Beef that fits all dishes.

*Here is a little guide to different cuts of beef and what they are suitable for:

– Chuck: high in fat content, very flavourful, suitable for slow cooking in liquid (pot roast, oven roast,…)

– Rib:  a very tender cut whose marbling is well-suited for cooking in a hot dry heat or pan-sear for steak.

– Plate: a notoriously tough piece of beef, very chewy and inedible if not cooked properly. This cut needs to be slowly cooked in liquid for hours to break down the connective tissue. Suitable for pot roast, Pot-au-Feu, Slow broil,…

– Brisket:  a very tough cut of meat that requires long, slow cooking in order to tenderize. (pot roast, slowly cooked meat to put in Vietnamese “Pho”)

– Top Sirloin: one of the tenderest of the sirloin cuts and should only be used as steaks on a griller/pan…

– Tenderloin: is very tender but is surrounded by a white sheath called a silver skin which must be removed prior to cooking. Suitable for roast or steaks,…

– Bottom Sirloin: a less tender cut than the top sirloin but great with dry rubs and hot grills.

– New York Strip: because of it’s marbled fat, it’s very tender and flavourful, just give it a bit of salt and pepper then pop it on the grill and you will have the perfect steak!

– Porterhouse: a huge cut from the short loin section that includes a bone, a tenderloin steak and a New York strip, normally a steak for 2!

– Flank: is a thin cut that is most often marinated and always cut across the grain before served. It needs to be well cooked prior to serving otherwise can be quite chewy. Suitable for dishes like Grill/Braise,…

– Top Round: is a lean cut of beef that is often marinated before being quickly seared and finished in an oven. Suitable for minute-Steak, grill, broil,…

– Bottom Round: is a very large cut of meat often split into distinct portions called the eye, flat and heel. Bottom round requires tenderization or long cooking times to reach its peak flavor offering.

– Shank: many people in Vietnam love this, it’s really tough therefore requires a long, slow cook making it the most popular cut for beef stew. However, I’ve seen people stir-frying beef shanks!!!

**Temperatures of Steak:

Okay, so I really love a nice juicy and well seasoned steak but a perfect steak has to be cooked to the right core temperature as well so that it suits the tastes of the diners. I normally go for medium-rare if there is no sauce accompanying but if there is sauce, I suggest you go with medium or medium-well as the sauce will complement the steak a lot better. I don’t really agree with the picture that I got on the Net here that well-done should be 100% Brown, for me that’s complete rubbish (in Vietnam they eat like that though…but then sometimes the beef isn’t that fresh so you better play safe and go for a well-done!). Well-done should be still slightly pink and moist, not completely dry. But then maybe I’m thinking of a medium-well Steak which is like that, mind you that some restaurant only have rare, medium and well-done so their well-done should be medium-well not cooked to @$%! :))

*How to cook the perfect steak 2-3 cm steak : (do not forget to season with salt and pepper)

1. Blue Rare: 2 minutes on each side, should be red throughout but a nice sear outside.

2. Rare: 3 minutes on each side, seared outside, red hot and juicy inside, about 75% red actually but fat should be nicely rendered.

3. Medium rare: 4 minutes on each side, seared outside with 50% red center.

4. Medium: 5 minutes on each side most widely ordered steak, has to be pink throughout, slightly pink and wet in the center.

5. Medium-well (My well-done): 6,5 minutes on each side, nearly cooked through, just slightly pink but quite dry but has to be still tender.

6. Well-done: as long as you don’t burn it, and it’s brown/white inside, that’s a well-done =)) Leave your pan and steak there and go out for a drink and chat you will get a well-done 😀

ATTENTION!!! This also depends on the temperature of the stove/grill as well so be careful and the meat has to be thawed already prior to grilling or searing,…

Le Degustationator.

Source: www.grownyc.org/images/gmkt/events/beef.pdf

A taste of America: Apple Pie :) (Bánh táo)

When you think of America, you think of a nice, warm slice of Apple Pie (well, sitting next to a fat, juicy steak of course). This all-time-American favorite dessert is so perfect for any occasion, at any time of the season. But making a perfect Apple Pie isn’t easy, the finishing product has to be absolutely on the mark: the pastry must be crumbly and flavourful, the filling needs to hit the right balance between sweet and sour. Too much nutmeg and cinnamon isn’t great either (not for Swedes… they can take in as much cinnamon as you throw at them). Finally, it has to look good! The good news is that it isn’t rocket science either, a little patience, a little tinkering and a little practice would soon allow you to make the perfect Apple Pie. This is my first time making a real Apple Pie, I and my girlfriend has this thing about carving out “spheres of influence”, she makes desserts, I make savoury stuff but hey, I can’t participate in Masterchef without knowing how to make desserts :)) Nah, joking, I’m not that good. Not the perfect Apple Pie but definitely something you can impress your friends and family. Oh, this time I got some help from my sister as well, kinda like a 60:40 job so I have to give her some credit 😀

*Ingredients:

for the pastry

• 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

• 50g icing sugar

• sea salt

• 125gunsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

• 1 egg

• a splash of milk

• a pinch of salt

for the filling

• 3 medium-large apples

• 3 tablespoons brown/white sugar

• 2 tbsp of cinnamom + a dash of nutmeg

• ½ a lemon

• 25 g butter

*Method:

1a. Preheat oven to 180oC

1b. To make the pastry, measure out the ingredients. Use your fingertips to gently work the butter and egg into the flour and sugar  until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, make sure that the butter is really cold in the beginning.

2. Add a bit of milk and gently mix with your hands until the dough comes together.

3. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for >30 minutes.

4. Peel the apples, remove the core and slice into fairly thin slices. Shape doesn’t really matter.

5. Melt 25 g butter in a pan, add the apples, add sugar, a pinch of salt and cinnamon, nutmeg.

6. As soon as the apple starts to soften and becomes transparent, add the lemon juice. Let it sit.

7. Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour. Divide your pastry dough into two and roll out one half until ½cm thick.

8. Roll the pastry on the rolling pin then gently ease it out on the baking dish.

9. Add the apple filling.

10. Roll the rest of the dough to make the top of the pie.

11. Brush some egg yolk on top of the pastry. Use your knife and make some incisions on top of the pastry to let the steam escape when cooking in the oven.

12. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown. DONE! (Serve with some ice-cream or custard cream)

This is how it looks like after I had already taken a piece out 😀

Enjoy!

Le Degustationator.

Hot and spicy = pan-grilled chicken with tzatziki !!! (Ga nuong sot tzatziki)

Hi all!

A new day is approaching (it’s 00.42 right here, right now). Just arrived in Bratislava for summer vacation and felt like blogging a bit 😀 Well, I have to do some stuff afterwards anyway, important stuff, this is kinda like a warm up. And talking about warm and heat, nothing could beat a really hot and spicy pan grilled chicken with tzatziki sauce (indian + greek I guess???). This is not an original recipe per se but the combination is kinda wacky and it’s my own idea, but hey, it works like a charm. That juicy, tender and flavourful piece of chicken goes with that cool and fresh yoghurt cream like bread and butter. And you know what happens when bread goes with butter? They go to hell… which is your stomach, kind of :”) hihi. If you’re still in doubt, try it out for your self right now and tell me about it!!!

*Ingredients: serves 2

– Chicken breast : 300 gr (lườn gà)
– Greek yoghurt 300 ml (sữa chua không đường, đặc)
– Cumin 1 tbsp (hạt thìa là ai cập)
– Coriander : a big handful (mùi ta)
– Cayenne pepper: 1 tbsp (ớt khô cayenne)
– Tikka masala paste: 2 tbsp
– Garam masala : 1 tbsp
– Salt and pepper  to taste (muối + tiêu)
– Lemon juice : just a nice squeeze of half a lemon
– Minced garlic (tỏi): 3 tbsp
– Cucumber: 1 medium  (dưa chuột)
– Salad = rocket, mangold, water cress, spinach, etc. (rau salad của tây)

*Method:

1. Slice chicken breasts into big rectangular pieces (so they look pretty when plating).

2. Mix 100ml yoghurt with 1 tbsp of garlic, chopped coriander, salt and pepper, tikka masala paste, and the rest of the spices in a big bowl. Marinate the chicken and leave for at least 2-3 hours.

3. Cut the cucumber into 2 halves, scoop out the watery party with the seeds so the tzatziki will be nice and thick afterwards. Grate the cucumber into thin slices.

4. In another bowl, combine the rest of the yoghurt, garlic, salt and pepper, cucumber. Mix well together and chill in the fridge.

TIP! You can add dill or mint to the tzatziki if you want, a bit of olive oil as well 😉

5. Set the stove on high, make sure your pan is hot and start grilling your chicken. Don’t use too much oil otherwise it will become “frying”. Several minutes on each side would do, depends on the thickness of the cut. You don’t want to overcook it, trust me.

TIP! Make sure you get a nice sear and colour on the chicken, that’s where the flavour comes from. If a grilled piece of chicken looks like boiled, consider shoot yourself :)) nah, joking.

6. Plating it up! Take two pieces of chicken, make a V-shape by putting one on another at an angle. Add some fresh salad leaves behind the chicken. Spoon some tzatziki on the side. DONE!

This is how it’s “supposed” to look like 😛 According to ME

Hehehe, I gotta sleep now but I’m thinking about this dish… Oh dear

Anyway, have fun trying out this dish! I’m sure it will pay off 😉

Lots of love,

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.

Summer is coming!!! Soba noodle salad (Mì Soba trộn)

So it was midsummer yesterday, what could be a better dish to kick start a wonderful summer party than this bright, flavourful Soba noodle salad with fresh herb sauce and marinated tofu. It’s cool, it’s fresh, it’s summer, doesn’t get much better than that seriously. And the good news is that this beautiful side-dish is extremely simple to prepare, no jokes.

*Ingredients: serves 2 (not necessary to follow the exact amounts)

– Soba noodle 120 gr (Mì Soba)
– Tofu 100 gr (Đậu phụ)
– Dark soy sauce : 1tbsp (Xì dầu đặc)
– Light soy sauce : 2 tbsp (Xì dầu loãng/ Magi)
– Yakisoba sauce : 1 tbsp (Sốt Yakisoba)
– Red/green bird eyes chilli: 3-4 depends on taste (Ớt xanh/đỏ)
– Sugar 1 tsp (Đường)
– Oyster sauce 2 tbsp (Dầu hào)
– Rice wine vinegar 1 tsp (Giấm gạo)
– Sesame oil 1 tbsp (Dầu vừng)
– Coriander (cilantro): a small bunch (mostly leaves if you want, the stem has a stronger taste) (Mùi ta)
– Grated ginger : 1 tsp (Gừng)
– Green onion: as much as you like (Hành lá)

*Methods:

1. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Immediately chill in ice water to shock the noodle -> stop it from being over-cooked.

2. Slice the tofu into bite-size pieces. Fry in hot oil until golden (hot or not, stick your chopstick in the oil and see if the oil starts to bubble). Drain excess oil off.

3. Mix the sauces, ginger, chili and coriander in a blender. Blend until unified, smooth dressing.

4. Mix all the ingredients together and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

5. Serve cold with barbecued meat!

NOTE!

– No matter how accurate the recipe is, always taste when you’re cooking. Even Gordon Ramsay tastes.

– Feel free to adjust the recipe according to your taste, be creative!

Love to hear from you guys 😀

Le Degustationator.