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Posts Tagged ‘Culinary Adventure in Vietnam’

Let It Stew

I love having a stew cooking on my stove top while I am catching up with a pile of work. I have had a frozen pork belly in my freezer for a month now, waiting for the time when it will become Moo Palo, or Stewed Pork Belly with Cinnamon and Star Anise in Soy Sauce, a delightful dish of Thailand. I could no longer make excuses that I was too busy too cook—I can accomplish both working and cooking: Just let it stew.

I worked at my home office all last week to meet my deadline for editing recipes and writing a proposal. When I saw the frozen pork belly in my freezer I pulled it out to thaw so that I could cook it the next day.  The rest was simple. I cut the pork belly into pieces, placed them in a Dutch oven and sprinkled the remaining ingredients randomly on top. Then I let the stove top (or you can use the oven) do the work of cooking. I took a break from work from time to time to check on the stew. While it cooked itself on the stove top for 2 hours, in my office I enjoyed the aroma of soy and cinnamon and star anise interacting with each other.

Stewed Pork Belly with Cinnamon and Star Anise in Soy Sauce, Moo Palo

This dish is similar to Thai Moo Palo but I omitted the hard-boiled eggs and instead of using five spice powder, I used Vietnamese cinnamon and star anise.  What I was looking for was a sweeter and more delicate flavor than from the Vietnamese version with cinnamon and dark soy sauce. It was surprising good and sophisticated. When I checked with my family they had no idea that there was a tablespoon of black pepper in it. It had just a hint of black pepper deepening the sauce.

In Phuket, this dish is called by its Phuket Hokkien name: Moo Hong – หมูฮ้องสูตรภูเก็ต. I cooked it the same way my mother would, with the fat and skin attached to the pork belly to keep it sweet and moist. The important ingredients that give  Moo Palo or Moo Hong Phuket its unique flavor are dark soy, crushed garlic cloves, black pepper, cinnamon powder, cinnamon sticks and star anise.

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Stewed Pork Belly with Vietnamese Cinnamon and Star Anise in Soy Sauce

Moo Palo

หมูพะโล้

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Stewing time: 2 hours on medium heat on stove top

2 pounds pork belly (aka side pork) with fat and skin attached, cut into 1½-inch thick pieces
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (Bengal)
3 tablespoons light soy sauce, more as needed
2 tablespoons Vietnamese cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon whole black peppers, crushed
8 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled (don’t chop, keep them whole)
3 star anise, whole
5 cloves, whole
2 cilantro stems, see Pranee’s explanation on cilantro root
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Place cut up pork belly in a dish and stir in the dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, Vietnamese cinnamon powder and black pepper; mix well. Marinate overnight or for several hours.

Place the pork belly and marinade in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add garlic, star anise, cloves and brown sugar on top of pork. Brown the meat a little, then add water to cover the top of pork by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium or medium low (depending on the burner) to create a nice gentle boil. Let it cook for 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add water if needed.

After an hour and a half, cover the Dutch oven with a lid and let the pork simmer for about a half hour, or until tender. (It is tender when you can cut it with a fork and it breaks up nicely without an effort.) Reduce the sauce to 1 cup, about ¼ cup per serving.

Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

 Pranee’s note:

Vietnamese Cinnamon or Saigon Cinnamon has more essential oils and 25 percent more Cinnamaldehyde  than other kinds of cinnamon.

You may add 4 shelled hard boil eggs during the last 1 hour of stewing time. It is also delicious served with cooked thin rice noodles.

An alternative cooking method is to braise the stew in the oven at 300°F for 3½ hours.

© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 

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Three Kinds of Pepper Leaves in Southeast Asia

There are three kinds of pepper leaves in the black pepper (Piperaceae) family. They can be easily confused by the inexperienced. This is how I explain the three types to my students when the lesson comes to the use of wild pepper leaf.

Wild Pepper Leaf - Chapoo - La Lot

A wild pepper leaf, or Piper Sarmentosum Roxb, is a common name for cha plu in Thai, Kaduk in Malaysian and la lot in Vietnamese. It is a ground cover in my garden in Phuket. Thais use it in Hua Mok, Miang Kam and tidbits. My favorite of all is when it is put in a stink ray curry.

Black Pepper Plant

A black pepper plant, Piper Nigrum, is in the same family as chapoo and la lot but it is a climbing plant. Only the fruit is edible. Thais love to cook green peppercorns with hot pungent curry dishes. When the pepper corn matures and is sun dried, it can be used to make black peppercorn.

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Last in the family are betel leaves, or Piper Betle. When I was young, I always picked a fresh betel leaf for my grandmother, who enjoyed chewing the leaf when it was painted with pink limestone and wrapped around a sliced betel nut. Afterwards she would enjoy her afternoon siesta. Betel leaves and betel nut are also used for worship and are special symbols in ritual events.

Curried Scallop with Wild Pepper Leaf — Gaeng Hoy Shell Bai Chapoo

I cook professionally during the week but at home on the weekend I cook like any home cook. Sunday is an iron chef day – I use whatever is in my refrigerator. I had some wild pepper leaf, a leftover from a Miang Kam dish during the week, and some Alaskan scallops in the freezer. I like to cook chapoo leaf in a curry with a strong flavored fish or meat; a hint of black pepper from the leaf gives a very interesting flavor to the dish, and coconut milk sweetens the bitter edge. This recipe is very quick. All you have to do is write down the word “la lot” and go to a Vietnamese market.

Curried Scallop with Wild Pepper Leaf

Gaeng Hoy Shell Bai Chapoo

Serves: 2

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup water
6 large scallops
30 wild pepper leaves, AKA chapoo in Thai and La Lot in Vietnamese
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons fried shallots

Heat canola oil in a medium-size pot on medium-high heat. Stir in red curry paste and fried until fragrant. Stir in 1/3 cup coconut milk and let it cook until oil is separated and fragrant; add the rest of the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Stir in scallops and wild pepper leaves and cook until scallops are opaque in color, about 5 minutes. Season with sugar and fish sauce and serve hot. Garnish with fried shallots. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen
I Love Thai cooking
Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com

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Corn and Scallion, a perfect pair

On the street corner of Hoi An, sliced scallion is soon ready for making into scallion oil.

The most memorable time for me in Hoi An was getting up to see the sunrise over the Bon River while drinking Vietnamese coffee shortly before heading for the market.  Then I walked along the street, and the scenery was very beautiful. The aromas and sounds were so enlivening and the taste of the food was phenomenal. I tasted many street foods along the streets and took a lot of it back to the hotel so that I could taste more during the day. This is part of the learning, culture and cuisine. Now, as I look at all my photos, I am getting hungry from the taste of foods that I still remember and long for.

I came to love one particularly famous grilled corn dish in Hoi An, Mo Hanh. It is made of grilled corn with scallion oil. You will see pictures of why the Vietnamese are so fond of this dish by the amount of corn on the street of Hoi An.

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Yesterday, I was grilling corn for a special event at Magnuson Park in Seattle. About 500 people were there. I have 3 flavors for them to choose from: with spicy coconut sauce, jalapeno sweet and sour sauce and scallion oil. They were all a big hit at the event. I am delighted to share grilled corn with scallion oil recipe with you and hope that you will get a chance to enjoy until the last harvest of local fresh corn.

Grilled Corn with Scallion Oil

Serves: 8

1 cup thin sliced green onion, only green part–about 4 green onions
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ears of corn, peeled

 Pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat.

To make scallion oil or  Mo Hanh, heat canola oil until very hot and drop in green and let it cook for 40 seconds. Stir in salt. Let it sit until cool. Keep well in refrigerator for a week.

Grill corns over high heat 6 to 8 minutes, until some pope with nice brown cornel. When serve, dip each ear in scallion oil. Enjoy while it is warm.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking

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February 2010, Old Quarter in Hanoi

Hanoi Confetti Corn from the street of Hanoi Old Quarter

I love writing recipes from my culinary trip in my kitchen because it is like traveling through time.  And I love to travel, so when the journey ended then I was in pain with nostalgia. I missed the places I have been and the friends I have made. Then I decided to revisit the experience by recreating the food of that land. Like what I did last week with this Hanoi confetti Corn here in my kitchen.

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This year my culinary trip to Southeast Asia started in Hanoi. After the long flight from Seattle and we arrived in the middle of the day.  After checking into the hotel, we headed off to the famous old quarter of Hanoi. No time for jet-lag, and old quarter is a best to start with exciting sight and sound. I already knew which street we wanted to walk, eat and shop. No time to waste we only have two days in Hanoi.

We came across the mobile foods just before Cha Ca Street, and the aroma of scallion oil and corn that caught our attention and find the confetti corn was cooking. Three of us tried to remember the all of the ingredients: cooking oil, corn, green onion, dried small shrimps, fish sauce and sugar. We ordered one and shared it on the street, it was delicious. Every day in Vietnam, the foods we loved consisted of a few simple ingredients put together in a stunningly simple way but the use of fresh ingredients made all the difference. This was a great welcome to the next world leading culinary destination.

Hanoi Confetti Corn with Shrimp Powder

I purchased the freshest local white corn from PCC Natural Market (in Hanoi, it was glutinous corn), shrimp powder is always in my freezer ready to use, I used chives from my garden instead of green onions and the rest of ingredients were staple foods.  I know how to revisit Hanoi again until the fresh corn runs out.

From Hanoi to your kitchen! Bon Appetite.

Hanoi Confetti Corn    

Serves: 4 

3 tablespoons butter 

2 cups corn kernels cut from 3 ears yellow or white corn 

1/4 cup chopped green onion, from 2 green onions or chives 

3 teaspoons shrimp powder, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish 

1 teaspoon sugar, optional –omit when use freshest corn 

1/2 teaspoon chili powder 

1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce

Heat the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Allow the butter to melt, add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in green onion and shrimp powder and chili powder and let it cook for 1 or 2 more minutes. When the corn loses its starch and  stir in fish sauce and serve right away.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen 
I Love Thai cooking  Pranee teaches Thai Cooking class in Seattle areas, her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com  
 

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Vietnamese Coffee, Ca Phe Sua

Vietnamese Hot Coffee with Sweet Condensed Milk, Ca Phe Sua

I love Thai hot coffee with sweetened condensed milk and I also love Vietnamese coffee. Honestly I drink Vietnamese hot coffee every morning and sometimes once more before noon. I love the contrast between the bitter and the sweet of the coffee and the sweetened condensed milk. Thai coffee’s flavor is closer to Cafe Dumonde, which is made of coffee and chicory. As for Thai coffee, I don’t have it t in the morning, but I save it for special occasions such as with Thai dessert.

To make Vietnamese coffee one must have a special coffee filter like those shown in the photos whereas for Thai style you will need  fine cotton over your strainer- or you can buy one ready-made specifically for Thai coffee or Thai Tea filter.

I have  tried a few kinds of coffee from Vietnam and personally I like Trung Nguyen. It is easy to find, reasonably priced, and I like the buttery-rich flavor. Sometimes I use espresso blend that is a dark roast, rich intense, and caramelly sweet as an alternative or substitute.

Life is short, so have coffee and dessert (sweet condensed milk) first thing in the morning.

Serves: 1

1/2 to 1 tablespoon sweet condensed milk
2 tablespoons Vietnamese coffee or espresso blend dark roast coffee
2/3 cup boiling water

Pour sweet condensed milk to a coffee cup. Place Vietnamese coffee filter on top and add coffee. Place coffee insert part on top and secure before pouring boiling water on top. Cover with the lid and wait until all the water drips through.

Before you  drink the coffee, stir it lightly if you don’t like it too sweet, or strongly if you want all the sweetness.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
 I Love Thai cooking
 
Pranee teachs Thai Cooking class in Seattle areas, her website is:  I Love Thai cooking.com

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Pranee's Banh Mi

My obsession for food this week is all about Banh Mi, a lucious Vietnamese baguette sandwich filled with meats, crunchy pickled veggies, herbs, mayo and heat from chilies. It’s the product of the French influence on Vietnamese culture at its tastiest.

As much as I have heard about Banh Mi and sampled it in Seattle Vietnamese sandwich shops, my real love affair with Banh Mi began less than a year ago in the Banh Mi home city of Saigon. I still remember the experience vividly – I was on a mission to find the best Bahn Mi in town. Late at night and by myself, after managing to get lost a few times, I was finally munching my sandwich on the street corner while watching a wave of motorbikes flow by. It was a blissful culinary moment.

I admit to not being much of a sandwich fan – with the exception of a French baguette – but everything about this Vietnamese sandwich and its explosion of flavor was perfect – the aroma of fish sauce and vinegar, the texture of cucumber, carrot and daikon, piles of savory meat and pate on light, crusty bread. I fell in love at first crunch.

Now back home in Seattle, I have made many versions of Bahn Mi, as I continue to create recipes for my Vietnamese cooking classes. By chance, the one I prepared today in my kitchen was the closest in taste to the ones I had in Saigon. And I included my own special ingredient – Washabi mayonnaise. Let’s keep it a secret between us!

Next time, you’re wanting to expand your Vietnamese culinary horizons, search out a Bahn Mi sandwich shop and enjoy.

Banh Mi, unstacked by NY Times

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Sea Salt, Kumquat & Prawn

After soaking up the sunshine in Seattle, I missed the simple and delicious food of Vietnam. One memory that rises above the others is now of steamed prawns with Chinese celery served with Vietnamese sea salt and sour Kumquat. I savored the dish in the boat while cruising along the Halong Bay just less than two months ago. While the boat slowly took us through Limestone Mountain, my friend, Babs, and I leisurely enjoyed our meal. While we chatted, our hands busy peeling cooked prawn to dip into sea salt with sour Kumquat. As our eyes gazed through the mountains and into the horizon, we tasted the sweetness of fresh prawn, Vietnamese sea salt that has a hint of metallic and sour from the kumquat. A few good ingredients have made a statement. I am planning to do the same dish tomorrow while the sunshine compliment Southeast Asia flavors and the experience will bring back my memories all over again.

1 pound fresh local prawn, whole
1/4 cup cut Chinese celery or any
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 whole kumquat, cut into wedges
 
Mix prawns and celery together and place over pre-heat steamer. Cook until pink and cook all the way through, about 5 minutes. Enjoy with sea salt and Kumquat juice as snack or with meal. 

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