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Dec30

Gỏi hến trộn mít non (Baby clams and young jackfruit salad)

This is a very simple yet tasty dish that was a hit at many of the dinners we held this year. At one dinner, a couple of guests fought to keep this dish on the table when I attempted to remove it to make room for other dishes on the menu :). This salad is a study of balancing various tastes and textures: sweetness of baby clams & tartness of tamarind, chewiness of baby clams & meatiness of young jack fruit (it’s a staple ingredient of vegetarian cuisine in South and Southeast Asia) & crunchiness of rau om (rice paddy herb) and rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), rice crackling and peanuts. And best of all, the salad is extremely easy to make and should take no more than 30 minutes in the kitchen, including prep time.

Gỏi hến trộn mít non

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Sep20

Chilled tomato soup topped with yuba cream

We are always on the look out for unusual pairings of ingredients and admire the chefs who made the disparate items into a unified dish. We adapted this light and tasty soup from Chef Murata’s beautiful Kaiseki book and used the soup as an intermezzo. The soup’s intense tomato flavor and thick texture was perfectly balanced out by the rich yet light and savory frothiness of the yuba cream that always magically floated to the top.

Chilled tomato soup topped with yuba cream - photo courtesy of Elaine Vo

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Jun22

Khô bò (beef jerky) with lemongrass, kumquats, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves

Growing up, I have always loved my Mom’s khô bò (beef jerky). Each bite was tender and packed full of flavors. It was an addictive snack by itself or in a beef jerky salad with green papaya or spaghetti squash. Store-bought beef jerky, which is hard to chew and tasting only of soy sauce and chilli pepper just can’t compete. When I bought a food dehydrator for one of our cooking experiments (making beef crackling, subject of another post), it was time to ask Mom for her khô bò recipe.

What she sent back was just a list of ingredients (with no measurements, of course :)) and a general sketch of the method. It was so different from the detailed recipe she wrote for spring roll dipping sauce. A measure of my progress in cooking? After a couple batches with consistent success (defined by how much people enjoyed my khô bò), here’s my adapted recipe.

Homemade khô bò / beef jerky

Enough rambling already, let’s get to the recipe!

Jun10

Phở khô nấu chân không (dry-style Pho cooked sous vide)

Beef cooked sous vide (under vacuum) for 24 hours with phở spices was so dramatically tender and flavorful and deserving of extra attention, serving phở dry-style was our way to highlight our favorite new star. Serving noodle soups dry with broth on the side showcases the flavors of the meats and emphasizes their textural interactions with the other ingredients, all before a rush of hot broth reconstitutes the noodle soup experience. Phở isn’t usually served this way, but we were inspired by the dry variant of Hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Phnom-Penh style noodle soup). Surprisingly, this style also made phở more drink-friendly (more on that later) !

Hot bowl of clear phở broth  served on the side of soft noodle and sous-vide cooked beef

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Jun03

Towards an easier, more fragrant chè bưởi (pomelo pudding)

For us, chè bưởi (pomelo pudding or pomelo dessert soup) is a dish that always sounds so appealing, yet is perpetually disappointing (and we’re not alone). The name chè bưởi promises so much more than is actually delivered – the laborious process to produce palatable pomelo pith plunders away all of that lovely floral citrus scent. This loss is traditionally compensated for by adding essence of hoa bưởi (pomelo flowers) or hoa cau (areca nut palm flowers), but the results are not the same.

While researching candied peel for our gỏi bưởi / pomelo salad dish, we found a simpler way to process pomelo pith that also preserved its natural scent. The resulting chè bưởi was lovely all by its fragrant self, or further decorated with fresh lilacs:

Chè bưởi topped with coconut milk and lilacs

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