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Feb06

Rau Om learns to wrap bánh chưng: A video

Instead of bánh tét, people from Northern Vietnam wrap bánh chưng for Tết. This past Christmas, we learned to make bánh chưng from Grandma. For Tết in Houston, we demonstrated that the lesson (mostly) stuck.

Feb02

Rau Om learns to wrap bánh tét : A video

That’s right, folks, Rau Om enters the cutting edge world of moving pictures with a short kinematographic post to Youtube.

The days before Tết are a frenzy of food preparations, including wrapping and cooking bánh tét if one’s from Southern Vietnam. This past Tết season, we went home and learned from Mom a more efficient way to wrap than what was previously described in our previous bánh tét post.

The music included in the video is “Improvisations in the Spring Mode” by our music teacher, the amazing master musician Nguyễn Vĩnh Bảo.

Jan18

Bánh Chưng (Square Rice Cake with Mung Bean and Pork Belly)

This past Christmas my grandmother (bà ngoại) taught me how to make bánh chưng. The last time we made bánh chưng together, I was 5. I ran amuck and made a big mess of everything – my grandmother still complains about all the tactics she needed to chase me away or keep me distracted. Nevertheless, “helping” bà ngoại make bánh chưng and staying up watching the adults tend to the fire and the bubbling pot of bánh chưng remain one of my fondest memories. Despite not running amuck and not making as big a mess this time around, learning to make bánh chưng with bà ngoại is another cherished event. It made my grandmother happy, too, finally to have someone help her make bánh chưng again. Maybe making bánh chưng will even become a regular holiday event once more!

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Jul11

Gỏi dưa hấu heo quay / Watermelon salad with roast pork belly

Summertime in North America is the season of heat, watermelon, and family gatherings, and the perfect time to make and enjoy this refreshing and festive salad. The recipe was an original creation of Fatty Crab‘s Zekary Pelaccio and was written up by The New York Times, where we found it. Sweet and fluffy watermelon cubes tossed in an aromatic ginger cilantro dressing and tangy pickled watermelon rinds were coolly delicious contrasts against juicy roast pork belly. Spicy scallion, rau răm / Vietnamese coriander, and Thai basil completed this unusual salad that in its own way provided all the textural and flavor elements of gỏi (Vietnamese salad). The original recipe combined elements of Southern United States cuisine with spices and techniques chef Pelaccio encountered in Malaysia. We substituted his crispy fried pork belly for a star anise marinated roast pork that was more reminiscent of heo quay (roast pork), an ingredient associated with celebrations in Vietnam. We had no idea how one would classify a dish in which so many lineages were mixed together, but we felt perfectly at home serving and enjoying this salad out in the backyard with the rest of our family.

Watermelon salad with roast pork belly

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Apr24

Food-filled weekend

Select photos from a food-filled weekend (2 big dinners on Friday and Saturday)

Cơm hấp trái dừa: rice cooked in coconut juice inside a coconut

There’s a huge bin of fresh young coconuts at the Asian supermarket I go to so I have been playing with coconut a lot lately. Latest fun was steaming rice inside a coconut with coconut juice. The rice is sweet and fully infused with coconut flavor. The rice could be a meal in itself. It paired very well with coconut-caramelized shrimps.

Tôm rang nước dừa coconut-caramelized shrimps)

And speaking of caramelization, how could I not make caramelized catfish in claypot as well? It’s kind of funny that I had never tried my hands at making this Southern classic before. Anyways, 1st and 2nd attempts (Fri & Sat dinners) both turned out very well. This delicious dish was a big hit at both dinners.

Cá kho tộ Caramelized catfish with pork belly)

Riềng (galanga) definitely enhanced the flavor of cá kho tộ

Friday menu:

  1. Gỏi ngó sen (lotus root salad with shrimps and pork belly)
  2. Tôm rang nước dừa (Coconut-caramelized shrimps)
  3. Cá kho tộ (Caramelized catfish in claypot)
  4. Canh chua (Sweet and sour soup with catfish)
  5. Rau câu dừa (coconut agar-agar/jelly in coconut)

Gỏi ngó sen lotus root salad), tôm rang nước dừa coconut-caramelized shrimps), cá kho tộ

Saturday menu:

1.   Chả giò chay (yuba rolls)
2a. Cà tím kho tộ (coconut-caramelized eggplants)
2b. Cá kho tộ (caramelized catfish in claypot)
3.   Mít non nướng cuốn bánh tráng (grilled young jackfruit in rice paper)
4a. Canh chua cá bông lau (sweet & sour soup with catfish)
4b. Canh chua chay (vegetarian sweet and sour soup)
5.   Mít nướng cơm dừa (grilled ripe jackfruit with grated coconut)