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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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Winterizing our herbs garden : An experiment with hydroponics

We’ve only had one night of frost so far but that was enough to kill all our outdoor tía tô (perilla) plants. Luckily, we’ve already started winterizing our herbs garden. This year, we’re experimenting with hydroponically growing our herbs indoor with the hope that more godlike control over our plants’ world will keep us well supplied with fresh herbs until next spring. Growing hydroponically is a technique for growing plants without soil, with well defined nutrients solutions delivered directly to plant roots. Another advantage for us is the ability to heat up the nutrient solution coursing through the system and keep the plants warm in spite of the cold air temperature in the apartment. Lay the nutrient tubing underneath the other pots and even the non-hydroponic plants will have warm happy feet!

Winter garden : (front) tía tô / perilla, rau răm / Vietnamese coriander, lá chua / sorrel, kinh giới / Vietnamese balm. More of the same in the back & various húng varieties / basil and mints.

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Trà canh rau răm (clarified Vietnamese coriander soup)

Ah, Canh Rau Răm / Vietnamese Coriander Soup. Such a perfectly simple soup, needing only 4 ingredients – rau răm, beef, garlic, and tomato – to achieve a balanced, flavorful broth that is light and refreshing, even when served hot. That the broth itself  contained the highlights and the majority of the experience of the dish made this soup an ideal candidate to test out the modernist/stunt cuisine techniques of clarification. The goal was to produce a clear broth that delivered all the flavors of canh rau răm, We’ve decided to call the clarified soup Trà Canh Rau Răm (lit. Vietnamese Coriander Soup Tea) to avoid confusion .

Canh Trà Rau Răm / Clarified Vietnamese Coriander Soup

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Rau Om’s Nem Chua will be at this year’s SF Street Food Fest

Thank you all for your overwhelming support in the SF Street Food Fest Vote for Your Vendor Contest. We still can’t believe we received 510 votes to be placed in the top 4 and therefore eligible to show off our nem chua at the Fest. We are humbled and touched that so many of you invested your own time, effort, and enthusiasm to spread the word about us far and wide. We got votes from all over the US, from Vietnam, France, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many more places. Another happy side effect was the chance to catch up and renew so many friendships and make new ones besides.

As promised we are going to send a pack of nem chua to a randomly selected commenter on our previous post – Kristine, there’s a true random number generator out there that likes you.

And now the work begins. Our prototype for the one dish we will share at the Festival includes nem chua as the featured ingredient, supported by fresh herbs and veggies (always with the fresh greens, of course, we’re Vietnamese!), bánh hỏi (fine vermicelli mesh), all served on eco-friendly serving boats made from bamboo leaves.

Prototype of Rau Om's dish at the SF Street Food Fest

The scale of this festival is like nothing we’ve ever seen. The organizers suggested we be prepared to turn out a plate every 15 seconds for 8 hours straight. So, eeep! Still, we’re more excited than overwhelmed. Bird gets to put her operations optimizing skills to work, and this time she is finally accountable for her own recommendations. Unfortunately, this means the blog will be lurching along with less frequent and irregular postings. Please bear with us. We look forward to cooking and posting our ideas and experiments again soon after the SF Street Food Fest is over.

Hope to see many of you on August 20th!


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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