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Jun16

Muối quất muối (Salted-kumquats salt)

Ah no, redundant blog post title isn’t redundant.

We’ve posted about salted kumquats before, and various uses for them including as marinade for grilled quails. At the end of the day though, we still had an excess of incredibly fragrant and salty brine. What to do? Open our own salt field (er… dish) of course!

Salted kumquat salt crystal

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Mar03

Quất (tắc) muối – Salted kumquats

Things to do with salted kumquat (quất in the North, tắc in the South, quật in the Middle? just kidding, but I did get my recipe from someone spelling in that way) : Make a citrusy iced drink that’s a bit salty a bit sweet, refreshing and optimized for rehydration (classic Vietnamese use of salted kumquats or lemons). Parch the throat of everyone at a hackerspace potluck picnic by making a citrusy iced drink that’s a lot salty and a bit sweet (incompetent use of same). Make a delicious dipping sauce for duck dishes (another classic use). Use as a marinade for a roasted chicken recipe we developed and will write about one of these days.

There are two major schools for making salted kumquats. One involves making the pickling solution ahead of time – basically just salt water with or without sugar and spices. The other involves packing alternate layers of kumquats and salt. Either way, the kumquats and salt jars are placed at a sunny window for about a month before they’re ready. The latter method is easier in that fewer precautions are needed to ensure sterilty of the pickling jar. Err on the sweet side with the brining solution and the whole jar can easily be ruined.

Quất muối jars freshly packed

Kumquats and mason jars were rinsed with boiling water and let dry. For a pint jar of kumquats, I used 1/3 cup of coarse sea salt. The jar on the right also had 1 part ginger slices to 4 parts kumquats. Every monolayer of kumquats was covered with a layer of salt, never minding the fact that kumquats pack too inefficiently for the salt to remain a layer.

Salted kumquats 3 days later - note layer of liquid already

The jars of kumquats were placed by a sunny window. After just 3 days of rare winter sunshine the heating cycle and osmosis in response to salt already extracted an inch of liquid.

Salted kumquats - 2 weeks later

Almost there … but even after they’re “done”, the kumquats should last a long time, developing more complex flavors all the while. They should be perfect when the weather gets hot again, if we don’t use them all up making roasted chicken and duck sauce that is.

Odds and ends: at some point water will stop diffusing out of the kumquats and the fruits will regain their buoyancy. People usually put a small porcelain dish on top of the kumquats to keep them submerged in the coming months. Also, a side by side comparison of our salt layered kumquats versus Bird’s mom’s brined kumquats revealed the latter to be palatably softer and easier to squish into salty kumquatade. Otherwise the flavors were similar enough.

Feb01

Gà hấp muối (salt-steamed chicken)

This is definitely one of the few chicken dishes that I love: it’s very simple to make and the method preserves the flavor and juiciness of the chicken. I don’t ever want to boil a chicken again after knowing this recipe.

 

Fragrant, juicy and flavorful chicken

Before I go further into the step-by-step recipe, though, a warning: this is NOT the chicken that you get at Chinese BBQ shops (Chinese salt-steamed chicken where you cook the chicken in a salt shell) nor is it Hainanese chicken.

Without much further ado, here is the recipe with photos for the major steps:

1. Line a thick, large pot with aluminum foil. Be generous with the foil as you can use the remaining foil at the top to make a closed packet to keep the moisture in

 

aluminum foil-lined pot

2. Next, line the foil with coarse salt. The amount of salt used depends on the size of the pot. I used about ~1.5 bowl of salt this time, to completely cover the bottom of the pot

Add coarse salt

3. Then crush 6-8 lemongrass stalks, cut them into shorter length to fit in the pot. Lay the lemongrass stalks on the salt to form a lattice of sort.

Lattice of crushed lemongrass stalks

4. Then lay lime leaves on top and in between the lemongrass stalks

Next come the lime leaves

5. Next add rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) and ginger (optional). All the herbs should be laid down in such a way that the chicken will not come into contact with the coarse salt at the bottom

Rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) and ginger round out the bedding

6. Then, stuff a few lá chanh (lime leaves) and a bunch of rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) inside the chicken, rub the skin with generous amount of salt and pepper, then lay the chicken on top of all the herbs

Main feature: free-range chicken

7. Cover the chicken with more herbs: lá chanh (lime leaves), rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) & ginger

Chicken is covered with lime leaves, rau răm and ginger

8. Fold the aluminum foil sheet down to make a closed packet

completed foil packet, ready to go on the stove

9. Cover the pot and cook on medium high heat for ~35-40 minutes (depending on how hot your stove is, you might want to turn the heat down a bit after having it on medium high for 10-15′ to avoid burning the salt too much). Turn off the heat and leave it on the stove for another 10 minutes. Take it off the stove & open up the packet:

Careful with the steam

Remember to take the herb stuffing out of the chicken before serving.

The chicken can be cut into manageable pieces with a cleaver, or you can just dig in with your hands. The first time I made this chicken, I definitely couldn’t resist the urge to immediately tear off a thigh. It’s more fun to eat with your hands anyway :). If there’s still a lá chanh (lime leaf) left, it can be sliced into very thin strips and sprinkle on top of the chicken. This last step is not necessary because the chicken is already very fragrant with lá chanh (lime leaves) and rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) flavors.

Forgot to add a note about the chicken: it’s best if you use free-range chicken for this. Normal chicken from a supermarket might be ok. The thing you should avoid is frozen chickens that have been injected with saline. That type of chicken will mess up this dish because the saline fluid will ooze out and dissolve the salt, which will turn your dry-steamed chicken dish into salt-water boiled chicken. Definitely not appetizing.