Vietspices Search

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gà Tây Băm Xúc Rau Cúc Đắng- Spicy Ground Turkey Endive Boats

January is drifting by so quickly! Tết Nguyên Đán (Lunar New Year) is approaching in a few weeks though the cold, freezing, foggy mornings and evenings constantly remind me that winter is still alive where I live.

Tết is short for Tết Nguyên Đán, which means “Feast of the First Morning”.  It marks the arrival of spring and the new year when the Vietnamese reflect on the past and make resolutions for the new year. Around this time of the year, flowers are blossoming and business is booming as the bustle of shopping is everywhere. Many Vietnamese are busy preparing for Tết by shopping, cleaning the house, cooking traditional food, and waiting to be reunited with their love ones.

I was fortunate to grow up in Vietnam. The culture and customs have been rooted deeply in me. There are certain values, customs that I don't necessarily share, there are some that I would not want my daughters to miss out on.  One of the fun traditions to get my daughters into the Tết spirit is by simply decorating our house with hoa mai (ochna integerrima) and hoa đào (cherry blossom) as these distinctive blossoms symbolize life, growth and prosperity, while hoa cúc vàng (yellow chrysanthemum) symbolizes optimism and joy.  Preparing traditional Tết food is also a must.  It's the time where my girls and I get together in the kitchen and make candied coconut ribbon (mứt dừa, click here for the recipe), and other sweet treats.  

This coming Tết, I am going to bring in a new dish for my family to enjoy.  Though it's not a traditional dish, I love the fresh, vibrant, beautiful purple, creamy yellow and light green colors of the endives used in this dish.  It reminds me of the springtime- when the new rhythm of the sun rejuvenates  all living things and we as human beings can be reinvigorated as well.

The endive is not only attractive, beautiful and elegant, but apparently healthy. It has very low calories, however, it contributes about 8% of daily-required intake (DRI) of fiber. The high inulin and fiber content in endives help reduce glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels in diabetes and obese patients. Endive is enriched with good amount Vitamin A and many essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3). Additionally, endive is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, and potassium.

Endive has a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor with a pleasantly mild bitterness that makes wonderful boats to serve the spicy ground turkey. This dish promises to bring you not only freshness but also spice bursting with flavors. The best part - it couldn't be easier to make!
RECIPE: Spicy Ground Turkey Endive Boats 

1.25-1.5 pounds Ground Turkey
1 1/2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce or Fish Sauce
1 1/2-2 tablespoons Laab Namtok Seasoning 
4 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
6 white and light green parts of Green Onion, chopped, about 1/4 cup
Vietnamese Coriander, Rau Răm
1 tray Endives

Preparing Herb

Wash and shake off excess of water.  Cut herbs finely.  Set aside.
Cooking Turkey

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Stir in green onion, and garlic, and cook until fragrant.

Add the turkey and season with oyster sauce, and laab namtok seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the herbs.

Laab namtok seasoning mix comes in different brands. I have tried a few brands and this is my favorite one as it has the perfect balance of acid, salt, and spices. If you can't find it at your local store, don't can create your own seasoning mix. The ingredients to create this seasoning mix are combination of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, roasted rice powder, sugar, salt, msg and citric acid which you can use lime juice, lime juice powder, or tamarind powder. 

For your convenience, pre-made toasted rice powder is available in many Asian grocery stores. But if you can’t find it in the store, you can make toasted rice powder at home in a jiffy. In a skillet on a low heat, add the rice and stir constantly to make sure the grains are evenly toasted. After a few minutes, the grains will turn medium brown. 

Remove the skillet from heat and let the rice cool completely. Once the rice has cooled, grind it in a mortar, a tablespoon at a time or grind it in a grinder until a fine powder is achieved.


Cut root ends off endives, remove the leaves and arrange on a serving plate with spicy turkey in the middle.  Spoon the turkey mixture onto the endives.

Spicy turkey can also be served on butter lettuce cups.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gỏi Mít, Ngó Sen trộn Chân Gà (Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad with Chicken Feet)


Young jackfruit and lotus roots salad is a popular Vietnamese salad. These two main ingredients are usually tossed with blanched shrimps and boiled pork to add protein to the dish but if you like exotic food, chicken feet is the way to go. 

Chicken feet is surely an acquired taste and it doesn't seem all that appetizing but I am fond of its texture, especially when you cook it with the right ingredients. The chicken feet's skin is delicate and soft. It's tendons appears gelatinous and yet chewy when steamed. It can be crunchy and chewy when prepared the right way. Both of my daughters love to chow down this delicatessen especially when it steamed in a sauce flavored with a sweet fermented black bean sauce as served during dim sum.

But for now I will introduce an authentic Vietnamese salad using chicken feet: young jackfruit and lotus root salad tossed with chicken feet.  Sometimes I toss in Vietnamese ham (chả lụa).  It will make a great appetizer as it is served as is or with roasted sesame rice crackers. I am sure my husband will enjoy this dish while watching the Super Bowl.
* * *
RECIPE: Young Jackfruit and Lotus Root Salad

about 2 pounds Boneless Chicken Feet 
5 celery stalks
2 cans (20 oz each) Young Jackfruit
1 large jar (24oz)  Lotus Roots
1/2 roll Vietnamese Ham (chả lụa), optional
1/2 onion, cut in half
1 bag Laab Namtok Seasoning Mix
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cup Fish Sauce
1/2 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2-3 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1 Onion
Vinegar, for pickled onion and pickled lotus root
1 tablespoon White Roasted Sesame Seeds
1 bunch Mint Leaves, finely chopped
1 bunch Vietnamese Coriander (rau răm), finely chopped
Roasted Sesame Crackers 

Preparing Boneless Chicken Feet

Bring a pot of water with half of an onion and 1 celery stalk cut into 1-inch pieces, and a teaspoon of salt to boil. 

Add chicken feet to the boiling water for about 3-4 minutes.

Transfer only chicken feet to a bowl and keep it in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until it's cold enough but not frozen. This process is to obtain the crunchiness of the chicken feet.

Cut into long strips.

Preparing Vinegar Mixture

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 3 cups of water. Set aside.
Prepare Young Jackfruit

Wash young jackfruit with salt water. Slightly squeeze young jackfruit pieces to extract the water if any. Slice jackfruit into strips.

In a skillet, cook a tablespoon of oil and garlic until golden brown and fragrant.  Stir  in jackfruit and soy sauce.  Cook for about a couple minutes.  Remove from heat.  Set aside. 
Preparing Lotus roots

Wash lotus roots with salt water. Slice into thin diagonal slices. Soak it in half of the vinegar mixture for at least 15 minutes.  Set aside.

Preparing Onion

Cut an onion in half.  Use a knife to cut the onion thinly but not too thin.  Soak onion in the remaining vinegar mixture for at least 15 minutes.  Set aside.
Preparing Laab Namtok Seasoning Mix 

Laab namtok seasoning mix comes in different brands. I have tried a few brands and this is my favorite one as it has the perfect balance of acid, salt, and spices.  If you can't find it at your local store, don't can create your own seasoning mix.  The ingredients to create this seasoning mix are combination of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, roasted rice powder, sugar, salt, msg and citric acid which you can use lime juice or tamarind powder. 
In a sauce pan, mix seasoning mix with fish sauce and sugar.  Cook it until it's about to boil. Make sure to stir it during the process. Remove the seasoning mixture and let it cool down. 

Preparing Vietnamese Ham 

Vietnamese ham can be bought at store or homemade.  Click here for the recipe.  
Slice ham into thin strips. Set it aside.
Preparing Celery

Use a knife to thinly cut the celery diagonally. Set aside.
Preparing Herbs

Finely chop coriander and mint herbs.  Set aside
Mixing the Salad

In a large mix bowl, mix well all the ingredients and the seasoning mixture.


Transfer salad into a serving bowl. Then take in a big breath; breathe out a sigh of relief.

Pick up a piece of roasted rice cracker and scoop up some chicken feet salad. Then, pop open a cold bottle of beer or a nice chilled chardonnay and put on a grin - because you're going to enjoy this one.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Xôi Lá Dứa (Pandan Sticky Rice)

Though I am a stay-at-home mom, I always look forward to the weekend to spend more quality time with my family.  It's a blessing to be able to wake up in the morning and take my time to prepare an authentic Vietnamese breakfast and have my girls and husband sniffed out what kind of  food I'm about to feed them. No matter how busy our day may be, at the end of each day, it's wonderful to hold each other's hands, give thanks for what we have, and enjoy our meal together.  Our weekend breakfast is no exception.

Xôi (sticky rice or sweet rice) is one of the simply irresistible dishes that I often serve for breakfast. It can be as simple and quick as cooking a pot of regular rice in a rice cooker. Yesterday, while xôi lá dứa (pandan sticky rice) was steaming in the cooker,  my husband took a break from yard work only to find himself surrounded by the sweet aroma that was wafting through the house. The wonderfully subtle and inviting fragrance of pandan and sweet rice is simply irresistible.  Hence, pandan is throughout Southeast Asian cuisines and in many of the desserts. One of the Asian cuisine focused chef tweeted it this way: "Pandan leaves are to vanilla what silk is to cotton".

This delicious xôi lá dứa - cooked with pandan juice that I extracted from the pandan leaves -  hints of notes of roses, almond, and vanilla. To top it off, add fresh shaved or shredded coconut and sprinkled with crushed roasted peanuts or sesame seeds. And voila! What you have before you on your plate is an exotic breakfast!
RECIPE: Xôi Lá Dứa
yields: 8-10 servings


for Rice
4 cups glutinous rice
3 1/2 cups water
20 frozen or fresh Pandan Leaves
1/4 teaspoon Pandan Paste, optional
1/2 teaspoon Salt
for Topping
1/2 bag Shredded Coconut
6 tablespoons Sesame Seeds 
4 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt

Extracting Pandan Juice

Cut pandan leaves into about 3 inch segments. Place pandan leaves with water in a Vita mix or any blender and blend it until finely.

Strain the juice with a strainer. Use a spoon to press the pandan residue down to extract all the juice. Discard the pandan residue. 

Measure 3 1/2 cups of pandan juice. Add pandan paste, and salt to the pandan juice and mix well.  

pandan paste

The purpose of adding pandan paste is to bring out the vibrant green color of the rice.  Omit it if prefer.  Set aside.
Cooking Sweet Rice

Rinse sweet rice a few times until water is clear. Drain. Pour the rice, and pandan juice in a rice cooker.  Stir to combine all ingredients well.  

Set rice cooker to ‘Cook’.  Allow to cook until the button switches over to ‘Keep Warm’. Stir the rice.  Cover and let it cook for another 10 -15 minutes to ensure the sweet rice is cooked evenly. 

Steaming Shredded Coconut

Since the shredded coconut I bought is frozen so I like to steam it before serving.  If using fresh shredded coconut which you can shred it straight from a mature coconut, steaming it is not necessary.  
Roasting Sesame Seeds

In a frying pan, roast sesame seeds on a medium low heat until golden.  Let it cool down.  Place sesame seeds in a ziploc and slightly crush it to release the nutty aroma of sesame seeds. 

Mixing Sweet and Salty Sesame Seeds

Combine roasted sesame seeds, sugar and salt and mix well. Set aside.


Place pandan sticky rice on a plate.  Sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seed mixture over it.  Top with shredded coconut then sprinkle a little more of sesame seed mixture. 

Ăn ngon! Enjoy!