Vietspices Search

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chè Chuối (Sweet Banana Coconut Tapioca Pudding)

In one of the dessert posts - Banana Cake with Coconut Sauce (Bánh Chuối Hấp Nước Cốt Dừa) - I blogged awhile back, I mentioned about the dessert house Chè Bà Dũng located just around the corner from my house in Pleiku.  She served and I hear she is still serving over 30 different types of chè (sweet pudding desserts). Her place is always packed especially when night falls. One of my favorite chè was steamed banana cake served with coconut sauce and fresh durian topped with crushed roasted peanuts and shaved ice. I miss it!

But today I am blogging about a different kind of banana pudding dessert - sweet banana coconut tapioca pudding. Though I don't have a sweet tooth, the natural sweet bananas surrounded by soft creamy coconut sauce with little tapioca pearls and the slightly chewy texture of  tapioca shreds with a touch of saltiness of the slightly salty roasted crushed peanuts or sesame seeds - all in one spoon -  is just comforting and warm.

This Chè Chuối (Sweet Banana Coconut Tapioca Pudding) does require a specific type of bananas - the short, small, thin-peel Asian bananas called chuối xiêm. They are more firm, less sweet than the regular bananas. You can find this type of banana at most of the Asian market. Another type of bananas that would also work for this chè is plantain bananas. Make sure the bananas are ripe before making this chè otherwise it will have a bitter and sour taste.
RECIPE: Chè Chuối

7 Bananas, I used the short plantain 
7 cups Water
2-3 Pandan Leaves, tied each into knots
1/3 cup Tapioca Pearls
1 cup Tapioca Shreds
1 cup Shredded Young Coconut, available in the frozen section
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Powder
1 can or paper carton (500 ml) Coconut Cream, I prefer the paper carton one


Preparing Tapioca

Rinse and soak tapioca pearls and shreds in two seperate bowls. Set aside.

Preparing Bananas

Cut bananas into 1 inch round or diagonal shapes.  If used plantain, you might want to boil these cut bananas first to eliminate the bitter and sour taste.  Bring a pot of water to a boil then add bananas and cook for about 2 minutes.  Strain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

I wasn't focus when cutting bananas.  It's too thin.

Preparing Roasted Peanuts or Sesame Seeds

Toast peanuts or sesame seeds. Let it cool down. Place it in a ziploc and slightly smash it to release the wonderful aroma of the sesame seeds or peanuts.  Mix it with salt.  Set aside. 
Cooking Chè

In a large pot, place water and pandan leaves and bring to a boil. My pandan leaves are pre-cut so they're too short for me to tie into knots. 

Strain the water in the tapioca pearls and shreds bowls, then add them in the boiling water. 

Once the water is boiling again, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook, as the pearls will continue cooking in the coconut sauce. Stir occasionally so tapioca doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.  

Add banana, shredded young coconut, salt and sugar into the pot. 

Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add coconut milk and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn of heat.  Add vanilla powder.  You might need to adjust the amount of sweetness depends on what type of sugar you use.  My rule of thumb is always remember to add a bit of salt to balance out the sweetness of dessert.  Let it cool down a little bit. Remove and discard the pandan leaves.  Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.  

Chè Chuối can be enjoyed hot, at room temperature, or chilled. I personal like it warm.  Garnish it with sesame seeds or roasted peanuts before serving.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sườn Nướng (Baked Baby Back Ribs)

Spring is one of my favorite seasons of the year minus the allergies of course.  April showers bring May flowers but also a myriad of allergens prior to the brilliant bloom. My daughters and I have allergies year round but it's significantly worse during this season. But despite the itchy and watery eyes, congestion and sneezing, spring in all of its natural glory beckons us outside into our backyard for some barbecuing and I couldn't do it because the darn allergies were so bad. That's what we get for being confined to the valley.

So yesterday I managed to create a new baked baby back rib recipe for my family to enjoy after a few weeks of eating out with much less healthy food.  The ribs were served with these beautiful, tender, and tasty roasted garlic organic baby squash and sweet peppers.  On an earlier post on my Facebook page, I alluded to carrot sticky rice with a hint of coconut fragrance, so that was incorporated as a lovely side dish.

My girls and husband thought these finger lickin' baby back ribs were so yummy. They're tender, moist and the meat falls right off the bone. The ribs were brushed with the thickened sauce - which is a mixture of the sauce from baked ribs mixed with corn starch - and left to broil for a few minutes until it's cooked on and bubbly. The recipe couldn't be any simpler. Give it a go!
RECIPE: Sườn Nướng

6-7 lb Pork Loin Backribs
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Honey Barbecue Sauce
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1/2 tablespoon Black Pepper
1 whole Garlic
2 tablespoons Corn Starch

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
Preparing Ribs

Peel off tough membrane that covers the bony side of the ribs. Rinse and cut ribs into smaller portions of about 4 or 6 ribs.  Set aside. 
Preparing Sauce

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the corn starch.  Mix well.  
Baking Ribs

Dip ribs into the sauce and lay ribs in a deep baking pan with the bony side up.

Lay a layer of foil on top of ribs and roll and crimp edges tightly.

Bake for 2 1/2 hours or until meat is starting to shrink away from the ends of the bone.  Remove from oven. Transfer ribs onto a broiler pan.  Pour the sauce  into a sauce pan.  
Cooking Sauce

Scoop out the fatty layer on top of the sauce and discard.

In a small bowl, add corn starch and some sauce to mix the corn starch.  Set aside.
Bring the sauce pan to a boil.  Reduce heat and add corn starch mixture.  Mix well.  The sauce should be thickened.

Broiling Ribs or Grilling Ribs

Cut ribs into serving sized portions of 2 or 3 ribs.  Arrange on broiler pan, bony side up. Brush on sauce.

Broil for 3-4 minutes until sauce is cooked on and bubbly.  Turn ribs over. Brush sauce on the other side and broil for another 3-4 minutes.

Instead of broiling,  you can grill them in your back yard. 

Serve ribs with your favorite side dishes . . . and maybe a beer?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April Charity Mission

Vspice delivering the bike 

Tiếng Việt dưới đây...

Since our last mission in Saigon in February of this year, The Spices Of Life had planned to go deep into the villages of Pleiku where the ethic minorities reside in impoverished conditions to provide the children with warm clothes, instant noodle, cookies and candies to keep their hearts warm and hopes full.

It's unfortunate that we were not able to accomplish this due to the red taping in Vietnam. This has always been an obstacle. How sad it is to realize this irony as one of my blog readers describes the harsh reality: "làm từ thiện khó lắm Loan ơi mặc dù mình có tiền đi chăng nữa nhưng cũng không phải dễ". Translation: "Doing charity work is not easy even though you may have money". But, I am not giving up . . . and to succumb to the red tape would be even more heartbreaking.

So the work continues. . .
At last,  we were able to reach out to two orphaned brothers whose their parents passed away seven years ago. The older brother, now 23, sacrificed his dream of attending college after finishing high school to become a masonry assistant as a mean to provide for his little brother. He hopes that his 12 year-old brother can continue with school and pursue a brighter future. When the weather permits this type of work, he brings home about $150 US dollars a month which is just barely enough for them to live through the month. When it rains, which happens frequently in this region of Vietnam, he's jobless and they have trouble making ends meet. The closest living relative near them is an uncle who bears the same financial burden.

The VSpice team arrives to find a home devoid of any furnishings; there were no table or chair for sitting except an old study table sitting next to a bed where the two brothers share every night. It's lunch time and  the little brother is eating lunch and reading a book right on the floor. 

The only precious and treasured items they have are an altar table and their parents' pictures seen here.

From the visit, the team learns that every morning, before heading to work the older brother gives his younger brother a ride to school because it's so far away. After school, the younger brother walks  4 kilometers home by himself. The Spices of Life Foundation decides to buy the little brother a bike and plans to support them with $50 per month when the funding permits.

We hope that this is a start to a brighter future for both of them.

Again, I'm grateful to the team in Vietnam for all the precious time and effort they have poured into spreading hope and love. To all my blog and Facebook readers, thank you for your kindness and generosity. Together, we can make a difference!

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
Matthew 25:40
Sau các hoạt động từ thiện tại Sài Gòn vào tháng Hai năm nay, The Spices Of Life (Hương Vị Cuộc Sống) đã lên kế hoạch hoạt động từ thiện cho đồng bào dân tộc thiểu số có cuộc sống khổ cực, nghèo đói ở những bản làng vùng sâu vùng xa. Dự kiến, Vspice sẽ phân phát quần áo ấm, mì ăn liền, bánh kẹo… cho trẻ em nghèo nơi đây, mong muốn được chia sẻ để mang lại ánh nắng ấm áp và một chút niềm hy vọng. 

Tuy nhiên, vì một số lý do trong đó có lý do liên quan đến chính trị, làm việc bác ái phải đăng ký với chính quyền địa phương, kế hoạch này phải dời lại vào đầu tháng Năm. Qua những trở ngại trong quá trình làm việc từ thiện, Loan nhớ đến những chia sẻ của anh Peter – là một doanh nhân kinh doanh resorts ở Phú Quốc và anh cũng là một trong những người theo dõi trang web nấu ăn: “Làm từ thiện khó lắm Loan ơi. Mặc dù mình có tiền, cũng không phải dễ”. 

Nhưng, dù nhiều khó khăn, Vspice sẽ không từ bỏ mong ước được giúp đỡ những người thiếu may mắn. Qua sự giới thiệu của một người bạn, Vspice biết đến hai anh em mồ côi cả cha lẫn mẹ từ bảy năm trước. Anh trai lớn nay đã 23 tuổi học đến lớp 12 nhưng đã quyết định nghỉ học để làm phụ hồ kiếm sống qua ngày và nuôi em trai 12 tuổi đến trường. Người anh hy vọng em mình có thể tiếp tục đến trường và có một tương lai tươi sáng hơn.

Khi trời nắng và có việc làm thường xuyên, tiền công phụ hồ cũng chỉ khoảng 3 triệu đồng một tháng, còn vào mùa mưa và công việc không ổn định thì không thể kiếm đủ tiền để chi phí cuộc sống hằng ngày. Hai em hiện giờ không còn ông bà hay người thân để nương nhờ, chỉ còn 1 người cậu thứ hai sống gần đó, nhưng cuộc sống chẳng khá hơn là mấy, nên các em cũng không nhờ vả gì được. 

Khi Vspice đến nhà hai anh em vào buổi trưa, mọi thứ trong nhà đều rất sơ sài, không có bàn ghế để ngồi trừ một bàn học cũ kỹ bên cạnh chiếc giường ngủ. Người em trai đang ăn trưa và đọc sách ngay trên sàn nhà. Đồ quý giá nhất của hai anh em là chiếc bàn thờ và hình ảnh của cha mẹ. Từ chuyến thăm này, Vspice biết thêm rằng, mỗi buổi sáng, trước khi đi làm, người anh trai chở em mình tới trường. Sau giờ học, em nhỏ phải đi bộ 4 km từ trường về nhà một mình. Vspice quyết định mua tặng em một chiếc xe đạp và có kế hoạch hỗ trợ cho hai em $50 mỗi tháng cho đến khi nào có thể. 

The Spices Of Life hy vọng việc làm nhỏ bé này sẽ là sự khởi đầu một tương lai tươi sáng hơn cho cả hai em. Một lần nữa, cảm ơn mọi người rất nhiều vì đã bỏ chút thời gian quý báu, công sức và vật chất vào việc thiện này để đem hy vọng và tình yêu đến cho những mảnh đời kém may mắn. Cùng nhau, chúng ta có thể làm nên điều khác biệt.

"Quả thật, ta nói cùng các ngươi, hễ các ngươi đã làm việc đó cho một người trong những người rất hèn mọn nầy của anh em ta, ấy là đã làm cho chính mình ta vậy".  
Ma-thi-ơ 25:40

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cá Hồi Nướng (Baked Salmon)

One of the ways I incorporate our homegrown organic herbs is by having rolls for our meals. This is usually seen with boiled pork or grilled buttered beef. But this one is a fish roll. One of my older daughter's favorite fish-actually the only fish she would eat without throwing a fit- is salmon.

Being limited to one main ingredient, I have to come up with various recipes to get her to eat more fish. Fortunately, she likes baked salmon. Once the salmon comes out of the oven, topped with roasted peanuts, crispy shallots, and curly green onion ribbons, we roll the salmon in rice paper with an abundance of assorted herbs, cucumbers, lettuces, and dip it in a shrimp dipping sauce. The peanut sauce, fish sauce or fermented bean curd dipping sauce would all go well.  

What makes this delicious looking baked salmon dish irresistible is the fresh aromatic scent rising from the salmon in banana leaves. My daughter thought it's the best aroma that ever came wafting out of our oven. This recipe is simple and it turns out delicious every time!
RECIPE: Cá Hồi Nướng

for Salmon
1 piece filet Salmon
1 tablespoon Chicken Bouillon Powder
2-4 cloves of Garlic, pasted
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Fried Shallot
Roasted Peanut

for Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons Shrimp Sauce 
1 piece Pineapple, finely chopped
1 tablespoon, finely chopped Lemongrass
1 tablespoon, finely chopped Garlic
1 tablespoon Shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup Coco Rico Soda 
1/2 small Lime, juiced
1 tablespoon Sugar

Assorted herbs
Green Onions
Preheat the oven at 400 degree F 
Preparing Shrimp Dipping Sauce

In a sauce pan, bring a tablespoon of oil on medium heat. Once it's hot, add lemongrass, ginger, shallot, and garlic.

Saute until they start to turn slightly brown. Add pineapple, shrimp sauce, coco Rico soda and sugar. Mix it well.

Once the sauce is blended well and start to boil, remove from heat. Add lime juice. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.  Add garlic chili sauce for spicy flavor.  Set aside.

Preparing Lettuce, Cucumbers and Herbs

Rinse lettuce and herbs. Set aside.

Shred green onions using this tool (dụng cụ chẻ rau muống). You can find it at almost any Asian market. These shredded green onions will curl up as you soak in the water for a few minutes.  

Slice cucumbers into thin slices. Set aside

Preparing Marinade

Placed garlic in the mortar, then crushed with the pestle to release the fresh flavor.  In the same mortar, combine chicken bouillon power and olive oil. Mix well. Set aside.
Preparing Salmon

Place a few banana leaves on the baking tray. Set aside.
Leave the piece of salmon as is or cut into a few pieces like I did for easy transfer to the serving plate without breaking the salmon apart. 
Brush olive oil mixture over both sides of the salmon. Place the salmon on the tray and bake for about 7 minutes.
Switch to broil on high and cook for another 5 minutes until the surface of the salmon is golden brown. Salmon cooks very fast and the fish will dry out if cooking too long so be careful.

Remove salmon tray from the oven. Cut the banana leaves along the side of each piece and transfer each piece of salmon with the banana to a serving place. Top with roasted or deep fried peanuts and crispy shallots. Garnish with curly green onion ribbons. 

Roll salmon and vegetables in a rice paper.  Dip it in your favorite sauce and enjoy this healthy hearty meal!