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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lobster Ceviche (Gỏi Tôm Hùm)

Just two more days and you may hear the Fiery Rooster crowing. It's gonna be the year of the rooster. Lunar New Year is the biggest festival for the Vietnamese families, at least traditionally, as it brings family members together to celebrate and give blessings to one another for a healthy, happy, prosperous and spectacular New Year. 

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Vietnamese New Year, the traditional celebrations of the festival include new clothes, cleaning the house to get rid off all the bad luck gathered in the past year, decorating the house, cooking traditional food, firecrackers, giving red envelopes, new year wishing, gathering around the table and enjoy the food and time together. 

Celebrating Lunar New Year is a good way of preserving heritage and family values. As difficult as it may be, when Lunar New Year comes around, it's my opportunity to teach my girls about their cultural heritage. I would make an effort to decorate the house, prepare a few tradition dishes with my daughter (the food will usually be gone before the new year even arrives), and encourage them to wear traditional dresses called áo dài to school.

So to share in the joys of this wondrous tradition, I am also preparing a non-tradition meal. This lobster ceviche, along with a seafood hotpot would bring your loved ones together for a yummy good time.
RECIPE: Lobster Ceviche
3 lobster tails
kosher salt or pink Himalayan salt 
fresh lime juice, about 2 limes 
fresh ground pepper
1 medium sweet purple onion 
3 green onions, sliced diagonally 
for broth
4 parts chicken broth
2 parts coconut water
1 sweet onion
1 whole garlic, peeled
1 piece of rock sugar, about a teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preparing Lobsters

Remove lobster meat from shell: use a pair of scissors to cut the center of the shell all the way to the base of the tail. Remember to cut only the shell not the meat. Crack the shell firmly along the incision, then pull the meat up through the shell. Remove the meat from the shell.

Cooking broth to blanch lobster meat: In a pot, add chicken broth, coconut water or water, lobster shells, some cloves of garlic, onion, rock sugar and salt then bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 minutes. 
Bring the broth to a rolling boil. Add lobster meat once at a time. Cook for about a minute or less depends on the size of the lobster since you just want to partially cook the lobster meat. Remove it and continue to blanch the remaining lobster meat.  Keep the blanched lobsters in the fridge while preparing the remaining ingredients.  Keep the broth to make soup or hotpot.
Preparing Vegetables

Julienne onion and cut green onion diagonally.
Soak onion and green onion in separate bowls of water to reduce the strong sharp taste. 
Mixing Lobster Ceviche

Slice lobster into half inch slices. 
Drain the water from the onion and green onion and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine lobster, onion, green onion, lime juice, salt, a pinch of fresh ground pepper, and toss them well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lime juice, or salt as needed.

Whenever I serve lobster ceviche, I also like to serve seafood hotpot as a main meal. Use the broth that you cooked the lobsters as broth for the hotpot. Toss in some beef fat or beef bone if you have to add a rich, naturally sweet, and robust flavors to the broth.

What you see on the hotpot table are wagyu beef, clams, shrimps, salmon, scallop, lobsters, fish egg balls, udon, tofu, and lettuces. 

There are two kinds of dipping sauce that I like to use for this type of hotpot.  The first dipping sauce is the mixture of fish sauce, wasabi, and garlic chili sauce.  The second dipping sauce is the the mixture of egg yolk form our home-raised eggs but you can also use quail egg if preferred, ponzu sauce, crunchy garlic, truffle oil and toragashi (a spicy powdered assortment of dried red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed).


Place lobster ceviche on a serving plate. Garnish with cilantro, lime slices, and wasabi. I recommend using a small amount of wasabi on the tip of your chopstick and enjoying the lobster ceviche and wasabi together with each bite.

Happy New Year!
Eat well.  Stay healthy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gà Hấp Muối Hột (Whole Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt)

Happy New Year!'s been over a month since my last post. Time sure does fly especially when the holidays are around. There are a million things to do but so little time. When winter comes, the icky cold is going around. I tend to catch it easily and it would drag on for 3-4 weeks. I've been wanting to share with you a few new recipes that I cooked for my family recently. My mind screamed, "Blog it," but my body was too tired to listen. 

Besides the cold, we've been drenched by the Pineapple Express particularly here in northern California. Can you believe this short storm added over 33 billion gallons to Lake Tahoe?  I am sitting on my couch looking out the window and watching the pouring rain. It's quite relaxing, but I had to muster some courage to put together this post.

So, here is the Whole Free-Range Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt and Earthy Herbs. My husband would do anything to eat this steamed chicken, so he didn't mind weathering the storm and venturing out to our garden to gather the lemongrass and pick the kaffir lime leaves for me to prepare the chicken. After her first bite, my little one expressed how she didn't like it only to ask for more moments later. The older girl didn't bother to try because one of our chicken just passed away due to the bitter cold. 

This dry steamed chicken recipe would make a wonderful dish for the up coming Luna New Year. It's simple, quick, and super easy to prepare. And by dry steamed I mean there is no liquid added. As it heats up in the clay pot, the natural moisture from the chicken and herbs is sufficient to not only cook the chicken but keep it tender and moist. Once done, the chicken reveals a beautiful super moist and golden chicken. The sea salt bed locks in the moisture and flavor making it juicy and tasty. In addition, it has a wonderful aroma imparted by the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and ginger. It tastes even better with the spicy ginger dipping fish sauce.
RECIPE: Whole Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt

1 whole free-range chicken, about 2.5 pounds, about $11-$13 each, available at Asian supermarkets
1 pound coarse sea salt, available at Asian markets in a 2 pound bag
3-4 lemongrass stalks 
a handful of kaffir lime leaves or lime leaves or lemon leaves
1 large piece ginger root
for Spicy Ginger Dipping Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic 
1-2 red chili pepper
about 1-inch ginger root, peeled
a few prigs of cilantro, finely cut, optional
some Asian basil leaves, finely cut, optional
1 clay pot to fit a whole chicken, available at most Asian markets, cost about $17
6.5" diameter opening
about 29.5" circumference of widest part of the clay pot
7" tall
Preparing Ingredients

Remove and discard innards such as gizzards, etc, from inside the chicken, if included, and rinse the chicken inside and out, draining thoroughly.
Cut lemongrass stalks into 2-3 segments, long enough to fit in the clay pot. Bruise the lemongrass stalks with a heavy knife or a meat tenderizer hammer to release the essential oils from the lemongrass which will then add more flavor to the chicken.  If your lemongrass stalks have leaves, keep the leaves for later used.
Cut ginger roots into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Wash lime or lemon leaves, and set aside.
Steaming Chicken

In a clay pot, pour in sea salt and make about 1/4 inch thick layer at the bottom. 

Arrange lemongrass, lime or lemon leaves, ginger slices on top of a bed of sea salt. 

Tuck the chicken feet inside the chicken to keep them in place. Place the chicken on top of the herbs. If you have the lemongrass leaves, use them to cover the chicken to seals in moisture and flavor and infuses the contents with a subtle, grassy aroma. Banana leaves would also work.

Cover with a lid and cook clay pot at medium-high heat for no more than 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. 

Preparing Spicy Ginger Dipping Fish Sauce

While the chicken is cooking, place chili pepper, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and pound them into paste to release their fresh flavors. Add sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, chili garlic sauce if used instead of fresh chili pepper. Mix all the ingredients well. Toss in some cilantro and basil leaves. It should have a subtle balance of sour, sweet, salty and spicy.


Transfer the steamed chicken to a serving plate and serve with some herbs such as cilantro, Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), and of course the spicy ginger dipping fish sauce. 

You can also chop it up and pour the sauce over before serving. However, we are fond of tearing the whole chicken apart and eating it with our bare hands.  

Eat well. Stay healthy.