Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Che Troi Nuoc - Glutinous Rice Ball Dessert

Che Troi Nuoc, literally translated as dessert floating in water.  Everybody in my family loves this dessert.  My mom and dad are expert mochi baller.  When I was little, they use to make it together but now my sister-in-law and I have taken over that duty.  Our balling technique is no where close to my parents.  While theirs are perfectly round and uniform, ours are lumpy at times and all different sizes.  Hopefully practice will make perfect!

This dessert is made by balling glutinous rice dough with a mung beans filling.  The glutinous rice ball is then serve in a bath of ginger syrup.  If you have ever eaten this dessert you will know there are two type of rice balls.  The bigger ones are usually filled with mung beans and the smaller ones is just plain glutinous rice dough.  My favorite is definitely the smaller balls because it soaks up the ginger syrup better than the bigger one.  What I love about this Che is the savory aspect of it.  While the ginger syrup is sweet the filling is actually salty.  The mung beans is seasoned with salt, ground pepper, and pig's fat.  So when you cut into a filled rice ball you will taste both sweet and salt.

While I have made this Che a few times by myself, I'm much more comfortable making it with my family.  There are a lot of steps that is difficult to explain especially the making of the dough and the balling technique.  For that reason I have found a YouTube video that explain those technique very well and it would be a good reference than my instruction.  I will provide the recipe for making the mung bean filling, the ginger syrup, and coconut sauce.  Good luck and happy cooking!


1 16 oz bag of glutinous rice flour
1/2 12 oz bag of split mung beans
1 can of coconut milk
tapioca flour
ginger (about a knob
2 stalks of green onions minced
ground pepper
vegetable oil

Mung Bean Filling:

1.  If possible soak the mung beans in water for 2-3 hours.  This will help the bean soften and it will be easier to cook.  You'll want to wash the beans a couple time before soaking to get rid of the yellow coloring.
2.  Cooking the mung beans is very similar to cooking rice on the stove top.  In a pot, you'll want to add enough water to cover the beans and about 1 teaspoon of salt and then cook it on very low heat.  Let the beans soften more and expand.  If most of the water has evaporated before the mung bean has soften and expand just add little bit more hot water to the pot and let it continue to cook.
3.  Once the beans has soften enough, take a soup spoon and mash the beans into a smooth dough.  At this point you will want add the green onions, about 2 teaspoon of vegetable oil, and the ground pepper (about 1 teaspoon) to the mung beans.  Continue to mash and mix everything together into a smooth dough.  Add more salt if needed.
4.  Let the mung bean mixture cool and then you can knead it into small ball.  You can refer to the video.
Ginger Syrup:  

Not all ginger syrup is the same, it really depends on personal preference.  Some people prefer it to be more subtle like a liquid then a thicker syrup.  If you it want it to be a like syrup you'll want to use less water and more sugar.  If you want more of a subtle and light taste you'll want to use more water.  I prefer more of a syrup.

1.  Dissolved 2 cups of sugar with 6 cups of water in a pot on low heat.  Add about 1-2 knob of ginger sliced.

Coconut Sauce:

1.  Heat up a can of coconut milk on the stove.  Taste it with a pinch of salt.  Sprinkle some tapioca flour into the coconut milk to help thicken it and stir well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bun Bo Hue Pt. 2

It's been four years since I posted my recipe for Bun Bo Hue, and I lost count on how many times I have made it again after that day.  Bun Bo Hue is my favorite Vietnamese soup, my guilty pleasure.  I love everything about it; the broth, the meat, the vegetables, and most of all the spiciness!

One day as I was reviewing my blog and looking through old recipes, I came across the one for Bun Bo Hue.  As I was reading through it I realized I don't do some of these steps anymore or I do this step differently now.  I definitely need to update this post!  Instead of re-writing the whole recipe I will just make a new post on it.  Hope these tips will help all the Bun Bo Hue lover out there in the kitchen!  A lot of these tips can be applied to other recipes as well.   Happy cooking!

1.  Beef Bones vs. Pork Bones
Before I only use beef bones when making Bun Bo Hue.  I guess because it is a beef soup we all assume we can only use beef bones.  But to be honest pork bones produce a better broth, and you can definitely get by making a pot without using zero beef bones.  I have been doing this for the last couple years and nobody can tell the different.  People actually think my broth have gotten better over the years.  The downside of pork bones is you'll need to use more of it and it cooks a lot faster than beef bones.  For that reason, if you leave pork bones in the pot for too long it will fall a part and your broth will not be as clear.  You can mix and match pork neck bones and pork hocks to make the broth.  Just remember you'll want to remove it from the broth before they fall apart.

2.  Fermented Shrimp Paste (Mam Ruoc)
Ok this was the most time consuming step for this recipe.  You have to constantly add water to mam ruoc, mix it up and then only use the liquid at the top.  I thought this was the only way to use mam ruoc and produce a clear broth.  So glad I got rid of this step.  Now I just sauteed the mam ruoc together with the minced garlic and lemongrass.

3.  Rare Beef

Who said you can only eat thit tai (rare sliced beef) with only Pho?  Ridiculous!  Thit tai is my favorite meat with pho and my family always have it with Bun Bo Hue as well.  People use to think it was strange that I have it with my Bun Bo Hue.  Oh well I like thit tai and I will have it whenever I want!

4.  Annatto Seeds
Cooking annato seeds in oil produce an orange color to give the broth that unique orange/red color. Annato seeds is a pain to cook up because it pops and the oil splashes on stove top, shirts, counter, skin, and etc.  Sometimes it will stain your counter.  I never really liked this step.  Instead of using annatto seed, I just cook paprika in oil.  I like using paprika from the American groceries store because it produce more of red color than the orange color.  Cook the paprika in oil on low heat will produce a beautiful color for your Bun Bo Hue Broth without splashes.

5.  Chili Powder

For spiciness I relied a lot of fresh chili or dried whole chili. It took a lot to make the broth spicy and I felt like I was wasting a lot of chili.  I suggest search for a really spicy chili powder, I recommend using Thai or Indian chili powder.  Add the chili powder the same time as you are cooking the paprika in oil.

6.  Lemongrass

Before I used pre-minced lemongrass in a container in the frozen section.  It was convenient to use but it definitley lacked a lot of lemongrass flavor and aroma.  Now I take the extra step and minced and grind my lemongrass in a food processor.  I suggest doing a lot at once and then storing it in the freezer for later use.

7.  Salt vs. Fish Sauce
This took me a couple years to realize but salt is better for cooking broth.  It takes a lot of fish sauce to flavor a pot of broth, and with the cost of fish sauce lately that's just a total waste.  When you use too much fish sauce in your broth not only does it alter the color but it will alter the taste of your broth.  Fish sauce is pungent and will mask the natural flavor that the bones and vegetables give off for your soup.  Now I will only taste my broth with salt until the right amount of saltiness is produce, this way you can still taste the natural sweetness from your ingredients.  You only want to add fish sauce once you are done cooking or at the very end if needed.  Remember to add the salt gradually and always taste your broth.  You may not taste the salt right away and your first instinct is to add more salt; do not add additional salt right away.  Once you add salt to the broth give it time to marry with your broth and then re-taste.  You can fix bland food but once you make something salty it's a lot harder to fix.

pork neck bones/pork hock/beef bones (4-5 lbs would be plenty but the more bones the better the broth)
2 beef shank
sliced rare beef (opitonal)
Vietnamese ham (optional cha lua/cha hue)
lemongrass (8-10 stalks the more the better)
2-3 knob of ginger
2 yellow onion
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon of of fresh Thai chili
1 tablespoon of minced lemongrass
chili powder (there are many different kind some more spicy than others)
shrimp paste(mam ruoc)
whole pineapple (peeled)
cooking oil
black pepper
mushroom seasoning
rock sugar
fish sauce

1. Par boil the all the bones and then rinse thoroughly with cool water.  If you are using pork hock I would recommend par boiling at least twice and use a little bit of vinegar to get rid of smell.
3. Place clean bones in an 8-10 qt. pot and fill with water.
4. Let pot simmer on low-medium heat.  Remove any scum.
5. Char ginger roots and onion (by broiling).  Remove charred skin and add to pot.
6. Add lemongrass stalk to pot.
7. Now you'll want to season your broth with 1/4 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning, rock sugar the size of a knob of ginger, and 1 tablespoon of black pepper.  Let everything marry for about 1 hours.  
8.  Make sure you are checking on the bones/pork hocks.  Pork bones cook fast and you'll want to remove it before it falls apart.  I don't like my pork hock too tender I actually like it chewy.  It's up to you when you feel it's ready to your liking.
9.  Par boil the beef shank and rinse with cool water.  Add to the pot.  You can add more salt if needed but remember you still have the shrimp paste (mam ruoc).
10.  Add the pineapple.  Squeeze some of the juice out and then put the whole thing in the pot.
11.  Remove the shank when ready.
12. Heat up two tablespoon of vegetable oil on low heat.  Add about 4 tablespoon of paprika and chili powder to your liking.  Constantly stir so it doesn't burn.  Add to the pot.
13.  Heat two tablespoon of vegetable oil on low heat.  Add the minced garlic, minced lemongrass, and shallot.  Cook until fragrance and then add the fresh chili, and 4 tablespoon of shrimp paste.  Cook everything with the oil for a few minutes and then add to the pot.
14.  Do last minute seasoning.  At this point add fish sauce if needed or you can just add fish sauce to your bowl.  Turn heat down to the lowest setting and let it sit until you are ready to eat.
15.  Cook noodles, sliced shank, prepare ham, sliced rare beef, and prepare garnish.
16.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pho Ga - Chicken Rice Noodle Soup

The last few days I kept thinking about Vietnam and when I will get the chance to go back.  And the more I reminisce, the more I thought about all the wonderful foods I had in Saigon.  Pho ga was one of the dish that stood out in my mind.  People close to me know I am obsessed with food and cooking.  I have a keen memory when it comes to food no matter how long ago, if it made me happy and made an impression on me I will never forget the taste.  It amazes my family when I can go on and on describing and praising a dish I had years ago.

In Saigon, there is a noodle shop name Ky Dong who are known for their chicken noodle soup. My first time there it was completely packed.  I can smell the fragrance of chicken stewing away.  I remember I was very hungry at the time because I ordered a bowl of pho ga and mi ga. When the soups arrived I couldn't devour my bowls any quicker.  The chicken was firm, fragrance, and chewy (a good chewy).  The chicken skin was actually a pale yellow unlike the chicken here in the U.S. that just blends in with the meat.  The soup was light and sweet.  I never would have thought out of all the things I ate in Saigon I would be amazed by a simple bowl of pho ga.

Chicken makes a great broth in very little time.  It doesn't require half a day to achieve a great broth like beef pho.  The chicken here in the states does not even come close to the free-range chicken in Vietnam.  Whenever I make any kind of chicken soup I would only use cornish hen or organic free-range chicken for better quality meat.  The broth for pho ga is lighter in taste and sweeter than the broth of pho bo.  I like using a lot of roots vegetables to help achieve a natural sweetness such as yellow onions and leeks.

The steps for making pho ga is similar to pho bo but the time is cut down tremendously.  For pho bo we have to take the extra time to wash, par boil, and again wash the beef bones.  These steps are essential to achieve a clear broth.  I usually do not par boil chicken, I just make sure I wash the chicken thoroughly with salt and water.  You will achieve a clear broth by skimming the scum.

Basil is usually the herb that is synonymous with pho.  I, however, prefer eating pho ga with ngo gai, known as sawtooth herb to some and culantro to others.  The spicy and explosive flavor of ngo gai goes so well with the light and sweet chicken broth.  Whenever I eat any kind of chicken noodle soup such Mien Ga, it just doesn't taste the same without ngo gai.


1 whole chicken (The picture show an organic free-range chicken and 1 cornish hen because I was using the hen's meat for goi ga)
2 leeks
2 onions
2 stub of ginger
rock sugar
mushroom seasoning
fish sauce
5-6 star anise
2 cinnamon stick
5-6 cloves
chopped green onions, cilantro, sliced onion, and sawtooth herb for garnish
rice noodles

1.  Wash your chickenwell.
2.  Place chicken in an 8 qt. stock pot and fill pot with water.
3.  Let chicken cook on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of salt.  You'll want to skim the broth whenever necessary.
4.  You can roast the ginger and onions at this point. Peel the skin.
5.  Once the chicken has cooked all the through remove the chicken.
6.  Add all the roots vegetables to your broth (ging
er, onions, and leeks).
7.  Remove all the chicken meat from the bones, and throw the bones back in the pot.
8.  Let the broth simmer for about another hour or more on low heat.  Add more salt (about 2 tablespoon, don't put it all at once remember to taste your food), rock sugar, and about 2 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning or granulated chicken base.
9.  While you wait for the broth, you can shred the chicken meat and prepare the garnish and noodles.
10.  Roast the spices in the oven and throw it in the pot.  Season with more fish sauce if needed.
11.  Remove the spices after about 15-20 minutes.
12. Broth is ready for you to enjoy!