Canh Chua Tom, Sour Soup with Shrimp

Yesterday was a Friday in our house. It was the last day of my husband’s service week and now he deservingly gets a few days off… which means a bit more help at home for me! yay.

I’ve been making Canh Chua more often lately. It’s so simple and comforting. I definitely didn’t appreciate the soup as much when I was younger and now that I’m older (and wiser) I can appreciate it for it’s nutrition and the memories of my parents making it for us. I’m trying to introduce as much foods to my kids while they’re young in hopes of having them appreciate it also when they’re older.

My parents and my husband’s parents as well, didn’t put fried garlic on the soup but I really enjoy the extra note of flavor that it adds. This soup is so versatile in that you can add as much or little protein or vegetables that you like. I like a lot of broth in my soup so I tend to be cautious with how much vegetables I put in. But if you like more, feel free to add more, and if you think I’m adding too much..feel free to add less! ahh the beauty of cooking for yourself =)

Typically served with Braised Claypot Fish (which is really good too), but my dad usually did fried salmon and I like doing the same. Served with some fresh or pickled veggies and dipping sauce….it’s nearly a perfect Vietnamese meal!

Canh Chua Tom
6 cups water or chicken broth
2-3 roma tomatoes quartered  (about 1/5-2 cups) (1/2 cup for stir-frying)
1 1/2 cup pineapple
2 Tbs vegetable oil
3 Tbs minced garlic
1/4 chopped shallots
1 cup ngo om
1 cup culantro
1 1/2 cup chopped okra
1 1/2 cup elephant ear stem (peel, cut in small slices and soak in salt water)
1 lb shrimp
4 Tbs tamarind concentrate
3 Tbs fish sauce
1 inch rock sugar (30 grams)
2 tsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt (1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 stalk lemon grass, bruised (optional)
2 slices of ginger
1 kaffir lime leaf

Marinate shrimp with 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, and back pepper
Fry garlic, remove for later
Using garlic oil, sauté, shallots and lemongrass, ginger
Add shrimp and sauté for 1 minute, remove to plate
Add pineapple and sautee for 1 minute
Add tomatoes and sautee for 1 minute
Add water and sugar and bring to boil
add tamarind and lime leaf, stir
Bring to boil
Add fish sauce and salt, 
Simmer 5 minutes
Add okra and elephant ear steam
Simmer another 1 minutes
Simmer 3-5 minutes
Add tomatoes
Add shrimp
Once shrimp is cooked taste broth and adjust as necessary
And add herbs and bean sprouts.
Add fried garlic (remove lime leaf and lemon grass stalk)

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100 Subscribers on Youtube!

Yay! I know this isn’t a huge number at all compared to other Youtube accounts on the platform or most platforms for that matter. But the fact that I wasn’t expecting to get 50, let alone 100 makes me feel surprised and happy. I really enjoy making, editing videos, and blogging! It’s an outlet for me to not only focus on my cooking and recipes but also express myself. I just want to say THANK YOU to those that like my videos and subscribe to my channel and even read my blog posts. Although I started making videos (as well as blogging) as a hobby and creative outlet for myself, knowing there’s someone out there that likes what I create really motivates me to create more! I hope to continue to make content that I can be proud of and is also enjoyable and informative for those watching or reading 🙏😊💕 Yippee and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Happy Lunar New Year and Chicken Adobo Recipe

This past weekend was a busy one! Lunar New Year and Valentine’s day rolled in one. We hosted a small get together at our place. I spent the whole morning and afternoon making a pot of Chicken Ragu and Sous Vide Nem Nuong Rolls. Everything turned out well except for my rolls. *Note for future* pre-rolling spring rolls- DO NOT use damp paper towel to keep rolls separated, IT WILL STICK haha. In the future I’ll probably use either cling wrap or damp cloth towels or even risk my rolls sticking together, rather than have napkin paper stuck to it 😖. So anyways, aside from possibly feeding everyone some paper napkins, I’m happy with how everything went and it was nice to enjoy good company and of course the kids had fun!

Today I’m sharing a recipe on my site I already posted a while back, but it must have gotten deleted when I changed my platform….so here it is again! This time video included =) Chicken Adobo! This is a Filipino dish and it is super simple but so delicious and and so unique. The tangy bold flavors of vinegar and soy sauce pairs perfectly with steamed white rice.

Chicken Adobo
2 lbs. bone-in skinless chicken pieces (8 pieces)
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tbs dark soy sauce
1 small onion, sliced
1 Tbs garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs whole peppercorns

Marinate chicken with 4 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs garlic, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp black pepper for 2-24 hrs.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, add 1 Tbs of vegetable oil.
Brown meat on both sides and remove to plate (about 2 minutes per side).
Lower heat to medium, add onions and cook until soften.
Add vinegar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar, peppercorn, scraping the pan to release flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. 
Add chicken back to skillet top-side down, cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling, add bay leaves, and loosely cover again.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Turn chicken over half way through cooking time and remove lid.
Continue to simmer until desired color and doneness.
Serve with hot white rice. Don’t forget to spoon the delicious sauce over the chicken and rice. Enjoy!

Happy Year of the Ox! Wishing everyone Good Health, Happiness, and Prosperity!

Ragu Ga, Chicken Ragu

This is one of the most simple stews you can make. But despite its simplicity it still has depth, warmth and heartiness. It is absolutely perfect for cold winter days, although that hasn’t stopped me from making it other times of the year as well. I’m actually making this stew again for Valentine’s/Lunar New Year weekend, that’s how much we enjoy it. I always serve this with toasted baguette to soak up the broth. My kids enjoy this soup, but I honestly think it’s the bread they like the most.

I highly recommend using bone-in chicken chicken for this recipe (chicken thighs are my recommendation), but if you prefer breasts or using boneless then use chicken broth instead of water so you can achieve the depth of flavor we will want. I also remove the skin but you can always leave it on if that’s your preference!

Ragu Ga, Vietnamese Chicken Ragu (6-8 servings)
8 bone-in chicken thighs(skin on or skinless), about 4 lbs.
1 onion cut into slices
1 Tbs minced garlic
3 carrots cut into chunks (3-4 cups chopped carrots)
1-2 large potato cut into chunks (3 cups chopped potatoes)
1.5-2 cup frozen green peas
6 ounces tomato paste
2 Tbs ketchup (optional but recommended)
1 Tbs + 4 tbs fish sauce (or to taste)
4 cups water
1.5-2 cup coconut juice or soda
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Black peper to taste
French bread
Cilantro for garnish

Put chicken pieces in bowl. Add 2 tsp  sugar, 1 Tbs fish sauce, ½ tsp salt, black pepper, half of the minced garlic and onions.
Marinate for at least 30 minutes over night.
In a pot add oil over medium heat and brown chicken. Add the rest of the garlic and onions and saute for 1 minute. 
Add tomato paste and stir thouroughly.
Add coconut juice and water and bring to boil.
Add fish sauce and black pepper and lower to simmer.
Simmer for 15 minutes and add carrots and potatoes.
Simmer for another 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender. 
Add peas and ketchup.
Simmer another 10-15 minutes or until ready to serve.
Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Served with toasted bread and lime on the side.

Vietnamese Lemongrass Grilled Pork, Thit Heo Nuong Xa

Reading my last post, I can’t help but laugh, “It’s suppose to storm this week in California and I’m ready for it.” 😂 Well I thought the “storm” would be just some heavy rainfall, I didn’t expect it to knock down two of our fences as well as break off a huge limb from our protected pine tree, and wreak havoc on our yard. Some people, including my poor sister, were left without power for hours. Luckily we weren’t among those that lost power for a significant amount of time. I think in the future I will be more careful with what I decided to say to nature. All in all, we are fine and our property will be fine, and life moves forward.

Last week was my husband’s birthday and I wanted to make a special dinner for my family, Com Tam Thit Nuong, which translates to Broken Rice Grill Pork. This is a recipe I only make for special occasions, mainly because it does use a lot of sugar, but indulging every once in a while is ok, right? The amount I make is usually shared with other people so at least it’s spread out a bit. The moment I announced the menu to my family, I had a little bit of uh-oh maybe I should back track. It was A LOT of work preparing everything, but at the end of the day, I never regret the work I put in when I see the family gather for a wonderful meal. At least I decided to forego making the cake myself (good decision on my part).

The grilled pork itself is not hard, but to make it a wonderful meal, you need to accompany it with dipping sauce, scallion oil, pickled veggies, salad…etc, which acutally ends up taking a lot of time. On top of that I added egg rolls, and that is a whole venture in its own. The good thing was I had the dipping sauce, scallion oil, and pickled veggies already made and so that left me with only the pork and egg rolls.

Just a couple notes for Vietnamese grilled pork, scallion oil is very important. It’s adds a nice flavor to the meal that I think it essential for Vietnamese rice plates and noodle dishes. Nuon mam dipping sauce is also necessary. All these flavors layer together and create a very authentic, unique, and tantalizing meal!

For the pork (enough to feed about 6-8 people)
2 stalk lemongrass
2 shallots
3 green onions white only
5 cloves garlic (2 tbs garlic)
5 Tbs caramel sauce (nuoc mau)
5 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs vegetable oil
4 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs dark soy sauce
1 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs black pepper
2.5 -3 lbs pork tenderloin or shoulder,  sliced 1/4 inch thickness
or 4 lbs thin-cut pork chops

3 tbs caramel sauce, 1 tbs water, 1 tbs oil 1/2 tsp salt

Blend all ingredients from lemongrass to black pepper in a food processor until smooth.
Add to the pork and marinate for 24 hours.
Grill on medium heat about 5 minutes per side or until pork is cooked through.
Apply glaze to each size about 1 minute before pork is done cooking.

Bo Luc Lac | Vietnamese Shaking Beef

Happy Monday! Here’s to another week. It’s suppose to storm this week in California and I’m ready for it.

I wanted to share a special recipe today, Shaking Beef also known as Bo Luc Lac. This dish was my absolute favorite growing up. Since I’ve learned how to make it myself, I’ve made it so many times with many versions to see what our family liked most, and it always came back to the simplest version. A lot of recipes use oyster sauce which I’ve used also, but our family just preferred this dish without it. Feel free to explore different recipes and try different versions and see what fits you and your family’s taste best!

For the meat, since I make this fairly often, I typically use flap meat from Costco. It’s cheaper than ribeye and filet mignon but it still works for us. If you’re making this for the first time or if your budget allows, get yourself a nice ribeye or filet, you won’t regret it! But for me, I just use flap meat and it works. This dish is all about how tender the beef cubes are. I think tenderness is even more important that flavor for Shaking Beef. If you do get flap meat, get the best quality you can get. Costco has always been pretty good for us. I’ve learned that adding a little oil and cornstarch while the meat is marinating helps produce a more tender product. I do think the oil and cornstarch has to go in after the rest of the ingredients are mixed. I don’t know why, but that’s what I found worked the best.

You have to serve this dish with a fresh salad. The crisp greens goes very well with the flavorful beef cubes. Watercress is very authentic with the dish, but any lettuce will do. I have done romaine and butter leaf lettuce and enjoyed it both. You can also add onions and sweet bell peppers to the frying for some more color and vegetables if you prefer. The possibilities are endless once you have the basics of it. So here is my recipe and I hope you enjoy it.

Have a great week!

Bo Luc Lac
1 Lb beef cut in to 1 inch cubes
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt and black pepper
1/2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp corn starch

For the Salad
6 cups watercress
1 cup thinly slice red onion
2 tomato, sliced into pieces (2 cups tomatoes)
5 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3  tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp black pepper

Add beef, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper to a bowl and mix.
Add half of the garlic and 1/2 tbsp oil and mix.
Add cornstarch and mix. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare you salad.
Combine vinegar, oil, salt, sugar, black pepper.
Add sliced onions to the vinegar dressing
Toss watercress with dressing and arrange on plate.
Add tomatoes slices.

Heat pan over med-high heat
Add 1 tbsp oil
Add beef
Sear 1 side for 1 minute
Turn over sear other side
Add garlic cook for another 2-3 minutes
Transfer to serving plate on top of salad
Enjoy with a salt and pepper lime dipping sauce and rice!

I leave you with some beautiful flowers from this weekend that greeted me whenever I walked out to my kitchen. I’m learning to appreciate the value of balance and aesthetics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while aesthetic is not everything in life, it is important because it can create a mood, a feeling, an inspiration that can impact that very moment in your day or even in your life.

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings

I almost want to say these are better than frying them…almost. But I don’t want to make this a controversial blog post 🙃, so I will just say this, baking chicken wings is my go-to method for making wings. It’s simple, uses A LOT less oil, and while they’re baking, I can makes sides or clean up the kitchen or anything really, win-win! I’ve been baking them for years. The method is pretty fail proof, and they taste and look delicious. The only caveat is that they need to bake for nearly 1 hour (flipping them half way in between cooking time). But the time is worth it! They can stand up to any sauce you make or just eat them with a simple lemon pepper seasoning. I followed the method from watching Chef John’s Food Wishes Youtube Channel and there’s not much I needed to change. For my kids, I leave out the hot sauce 😑 (the things we do for our kids, amirite?) but we always add the spice on the side!

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings (adapted from food wishes)
3 1/2 Lbs. Chicken wings (about 33-35 wings)
1 1/2  cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
Combine oil, salt and pepper

Preheat oven 400℉
Add to large spill proof bowl with lid or bag with flour (work in batches if necessary).
Cover the lid.
Toss to coat wings, shake off excess flour.
Line baking sheet. 
Spray sheet with non stick spray.
Place wings on top (do not crowd)
Spray top of wings with non stick spray.
Bake 30 min.
Turn over. 
Bake another 30 min.
Wings will be nicely browned and crispy!
Toss in your favorite sauce or seasonings and serve.

Spray the bottom of two baking trays so the wings do not stick. A convection setting on oven helps save on cooking time so you can bake two trays at once.
Close lid and shake, shake, shake!
Nice and coated. Make sure to shake off excess flour so your wings are light and crispy.

Spray the top of the wings, so they get nice and brown.
This is after 30 minutes, flip and bake another 30 minutes. They will be perfect!
After 1 hour, they are nicely browned and crispy! Trust the process.
Toss with your favorite seasonings or sauces.
Lemon Pepper, Korean Sweet and Spicy, and Buffalo Sauce

Tofu Larb

Happy Monday! I hope it was nice weekend in your neck of the woods.
I’m sharing this recipe because it’s always a hit. From my meat loving husband to 4 1/2 year old daughter to my 20 month old son, everyone in the family loves it, so I think it’s worth sharing!

I use frozen defrosted Tofu for this, which I have to leave in the fridge for a couple of days to completely thaw out, but I’m sure you can use fresh firm tofu that’s been pat dry. I’ve never tried it fresh, but I’m sure you can use it. Once the tofu has been defrosted and thawed out, it takes on a spongy texture that makes it more meaty. Like most tofu dishes, you just have to make sure you remove as much water as you can from the tofu before cooking. Fortunately, with thawed out tofu, it’s really easy to just squeeze out the water.

Tofu was previously frozen then thawed out.

This recipe is very simple but I think it does require all the ingredients listed to really bring the dish to life. 1 necessary ingredient most people may not have on hand is toasted rice powder. No worries though! It’s very simple to make. You take how ever many amount of uncooked rice you want to have, dry toast it on a skillet untill golden brown, then pound or blend until fine and powdery! Store in an airtight container for months, but use quickly for optimal freshness. In case you may be more of a visual person, I have a video on how I make the rice powder and also the tofu larb. Feel free to check it out below!

Once you have your rice powder, you can easily make Tofu Larb. Through out the cooking process (which is very quick) continue to break up the tofu pieces with your spatula while you mix in the fish sauce and rice powder. I always serve it over a bed of romaine lettuce. The crunchy fresh lettuce goes well with the salty and nutty flavors of the the tofu larb!

Squeeze out water from tofu and tear into bite size pieces.
Heat oil over med to med-high heat.
Add garlic while oil is still cold then let cook until they begin to sizzle and become fragrant.
Turn heat to low and add in tofu
Add in fish sauce.
Add in toasted rice powder.
Turn off heat and add in red onions.
Mix well.
Squeeze in lime juice.
Add in fresh herbs.
Taste and adjust seasonings according to preference!

Tofu Larb
1 (16 oz) package of firm tofu (frozen and thawed)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 head of romaine lettuce
1 Tbs dry roasted rice powder
2 tsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbs vegetable oil
chili flakes
2 Tbs chopped cilantro 
2 Tbs chopped mint

Tear tofu into small pieces
In a large skillet turn heat to medium high
Add oil and garlic
Cook untill just fragrant
Turn heat to low
Add tofu and mix  with oil
Add fish sauce and salt
Add rice powder mix
Turn off heat
Add slice red onions while pan is still hot
Add lime juice and mix
Place on top of chopped lettuce
Serve with rice and tom yum soup

If you’re a fan of Thai food, give this recipe a try!

Recommended product for this dish:
Lemon Squeezer

Simple Roasted Butternut Squash

My daughter isn’t in school yet so I have her watch some learning videos every so often just to get her started with learning to focus and retaining information. The other day she wanted to learn about the brain. I showed her a short 4 minute clip and at the end of clip they discussed ways to keep the brain healthy. I was also intrigue. All of the tips were obvious, exercise, eat healthy, work the brain…etc. But the eating healthy one, although is obvious, sometimes I overlook just how important it is to eat healthy and nourish the brain not just the body. So that day, I made the kids and me roasted butternut squash (a great brain food) as a side to our lunch.

I usually buy precut because because it’s just easier. The only thing is you have to use it fairly quick or they become slimy 🤢 in the fridge and end up being tossed. A 12 ounce bag would be enough for 2 adults, but in this case it was the perfect amount for my kids and me. Here is a quick and simple method to make perfectly roasted butternut squash that can be eaten as-is or added to a salad!

Some things to remember when roasting vegetables, water is not your friend. Do not crowd that pan or they will steam rather than brown. Another note is to make sure the veggies are dry. Lastly, season liberally with oil, salt and pepper. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables, oil keeps the vegetables moist, the salt and pepper intensifies the flavors and makes taking bites of the veggies after they come out of the oven irresistible!

With 12 ounce I only needed a small baking pan.
Seasoned and ready to go into the oven.
Delicious! I didn’t even need to turn them half way through the roasting process.

Roasted Butternut Squash
12 ounce peeled and cut butternut squash (about 2 inch pieces)
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt (or to preference)
1/4 tsp pepper (or to preference)
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Trader Joes’s Onion Salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 400℉
Add squash onto baking pan (spaced out)
Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and make sure they’re evenly coated.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges become brown and caramelized but not burnt.
Enjoy as-is or toss in a salad with cranberries, red onions and toast walnuts!

2021 *a recipe for happiness*

My family and I watched a movie this past weekend (actually it was really just my husband and me, while our kids ran around and distracted us). The movie was a Disney movie, Soul. My brother recommended it, and I was intrigued. Without hopefully giving anything away, the movie had an important lesson about life that spoke to me, Life isn’t necessarily finding your purpose. If you find it, that’s great (and you can be in the “zone” 😂), but life really is just about living it, and enjoying it. Just live in the moment and make each day as positive and meaningful as you can for yourself and the people in it.

That’s something I’ve already realized as I continue to raise my kids and focus on my family and quality of life. I want to try to cherish each day with them while they’re young and impressionable. I remember how stressed I was when I first had my daughter and now in hindsight, the stress was overwhelming and interfering with the moments and memories I should have remembered with her in her baby years. Not to say that stress is always bad and should never be a part of your life, stress is inevitable. But learning to control the stress, resolve it, and not let it take away from the quality of your life and happiness should be the goal.

This is all what I’m learning and applying to my life as I head into 2021. I don’t want to overthink anything, I just want to enjoy each day and make it beautiful and meaningful for myself and my family. That is what I enjoy in my life and that is what I will focus on.

Anyhow~ don’t worry, I won’t stray away from my food posts! Cooking and learning about food and recipes is what I love to do. I asked my 19 month son a few days back “Where is your heart? Can you point to your heart?” and without hesitation he confidently pointed to his stomach. I think he was telling me the truth. The way to his heart is through his stomach (just like his dad) 😆 so that is why I love cooking and will continue to do so, for the health and happiness of my family and myself!