Vietnamese Beef Stew || Bo Kho

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There are a handful of dishes I consider Vietnamese comfort food, Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) is one of them. Aromatic, savory, full of flavor, it’s one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes in general. I’m sure every family has their own recipe and preference of how to make it and eat. Some enjoy it with rice noodles while others prefer having it along side toasty french baguette. I have grown up with the latter, enjoying this stew with a nice crusty piece of bread to soak up the aromatic robust broth. We already had Hawaiian Rolls at home so we just had the rolls, but definitely get the baguettes if you can. My parents have always used the packet of pre-made marinade/seasoning found at any Vietnamese or Chinese grocery store, but over the years I developed my own recipe that I feel taste just as good and dare I say better than using the pre-made packet seasoning. It’s a recipe that I’m pretty proud of!

Like most recipes, you still have to adjust seasonings according to your preference, but the basis of the recipe will result in an extremely flavorful, deep broth for a delicious Bo Kho. Traditionally, Vietnamese beef stew is made with beef shank and tendon. I’m not a huge fan of tendon and I find using beef chuck gives me the most tender and soft meat, so I always use beef chuck, but you can definitely use shank and tendon if you want! With this recipe, simmering for 2 hours is the minimum, the longer you can let it simmer the better. I think it even tastes better the next day. This recipe makes enough for my husband, me, and my daughter, but she’s 3, so she doesn’t count as a full portion😛, with a little left over for the next day. If you’re making this for at least 4 adults (and you want leftovers) I would double the recipe. The herb that typically gets served with this stew is Thai Basil, but I really enjoy eating an herb called Tia To, a Vietnamese Perilla. Also don’t forget a slice of lime for a little tang. The citrus cuts the richness of the broth very nicely.

Bo Kho Recipe (about 4 servings)
2-3 lb beef chuck cut into 1.5 – 2 inch pieces
1.5 Tbs annatto seeds
¼ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion cut into slices
1 Tbs of minced garlic
4 large carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
2  Tbs frozen lemon grass or 3 stalk of fresh lemon grass bruised
1  Tbs grated frozen ginger or 3 slices of fresh ginger
3 ounce of tomato paste
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs five spice powder
2 tsp curry powder
½  Tbs paprika
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs fish sauce
1-2 cups coconut juice or water
4 cups beef broth, chicken broth, or water

  1. In a small pan heat olive oil and annatto seeds until color has bled and oil is red about 1 minute. Remove seeds and keep oil.
  2. Marinate beef with ½ tbs of fish sauce, garlic, onion, salt, five spice powder, curry powder, paprika and 1 tbs of the annatto oil.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight.
  3. In a large pot add in about 2 Tbs of annatto oil over medium heat, add lemon grass, star anise and cinnamon stick, ginger and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Add meat and brown for about 1 minute on each side.
  5. Add carrots, coconut juice, broth and more water (if necessary) until meat is covered by about 1 inch.
  6. Add tomato paste and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours until meat is tender.  Add rest of fish sauce and adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Serve with Thai Basil or Vietnamese Perilla and lime.
    IMG_5468Beautiful red annatto oilIMG_5469IMG_5476IMG_5478

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    This broth is packed with flavor.

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    Enjoy!

It’s Good to Be Home and Opo Squash Soup with Shrimp

 

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Moving back home has a been so nice. Being near my parents has made a huge difference in our daily lives. A major benefit of being near my family has been the abundance of family support and company they have offered us the minute we got back. From cooking to unpacking, they’ve added so much more enjoyment and warmth to our day.

Aside from the company of our family, the abundance of vegetables and herbs from my dad’s garden has been so enjoyable.  I know we’re adults with our own daughter, but it feels nice to have our parents nearby and feeding our bellies every so often. Opo Squash and Kabocha Squash are two abundant vegetables in my dad’s garden and I’ve been happily accepting them when I’m offered. One of the easiest ways to use it is in soups.

The method is very easy and a trick I learned from my mom is to not add too much water  when making soups because a lot of vegetables release their own liquid so it will make your soup that much sweeter if you don’t dilute it by adding too much water. So for about 4 cups of chopped up Opo Squash or Kabocha Squash I’ll add about 2.5 cups of water.

I usually use water because I prefer the milder flavor for this soup compared to using chicken broth but you can definitely use chicken broth if you prefer! You can use any protein you want to add to this soup, pork ribs are very common addition, but I like using shrimp.

Ooo Squash Soup with Shrimp (Canh Bau)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup -1/2 cup of onion, minced
4 cup of opo squash, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch to 1/3 inch pieces
1 cup of peeled shrimp, chopped and season with a pinch of salt and pepper
1 Tbs fish sauce (You can always start with 1/2 Tbs and add more later, but I like more salty flavor)
2.5 cups of water (If using chicken broth use less fish sauce to start)
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish
2 tsp vegetable oil

In a medium size pot add oil over medium heat sauté onion and garlic untill onions are translucent. About 2-3 minutes
Add shrimp and sautee untill shrimp turns pink.
Add water cover and bring to boil.
Once boiling add the squash and slight cover with lid.
Once water comes back to boil, add fish sauce, pinch of salt, and pepper and lower to medium low.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes until squash is soft.
Taste and adjust season as necessary.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

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Salt and Pepper Tofu

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When it comes to tofu there are only a few recipes that I can depend on that both my husband and I will enjoy, Salt and Pepper tofu is one of them.  It’s such a simple dish and if you buy your tofu already fried it’s also a very quick dish to make. Despite it’s simplicity, it is so tasty and packed with robust flavor. My sister wanted to try to make this so I’ll share with you the recipe! Like other recipes, after making this a few times, you’ll discover the ratio of spices that suits your taste buds best.

Salt and Pepper Tofu (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)
1 package fried tofu (cut to your preference, I like 1 inch cubes)

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I like buying pre-fried tofu for this recipe

1 Tbs cooking oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 stalks of green onions, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño cut into pieces
1 small bell pepper cut into 1 inch cubes (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper

1. In a small bowl, mix salt, sugar, and white pepper and set aside
2. In a large skillet on high heat, add oil
3. Once pan is hot, add bell peppers and cook until soft (3-5 minutes)
4. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds – 1 minute
5. Add tofu and stir until brown to your preference. You may have to let the tofu sit on each side for a while to get it to brown.
6. Once the tofu is cooked and browned on each side, add in the salt and pepper mixture and toss.
6. Add in green onion, cilantro, and jalapeños and quickly toss untill herbs are wilted and turn of heat.
Serve and enjoy!IMG_7024 2

 

 

Asian Inspired Fish en Papillote, and an actual weekend (sort of)!

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Yay for weekends. Too be honest, weekends don’t always feel like weekends to me. I’m a stay at home mom and my husband’s schedule is never consistent often working on weekends and nights. So while I can appreciate weekends for their offerings of free time and a break from the work week for many, my own routine and life does not change much on weekends.

But this week, my husband had a rare three days off, no calls, no moonlighting, no presentations to work on… and it was nice. We were able to take our daughter for one last splash in the pool before the weather got too cold, we went to Balboa park and enjoyed the nice weather, had family relaxation time at home, and got dessert at a new restaurant we haven’t tried.

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Delicious Brownie Shake

On Friday, I made Fish en Papillote but I wanted to try something different with it and so I used ingredients for Asian Style Steam Fish. It was such a quick recipe, so easy to make and best of all it was tasty! I wasn’t going to make a blog post about this recipe so I didn’t take many pictures, but it was so good and easy I figured I should just share it now. I know I will definitely make this again.

And now friends, it is Sunday, and my husband is back at work, my daughter is napping, and I am back to the routine. 😌

Asian Inspired Fish en Papillote
For one fish packet
1/4 tsp of salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 inch knob of ginger sliced into thin strips
1 scallion, sliced
a couple slices of chili pepper
1 white fish filet

1. Lay fish onto parchment paper.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
3. Add soy sauce and sesame oil on top of fish.
4. Lay on top ginger, scallions, and peppers.
5. Seal parchment paper.
6. Back at 375 for 20-25 minutes.
7. Garnish with cilantro.

Chicken Katsu and the Irony in Life

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I think the title of this post is more dramatic than my post really is…but it is still fitting. I didn’t plan to make dinner Friday night. My husband had a work related dinner he was going to attend and I had food in the fridge for my daughter and me. Before my husband went to the dinner, knowing that the drive would be about 30 minutes, I told him to take my car. It is newer, gas efficient, and more importantly, it is RELIABLE. I am also fairly confident in my intuition and decision making skills and for some reason I just had a feeling… I told him to take my car but he decided to take his. Let me tell you, we don’t have a great history when it comes to cars. To be more accurate, we (no he, despite my resistence) made one costly mistake that we’ve been living with for many years. Fortunately, lessons have been learned and we are on a wiser path when it comes to automobiles. The wiser path is for him to listen to me more and for me to be more unwavering! 😂

Anyways, to make a long story short, he took his car and leaves the house. A few minutes later as I was in the kitchen making Katsu sauce for tomorrow’s dinner, I get a call from him. What do you know….he’s pulled over in a parking lot with radiator issues. He isn’t able to make it to the work dinner and has to come home. Luckily, I already had Katsu sauce made and making Chicken Katsu doesn’t take too long. So instead off making it the next day, we had it for dinner that night. And despite the car troubles, my day was still good because my husband was not hurt and my last minute dinner couldn’t have turned out any better.

Ahhh my my reason for happiness despite car troubles and a stubborn husband 😉, making Chicken Katsu after watching Chef Hiro on YouTube was my happy moment yesterday (along with a glass of wine). It’s actually so easy to make. I have learned that to make crispy katsu, you need a good pan that retains heat well, and also use enough oil to cover the chicken or at least most of it. Instead of slicing it thin like the chef did, I used a meat pounder since I didn’t think I can cut as well as he can and that was a good decision on my part! Don’t worry about wasting oil, since I only used it once and it’s still clean to me, I just strained it and saved it in a jar for the next time I want to fry something.

So there you have it, sometimes or often, life throws you surprises that are not always wanted. My husband planned to attend a nice work dinner but missed it because his car broke down, ironically when I told him to take my car but he didn’t listen. We now have to get by with one car from two. But despite this, the big picture is that at least my husband didn’t miss the dinner because of something worse like a car accident. At least we still have a car to drive rather than no car. And lastly, at least we were still able to have a pretty nice dinner last night. 😊

As for our car, we’ve put too much money into this car and it is too old to have any more money put into it. It’s been a plague in our house and we are finally, FINALLY getting rid of it. We decided to go on one car for now and when the time is right we will decide on another.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Peanut Sauce for Summer Rolls

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If you like eating Vietnamese Springs Rolls, also called Summer rolls, aside from the everyday fish dipping sauce, peanut sauce is a recipe you should have in your repertoire. There are many different variations of this sauce but the two basic and essential ingredients are peanut sauce and hoisin sauce. After experimenting a few times, I’ve added coconut milk for a creamy and subtle coconut flavor.

Once you make this a few times, you will find the proportions of ingredients that’s right for you. If you’re not sure how much peanut butter flavor you want, start with 2 Tbs and add more as desired. For me 3 Tbs is usually good. I always use smooth peanut and add the peanuts later, but if you want to use crunchy peanut butter you can absolutely do that. Before adding sugar, give it a taste to see if you need or want more sweetness. I usually add a little sugar, but sometimes it’s not even necessary.

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Peanut Sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
½ cup Hoisin sauce
1/2  cup water (thin to desired texture)
3 Tbs peanut butter
1 Tbs brown Sugar (to taste…not needed)
1/4 cup coconut milk (the thick kind that usually comes in a can)
1 Tbs of crush toasted peanuts

Directions
1. In a small sauce pan heat up oil over medium heat.
2. Saute garlic until fragrant.
3. Add hoisin sauce, peanut butter, water and stir until well mixed.
4. Add coconut milk then sugar if necessary.
5. Continue to stir on low heat until all ingredients are combined and smooth
5. Garnish with crushed toasted peanuts and serve will chili-garlic paste

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Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork, Thit Kho Tau

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This dish is so simple to make, but you’d never be able to tell by it’s complex flavors. It’s savory and sweet and has a such a deep and satisfying flavor, it’s no wonder many Vietnamese consider this a comfort food, I certainly do. I love making a pot of this and having leftovers. The flavor just continues to intensifies as it reduces. Along side a steaming bowl of rice…foodie heaven!
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Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork (Thit Kho Tau)
1.5-2 lb. pork shoulder or belly
1 Tbs garlic
2 Tbs minced shallot
2-3 green onions (white part for marinade, green for garnish)
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ black pepper
1 tsp fish sauce
1-2 cup coconut juice
water
2 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs soy sauce
4 hard boiled eggs

1. Cut pork into 1.5 inch pieces
2. Marinate with garlic, shallots, white part or green onion, sugar, salt, fish sauce, pepper for at least 1 hr
3. In pot add on medium heat, add 1 Tbs oil and 2 Tbs sugar and caramelize
4, Add meat and stir
5. Add coconut juice and water to cover meat
6. Bring to boil
7. Add 2 Tbs fish sauce, 1 Tbs soy sauce, eggs,  and simmer for 2 hours uncovered (if liquid is getting too low then can loosely covered)
*The liquid and meat will continue to darken in color as it simmers
8. Adjust seasonings as necessary
9. Add green onions

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Making lunch for Little Sissy’s Bachelorette Weekend

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My little sister is getting married! Well both of them are, but one of them is only 2 months away! This weekend we celebrated her bachelorette in San Diego. It was a very nice laid back weekend. Nothing crazy…except during the pool at night… but I’ll respect the privacy of some people and not mention too much LOL.
IMG_4804During the planning of the bachelorette, my sister was going to have a private chef come and make us lunch but with expenses adding up, she decided to nix that idea. To my surprise and (initial horror) she asked me to make them lunch and maybe do a little cooking course for the girls. As fun as that idea sounded, aside from my family, I’ve never cooked for a large group before, let alone people I have never met! My first reaction and answer was a quick and horrified, NO! hahaha but it WAS for my little sister and how can I continue to write about cooking and food when I turn down such a good opportunity to cook and do something I love especially for someone that I love? And so…. I accepted.

Immediately, we finalized a menu.
Shrimp Summer rolls– Easy enough. I just needed to tweak my sauce.
Grilled Pork Vermicelli (Bun Thit Nuong)- This was going to take more time. I’ve made the marinade for this meat before but I didn’t have a recipe that I could confidently replicate.
Vietnamese Fruit Cocktail– Opening cans…easy.
Lychee Sangria– Never made it before but how can anything with lychee and elderberry extract to be bad right?

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Testing out the peanut sauce was easy enough. It doesn’t require that many ingedients and I already had a base recipe that was good. Eventually I came up with a sauce that I was very happy with and the secret ingredient was coconut milk!

For the grilled pork- This was a bit more stressful and required more time. As good as it is, I didn’t want to give my family grilled pork too many times within a short period. In total, I made it twice and tweaked my recipe 3 times. By the bachelorette weekend, I still wasn’t sure how it would turn out…but it was the best marinade I’ve made and I’m saving the recipe for sure!
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All in all, it was a bit stressful planning and preparing for the lunch, but on the day of everything went just swimmingly…I might even say perfect, especially with help from my other sister and a few other people. The most important thing to me was the taste and flavors and I couldn’t have asked for all the dishes to come out better! My concern with the meat was undercooking or overcooking the meat, but it turned out great! It was my first time cooking at such an important event for people that weren’t my family. I gotta say…there’s a lot to be said for thoughtful preparation! I wish I had more pictures of the lunch but it was just too hectic. I hope you enjoyed the ones I did take!
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Now…my other sister is getting married next year…what will be on the menu then? =)IMG_4798
Congrats Sissy V! Looking forward to your big day!

Vietnamese Ginger Lime Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Gung)

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This is my favorite sauce to go with Hainanese Chicken and Rice. I love making this in a mortar and pestle because it gives the sauce a nice thick consistency and really brings out the ginger and garlic. But if you don’t want to use a mortar and pestle, you can always finely mince the ingredients and mix everything together. It will still taste great! This sauce is a pretty sweet sauce compared to Nuoc Mam Cham or everyday fish sauce for dipping. If you’re just making this for the first time, start with 3 Tbs of sugar and increase to 4 if you like. For me, 3.5 Tbs was perfect sweetness for me.

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Vietname Ginger Lime Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Gung)
2 inch ginger, cut into slices (3 Tbs ginger)
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (1 Tbs garlic)
1 Thai chili, roughly chopped*
3-4 Tbs sugar (start with 3 and can add more as desired)
*
3 Tbs fish sauce
4 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs water
Makes about 1 cup of sauce

1. In a mortar and pestle*, smash ginger and garlic into a paste
2. Add pepper and mashed into ginger garlic paste
3. Transfer to a small bowl
4. Add sugar (start with 3 and add more to desired taste)
5. Add fish sauce, lime juice, and water
6. Stir to combine all ingredients
7. Transfer to serving bowl

* If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you could also just mince the ginger, garlic, and pepper up very finely.
* Start with 3 Tbs of sugar and you can always add more according to your preference.
* Same with the Thai Chili pepper, start with 1 and you can aways add more later!

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Chicken Yakisoba

IMG_3947Yakisoba is a Japanese stir-fry noodles dish. It’s a great dish to get in some vegetables for kids. My toddler gobbles this up, noodles, meat, veggies…she eats it all, and that is reason alone for me to keep making this stir-fry. But aside from my daughter, it’s another wonderful dish to make and just have as a quick lunch or dinner throughout the week. It’s usually done with pork, which I like also. But this time I made it with chicken and it was a great substitute for pork if you don’t want to use it.

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Chicken Yakisoba


About 5 cups of cabbage chopped into squares
1 carrot carrot cut into thin strips
1 cup of white onions cut into strips
3 green onions, cut into strips
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
 (about 1 Tbs)
1 lb. thinly sliced chicken, lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper (2 chicken breast)
16 ounces (approximate) yakisoba or thin chow mein noodles (The package comes with 3 small packets, I use all of it and make my own sauce instead of using the package one)

For the Yakisoba Sauce


4 Tbs of oyster sauce
3 Tbs of soy sauce
2 Tbs of sake
1 Tbs Worcestire sauce
1 Tbs ketchup

1. Marinate Pork with ½ tsp salt pepper and 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil
2. Mix all ingredients for the sauce and set aside
3. Loosen noodles according to package instructions. (I just pour some hot water over my noodles and gently loosen with tongs…you don’t want to over cook your noodles or they’ll get mushy)
4. In a large skillet over medium high heat,  add about 2 teaspoon of sesame oil onto the skillet and add meat and cook.
5. Once pork starts to become cooked, add all the vegetables and stir.
6. Once vegetables become soften, add the noodles, and pour yakisoba sauce on top.
7. Add the green onions, saving about 1/4 of it for garnish.
8. Turn off heat and continue to stir so sauce incorporates throughout noodles and vegetables and meat.
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