April Showers make me want to curl up in our cozy house with a hot bowl of comforting chicken noodle soup, especially since the aroma of chicken will likely lure at least one of our cats over to beg for a morsel. I’ll be honest, I used to be content to opening up a can of Campbell’s (the one with the star shapes was my favorite), but after making your own chicken soup, you can never really go back. This is the perfect recipe to use up random chicken parts – wings are great for both rendering the stock and shredding up to eat since they have a good bone-to-meat ratio, but you can also use a chicken carcass (perhaps after butchering your own chicken – my latest “thing”) paired with more meaty parts. I’ve even been known to muster up the effort to prepare this soup for myself while out sick, it’s that easy. Leftovers freeze well for a rainy day, but this small-batch recipe will serve about 4.
April 8, 2013
April 1, 2013
As I’ve mentioned before, my dad is awesome at tasting new foods at restaurants and then coming home and replicating (often improving) on those dishes. Nam ya (known by its full Thai name as kanom jeen nam ya or ขนมจีนน้ำยา) is one of those dishes. We had tried it at a family friend’s house years ago and every once in a while, especially when the weather turns chilly, I’ll request my dad to whip up a batch. He used to purchase whole catfish from the Vietnamese grocery stores, but then the work to flake the fish off the bones was time-consuming. He found catfish fillets, vacuum-sealed and frozen, at Costco and the final product was still pretty darn good (and less time in the kitchen means more time with family!). I found some recipes online for a traditional version that resembles noodles coated with curry sauce, but ours is a noodle soup version sure to warm your soul on a cold night.
March 18, 2013
One of my favorite street food style Vietnamese dishes is bánh lọt xào – a simple stir fry of rice noodles, eggs, and a molasses-based “thick soy sauce.” The flavor profile bears resemblance to bánh bột chiên, a Vietnamese pan-fried rice cake similar to the turnip cake served at dim sum restaurants. There are only a few ingredients involved, so if you have the fixins on hand, this could make for a very quick meatless dinner!
NomCat Tip for the Ingredients:
1. Bánh Lọt: The namesake of the dish, these noodles are readily available at Asian grocery stores that stock freshly made rice noodle products, tofu, soy milk, etc. They can be found next to the hủ tiếu (wide, flat rice noodles) packaged in clear bags like in the photo below. The brand we purchased hails from El Monte, CA and is labeled “rice pin noodles,” after their tapered shape. If you have difficulty finding these, you could substitute fresh (or dried and reconstituted) phở noodles, thus making phở xào. Alternatively, you could stop by a Korean grocery store and get a package of duk (떡), round discs of rice flour cakes (although I would blanch them first to soften).
NOTE: The bánh lọt used in this recipe is not to be confused with the green jelly bánh lọt (also known as chendol in other Southeast Asian cuisines) used in Vietnamese desserts, or chè. They are very similar in shape, although which came first, I can’t be sure…
2. Thick Soy Sauce: Definitely not the “soy sauce” that typically comes to mind, thick soy sauce is made of mostly molasses and is a very viscous, dark colored fluid. I buy the one from Koon Chun which is also a popular brand for hoisin sauce, but be sure to read the label! I’ve been known to accidentally buy the wrong product… all of their jars have the same yellow labels and differ only in the text (all written in the same red capitalized letters).
March 4, 2013
Vietnamese caramelized pork, also known as thịt kho or sườn kho (pronounced like kaw) depending on the cut of pork used, is one of the most common household recipes I can think of… truly comfort food. Just about every Vietnamese mother has her own recipe with its own little twists — some are sweeter, some are saltier, and some, like my mom’s, are very garlicky. What they all have in common is the time (and love) that goes into cooking the sugar long enough to caramelize it and then reducing the sauce ingredients to a viscous, flavor-packed glaze over the succulent braised meat.
NomCat Tip for the Ingredients:
1. The Meat: In this recipe, we use baby back ribs, but you could also purchase pork short ribs / riblets, boneless back fat or belly, or even pork shoulder. When using a rib cut, this dish is known as sườn kho. Use of a leaner, boneless cut of pork, or thịt nạc, would then be known as thịt kho.
2. Coconut Soda: Back in the 70′s when my parents came to America, coconut water was hard to come by. VitaCoco, ONE, Zico, and all those other now-common brands had not yet made it big by marketing coconut water as nature’s Gatorade. So my mom turned to available alternatives, most notably the Coco Rico soda in a green can. I’ve tasted it on its own (you know, the way soda was meant to be consumed) but I just can’t stomach the overly sweet, awkwardly fragrant flavor. Martin grew up on the stuff so when we stock up to make thịt kho, we sometimes get extra for him to drink too. I haven’t noticed it in the American grocery stores so you may have to trek out to your local 99 Ranch for this ingredient.
January 23, 2013
In college, Martin and I were camp counselors for UCLA UniCamp, an organization that sends under-served youth to week-long sessions of summer camp run by student volunteers. In fact, that’s how we first met; we were in the same camp session – Martin as arts & crafts specialist and I as archery specialist. One of our (and the kids’) favorite camp meals has to be Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup day. Crispy, gooey sandwiches paired perfectly with piping hot bowls of comforting soup, complemented by a snack of celery sticks and peanut butter! Okay, so the celery and PB are optional, but on cold winter nights, we love to whip up this classic combo. While we did not succumb to the convenience of the iconic red and white can of Campbell’s, we frequently purchased the boxed soups at Trader Joes (roasted red pepper and tomato — yum!!). Recently, however, we started making our own soup, somewhat from scratch. The result is a rich, creamy (even without the cream!) soup that tastes dramatically better and the amount of additional effort is minimal.
This recipe for tomato soup is quite simple – just a few ingredients and perhaps 30 minutes of your time (maybe 40 if you’re slow at prep like I am).