Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chè Trứng Gà Trà Gừng (Ginger-Egg-Tea Dessert)

I don't know how to beautifully translate Chè to English. Chè is a whole class of Vietnamese dessert; Wikipedia defines it as "any traditional Vietnamese sweet dessert soup or pudding." However, I don't think the description is fully accurate and it definitely does not emphasize how delectable this class of dessert actually is.
This specific Chè brings back memories of me in eating this dessert at midnight in Vietnam when I was little.This one is one of the easiest Chè to prepare. It is semi-comparable to the Chinese Tea Egg, but oh so different.
*This is not my picture! My friends have been complaining that the lack of pictures make them sad, so I found it randomly on the internet, and it is as close as I can get to the dessert I make. Mine is less dark and I leave whole ginger slices in there.

Chè Trứng Gà Trà Gừng (Ginger-Egg-Tea Dessert)
Savor. Devour.


· 3 eggs

· 2 tsp jasmine tea leaves (or substitute for black tea if you do not have jasmine)

· 1” knob ginger, sliced into thin slices

· 1.5 tbsp sugar

· 2 cups water


· In a pot, boil the water and put in the tea leaves. Simmer for 5 minutes. Seive out the tea leaves.

· In a separate pot, add enough water to boil 3 eggs. When water is boiling, add eggs and let boil for 10 minutes. Take out, run under cool water, and peel.

· Add the tea to a pot; add sugar and mix to dissolve. Add ginger and eggs and let boil on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until the egg is a nice brown color. Taste the soup and add sugar as desired.

· Serve while hot. The ginger is there for flavor, not really for eating. You can choose to leave this out while serving.

My First Encounter with Fresh Cranberries + Fresh Cranberry Juice

After eating all those tart dried cranberries, I naturally thought fresh cranberries would be tart. I was wrong. My first fresh cranberry (I chose the reddest one out of the bag) was comparable to a lime. Manufactured dried cranberries must have a TON of sugar in them! So after realizing I did not like eating cranberries by itself, I set out to make my next favorite cranberry product, cranberry juice! I love cranberry juice but sometimes begrudged the sweetness of store-bought bottled juice, and making my own was the best way to fix that. I made a big pot and in one day, with my aunts coming over and my mom scrounging the fridge, the juice was gone!

Fresh Cranberry Juice
Savor. Devour.


· 2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed

· 8 cups water

· 4 tbsp agave syrup* (I like the taste of this more than sugar, and it is healthier too)

** If you do not have this, you can just substitute it with 3 tbsp sugar, or more, if you like a sweeter juice.


· In a pot, add 8 cups of water and heat until boil on high heat.

· Add the cranberries and cover the pot with a lid. Turn the heat down to medium, make sure the water is on a rolling boil. In about 5 minutes, you will hear popping coming from the pot. That is the sound of the cranberries cracking open. Let the cranberries cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat.

· Lift the lid and add whatever sweetener you are using. I recommend adding the sweetener in parts and tasting the juice after you stir, so you can stop when you feel the juice is right for you.

· Let cool and store in the fridge.

Fried Pike Mackerel (like in my header picture!)

Please see the header picture for this dish. It is a simple and flavorful dish. I like to take small nibbles of this as a snack or eat it with rice as a meal.

Fried Pike Mackerel
Savor. Devour.


· 1 tbsp ground lemongrass (I coarsely chop up lemongrass stalks and put them in food processor to puree them. They store up to a month in a ziplock bag in the freezer)

· 2 tsp salt

· 1 tsp chili powder

· ½ lime or lemon (if you want a sweeter taste, use ½ a small Valencia orange)

· 2 pike mackerels


· Mix the lemongrass, salt, and chili powder. This is the seasoning. Set aside.

· Clean the mackerel (Get rid of the fins and tail. Clean the scales. Wash a few times under running water.)

· Cut three or four ½ cm deep horizontal cuts down the fish (see header picture).

· Rub the seasoning well into the fish and let marinade for at least 15 minutes and up to a few hours (if you marinade for that long, cover it and put it in the fridge).

· In a hot pan with two tbsp oil over medium-high heat, add the fish and cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side, until crispy. Turn the heat down low and let fry for 6 - 8 minutes more on each side, depending on the fish size. The fish should be a deep brown and crispy when finished.

· Serve with the lemon, and squeeze as desired while eating.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bánh Bèo (Literal Translation: Water Fern Cake)

These little dishes can be appetizer or entree, but either way they are delicious. I had a craving for them at 10 pm last night, and as a 24/7 nibbler, I set out to make them. I was lucky that I had some mung bean paste from my bánh cam night two nights ago, which saved the majority of preparation time. This dish is eaten with fish sauce dipping sauce, which is a lighter salty-sweet sauce made from fish sauce. After I was done eating half, I remembered to take a picture. Better late than never, right? I am still getting used to this blogging business.

Bánh Bèo (Literal Translation: Water Fern Cake)
Savor. Devour.


· 10 shrimp, headless, peeled

· ½ tsp mushroom seasoning or any msg substitute (can substitute with a bit of salt, pepper, and a dash of fish sauce)

· ½ a cup of peeled mung beans (the ones that are yellow, not green)

· 1 bunch of green onion, chopped

· Rice Cake*: 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup hot water, 1 cup room temperature water

· 20 little deep ceramic plates (like the ones in the picture)

· Steamer

· Optional: fried 1 cm2 pig skin pieces (I left this out because I didn’t have pig skin and even if I did, greasy food at midnight is really bad for me), you can substitute this with small croutons if desired

· Sauce: 2 tbsp white vinegar + 1.5 tbsp sugar, mixed until dissolved; add 6-7 dashes of fish sauce and an optional squeeze of lime and mix well. Add chili paste as desired.

** You can substitute the rice cake recipe with ready-mixed banh beo flour found in Vietnamese stores and just follow the directions on the packet. I found that both ways of making gives similar results and are both delicious.


· In a pot with boiling water, add the mung beans and let cook on medium for 45 minutes, until the mung beans are extremely soft. When it is, drain out the water and either hand mash the mung bean into a paste or use a food processor. Add a drizzle of canola oil (olive oil is too bitter and doesn’t keep as long). Let it cool.

· In another pot of boiling water, boil the shrimp. Pat dry the shrimp and using a food processor puree the shrimp. Pour out the water and dry the pot. Put the shrimp back in and using a spoon, mix and separate the bits of shrimp. The texture when finished should be a coarse powder/cotton texture. Let cool.

· Set up the steamer, add a lot of water and leave it on high. This dish needs a lot of steam to cook the rice cake. Once the water is boiling, put in the small bowls/plates and let it steam for about 2 minutes to get hot.

· In a bowl, mix the rice flour with cold water, then slowly add the hot water. Mix well.

· When the bowls are hot, using a ladle, scoop in about 3 tbsp (depending on your bowl size, make sure the rice cake layer is about .5 cm thick) for each cup. Cover the lid of the steamer and let steam for 5 minutes. Take the cups out and repeat until all the rice cakes are made. Let cool.

· While the rice cake is cooling, you can set up a pan with an inch layer of oil, add the pieces of pork skin, and fry until crispy. Drain oil on a paper towel. You can also substitute it with croutons.

· In a small bowl, add the chopped green onions, 1 tsp oil (olive is okay here), and mix well. Microwave it for 1 minute.

· To assemble, you can either remove the rice cakes from the bowl (it is not that sticky to the bowl) by using a knife and running it through the edge of the circle, or eat it straight from the bowl using a spoon. Add a layer of the shredded shrimp, a layer of the mung bean paste, green onion, and top it off with some fried pork skin. Pour on some fish dipping sauce and enjoy!