Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sautéed Lamb Kidneys (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)

My husband and I stopped at Market Basket (grocery store) in our town in the Seacoast and came across lamb's kidneys. My husband had spotted them and asked if we should try them.  When we got home he asked if I know how to cook them.  I was a bit insulted!   

The kidneys tasted close to liver but the texture is not as soft and the taste is not as strong.  I made some last night for a few friends, served it on top of baguette slices.  Most of my guests thought it tasted too gamey.  What good are your friends if you cannot try experimental food recipes on them!  : D  Last night I did not add too many ingredients, so today I added more ingredients and the dish tasted less gamey.  I served this dish with toasted baguettes. 

Sautéed Lamb Kidneys (serves 6 as part of a shared meal)


2 Tbsp oil (canola, olive, grape oil, or any type you prefer to use)
2 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 Tbsp grated or finely chopped ginger
2-3 scallions (about 1/3 C chopped)
1 white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
12 oz sliced white button mushrooms
8 lamb's kidneys (about 1.1 lbs), washed, halved, removed tough cream color part (the renal pelvis, major and minor calyx), cut into bite size
10 oz ground pork
3 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp black bean sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper


1)  Heat oil in a large wok or pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add garlic, ginger, scallions and onions.  Saute for about 3 minutes.
3) Stir in pork, break it into small pieces, saute about 1 minutes.
3) Add in kidneys, saute about 2 minutes.
4) Add mushrooms and bell pepper, saute about 3 minutes.
5) Add wine, fish sauce, black bean, sugar and black pepper, saute for about a minute or 2.
6) Turn off heat and let the ingredients continue to cook on the stove.

window box
Trinity Church (Boston)

Steamed Malanga Cake--Auntie's Style (makes two 9-inch cakes)

steamed malanga cake
My maternal second aunt, Di Y made this cake when I last visited Vietnam in Spring 2013. She used a type of taro called môn cao in Vietnamese. While shopping in an Asian market in Boston recently I saw these beautiful, fresh and giant looking taro called malanga and decided to make the cake inspired by my aunt. Malanga is a root vegetable and it resembles taro. I think it tastes similar to taro. It looks similar to môn cao except it is 3 times its Asian size! At least I have never seen one in Vietnam that weighs 6 to 7 pounds each!  

When I asked my aunt how she makes these she said she added môn cao, coconut milk, dried shrimp, peanuts, scallions, garlic and ginger. This is basically how we provide each other recipes in my family! If you are lucky you may get more information such as "add a little of this and a little of that"!! I was sure she added rice flour to bind everything together but I could not remember so I sent an email back to cousin Sieu Hui (her daughter) to confirm.  She responded and here is the delicious cake! How did we ever lived without email?!

Earlier this week I made a batch but added too much fluid and not enough rice flour. That batch was edible but came out too soft. I am embarrassed that I actually gave some of this bad batch to a senior, highly respected colleague. My husband told me that I have to give him my second batch so he knows how it should come out. I hope he still wants to try my food! 

For the best result, keep this cake refrigerated at least 6 hours or overnight and then cut into squares and lightly fry them on each side until golden brown. I had a few very good friends/neighbors over last night and served them these fried squares. They came out nice but I think they tasted much better the next day. The refrigeration kept the cake firm and they fried nicely. 

fried malanga cake pieces for breakfast,
DELICIOUS with a slight crispy skin!
Steamed Malanga Cake--Auntie's Style (makes two 9-inch cakes)


400 mL (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk, plus 125 mL coconut milk or water
2 C rice flour
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 lbs malanga, shredded
2 oz dried shrimp, soaked for 30 minutes, rinsed and drained
2 oz raw peanuts, boiled for about 20-25 minutes
9-10 oz ground pork
1/3 C chopped scallions
1 tsp grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped


1) Stir coconut milk, water, rice flour, sugar and salt until well blended, set aside.
2) Mix shredded malanga, shrimp, peanuts, pork, scallions, ginger and garlic until well blended.
3) Add #1 into #2 and stir until well blended.
4) Pour the mixture into a 9-inch cake pan or a container that is able to handle the steam and heat.
5) Gently pat the mixture into the pan with a spatula to remove the air.
5) Add water to the pan or wok about 2 inches, cover pan or wok and steam for about 40 minutes.

mix most of the ingredients together (step #2)
cut a piece of parchment paper or banana leave (s)
to fit inside the size of your container
(this way the cake will be
easy to remove once it is cooked)
giant malanga
(the inside flesh has beautiful lavender pattern)
I placed a few cookie molds on the bottom of my pan,
filled it with water  up to about 2 inches,
filled my container with the prepared malanga
and placed it in the pan to steam
*You may add water up to a third of your steaming container. If you must add more water during the steaming process be careful not to injure your hand. Never put your hand over the steam, you can get very bad blisters! 
*The steaming time depends on the thickness of your cake.  
*You can use any containers that can handle the steaming heat. I have only round containers in my kitchen. 
*Once the cake is cooled completely you can cut it up into 2-inch pieces and fry with a little oil, 2-3 minutes over medium high heat on each side or until they are golden brown.
*I did not eat these with a sauce. However, you can make one if you like. If I use a sauce for this I prefer making one using vinegar, light soy sauce, hot chili and a little sugar.
*You can make this cake using daikon (radish). My mother always makes these small steamed daikon cakes for us. They are always delicious. Steamed daikon and taro cakes are eaten regularly in my Teochew family.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sautéed Angled Luffa & Eggs (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

 Every time I visit relatives in Vietnam, I also visit my favorite local open market near my grandparents' home.  The beauty about this market and similar markets found all over Southeast Asia is that everyone sells just a small amount of produce and they are all very fresh.  In fact the produce were handpicked that morning.  It is best to shop at such a market as early as possible to ensure the highest quality ingredients available for your next meal.  

On one visit I bought so many of these angled luffa that the seller wanted to know if these are available in the States.  I informed her that some places in the States do not carry them in the market, however, where I live these are available but not as fresh or as good as hers!  The seller offered to peel the tough ridges and gave me scallions and garlic for no additional fee. What a bargain!  

This is one of my favorite gourd/squash vegetables.  Here is a typical way my family likes to prepare these sweet tasting luffa.  The unique quality of this luffa is that it does not become mushy after cooking.  Often times my parents add pork, shrimp or both to this dish. However, you may omit any of these ingredients.

Sautéed Angled Luffa & Eggs


1 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 angled luffa, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 1 1/2 lbs peeled and cut up)
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/3 C water or chicken broth
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar


1) Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot, add garlic and scallions.  Saute for about a minute.
3) Add the luffa and water or broth, saute for about 8-10 minutes or until the luffa slices are soft.
4) Mix the eggs, fish sauce, sesame oil and sugar together, pour this mixture over the pan.
5) Stir quickly until all the egg mixture is cooked (about a minute) and turn off heat.
6) Garnish with uncooked luffa slices and extra scallions slices if desired, serve hot.

these luffa can grow very long,
I broke these in half so
I could carry them home
*Cut and save a few slices of the whole angled luffa for a beautiful garnish for your dish later!
*Since the luffa is already slightly sweet you can omit the sugar in this dish.
*The luffa can be found in Asian markets.  Most Asian markets in Boston carry them.

*4/28/15 addendum: I always try to improve my blog. Here I updated a photo for this recipe.