Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cha Gio (Egg Rolls)--my cousin's way, makes 60 rolls

The other day Di Y (my 2nd maternal aunt) came over and mentioned that Sieu Hui (her daughter) will be making cha gio, in Vietnamese (known in the United States as egg rolls) the next day. I told her I would like to come over to help. Later this morning she called and asked if I was still coming over. I totally forgot about our plans. I was out making a short film of the village market and lost track of time. I gathered my things and quickly peddled my borrowed bicycle to Minh Chau restaurant (my aunt's family owned restaurant located down the other side of the village). We ate a delicious hot pot made from pig's organs and lots of green leafy vegetables. There were constant customers for several hours and when there were none I helped do a deep cleaning of their restaurant. I cleaned all the tables and chairs and wiped down all the glass cases where they stored the packaged goods. After all the cleaning she made me black ice coffee which was very refreshing in this tropical heat! Then we made the egg rolls. There are many ways to make these delicious rolls. However, this is one way to make using ground pork, ground shrimp and shredded taro. Taro is a root vegetable that is grown in abundance and is very cheap in this region of Vietnam. Here is my cousin, Sieu Hui's way of making these delicious rolls.

-banh trang bo pia (egg roll skin made in Vietnam)
-each package has 30 sheets
-bot chien gion
(flour mix for frying made in Vietnam)
-Vinh Thuan is a brand that is sold in
Asian grocers found in the United States

3 cups of ground pork and shrimp (about 1 lb of each)
3 cups shredded taro
1/3 cup chopped or thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1/4 cup Vietnamese 'bot chien gion' flour (see photo above)
1 egg (plus an egg yolk or water for egg roll skin sealer)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp MSG (optional)
2 packages of 'banh trang bo pia' (or egg roll skin)--16 cm or about 6 1/4 inch in diameter
Oil for deep frying


1) Ground the pork and shrimp together by pulsing a few times (if not already done). Avoid over grinding. Place these ground items in a large container.
2) Add taro, shallots, garlic, flour, 1 egg, sugar, salt, pepper, and MSG.
3) Mix all ingredients until well blended. Avoid over mixing.
5) Divide the mixture into 60 relatively equal balls.
6) Separate each egg roll sheet or skin by peeling it one by one and put these under a dish, towel or bag to prevent from drying out. Take only one out at a time to roll.
7) Take one ball and place it about 1 1/2 inch from the bottom of the skin. Spread the filling into about 2 1/2 inch length across the skin. Roll from the bottom up as tightly as possible without tearing the skin. Fold in the sides when you get close to the center of the skin. Continue to roll as tightly as you can and smear a little egg yolk or water (using your finger) on the top edge to seal the roll.
8) Fry these rolls in hot oil until golden brown. It will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Avoid over crowding the rolls when frying (as this will cause your oil to cool down making the rolls soggy and oily).

*You may make one roll to test to see how it tastes. This way you can adjust the seasoning according to your taste.
*You may divide the filling portions out according to your skin. This way you will not have too much left over of either the filling or skin. If you happen to have more filling then you can make patties out of it and make sandwiches with them.
*The egg roll skin is made in Vietnam. There is a similar size sold in the Asian stores in the United States but it is square instead of round. You can use these instead. Another option is to use Vietnamese rice papers known as banh trang in Vietnamese.

here is a rice noodle dish (called bun
cha gio in Vietnamese)
made with egg rolls,
fresh herbs, lettuce, bean sprouts and a
drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce
Minh Chau restaurant in Nga Ba An Trach
the glass cases that I helped clean and rearranged neatly

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cu Kieu (Pickled Chinese Onions)--my grandfather's method

Long before I was born my maternal grandfather (known to me as Ah Con in Teochew) hand-made and sold different types of pickles and fermented fish for a short period in his life. It was short lived because he made no profits according to Ah Ma (grandmother). She said it was a lot of work and the return was little to none. I am glad to hear he knew enough to stop this business early! I did not know he made these items until this trip. I visited him a handful of times between 1996 until 2007 (when he passed away in his sleep at the age of 89). Back then the topic of pickling never came up. I knew he was a man of many talents; successful farmer and businessman back in the day. I guess he did not want to dwell on his unsuccessful attempts or perhaps it was long forgotten. Ah Con spoke fluent Vietnamese, Teochew and Khmer. He was much loved and respected by those who knew him. Pretty much everyone in the village knew him. To me he was larger than life itself. He was kind and helpful to all people and he never spoke any unkind word about anyone. I remember him always happy and appeared stress-free. He rarely let anything bother him. Perhaps this may be a reason that at 89 he barely had gray hair. 

Ah Con had a morning ritual. He got up at dawn and headed over to one of the local coffee shops to meet his friends. He would share with his friends the world news that he heard from the BBC radio station the previous day. On one of my trips I woke up early just to spy my grandfather and his remaining two friends enjoying their usual morning routine. That was 2007 and that same year all three passed away. My grandfather was the first to go.

--my grandfather (seated in center) with the same smile that I remember
--with his 2 friends at a coffee shop (2007)
When I was a very young girl living in Vietnam I remember he planted cassava in beautiful rows in back of my home. When I visited him later as an adult he continued to plant basically anything and everything. One time I helped out in the kitchen by cleaning the herbs brought back from the market and I mentioned to him that we could probably take the roots that I cut off and plant them. When I came back later those roots were already planted in the ground outside! My mother also has many fond memories of her father. Recently she mentioned that he frequently took her by bicycle when she was a young girl, seated in the back as he peddled her to the field (farm), singing to her to keep her awake. She said he used to work side by side with his staff out in the field doing the same rigorous manual labor. Later when she was old enough to peddle a bike she would bring food and drinks for everyone working hard out in the field in the tropical heat.

I planted these passion fruit shoots from seeds
in memory of my late Ah Con (grandfather).
addendum: While in Vietnam I advocate for home gardening.
One of my nephews (Dang) and I planted passion fruit shoots
in his grandparents' (my aunt and uncle's) back yard.
Coincidentally my maternal eldest aunt (Tua Y) from Minnesota and I are visiting Ah Ma and other relatives (in Vietnam) about the same time. She shared with me that Ah Con self pickled a popular type of Chinese onions known as củ kiệu in Vietnamese. These special onions are only available near the Lunar New Year (or Tet). Only the white part located at the base is used for pickling. Tua Y said she continues to follow the same technique that she saw Ah Con use many years ago. As typical in my family Tua Y does not have any written recipe. She verbally told me the process but vaguely and without even any hint of measurement. I was hoping for a handful of salt or something of this nature. For example I asked her how much salt should I use. She responded with "just enough so you can taste it". Luckily she came over a few times to visit my grandmother during my pickling experiment so I had her taste the salty water and the vinegar/sugar liquid for approval. Somehow I lucked out by using just the right amount of ingredients for most of this recipe. Here is finally a written recipe that has been around for probably over a 100 years in my family! These củ kiệu are crunchy with some tartness. If you prefer more sweetness you may add a little sugar prior to eating or more sugar to the vinegar/sugar solution. I am not too fond of anything overly sweet so I find this recipe to be OK for my taste.

cu kieu (or Chinese onions)
with roots and leaves intact
(you may buy these but you will have a lot of work
and in the end you will have less onions for pickling)
best to buy the cu kieu (or Chinese onions) cut to this size
(you will have less work and you will yield more onions)
peel the outer tough layers and trim off the tops and roots
cleaned Chinese onions on left of photo
rewash the Chinese onions multiple times
let these onions drain well
prepared and cleaned onions
(ready for pickling)
onions submerged in salty water
Cu Kieu (Pickled Chinese Onions)--my grandfather's method


2.3 kgs (about 5 lbs) củ kiệu (Chinese onions), removed and discarded the roots and green parts
1 gallon and 12 oz water
1/2 cups sea salt
6 cups home-made (or those made from Thailand) vinegar
1 1/3 cups sugar**


1) While soaking the củ kiệu (Chinese onion), take each one and remove any tough outer layers. Trim off any roots and green parts. Each white part of the onion will be about 1 1/2 to 2-inch length. Avoid over-trimming as this is possible (according to my aunt). If you cut off too much of the root then the onion will not be as crunchy later. Wash until the onion is completely clean and white.
2) Once cleaned, drain and spread the onions in a single layer in a pan or platter. Let them sun dry for 1/2 to 1 day or until the onions are dried and slightly wilted.
3) To make the salty water (this cannot be too salty per my aunt): Add 1 gallon and 12 ounces water in a large pot. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down slightly and add 1/2 cup sea salt. Stir occasionally and once the salt has dissolved, remove from heat and let the liquid cool completely.
4) In a clean large container pour in the cooled salted water and add the wilted onions. Use a plate to push down the onions so they are all submerged in the salty liquid. Put something heavy on top to keep the plate in the water. Keep the onions in salty water for 2-3 nights. You may do a taste test after 2 nights to see if they are ready for pickling by biting into one and tasting it. When the onion is ready then it should not taste raw or has a strong peppery taste. If they are not ready then leave for another night.
5) To make the final pickling solution (may make this 1 day ahead and let cool completely before using): Cook 6 cups of vinegar (preferably home-made or vinegar from Thailand) and 1 1/3 cups sugar in water. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down to low. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and remove from heat. Let cool completely.
6) Put the onions in sterilized jars and pour the cooled liquid over them. Keep the jars at room temperature until ready to eat. May try one in 1 week and if it tastes sweet, sour and not raw then it is ready. You may refrigerate these after 2 weeks.

*It is best and less time consuming to buy these Chinese onions with most of the roots and green parts cut off. This way you will have less work and you get more onions out of what you purchased.
*You may add whole chili peppers and sliced carrot for a nicer presentation. If you are using sliced carrots you will need to dry them in the sun for 1/2 day or until they are not moist anymore. My aunt at age 76 y.o. (she insists she is now 76 since end of the year everyone in my Chinese family gained 1 year no matter the birth date) still has the energy to stack the onions, peppers and carrots neatly in a jar (see photo below)--a very tiring and tedious process! Definitely you do this for your own enjoyment and not for selling!
*Try to save any glass jars you have for pickling. I prefer the smaller ones for easy access and for gifting. Unfortunately I don't have access to the best looking jars here. However, make sure the jars and lids are cleaned and sterilized in boiling water before using.
*After cleaning and drying the onions they will reduce in size. I bought 5 pounds of onions from the market and after cleaning and drying they came to about 3.2 pounds.
**After 4 days of pickling these tasted quite delicious and basically ready to eat. There is almost no spiciness when you bite into it. This recipe is not as sweet as what most of my relatives prefer. If you do not want it this tart then add 1 2/3 cups to 2 cups of sugar for this recipe. You can adjust the sugar little by little to the vinegar until it is according to your taste. 
*With this recipe my aunts recommend adding a large pinch of sugar to about a handful of onions prior to eating. This way they will not be so tart.
*Click on this link to read more about củ kiệu or Allium chinense.

my aunt helping me stack the onions,
carrot flowers and chili peppers
neatly in a jar
pickling onions in jars
my aunt proudly held up her beautiful looking jar
After 4 days in sugar/vinegar solution the onions
are ready to eat. It was recommended to add a
large pinch of sugar to about a handful of onions
to help balance the tartness with some sweetness.
You can also add dried shrimp to this if interested.
I like to garnish with a chili pepper.
*To my viewers I apologize if my spacing in some of these postings do not look right. I try my best to make it look ok prior to publishing but they don't always look as good as I like.

Vit Nau Chao (Duck with Fermented Tofu Hot Pot)--serves about 8-10 people as part of a shared meal

My maternal eldest aunt and her husband (known to me as Tua Y and Tua Tia in Teochew) came to Vietnam to visit for 2 months from Minnesota. This is Tua Tia's first visit since he left in 1995. He has only two requests from me; 1) take a photo of him and his former colleague whom he has not seen in 40 years, and 2) cook him duck with fermented tofu hot pot or vịt nấu chao in Vietnamese. This dish does not sound so exciting but it is quite tasty. It is one of the favorite hot pots in our family. My mother often made this for us growing up. She uses water since we did not have access to fresh coconut water in middle of nowhere Maine. Tua Y uses coconut soda in Minnesota. I know back in Massachusetts coconut water has become a very popular drink and is readily available in many convenience stores or groceries. I used water from 3 young coconuts for this recipe. This batch of coconuts seemed to be sweeter so I did not have to add much sugar to this dish. Although I put in a whole duck most of us prefer to eat with lots of vegetables such as Chinese celery, water spinach (rau muong), chrysanthemum leaves and rice paddy herbs. We also ate this with fresh round rice noodles known as bun in Vietnamese. Everyone seemed to like this dish including Tua Y who is very difficult to please when it comes to food. If she ate the food then it must be somewhat good enough for me to share on my blog!

My uncle shares with my cousins and me his former colleague's generosity. Both were stationed in the central highland (Vietnam) and after the war he had to return home except he had no money. This man gave him 30,000 dong which back then was a lot of money. He remember his friend's kindness to this day and when he found out his friend currently resides not far away he paid him a visit to properly thank him. Tua Tia and Di Tia (2nd uncle by marriage) and I took a taxi through a cow pasture (which is also used as a soccer field) and stopped at the edge of it since we could drive any further. One of Tua Tia's relatives took him by a scooter and Di Tia and I left on foot to his colleague's home. Both were very happy to see each other after all these years. His colleague told him that seeing him was enough and that was the best gift he can have. I was glad that I was present to capture part of this short but very special occasion. I printed photos for both my uncle and his friend so they will have a bit of this memory to cherish. 

fermented tofu (chao)
Vit Nau Chao (Duck with Fermented Tofu Hot Pot)--serves 8-10 people as part of a shared meal


1 whole duck, dejointed, and chopped or cut into 2-inch pieces (or bite size pieces)
1/2 cup good fermented tofu (or chao in Vietnamese)
3 lemongrass, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
About 1 1/2 lbs of taro, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
Coconut water (enough to cover the duck pieces)
1 Tbsp sugar (or to your taste)
Water spinach (rau muong), chrysanthemum leaves, Chinese celery, and rice paddy herbs--use as little or as much as you prefer
Fermented Tofu Dipping Sauce (recipe to follow)


1) Marinade the duck pieces with fermented tofu, lemongrass, shallots and garlic.
2) While the duck is being marinaded fry the taro pieces in a little oil until golden brown.
3) Fry the duck pieces (except for the liver) until they are lightly brown.
4) Pour the coconut water over the duck pieces and cook until just boiling. Cover the pot partially and turn heat to a simmer. Cook for about 1 1 /2 hour or until the duck is tender to your preference. Remove and discard any of the scum that floats to the top.
5) Add the browned taro pieces and liver. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the taro is somewhat tender. Season with sugar to taste.
6) Transfer to a hot pot. Add vegetables as you eat. Dip the cooked vegetables, meat and taro in the sauce if interested.

*You can add different types of mushrooms and other vegetables if interested. I think my aunt bought so many vegetables that was enough to fill 6 of the one-gallon bags. 
*If you like more taro then use more.
*The coconut water was very tasty and sweet so I did not need to add much sugar for this hot pot. As usual I recommend adjusting the ingredients to your taste.
*Make sure the fermented tofu is tasty. I was lucky to find a good one when I was in Soctrang. Luckily I got the name of the store that carries this particular one. In the States you can ask the store clerks or owner for the best type of fermented tofu. For such item I prefer to shop in small Asian grocer so I can easily talk to the owner myself for his/her suggestions on which one to buy. You will see there are many types of tofu and not all of them will make a good hot pot. My mother tells me she prefers to buy the fermented tofu from Taiwan.

Fermented Tofu Dipping Sauce


1/3 cup fermented tofu
1/2 cup fermented tofu liquid
1 lemongrass, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp sugar or according to your taste


Stir all ingredients together and cook for about 5 minutes. Add chopped chili pepper if interested.

*This sauce is liquid form. My cousin Hui Chieu makes her sauce using just the fermented tofu, lime juice, sugar, and hot chili pepper; this is a much thicker sauce.
*Most Vietnamese chop the duck with bones and all into about 2-inch pieces. I prefer to remove it by separating the joints. I only chop through the bones only if needed. I find my method will have less bone fragments.

Enjoying hot pot with some of my relatives.
My first  exciting taxi ride through a cow pasture (aka soccer field)!
Tua Tia gets a ride to his colleague's home
since it was not accessible by taxi.
2 former colleagues reunited after 40 years
Most people do not openly show affection in Vietnam. However, my uncle
received 2 kisses from this man and another from
my mother's male cousin during this visit! If he had more kisses from
others I did not know since I was not present to witness them.
2 old friends and colleagues
sharing a moment of joy from seeing one another
You see 2 frail looking men in this photo.
But back in their youth these 2 men held
powerful positions and were highly respected.
watching his friend leave...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

8-Hour Slow Braised Pig's Stomach with Whole Peppercorns (Bao Tu Ham Tieu)--my auntie's way

Braised pig stomach with whole peppercorns (bao tử hầm tiêu) is a very popular food item among many of my Teochew and Vietnamese relatives (both in Vietnam and in the States). It's a lot of work to make this dish from beginning to end. Prior to cooking, the stomach needs to be super clean inside and outside. There should be no hint of any bad odor at the end of a good cleaning according to my grandmother and aunts. They (grandmother and aunts) tell me stories of the tedious steps on how to clean a stomach that has been removed from the pig. The fatty interior is removed, cooked and and given to the dogs (which supposedly makes a great treat for any Vietnamese dog!). The outer and inner layers are rubbed against hot oil and salt until the slime goes away. Then both sides must be scraped clean using more salt. After a thorough cleaning my grandmother slowly braises it with whole peppercorns and garlic for many hours until tender. I visited Si Y (my fourth maternal aunt) in Bo Thao and she gave me an already cleaned pig's stomach to take home. She buys her stomach from a trusted source where the pigs are healthy. Avoid eating from a sick pig or a stomach with parasites! Si Y instructed me how to make this dish for my grandmother. She braises her stomach whole. My grandmother and my eldest maternal aunt braise it in pieces so it will cook faster.

After receiving the stomach I kept it in the refrigerator. The following day I woke up early and spent basically the whole day slowly braising it over charcoal (which took about 8 hours) in order for it to be tender enough for my grandmother to eat. If you do this it is best to put it in a crockpot so you can spend your time doing other things instead of tending the fire! It is more economical to make several stomachs instead of just one as you can see in this recipe. 

8-Hour Slow Braised Pig's Stomach with Whole Peppercorns (Bao Tu Ham Tieu)
--my auntie's way


Pig's stomach, cleaned extremely well
About 2 Tbsp of whole peppercorns, roasted
Water (to keep the stomach submerged under water)
5 pieces of pork bones
5 large whole garlic
1 tsp MSG (optional)
Salt to taste


1) Put enough water in a medium pot to flow over the stomach. Heat the water until just boiling. Turn the heat low or spread the hot charcoal out to keep the heat low.
2) Either cut the stomach into 4-5 pieces or keep whole. If you keep the stomach whole (as my aunt's way) then put about a tablespoon of whole peppercorns inside. Seal the stomach opening with a bamboo skewer or pull the flap of the stomach opening in to prevent the peppercorns from coming out.
3) Put the stomach and about 1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns in the pot. Add more hot water if needed so the whole stomach fully submerge in the water. Keep the lid partially covering the pot.
4) Let the liquid simmer until the stomach is somewhat tender (about 6 hours or depending on your fuel). Add more water as needed to keep the stomach submerged.
5) In a separate small pot boil the bones for about 4-5 minutes. Remove the bones and rinse clean. Add the bones to the stomach pot for the last 1 1/2 to 2 hours of cooking.
6) For the last hour add garlic and season with MSG and salt to taste.

-here is a photo of what the fatty interior
of a stomach looks like (in red colander)
-remove this fatty layer and discard
somewhat clean stomach
(in blue colander)
braising stomach over charcoal
cooked pig's stomach
*My aunt in Minnesota tells me she can buy pig's stomach in her local market for about $2 USD each. I know in New Hampshire you may purchase pig's organs from some farmers. In Vietnam the stomach is quite expensive (for Vietnamese standards) due to popular demand. It is best to buy from a trusted vendor.
*Be sure to clean the stomach well before cooking. If you are unsure on how to clean it well then please do not attempt to cook and eat it.
*Make sure the stomach is parasite-free!! 
*How to test for tenderness: You may take a piece and bite into it. If you can chew and bite into it then it is ready. You can also take a chopstick and pierce through the stomach. If it goes through easily then it is good for eating.
*I don't normally cook with MSG but my grandmother and aunts prefer to use a little in this recipe. 

Addendum (6/23/15):
I just made 2 stomachs using almost the same ingredients as above except I added a few thick slices of ginger to the pot. I did not use any pork bones or MSG this time. After I cleaned, scraped and rubbed the stomachs with salt to clean them well I boiled them in water for about 5 minutes. Then I removed them from the pot and washed both the stomachs and the pot well. I returned the stomachs to the pot (I used a heavy Dutch oven), added fresh water enough to cover the stomachs, added a few thick slices of ginger, 4 large garlic cloves, about 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh roasted whole peppercorns and seasoned with salt. Once the water started to boil I turned the heat to medium low to a simmer, covered the pot and let the stomach cook until soft. This time it took me about 3 hours to cook them. I think the Dutch oven is a great invention. It really retains the heat well and makes everything cook so much faster and more efficient!! If you can stomach it (no pun intended) then this is a very tasty dish!

cooked whole stomachs
cooked stomach slices make a great appetizer
*These stomachs came from H Mart (Korean market) located in Burlington, Massachusetts. Be sure to clean these organs further when you bring them home before cooking. These were relatively clean but I can tell you these can never be too clean! It still took me about an hour to slice off the fat, scrape and clean them thoroughly.

Vegetarian Fried Tofu with Tomato Sauce (serves 3-4 as part of shared meal)

Here is a vegetarian dish that I made for my grandmother. Often times this sauce is made to pour over fried fish. However, I made it with fried tofu. My grandmother ate this and gave me her 'OK' approval.


3 Tbsp oil
3 pieces of deep fried tofu (2 1/2 inch x 1 1/2 inch each)
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 shallot, chopped
3-4 small tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
2 sprigs of fresh Chinese celery, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped (plus more to garnish)
1 sprig of fresh scallion, chopped
About 1/2 cup water
A pinch of sugar
About 2 Tbsp soy sauce (or according to your taste)


1) Heat a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add 3 tablespoons of oil.
2) Fry the tofu until golden brown (Re-fry until heated through if already fried). Remove from heat. Discard half of the oil.
3) Add garlic and shallots. Saute about 30 seconds to a minute.
4) Add tomatoes, celery, cilantro, scallions, and about 1/2 cup water. May turn heat slightly lower. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the tomato pieces are soft.
5) Season with sugar and soy to taste. May add a little water if the sauce gets too dry.
6) Add the fried tofu back into the pan and cook for about a minute on each side.

*If you prefer a thicker (instead of watery as in this recipe) sauce you may add a little mixture of water and cornstarch to the end of step 4.

travel gear for women in Vietnam (2015)
my biker chick cousins (2015)
*We had a visit from my 2 beautiful cousins (see above photos). Although you can't really see them! Nowadays this is how people (especially girls/women) travel in Vietnam. The masks help prevent breathing in the dust. The head to toe covering is to decrease sun exposure even in the tropical heat!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Marsh Pennywort Drink (Nuoc Rau Ma)--enough for 5-6 glasses

A popular fresh marsh pennywort drink (nước rau má in Vietnamese) has been around for as long as I can remember. In the United States the only time I saw fresh pennywort leaves available in stores was in California. Elsewhere one may purchase it from a can. However, I don't believe the can carries as many nutrients or is as tasty as from making it fresh yourself. My uncle and aunt have been telling me that rau má can help reduce the cough that I have for the last few days. After they said this my aunt came home from the market with a gallon bag of freshly harvested rau má. I blended the leaves in coconut water and strained for the juice using an old-fashioned cloth coffee filter. I added ice and a little honey to create my own cough remedy. I created the same drink for my my uncle and aunt and they liked it. However, my uncle said he prefers his drink with less liquid. You can decide what is best for you when you make this. 

I have been wearing a surgical mask around the house, sanitizing door knobs, and washing my hands with soap constantly for fear one of my relatives would catch my virus. My nearly 95 y.o. grandmother tells me that she is not afraid. She mentions that if she gets a cough it usually last 1-2 days. It sounds as though she has a stronger immune system than most people I know! However, I still need to be cautious.

fresh pennywort leaves

12 oz of pennywort leaves and stems, washed well and drained
Juice from 2 fresh young coconuts (about 5 cups)
Honey or sugar according to your preference


1) Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to divide the leaves and coconut juice into half portions (as I had to do).
2) Pour half of the coconut juice (about 2 1/2 cups) into a blender. Add 1/4 of the leaves (about 3 oz) and blend to bits. Add another 1/4 of the leaves (3 oz) and blend. Strain to get all the liquid out and discard the green pulp.
3) Repeat the same procedure with the other half batch.
4) Either chill the juice or drink right away.
5) Stir in honey or sugar and ice according to your preference.

*Use either a blender or juicer to make this. If you have a juicer then you can easily extract the leaves and stems without using any extra liquid.
*For more on the many health benefits of pennywort and nutrition facts please read this PDF: Review on Nutritional, Medicinal, and Pharmacological Properties of Centella asiatica (Indian pennywort).

I recently blended 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of pennywort (rau ma) leaves and stems in 600 mL (2.5 cups) water. It is best to add a handful of leaves/stems at a time to blend before adding more. I used a hand-made strainer to squeeze out the juice.

hand-made strainer and pennywort's pulp
pennywort (rau ma)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fresh Squeezed Tangerine Juice (serves 1)

I really need a megadose of vitamin C these past couple of days to help my cough. It turns out I have a case of bronchitis. Today I visited the market briefly to buy a few items. I had my eyes on the fresh tangerines and dragon fruits at a stand at the entrance of the market. The vendor was nowhere to be seen but I spotted what looked like a dark hand taking a piece of the food she had out on display. At first I had no idea what it was. I kept searching to see if it would reappear. An auntie sitting nearby laughed and informed me it was a mouse that I saw. When I returned to pick up the fruits from the vendor who was now back I finally saw the mouse. It was black and looking quite well fed!

very sweet tangerines

4 tangerines


Wash the tangerines and dry. Cut each in half. Squeeze juice out. Add ice.

*I just used 4 tangerines but you may use more. These were sweet and very juicy. You may add sugar to your juice if interested.
*I washed the fruits with a little soapy water.

Duck Egg and Pork Omelet (serves 3 as part of a shared meal)

I had bought 15 duck eggs recently so one of my aunts can make braised pork with hard boiled duck eggs for my uncle. There were a few eggs left over so one of my aunts and I made this quick and delicious omelet as part of our lunch. My grandmother loved it! Growing up my parents often made this type of omelet for us to eat with plain rice soup or with steamed rice.


1 1/2 Tbsp of oil
1 garlic clove, smashed, peeled and chopped
1 shallot, peeled and chopped or peeled
About 1/2 cup of ground pork (may hand chop with a cleaver if you do not have a meat grinder)
Fish sauce, salt, and sugar according to your taste taste
Egg mixture: 3 duck eggs and 1 chopped scallion (green parts only)--whisk lightly with a fork


1) Heat a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add oil.
2) Add garlic and shallots, saute about 30 seconds.
3) Add ground pork. Saute for about 3 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked.
4) Season with fish sauce, salt, and sugar according to your taste.
5) Pour egg mixture over the sauteed pork.
6) After the bottom is cooked then fold the omelet into half or third. Flip the omelet over. Once the omelet is cooked to your liking then remove from heat.