Monday, January 12, 2015

Stir Fried Water Lily Stems with Shrimp (Bong Sung Xao Tep)--serves 3-4 as part of a shared meal

I have been pretty much home alone this past week with my grandmother. One of my cousins who lives in the house works long hours during the week so I see her briefly for lunch and some evenings. I just have to cook for my grandmother, my cousin and 6 dogs. I also have to keep the mini general store (located at the front of the house) open half of the day.

I was shopping at An Trach Market (Vietnam) and saw some fresh looking water lily stems (known as bông súng in Vietnamese). The vendor told me these came from the rice paddy. She did not have any change so I ended up buying 4 bunches for less than $0.50 USD. When I got home I trimmed off the ends, removed any strings or fibers along the side and washed these stems well with salty water. I used salt to clean hoping it will help kill some bacteria in the process. I am not sure if it will help but I think it will be better than using tap water. I also cooked these longer than normal so that my grandmother can eat since she has some ill fitting dentures. When you cook these you can adjust the cooking time according to your preference.

My grandmother must be feeling much better since all of a sudden she is my back seat cook! I actually prefer her this way. When I was cooking the water lily stems she was instructing me how to make this dish while sitting about 15 feet away. For the last few days she has been under extreme stress from worrying about my uncle's health. Now he is recovering in a hospital in Saigon. I tried to reassure that his doctors are taking great care of him and that his health is not compromised but what I said did not lessen her stress and anxiety. I guess no matter your age (my uncle is almost 70) you are still your mother's child and she will continue to worry and fuss over you.

a simple lunch with my grandmother (2015)

Stir Fried Water Lily Stems with Shrimp (Bong Sung Xao Tep)--serves 3-4 as part of a shared meal


1 Tbsp of oil
1 large garlic clove, smashed and chopped
About 1 cup of shrimp, heads and shells removed
2 bunches of water lily stems (about 12 oz), trimmed the ends, washed well, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch lengths
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp of water or broth


1) Heat a pan or wok over high heat. Once the pan is hot add 2 teaspoons of oil.
2) Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds to a minute. Avoid burning the garlic.
3) Add shrimp and cook for about a minute or until these are just cooked. Remove from pan or push them up on the wok to prevent further cooking.
4) Add 1 teaspoon of oil to pan or wok. Add lily stems. Saute about 5-6 minutes (less time if you do not want it to be too soft). Decrease heat if the pan or wok gets too hot.
5) Return the shrimp, add fish sauce, sugar and water. Stir and cook for another minute.

*My mother thinks the shrimp will make this dish tastes sweeter and better.
*My grandmother talked about how great this dish was for 2 days. I decided to make her this dish again with the other half of cleaned water lily stems that I kept in a bag. She said this dish is soft enough for her but she thinks it is too mushy for me. For this particular dish I don't mind that it is soft.

shrimp and water lily stems

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