Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Tomato and Ground Pork (serves 4-5 as part of shared meal)

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Tomato and Ground Pork is easy to make, economical and I think it's delicious. I have made this with different types of meat such as turkey, chicken and even wild boar. You can use ground meat or thinly sliced meat. I prefer using ground meat. Choose a cabbage that is firm with green petals. Peel a few outer layers off and discard. Cut it in half and remove and discard the core. I used Roma tomatoes since I have some available but you can use any type or a variety of tomatoes. I cut each one into quarters and then remove and discard the seeds. I like my tomatoes somewhat cooked. When I was in Vietnam on my last trip I learned that my uncle likes the tomato wedges still whole and not so cooked. When  I cook and need to stir the pot I take the whole pot, hold each of the handle and just shuffle the contents a few times in the air. If you are not used to doing this then be careful! You can spill the food or worse, burn yourself. Season this dish according to your taste. Once the cabbage is cooked it will wilt and shrink in size by a lot. In my family we eat this with freshly cooked rice. However, I have eaten this with left over pasta or noodles and it's tasty.

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Tomato and Ground Pork (serves 4-5 as part of shared meal) 

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp oil
5 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1.5 lbs ground pork
1 medium sized cabbage (I used 3.5 lbs), cut into 1 inch wedges
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2-2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp Broth Base & Seasoning (non-MSG chicken flavored powder)
A pinch of sugar or about 1/4 tsp
5 Roma tomatoes (about 1.4 lbs), cut in quarters and seeded
A few sprigs of cilantro, chopped

Method:

1) Heat a large pot over high heat. Once the pot is hot add oil.
2) Add garlic, saute for about 30 seconds. Add pork and cook for about 2 minutes, break the meat into bits.
3) Add cabbage. Cook until the cabbage for about 10 minutes or until it is wilted. Stir the pot occasionally.
4) Season with oyster sauce, fish sauce, chicken powder, and sugar. Stir the pot well.
5) Add the tomatoes and cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes depending on your preference. Stir the pot. Turn off heat and add cilantro.

*Sometimes I like to add scallions, green parts cut into 1-inch lengths to this dish. You can add them towards the last few minutes of cooking.

prepared cabbage and tomatoes
for cooking

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Braised Chicken Hearts and Gizzards (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

In Vietnam my family usually cooks chicken gizzards, hearts, livers and other organs in soup and serves them in a steamboat on special occasions. Often times the organs are from one or two chickens used for that particular occasion. A steamboat is a metal pot with a divider in the middle of the pot to add hot charcoal. The charcoal will keep the pot hot during the entire meal. Depending on the length of a given meal, typically more hot charcoal is added to the center compartment to keep the pot simmering. My mother, aunts and grandmother still use this old-fashioned style steamboat with the charcoal. Nowadays some people just use an electric pot. I still prefer the classic steamboat because I grew up with them.

My cousin Khiem joked that there is a pecking order when it comes to eating chicken organs or chicken tails in the family! We considered these items to be a delicacy. Khiem tells me when he is sitting down to eat a meal with Ah Ma (grandmother) and his mother, Ah Ma gets to eat them first, then they trickle down to his mother and finally to him! 

While shopping recently I came across some chicken organs for sale at my local market. They were very cheap. I guess there is not much of a demand for them around here (Seacoast New Hampshire). I bought a package and it contained a large number of chicken hearts and gizzards. They were quite clean but once I brought them home I cleaned them further using salt and vinegar. I also removed the fatty parts and any of the yellow gizzard lining. Since the gizzards are tough I made multiple partial cuts into them to help speed up the cooking process. I marinaded my cleaned organs with fish sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and ginger for 15 minutes. I used a cup of water but then reduced it down to about 1/4 cup at the end. Instead of water you may use coconut water if you have any. It took nearly an hour of braising in order for the gizzards to be tender. It's strange but while eating this I taste a hint of the Boiled Fertilized Duck Egg! This is a salty dish so eat it with rice or even bread. Perhaps you can make a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) with this. Next time you have some organs instead of making gravy or however you normally cook them you may want to try braising them this way.

Braised Chicken Hearts and Gizzards (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

1.26 lbs chicken hearts and gizzards
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar (white or brown)
3 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp of whole roasted peppercorns
1 C water (may use coconut water)
Freshly ground pepper (for garnish and flavor)

Method:

1) Marinade hearts, gizzards, fish sauce, soy, sugar, garlic and ginger for 10-15 minutes.

2) Heat a pot over high heat. Add marinaded gizzards and hearts, whole peppercorns and water. Add enough water just to submerge all the organs.
3) Once the liquid starts to boil, turn heat down to a slow simmer, cover the pot. Cook for about 30 minutes. Scoop out the foam that float to the top and discard.
4) Uncover and turn heat up a little to a simmer for another 15 minutes.
5) Remove the organs. Strain and save the liquid. Wash the pot. Return the organs and strained liquid into the pot. Pick out the peppercorns and put them back into the pot.
6) Cook over high heat for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced (to about 1/4 cup).
7) Remove and sprinkle fresh ground pepper over it before serving.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Trio of Root Vegetables and Pig's Feet Soup (makes about 7 quarts)

Once in a while I like to make a huge pot of soup using different vegetables and any kind of bones that I have saved up in my freezer. In Asian markets in Boston I often find the pig's feet packaged and sliced in half lengthwise and then partially cut crosswise. These cuts make them easy to cook and easy to eat. Once home I scrape the skin of the legs with a knife to clean them. If there is some remaining hair on the skin, once boiled the skin will be soft and the hair can be easily removed with tweezers. In this soup I add my favorite root trio--lotus root, daikon and carrots. I also add the stems from cilantro, parsley, and kale to this soup. Some of the stems were previously saved in my freezer. I like to save them to make this type of soup to add extra flavor instead of discarding them. I cook the hardest vegetables first. In this case the lotus roots which can take a lot of time to soften.

Trio of Root Vegetables and Pig's Feet Soup (makes about 7 quarts)

Ingredients:

2 pairs of pork legs (about 2.2 lbs), halved lengthwise and several partial cuts crosswise, washed well
1 lotus root (about 11 oz), peeled, sliced into 1/4 inch width
2 large carrots (about 12 oz), peeled, cut into 1-inch lengths
3 slices of ginger
1 whole onion, peeled
2 medium daikon (1.5 lbs), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
A handful of stems from various vegetables (cilantro, parsley, kale)
About 1/8 cup chopped scallions (green parts)
About 1/8 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Water
Fish sauce
Salt
Sugar

Method:

1) In a large pot (I used an 8-quart pot), add pork legs and enough cold water to just submerge the legs. Gently boil for about 5 minutes. Wash the legs well in clean water and wash the pot.
2) Add the legs back into the pot. Add enough water to cover the legs. Once the water boils turn heat low to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Skim and discard any foam or impurities that float to the top.
3) Add lotus root, carrots, ginger and onion. Add more water, covering up to 3/4th of the pot. Once the water starts to boil turn heat down to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Skim and discard any foam or impurities that float to the top.
4) Add daikon and any stems you have. Continue to let the pot simmer until the daikon and lotus root are to the softness that you prefer. Continue to skim and discard any foam or impurities that float to the top.
5) Remove and discard the stems and ginger. Add scallions and cilantro. Season with fish sauce, salt and sugar. Turn off heat and cover the pot until ready to eat.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Rice Soup with Ground Pork and Blood Cubes (serves 3-4)

Happy New Year!! May your New Year be filled with happiness, good health and delicious food!! Also, happy birthday to my wonderful mother who constantly feeding our family only tasty food from her kitchen!!

If you have leftover days old rice here is a soup that I like to make and eat. It is called chao in Vietnamese. In my family we sometimes make it plain with just rice (cooked or uncooked) and eat with salty dishes. Other times we make it by adding chicken, pork or fish and eat this as a meal. It is best when you can use some bones to make the broth. However it is made, it is always tasty. Here is my pork rice soup with coagulated cubed blood known as chao huyet heo in Vietnamese. I never bought blood at a market in Boston before since I was not quite sure how clean it is. The blood can have a strong odor and bad taste if it was not properly made and stored. I was in an Asian market (in Boston) earlier today and decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised to find it is quite fresh and good. My husband ate all of his soup with about 7 cubes! You can serve individual bowls with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, shredded cabbage and Chinese fried breadsticks (known as chao quay in Vietnamese) on the side. I like a little sprinkle of fresh ground pepper (either black or white) and sometimes an extra drizzle of fish sauce or soy sauce in my bowl before I eat. 

Rice Soup with Ground Pork and Blood Cubes (serves 3-4)

Ingredients:

10 cups cold water
About 2 cups of days old cooked rice
2 slices of ginger
About 7 oz of ground pork
0.80 lb coagulated blood, cut into about 1-inch cubes
About 1/8 cup chopped scallions (green parts)
About 1/8 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Method:

1) In a medium sized pot, heat water with rice and ginger over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, turn heat down to a simmer.
2) Break the ground pork into small pieces and drop them into the pot.
3) Once the pork is cooked add the blood. Cook for about 7-10 minutes or until the blood is cooked through. Skim and discard any foam or impurities that float to the top.
4) Add scallions and cilantro. Season with fish sauce and salt. Turn heat off. Fish out the ginger and discard.
5) May serve with fresh bean sprouts or thinly sliced cabbage, freshly ground black or white pepper and extra fish sauce or soy sauce.