Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sauteed Snails in Coconut Milk (serves 1-2)


sauteed snails in coconut milk
My parents came for a visit and I took them out on a drive along the coast of New Hampshire. It was a beautiful day with a warm sea breeze and we stopped at various places to enjoy the view. At one spot we climbed down some huge rocks and were lucky to harvest some snails attached on the rocks as the tide was coming in. My father and I quickly collected about 3 pounds of these snails known as periwinkles or winkles and dog whelks. I normally take only the periwinkles (the darker ones) but my father was picking everything including the dog whelks (lighter color ones)! I prefer to eat the periwinkles as the meat is tender and tasty. The dog whelks are a bit slimy even for me. Once home I took about half and gave the other half to my parents to take back home. I soaked my portion for several hours, washed them in salt and rinsed multiple times before boiling for roughly 5 minutes. Since they are already cooked I quickly sauteed them with coconut milk. I don't think many people eat the dog whelks but I want to write and tell you that I survived eating them! Do check for red tide in your area if you are planning on eating the dog whelks.

Here is some information from Maine Sea Grant, Maine Seafood Guide - Periwinkles & Whelks. The Downeast whelks that are mentioned in this guide are not the same as these dog whelks. The Downeast whelks are larger and found deeper in the ocean. The dog whelks are found along the shores. Check out my Escargot in a Garlicky-Butter-Wine Sauce for photos of the Downeast whelks. Here is a link on What is a red tide?

Sauteed Snails in Coconut Milk (serves 1-2)

Ingredients:

2 tsp corn or vegetable oil (may use another oil that you prefer)
1 large garlic cloves, smashed, chopped
About 1.5 lbs of periwinkles and dog whelks (snails), boiled for about 5 minutes, drained
1/4 cup of coconut milk
About 1/2 tsp fish sauce
About 1/4 tsp sugar
A few sprigs of Chinese chives, chopped

Method:

In a medium sized pan heat oil. Add garlic and saute roughly a minute. Add the snails and coconut milk. Saute about a minute. Season with fish sauce and sugar. Turn off heat and add the chives.

Bottle Gourd Soup (about 6 serving as part of a shared meal)

beautiful Vietnamese herbs from my parents

My parents had another productive summer of gardening in Maine. They came to visit with a carload of potted herbs, vegetables and herbs that my father already washed and placed neatly in plastic bags, as well as a lot of prepared food and 2 bottle gourds. If your parents are like mine then you should consider yourself very lucky. Perhaps I should never complain since I know some mothers don't even cook for their own family, let alone make lots of extra food to deliver to their adult children and even their children's neighbors. Despite the fact that I actively blog about my own cooking, my mother thinks I don't get enough to eat or am just too busy with working in the clinic to cook. 

I have some leftover ground pork and roasted duck so I made a soup using the smaller of the fresh organic gourds. Typically I make this type of soup using pork bones with some meat on them because they make excellent sweet broth. If you do not have these bottle gourds you may substitute using winter melons. Those are sold in Asian markets.

Check out my previous post on Stir-Fried Gourd and Chicken in Oyster Sauce.

bottle gourds from my parents
bottle gourd soup
Bottle Gourd Soup (bout 6 servings as part of a shared meal)

Ingredients:

A little drizzle of oil
10 oz ground pork
1/4 cup Dried Shrimp (store bought or home-made) hydrated, washed, and drained
A few pieces of roasted duck
About 12 cups water
3 lbs bottle gourd, peeled, large mature seeds removed, sliced thinly to bite size
A few thin slices of fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
A handful of Chinese chives, cut into about 1 to 1 1/2 inch lengths

Method:

In a large pot (preferably at least 5 1/2 quarts) saute pork, shrimp and duck in a little oil. Once the pork is just cooked add water, gourd and ginger. Once the liquid starts to come to a boil turn the heat down slightly and let everything cook for about 5 minutes. Frequently skim off the impurities and scum that float to the top. Do not cover the pot while it is cooking. This process will make your broth clear (instead of cloudy). Season with salt and sugar. Turn off heat and add the chives.

*This soup is not too salty so season it according to your taste.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Teochew Mi Sua (Sauteed Teochew Noodles)--serves 1-2

Teochew Mi Sua (Sauteed Teochew Noodles)
My mother uses half of the Home-Made Egg Noodles (see earlier recipe) to make this Teochew Mi Sua or Sauteed Teochew Noodles dish. It takes her roughly 5 minutes to make and it is delicious. Traditionally this is made with a type of fresh noodles that are very salty. According to my parents they must be salty for a longer shelf life. This simple noodle dish typically consists of dried shrimp, thinly sliced pork, Chinese chives, bean sprouts and cilantro leaves. Unfortunately, I do not have any bean sprouts or cilantro at home. My mother explains that if you are using bean sprouts be sure to saute them briefly and let the liquid drain completely before using. Bean sprouts contain a lot of water and it comes out during cooking. This is a dry noodle dish so you want as little liquid as possible in here. Use a non-stick pan. My mother gave me this recipe so it is a bit vague! ;--)

Teochew Mi Sua (Sauteed Teochew Noodles)--serves 1-2

Ingredients:

About 1-2 Tbsp of oil (vegetable, corn, canola, olive or whatever you prefer)
A few spoonfuls of ground pork or a few pieces of thinly sliced pork
A small handful of Dried Shrimp (home-made or store bought), hydrated in water for about 20 minutes, drained
1/2 recipe of Home-Made Egg Noodles
1 small bunch of Chinese chives, cut into about 1-inch lengths
A few squirts of soy sauce

Method:

Saute pork and shrimp with oil until the meat is just cooked. Add noodles, chives and soy sauce. Saute until the noodles are not clumpy, the soy sauce has blended into the noodles evenly and the chives are just wilted. May add a little more oil if needed. If you have any cilantro then chop some and add on top once done with cooking to garnish.

*If you are using the standard mi sua (noodles) that already contain lots of salt in them then you may want to omit the soy sauce.

Home-Made Egg Noodles (makes about 1.5 pounds)

home-made egg noodles
Many months ago I attempted to make home-made egg noodles for the first time and was surprised by how tasty they turned out. This time I am repeating the process but have found a few improvements that I want to share. The ingredients are simple; all-purpose flour, eggs, salt, oil, and water. This recipe has no artificial colors, preservatives or chemicals. The dough is tough to work with initially but after adding water it is more manageable, I am able to knead for about 10 minutes until the dough looks smooth. If you are starting to have muscle atrophy of your upper extremities (arms) this is a great exercise! I discovered that using a spray bottle is very helpful--it distributes the tiny droplets evenly on the dough and gives it just enough moisture to knead. You may let the dough rest for about 15-20 minutes before rolling and cutting into strands. It is best to cook and eat the noodles right away. If you are not planning on eating soon then after kneading, wrap the smooth dough in plastic and keep this refrigerated for a day or two until you are ready to eat. Remove the dough and divide it into 4 smaller portions, passing each portion through the pasta machine. Initially use the widest opening and then smaller to make a thin sheet. The last pass is through the spaghetti attachment for thin strands. I use cornstarch to keep the strands from sticking to each other. Be sure to shake off excess cornstarch before cooking the noodles. You can either boil or steam the finished noodles. The steaming process takes longer but creates a chewier texture that I prefer. The cornstarch will cause the strands to clump together when steaming. My parents prefer boiling them and this takes about a minute to cook.

Home-Made Egg Noodles (makes about 1.5 pounds)

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more for dusting
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp oil, plus a few extra drops to oil your palms for kneading and a little extra to prevent the cooked noodles from sticking together
About 1-2 Tbsp warm water (preferably use a spray bottle)
Cornstarch (to prevent the strands from sticking together)

Method:

Sift the flour and salt together. Pour the mixture on a working surface. Make a well and add the eggs and 1 teaspoon of oil. Take a fork and work the dough into the eggs and oil until they bind together. Oil your palms with a few drops of oil and start kneading the dough. Spray the dough with a little water. Knead and spray more water as needed. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth--about 10 minutes of kneading. Wrap the dough loosely and let it rest in the refrigerator at least 15-20 minutes or until ready to use. Divide the dough into 4 small balls and start passing one through a pasta machine, initially at the largest opening and then smaller for a thinner sheet. Dust with a little flour if needed. Pass the sheet through the spaghetti attachment to get small strands. Sprinkle the strands with cornstarch. When ready to eat be sure to shake the excess cornstarch off before boiling or steaming. Boil for about a minute or until the noodles float to the top. Remove the noodles with a slotted ladle and add a little oil to prevent the strands from sticking together as they cool. You may also steam them for about 25 minutes. Again add a little oil once done to help keep the strands from clumping together.

My mother makes the soup base using roasted duck bones and pork.
This noodle dish has Chinese broccoli, Chinese chives,
fresh shiitake mushrooms, meat from 1 lobster claw,
my mother's home-made Teochew braised pork,
and store bought roasted duck leg.
Teochew mi sua (sauteed Teochew noodles)
(my mother makes this using hydrated dried shrimp,
ground pork and Chinese chives)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

How to Make Salted Quail Eggs

salted quail eggs
I ate many salted duck eggs known as trứng vịt muối in Vietnamese. When my family and I first immigrated to Maine my mother made the salted eggs using a salty brine. She thinks this style of curing process results in decent tasting eggs but not as good as the traditional method. Typically these duck eggs are wrapped in salted damp ash. The ash is a bi-product of burned rice husks. Once the eggs are ready to eat they are sold, sometimes still covered in this thick layer of black ash. The eggs are kept at room temperature until ready to cook. We boil the eggs (minus the ash), once cooked we cut the whole egg in half with the shell intact. People usually eat half of the egg with plain rice soup for breakfast or a late night meal. It does not sound very nutritious but it's a comfort food for me. When I was visiting my Ah Ma (grandmother) in Vietnam over a year ago we ate these salted duck eggs. Again most of us ate about half an egg per person. My Ah Ma ate less than half of one. Recently I purchased 2 packages of quail eggs to make salted quail eggs. I think one to two quail eggs would be perfect for one serving size. People use the salted duck yolks in a sweet Teochew pastries known as "pia". Soctrang (Vietnam) is famous for its pia. I particularly like the durian pia. My mother tells me the yolks are tasty in steamed pork buns.

boiled salted quail egg with rice soup
Check out my previous post on Plain Rice Soup and Hard Boiled Salted Duck Eggs for a similar story. These quail eggs are quite small and do not require as much cooking time as the salted duck eggs; approximately 5-6 minutes of gentle boiling.

How to Make Salted Quail Eggs

Ingredients:

25 quail eggs, washed well and broken ones discarded
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup sea salt
A small ceramic or glass sauce dish

Method:

Boil water. Add salt and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let the liquid completely cooled. Slowly using a spoon and a stick (preferably a pair of chopsticks) drop each egg into a glass jar. Pour the cooled liquid over the jar. Be sure to submerge all the eggs under the liquid. May use a small ceramic or glass sauce dish to anchor the eggs down. Avoid jamming it in as you do not want to break the eggs. Keep the jar at room temperature. These will be salty and ready to eat in about 2 weeks. You may eat one to try.

traditional salted duck eggs
(covered in ash)
traditional salted duck eggs using ash
*According to my mother it is best to use whole sea salt when making this.
*The quail eggs come in a package of 18. One was broken so I ended up making 35 instead of 36. 
*I don't like to waste. Here is how I figured out how much liquid to use. I placed all the eggs inside the jar. I then add water to the jar with the eggs. I then carefully pour out that water into a measuring container. This amount will be what I need to use for the brine.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Steamed Daikon Cake--my way (makes one 9-inch cake)

steamed daikon cake
I hope you don't get too excited when I mention the word cakes. These are savory but so good! There are two ways to make steamed daikon cakes in my family. My mother makes them in small individual portions. Other relatives make them in a cake pan. However you make these they will be tasty and nutritious. Traditionally my family makes steamed daikon cakes using shredded daikon, boiled peanuts, whole dried shrimp, scallions, cilantro, and salt. I recreate this recipe by adding a few extra ingredients that are already in my kitchen for my own visual gratification. This time I ground the dried shrimp for a different texture. This idea initially came to me when I made Au Co (Steamed Taro Cakes) for my grandmother so she could eat. I prefer the smaller dried shrimp for this recipe even if I am using whole shrimp. I gently boiled the raw peanuts for about 45 minutes until they were just soft. Boil them longer if you prefer softer nuts but just don't cook them until they are mushy. I once ate mushy boiled peanuts from a stand somewhere in the South and they tasted awful. I love boiled peanuts but not when they have been boiling all day long!

Steamed Daikon Cake--my way (makes one 9-inch cake)

Ingredients:

1 large daikon (about 1.8 lbs), peeled and shredded, squeezed some of the liquid out
1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup boiled peanuts (use only raw peanuts to boil)
1/4 cup dried shrimp, soaked in water for about 25 minutes, squeezed the water out, roughly ground
1/4 cup ground pork
1 cup rice flour
2 Tbsp garlic chives, chopped
1 turmeric root, scraped off the skin and grated
1 tsp salt
One 9-inch by 1-inch baking pan

Method:

Mix all ingredients together using preferably metal utensils. Cut a piece of parchment paper or banana leaf to line the bottom of the pan. Transfer the mixture to the pan and gently pat the top down with a spatula. Steam for about 40 minutes. Take a small knife and glide along the edges of the pan. Take a plate and place over the top of the pan and flip it over. The cake should come out easily. Peel and discard the parchment paper or banana leaf.

*The turmeric will leave a yellow stain that is difficult to remove. You may want to wear gloves when working with it.
*Try not to squeeze the shredded daikon until it is completely dry. You also don't want it to be too moist or else your cake will be too soft and mushy. Once you combine everything the mixture should be damp. 
*My co-worker Moniqua gave me some garlic leaves or garlic chives from her garden and I saved some already chopped up in the freezer. They are not as great as freshly harvested but are a great alternative. You may use chopped scallions or chopped chives if you do not have access to garlic leaves.
*Be sure to soak the peanuts preferably overnight before boiling them. These will help the peanuts cook faster. I failed to soak them so it took me a long time to cook.
*Adjust the ingredients depending how much or how little you prefer.
*Once steamed you may eat it as is or cut it up and lightly fry it with a little oil. 

lightly fried daikon cake

Friday, August 5, 2016

Chanh Muối Đá (Vietnamese Preserved Limeade on Ice)--makes 1 drink

 
Chanh Muối Đá (Vietnamese Preserved Limeade on Ice)
When I was a little girl living in the Mekong Delta (in Vietnam) one of the favorite drinks for many people was Chanh Muối Đá or Vietnamese Preserved Limeade on Ice. This drink is made from preserved limes. The drink is mildly salty and sweet with lots of ice. It is quite refreshing especially in the heat and humidity of the tropics. I add the fresh lime slices and the spearmint for a nicer presentation. Check out my previous post on how to make Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Limes).

I made this drink with the intention that maybe it will help soothe my sore throat. I had a case of pharyngitis since yesterday and it was getting worse. It is difficult for me to imagine that such a drink could resolve my symptoms almost instantly. But within 5 minutes of drinking I was cured. Perhaps this is all in my head or it is truly a magic drink!

Chanh Muối Đá (Vietnamese Preserved Limeade on Ice)--makes 1 drink

Ingredients:

1/2 of one Vietnamese Preserved Lime, sliced into 3 thin slices
2 Tbsp Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 Tbsp Vietnamese Preserved Lime liquid
About 1 cup Italian Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
Ice cubes or crushed ice
3 thin slices of fresh limes, (optional)
1-2 sprigs of spearmint, (optional)

Method:

Gently muddle the Vietnamese Preserved Lime slices with the syrup. Add the Vietnamese Preserved Lime liquid, mineral water, ice, and fresh lime slices. Stir and add a slice of fresh lime and spearmint for garnishes.

Simple Syrup (makes 1/4 cup)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Method:

Heat the sugar and water until the sugar melts. Let the liquid cool down completely.

*1:1 ratio (I use the same dry measuring cup for both the sugar and water for simplicity). I use the cup to measure the sugar first and then the water.
*May add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter drink.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mojito (makes 1 drink)

mojito
When I was in college (undergrad) I took a bartender class with my friend Stacy. We were students in a rigorous nursing program. I must have desperately needed a break from all the studying because somehow she talked me into taking this class. I remember we made a bunch of what appeared to be perfectly decent drinks but had to empty them into a huge bucket without ever tasting any...not even a lick. I remember wondering what kind of education is this? How does one know how it is supposed to taste? This method of learning is not for everyone. I learn differently and I need to taste what I make in order to retain it. I think that day must have been a sad day for some of the class participants particularly the dumping part! I personally have never been a huge fan of mixed drinks so it did not bother me. Due to my lack of interest in these sweet drinks I rarely make any...occasionally though I will have a drink when I am out with friends. The last mojito I had was about a month ago in a restaurant here on the seacoast of New Hampshire and it tasted a bit like bad cough medicine. 

I am making my mojito, a Cuban classic with a slight unique twist using my family recipe--Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Limes). The preserved lime has a mild briny taste and fragrance. I am also using freshly harvested spearmint from my garden. My husband who drinks mostly wine or beer tells me this is pretty good! I also made a drink for my flight attendant friend Inge. she makes drinks for her passengers and always appreciates it when someone else serves her! Inge tells me this may be one of the best fresh tasting mojitos she ever had. Both my husband and Inge could taste a hint of the preserved limes. Make this with lots of crushed ice and it will keep you cool on a hot summer evening!

Simple Syrup (makes 1/4 cup or enough for 3 drinks)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Method:

Heat the sugar and water until the sugar melts. Let the liquid cool down completely.

*1:1 ratio (I use the same dry measuring cup for both the sugar and water for simplicity). I use the cup to measure the sugar first and then the water.

Mojito (makes 1 drink)

Ingredients:

3 sprigs of fresh spearmint (choose sprigs with lots of healthy leaves)
1 1/2 Tbsp Simple Syrup (see recipe above)
1/2 of one Chanh Muối (Vietnamese Preserved Limes), cut into 3 slices or rings
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice (or about 1/2 lime)
About 1/4 piece of the spent lime hull
4 Tbsp rum (may use Bacardi rum)
Crushed ice
Sparkling mineral water (I use Italian Sparking Natural Mineral Water)

Method:

Gently muddle or bruise 2 sprigs of spearmint (this will release the mint flavor and fragrance) and
1 1/2 tablespoon of simple syrup. Add the Preserved Lime and muddle everything a little more. Add lime juice, a small piece of spent lime hull, rum and ice. Gently shake everything for about 5-7 seconds. I don't have a cocktail shaker so I use a glass jar with a lid to shake everything. It works great. Pour this mixed liquid in a tall glass. Fill the rest of the glass with the sparkling mineral water (about 3/4 cup to 1 cup). Stir and garnish with a sprig of fresh spearmint.

*I use rum from St. Lucia called Bounty Rum.
*I put the ice cubes in a plastic bag and smash the cubes with a rock to crush them. Works great!