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A moment in life #44 - Light and Shadow

>> Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Light and shadow

I said that before, I love watching how the sun light up my living room. (The house I'm renting is a bit different - the kitchen and living area are upstair).

I like this set a lot for no particular reason. It was just one of those moments where everything was right - the lighting, the random setup, and of course, the camera :)

Light and shadow

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Vietnamese vegan papaya salad – Delicious Vietnam #6

>> Monday, September 27, 2010

(Nộm đu đủ/ Gỏi đu đủ chay)

Vietnamese vegan papaya salad (Nộm đu đủ/ Gỏi đu đủ chay)

It’s the Vegetarian week here in Australia, and I thought it is the perfect time to share this delicious Vietnamese vegan green papaya salad. It is a perfectly crunchy salad with that classic clean and refreshing South East Asian flavors.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of papaya salad in Vietnamese cuisine. The first one is perhaps more popular in the western world – thinly shredded green papaya, tossed with a sweet-sour dressing made of fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and things like meat and seafood just before serving. This is typically the kind of street-food that I adore, especially when you top it with excellent quality beef jerky (thịt bò khô). Just writing about it makes me hungry!

The second kind, which I made today, is a dish that northern people often make for a gathering meal. It still has the characters of the classic flavours – sweet, sour, a bit spicy and full of fresh herbs. However, the flavors are more gentle, and on the sweeter side of that fabulous sweet-sour combo.

The preparation for this salad is more like making a quick pickle. The papaya and carrot are left to be soaked with sugar and vinegar, and then squeezed out gently. What’s left, the moist vegetable mixture is then tossed with lots of peanuts and herbs. It keeps for at least a day. I actually find that the salad tastes better after a while.

To make life easier, this little tool is used to shred the green papaya… I found it at a Vietnamese grocery in Richmond.

Green papaya salad - the making

And I guess I just have to mention the beautiful movie called “Scent of the green papaya” (Mùi đu đủ xanh). Making this salad always reminds me of the character Mùi, and of my life in Vietnam, my grandparents’ garden.

I'm sending this entry to Delicious Vietnam #6, hosted this month by Javaholic. Details about this month event can be found here.

Vietnamese papaya salad

VIETNAMESE VEGAN GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
(Nộm đu đủ/ Gỏi đu đủ chay)

Serve this with a side dish, or as a meal on its own with marinade firm tofu. If you want something more substantial, it’s also great with grilled meat. I’ve used pistachio here since my guest is allergic to peanuts.

Printable recipe here

Ingredients
1 green papaya (choose the firm one)
3 carrots, medium size
3 garlic cloves, skinned and crushed finely
2 bird-eye chillis (adjust to taste), crushed finely

Dressing for the papaya mixture: 1 cup white vinegar, ¾ cup sugar
Dressing for the carrot mixture: 4 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup skinned, roasted peanuts (the unsalted kind) or pistachio, crushed roughly
Salt
1.5 cups or more of fresh herbs: use the mixture of your favourite Asian herbs. I like coriander (cilantro), Thai basil and Vietnamese mint (aka laksa leaves). Washed and leaves picked.

Method

Prepare the green papaya first. Remove the skin, then cut the fruit in half. Remove the white seeds, then shred the papaya as thin as you can. Soak the shredded papaya in acidulated water to remove some of the natural latex for 30 mins.

Now, onto the carrot – peel off the skin and shredded the carrot just like you do with the papaya. Add the sugar and vinegar mixture (4 tablespoons sugar, 6 tablespoons white vinegar) and a pinch of salt to the carrot. Toss well, taste and set aside.

Drain the papaya well. Combine the dressing with the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt. Toss through the papaya mixture. Taste (it should be quite strong in flavours).

Leave the papaya and carrot mixtures to rest for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, prepare the herbs by cut the leaves roughly.

To prepare the salad mixture, gently squeeze the dressing out of the papaya and carrot mixtures. You want a moist mixture in the end, so don’t squeeze too hard. Mix the carrot and papaya together. Now, taste the mixture – it should have that sweet-sour balance (more on the sweet side). Adjust with the dressing.

When it’s ready to serve, toss through the herbs and peanuts. This kind of salad keeps for a while. Enjoy!

**

Vietnamese Recipe Index by Photos

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Mini pumpkin pies. Hours of the day.

>> Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mini pumpkin pies

3pm, light sunny winter day is my favourite time of the day for food photography. If I’m around the home, of course. Watching and observing natural light evolve throughout the course of the day and seasons is something truly blissful. Not just that my photos will look much nicer, but it’s part of the process to explore a new place, and make it feel home.

And we are moving to a new place, soon. Thanks goodness it’s not another interstate move. Still, house moving is such a stressful process, and it always comes at the worst time. Always. *sigh*

Mini pumpkin pies

All the stress of moving aside, I have to say that these cute mini pumpkin pies are absolutely wonderful. Why did I wait for so long to try pumpkin pies? They are so fragrant, so delicious! In mini form like this, they actually look a bit like egg tarts (my MIL actually called them pumpkin tart :D).

I know my tarts look on the rustic side (read: less than perfect) – it has been ages since I last worked with pastry and my lack of practice really showed. I can guarantee that they taste really good though.

I'm sending these pies to Sugar High Friday hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. The theme of this month is Bite Size Dessert.

Mini pumpkin pies

Mini pumpkin pies

Adapted minimally from Flo Braker. I made ½ of the recipe. Flo Braker used ‘pinch and press’ method while lining the dough into the tart tins. I prefer to roll the dough first, then line the tins.

Printable recipe

Pastry - for 8 dozens miniature pumpkin pies
3 cups (390g) plain flour
½ tsp salt
340g (12 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cubed
9 ounces (250g pack) cold cream cheese, cubed

Pumpkin filling
3/4 fresh kobacha (Japanese pumpkin)
2 cups (400g) sugar
1.5 cups sour cream
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tsp cinnamon powder + 1 tsp cardamom powder + freshly grated nutmeg

Method

Prepare the pumpkin filling: remove the skin from the pumpkin, cut the pumpkin into large chunks. Bake in 190C oven until the pumpkin just turns soft. Puree when the pumpkin is still warm. We will need 3 cups (740g) in the end.

Make the pastry: in a food processor, combine the flour and salt, pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. While the motor is running, gradually add the butter and cream cheese. Process until the dough just comes together in the form of a ball. Wrap the dough with clingwrap and rest in the fridge for 30 mins or so.

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Have ready 12-cup small muffin tin or egg-tart tins. (I used my egg tart tins but the muffin pans work well, too)

Lightly flour the work surface. Roll the dough into 5mm thickness (more or less), cut off the dough and line the lightly greased tartlet tins. Repeat until finished. (You may have to work in batches. Chill the dough thoroughly in between)

Pumpkin filling: Mix the pumpkin puree with the spice, sour cream, eggs and milk until well blended.

Fill each tart shell with the pumpkin filling until ¾ full.

Bake the pies for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin filling is set and puffy and the pastry is light gold. Cool on a wire rack before turn the pies out.

Repeat the process if needed.

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A moment in life #43 - Au naturel

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

Au naturel - pear

No baking, no cooking in this post. Just a photo or two of my favourite fruit - pears. I love them as they are or in baking. After poaching with verjuice and sugar, they are also excellent in this almond cake base.

Au naturel - pear

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{Giveaway} Baker’s Delight Cape Seed Loaf

>> Sunday, September 19, 2010

miso and avocado toast

It is hard for me get excited about sliced bread. I mean commercially baked breads have had a lot of bad reputation – eg: using bleached flour and additives etc. Lately though, it seems that there is some real effort from to make our bread healthier. I remember the recent chia bread craze from Baker’s Delight. And now they have a new product out – Cape Seed Loaf.

From their own words:

“There are over nine grains and seeds that go into Bakers Delight Cape Seed loaf including soy and linseed, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, rye, barley, oats and mung beans”

I’m an advocate of simple bread so these additions don’t attract me much. But taste-wise, the bread is not bad. Eating fresh on the day, it has quite lovely texture from the seeds and the bread itself. All in all, better than average loaf :D.

Oh, and I really really love miso and avocado on toast! Can’t recommend this combo enough. Or if you feel a bit creative, cut of the crust, flatten the slice of bread and bake it in muffin tin to make easy mini crust. I filled mine with chili tuna and corn.

tuna in bread case


** ENTRIES CLOSED **
ANYWAY, HERE IS THE GIVEAWAY PART!


Sorry, this is for Australian residents only.

Bakers Delight is giving away 9 Cape Seed Loaf to 9 lucky readers of this blog. If you are interested, please drop me an email at anhnguyen118[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject line 'Baker Delight Giveaway'. The first 9 emails will receive the vouchers :).

** ENTRIES CLOSED **

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Baked mooncake with salted yolk. Minimalist approach.

>> Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bánh nướng nhân trứng


baked mooncake with salted yolk

Don’t bake things that you don’t normally eat” – I thought to myself after pulling a tray of 6 full-sized mooncakes out of the oven. So much work, and as you see, they are just not… perfect enough look wise.

Mooncake making, like anything, needs tons of practice. If a traditional way is followed to the t, the preparation actually starts around a year in advance with the making of a golden syrup. The older the syrup, the better it is. Then, of course, one should also salt their own eggs way beforehand.

All in all, it is just a loooong preparation. For someone who is terrible in organizing like me, it just doesn’t fit at all.

My mission for the last few years has been to cut down the prep time, and use as much shortcuts as possible. A minimalist approach to mooncake making. And I think I have come quite close in terms of results.


baked mooncake with salted yolk

Here is what you need, in terms of ingredients:

+ Golden syrup: no need to make yours. Get a jar of golden syrup from your supermarket. Apparently some brands are better than others. I use the standard one.

+ Mooncake filling: nowadays one can get the readily made paste from Asian stores. I have tested all of them. Wise advice: stick to the lotus paste. And check your use-by date ;) (otherwise, mungbean filling can be made quite easily. Email me if you want the recipe)

+ Moulds: ebay is your friend. Wooden mould requires ‘seasoning’ before using. Plastic moulds work well. Look for them on eBay.

+ Salted eggs: make your own, or buy from Asian stores like me.

+ Alkaline water (lye water): this stuff gives the skin more texture I believe. Some thinks it’s evil, so omit it if you have to. I think the amount here is small enough anyway. Found in most Asian stores (and most Asian egg noodles!). Wise advice: read the safety instruction carefully.
Seriously, that’s it!! I can’t claim my recipe or my mooncakes are entirely traditional. But they taste good and gives nice texture. B., who is the only mooncake lover around me, loves it. (And I don't mind them :D)

If only I have more mooncake lovers around to eat all of the stuff I produced in the past month or so. So below is the recipe. Tell me, will you make yours?

By the way, if you are looking for an easier version of mooncake, try this no-bake no-fuss snowskin mooncake.

baked mooncake with salted yolk


Cantonese style baked mooncake with salted yolk

I got 6-7 mooncakes out of this recipe, using 130g mould. In terms of ratio for baked mooncakes, the ratio of skin: filling should be around 1:2. But you should adjust this basic ratio so that the dough fits the mould perfectly.

Printable recipe here

Ingredients

Skin:
120g golden syrup
40g cooking oil
½ tsp Alkaline water (or lye water)
160g plain flour
¼ tsp baking soda

Filling
6 no. salted egg yolk, steamed
600-700g lotus paste

Eggwash: 1 egg beaten with a little milk

Method

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Prepare the skin first. Combine the golden syrup, cooking oil and lye water together. Mix in the plain flour and stir until you have a smooth paste. Cover, set aside for at least 3 hours. (I recommend leaving the dough overnight. It helps the wrapping later)

Prepare portion of filling: wrap 100-120g filling around the egg yolk and form into a ball.

Wrapping – this steps requite a bit of practice. Make sure when you wrap the filling, no additional flour is around. Start by flatten 40g of dough with your hand, then put the filling ball in the middle. Gently wrap the dough all around the filling with smoothing and rounding motion. Be gentle not to break the skin.

Shaping – Gently dust the mould with flour, the tap off any excess. Press the mooncake ball into the mould to form the mooncake shape. Knock the mould to release the mooncake. Repeat with the rest.

Place the mooncake onto the baking tray, lined with baking paper. Bake them in a preheated 200C oven for 7-10 minutes.

Take the tray out, and wait until the cakes cool down for 30 minutes. Use a pastry brush, brush the eggwash onto the mooncake (just the top, don’t brush on the side of the cake). Return the tray to the oen, and bake for further 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool.

NOW, another PATIENCE time: the mooncakes cant be eaten straightaway. The skin will ‘oiled’ and become softer with clearer imprint 1-2 days later. Eat them then!

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DELICIOUS VIETNAM #6 ANNOUNCEMENT

>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I hope that everyone has enjoyed Delicious Vietnam #5 roundup as much as I did :). Now it's time for Delicious Vietnam #6 and please welcome our host Javaholic.

If you are new to Delicious Vietnam, here’s a summary of the event along side with some rules and recaps of past editions.

You have until the second Sunday of October (US time) to post about anything related to Vietnamese cuisine – recipes, food writing, review or reflection.

In your post, please include the phrase “Delicious Vietnam #6” with the link to your host.

Please submit to your post by the deadline October 10th 2010, which is:


+) 12 noon, Monday, 11 October 2010 – Melbourne (Australia) time
+) 7 pm, Sunday, 10 October 2010 – Los Angeles (US) time
+) 9am, Monday, 11 October 2010 – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city time

Send your entries to
sijeleng[at]gmail[dot]com

with Delicious Vietnam #6 in the subject with the following details:

• Your Name
• Your Blog Name/URL
• Your Post URL
• Your Location
• A photo (optional): 300px wide

Looking forward to next month round up!

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DELICIOUS VIETNAM #5 THE ROUNDUP

>> Monday, September 13, 2010

Finally! I’m so proud to present you the roundup of Delicious Vietnam #5. There are some exotic entries (snail soup!) as well as more familiar dishes like noodle soup or chicken cabbage salad. All in all, a fabulous month, and thanks for support Delicious Vietnam!

SAVORY ENTRIES

Two recipes for Chicken cabbage salad, and I tell you, read and savor both. Almost every Vietnamese family has an unique way to prepare this dish, but the classic flavors and textures are always there.

Vietnamese chicken salad (Gỏi Gà or Gỏi Bắp Cẚi Gà) – White on Rice Couple

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“There are many variations of this fabulous and classic Vietnamese Chicken Salad. The salad can be especially pleasing with different textures and flavors ranging from fried shallots, roasted peanuts, fried garlic and picked onions to different Vietnamese herbs such as mint, basil or the classic rau ram (Viet coriander). Some salads will be heartier with more chicken than cabbage, so you can choose your ratios and toppings to your personal taste. The chicken can be boiled, poached, grilled, fried or bbq.”

Chicken and Cabbage Salad – Javaholic

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"Some recipes call for using rice vinegar for the dressing; others use lime juice. Personally, I prefer the latter. The freshness of the lime makes the salad so much more lively and refreshing. If you have some ground roasted peanuts or fried shallots on hand, a tablespoon or two make a nice addition on top of the salad."

Bò Nướng Lá Lốt (Vietnamese Grilled Beef in Wild Betel Leaf ) – Indonesia Eats

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“Summer is almost over, but we still do grilling or barbecuing, don't we?” - Yes!! Especially with this wonderful dish! ;)


Bún măng vịt (Duck and Bamboo Vermicelli Soup) – MissAdventure@home

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"Just as phở, the most well known Vietnamese soup (and arguably the most well known Vietnamese dish), bún măng vịt hails from Northern Vietnam. Unlike phở, it is not a mainstream soup and cannot be easily found on restaurant menus. It is distinct due to the use of dry bamboo shoots, which imparts a unique flavour, resulting in a dark, tea-like, slightly pungent broth."

Bun Oc (Vietnamese Snail Noodle Soup) – BonnieBella

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"I like to make a dipping sauce of shrimp paste, lemon and a squirt of siracha. The perfect bite while consuming Bun Oc is a spoonful of soup, noodle, a perilla and Vietnamese coriander leaf. Before slurping the spoon, I dip a snail in my dipping sauce and then sluuurp. Then, I chase the bite with tofu, morning glory, bean sprout and more soup."

Canh Chua Ca (Sweet and Sour Soup with Mahi-mahi) – Beginner mom on the run

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"...Now eleven years have passed and I have defeated all my hurt feelings of trying to make Canh Chua Ca. And Hubster's words were,"Man this is really good honey, you nailed this one, and the Mahi-mahi is great in this dish! Nice Job!"


Mì Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) – Ravenous Couple

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"Mi ga is one of our favorite noodle dishes because it combines the simple flavors of a broth steeped with chicken along with the great texture of fresh al dente egg noodles. Such a pure dish is actually hard to find even in Little Saigon. Egg noodle restaurants here specialize in more of the Chinese style like egg noodle soups such as mi vit tim or with barbecue pork such as xa xiu."

Prawn Spring Roll – Delicate Flavors

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"Crispy Spring Roll with crunchy sweet large prawn, what could be more delicious or eye catching?"

Alaskan Cod Rolls – Nomemade

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Growing up in Noietnamese fish dishes with local salmon instead of mayme, Alaska my mother has adapted a lot of Vietnamese cuisines with local caught food. Such as Moose pho instead of beef, bun rieu (tomato and crab noodle soup) with Alaskan king crab instead of dungeness, and various vbe the traditional catfish.

Vietnamese gingery chicken wings (gà rang gừng) – A food lover’s journey

Vietnamese gingery braised chicken wings

"...I find that most of country (or northern Vietnamese) dishes often highlight one-two main flavours. Say, like this gingery braised chicken dish, the warmth of ginger and white peppers are dominant. We may use other spices, too, but only sparingly..."

SOMETHING SWEET

Basic snowskin mooncake – bánh dẻo – A food lover’s journey

Snowskin mooncake

"Making moon cakes, nevertheless, is something special. It brings me back to my childhood years. In Vietnamese culture, Moon Festival (tết Trung Thu) is a children-only event. That day, we got to stay up late and organised a big party with other kids. Lanterns of various kinds and colors were lit up. Nowadays one can find a lot of different types of lanterns in Hanoi during mid-autumn festival. But for me, nothing beats the star-shaped lanterns (đèn ông sao). The pattern has been the same and unchanged since forever."

TRAVEL – REVIEW

Green papaya salad with pork and prawns (Goi du du tom thit) @ Little Saigon and Dong Que Restaurants, Melbourne, Australia – Bear Head Soup

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"...this is a brilliant salad. I was drooling with every mouthful I took. The salad contained plenty of the green papaya with some carrot and daikon radish. There was some mint and coriander and the dish was topped with chopped peanuts and a little sliced chili. The heroes of the dish were the sliced prawns and slices of the softest cold pork I have ever eaten. The tender pork and prawns were complimented perfectly with the crunch of the papaya and the peanuts. It was quite a big serve and I had to stop myself from eating the whole lot because it was just so great. A revelation. "

Nha Trang & Ho Chi Ming City – My Cooking Hut

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“Vietnam has a lot to offer. After spending some time in sight-seeing, immersing in the local culture and savouring delicious Vietnamese food; the idea of spending time under the sun doing nothing on a beautiful island was very inviting! I think Vietnam is a great destination for beach holiday. Its coastline stretches the entire length of the country, almost 3000km. Stunning white sandy beaches fringed by coconut palms and lapped by the warm South China Sea offer peace and tranquillity.”


[ADDENDUM] - Sydney's best pho? - Foodwink

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***
That's it for Delicious #5. Hope you enjoy the roundup! :)

Delicious #6 is hosted by Javaholic. Send your entry to sijeleng[at]gmail[dot]com by 10 October 2010. (wow, special day! ;))

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Nutella blondie. The perfect sweet to share.

>> Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nutella Blondies

There are occasions I find it hard to answer the question “ What to cook?”.

Not sure about you, but for me, it is not easy to find the perfect pot luck item(s), especially if your fellow guests are from other backgrounds. Different taste, preference and food requirements make it hard to decide on a menu item, especially savory ones. I have had occasions where my guests could not stand coriander (cilantro), spring onions, or even wontons.

The worst occasion was perhaps when one asked for ‘two-minute’ noodles instead of trying an almost perfect wonton short soup. Politeness matter aside, I realized that this girl was used to KFC and the like and had never got any exposure to other cuisines (Hello, are you living in the world?). So, well… for pot luck, I normally choose to bring desserts. Things like chocolate, caramel popcorns and choc chip cookies can hardly fail.

And I can promise this nutella blondie is always a winner, especially among kids. Actually, anything nutella is normally a guaranteed winner, even with me, who doesn’t love it that much. :) I have to thanks the gorgeous Johanna for sharing this recipe. Actually, trust me, jump on her blog. All the old-fashioned and home-made treats she made were absolutely delicious. I have made several recipes from her and always love the results.

Nutella Blondies

Nutella Blondies

Printable recipe page

* 250g butter
* 3 eggs
* 2 cups dark brown sugar
* ½ cup castor sugar
* ½ tsp salt
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 2½ cups plain flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* ½ tsp bicarb soda
* 220g jar (about 1 cup) Nutella (or any chocolate hazelnut spread)

Preheat the oven to 170 C (325 F) degrees. Line a (9″ x 13″) lamington tin with baking paper.

Melt butter in a large heat proof bowl in the microwave. Add eggs, brown sugar, castor sugar, salt, vanilla, flour, baking powder and bicarb soda. It will be quite a thick batter.

Spoon batter into the prepared tin and smooth with the back of a spoon. Dollop nutella over the batter. Use a skewer to swirl it through the batter and make lovely designs.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the batter is puffed and golden but still a little moist in the middle. They will collapse slightly once out of the oven.

Cool in tin overnight and then slice into squares or bars.

Nutella Blondies

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A moment in life #42

>> Friday, September 03, 2010

Beauty,

My mom is in town this week for a short visit. So even the weather is not the best (cold + rainy), it is still very sweet :).


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