Related Posts with Thumbnails

Basic mini snow skin mooncake for Mid-autumn festival

>> Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(Bánh dẻo trung thu)

Snowskin mooncake

So the moon festival is coming close again, and already I have spotted arrays of moon cakes in various Asian shops around town. There are so many kinds, it is really amazing. The thing is, I have never been a big fan of moon cake. Every autumn festival, I am more than happy to share quarter of the cake with B. Better still, he can have all the filling as he likes, as I am only interested in pinching the outer crust/skin anyway.

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.

Trung Thu 2009
Photo of lanterns via Nguyễn Khắc Quân

Of course, mid-autumn festival (tết Trung Thu) is a feasting occasion, featuring all sorts of autumn harvests. For us from northern Vietnam, autumn is the season for persimmons, and absolutely delicious pomelo. The best thing is a flat green young sticky rice dish, called cốm. I would trade anything for fresh cốm, something that I’m sure every Hanoian would miss when they think of autumn.

Actually, I would trade all the moon cakes I make for the fruits and com from Hanoi. But hey, in Australia, moon cakes are the closest things to autumn festival for a lot of us. And never mind the fact that we Australians actually celebrate moon festival in the middle of spring, the spirit is there ;).

Onto the basic snow skin mooncake. It’s perhaps the easiest type out there, and tastes quite delicious. Asian moon cakes are on the sweeter side, and the bean-based filling can be heavy, so I like to make them in mini size.

To make moon cake, you would need a special mould. From experience, the plastic kind is cheaper and actually easier to work with. I got mine from Singapore (thanks MIL!), but I know you can get them from eBay.

Ingredients for snow skin moon cakes are quite easy to get from Asian grocery store. Fried sticky rice flour (see photo, it’s not the normal kind) and sweet paste. I got black sesame, red bean and lotus seed paste. These readily made pastes are a bit sweet, but making them from scratch is a bit much for me these days.


Texture wise, these snow skin moon cakes are not as chewy as the ones I was used to. My MIL said this is a different kind? These have softer skin, and slight nutty aroma from the fried sticky rice flour.

Snowskin mooncake

Two-toned mini snow skin moon cake

My mould is 50g. You can work out the good ratio for your moulds after a few tries (i used roughly 50:50). Be creative and use more colors if you like. These moon cakes are best served with Asian fragrant tea, like jasmine or lotus tea. I think these are more Chinese-style, the Vietnamese ones are chewier, and the fillings are more complicated. Simplicity rules here, and I like it this way.

Printable recipe page

Made 25-30 pcs

200g fried glutinous flour
200g icing sugar
100g shorterning
200ml filtered cold ưater
1/4 tsp pandan paste (or other flavoring and colors of choice)

Around 1kg of mooncakes paste - I used chestnut paste.


1. Mix the flour with icing sugar
2. Ad shorterning and blend well until well-mixed.
3. Stir in the water, stiring until a smooth dough is formed.
4. Divide the dough into two parts. Mix in the flavoring into one part. Knead until the color is mixed through.
5. Rest the dough for at least 30 minutes.
6. Prepare the paste - form the paste into balls of 30g each.
7. After resting the dough, pinch two pieces of dough from each of the colored dough. Tolal weight of the balls should be around 25g.

Snowskin mooncake

8. Sprinkle some rice flour onto a clean surface, roll the dough flat. Place the paste in the centre of the dough, wrap and shape it into ping pong ball shape.
9. Dust the dough with the rice flour. Dust the mooncake mould with flour, tapp off any excess.
10. Press the dough balls to fit the mould. Press. Inver the mould over, knock the bottom of the mould twice, and the mooncakes should be released.
11. rest in the fridge for 30 mins. Served at room temperature.


Vietnamese gingery chicken wings (gà rang gừng). Delicious Vietnam #5

>> Friday, August 27, 2010

Memories of a northern village. Also an entry for Delicious Vietnam. Hosted by yours truly. Details here.

A corner of a northern Vietnamese village

I love my father’s hometown, a small village in the Red River Delta. A typical northern Vietnamese village, where the majority of its resident spend half of the year being farmers. The other half of the years, their jobs vary. From making noodles to bath towels. Some leave the village during the free time to work elsewhere, only to return just in time for harvest days.

I’m not a village girl, not at all. When I was little, my father struggled to send me back to his village every summer holiday. I used to hate the idea. But now, I can’t thank him enough for such a decision. The village, the people, the scent of rice paddy, the heat of summer, green fresh vegetables patch from my grandma’s garden, the beautiful taste of guava, the cold sweet black bean dessert… They are all part of me.

I return to the village from times to times, only to find that time has left its marks and changes are evident. Some people in the village still remembered me, as ‘K.’s daughter or Aunty Six’s granddaughter’. I don’t recall their names although I still recognise some, like Aunty Seven (Dì Bảy). ‘Seven’ is not her name. She is the 7th child of their family, so we call her so.

Aunty '7'

I have always wanted to write about the food of a Viet northern village. But where do I start? The food is so simple, and there is never a recipe. The philosophy is simplicity and local, fresh ingredients. Most villagers go to the wet market daily to gather their ingredients for the day – meat, tofu, fish, sauces and perhaps some vegetables they don’t grow. Vegetables are from the garden. And rice is from their own harvest.

Vietnamese gingery braised chicken wings

With such produces and simple preparation, 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.

And of course, we love our fish sauce so it is one of the key ingredients in this dish. Choose your fish sauce wisely – it’s like olive oil. Good fish sauce has light ‘fishy’ aroma and sweet note. It adds such complexity of flavours to the chicken. I, however, find that not everyone is a fish sauce fanatic like us. In such case, feel free to substitute it with soy sauce.

Traditionally, chicken pieces are used to make the dish. I have opted for chicken wings and winglets since I’m too lazy to chop the whole chicken. Serve this with steamed rice and plenty of steamed vegetables. They go wonderfully together.

Vietnamese gingery braised chicken wings

Vietnamese gingery chicken wings (gà rang gừng)

The key to this dish is fish sauce. Adjust the level of seasoning based on the flavours of your sauce. I recommend Three Crab brand (more here). And go bold with white pepper! If you like, lemongrass can also be added.

500-600g chicken wings or winglets, cleaned
1 fresh chilli, sliced
5cm-piece of ginger, skinned and thinly sliced
1/8 (more or less)cup good quality fish sauce (or light soy sauce)
Lots of freshly ground white pepper
Salt (optional)
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

Marinade the chicken with fish sauce, ginger, chilli, ground pepper and salt for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium hear and add in the chicken. Stir occasionally, make sure that you won’t burn the meat.
As the chicken get just cooked and slightly brown, put in the sugar. You want the meat to be lightly brown while the dish is still saucy. Add in ½ cup of hot water. Continue to simmer slowly until the chicken is fully cooked and flavoursome (around 15 minutes).
Check seasoning. The final flavours should be gingery and peppery. Serve hot with rice and steamed vegetables.

A corner of a northern Vietnamese village


Sticky date scones - International Incident Party

>> Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sticky date scones

August is my birthday month. Although I have kept it low key, my fellow Penny from Jeroxie kindly invited me and another August babe Cherrie of Sweet Cherrie Pie to co-host this month International Incident Party.

And we have scones!

And not just normal scones. I made sticky date scones = cream-based scones (forget the butter!) + butterscotch sauce. It is a dangerous combination. Dangerous, since I cannot stop at one.

I need to sing praise for Gary Mehigan's date and lemon scone recipe, which I found on masterchef website. A very fluffy and buttery scone. Perfect texture. Flavor wise, the date flavour comes out beautifully since the scone itself it not too sweet. I love scone. I love dates. And dates and butterscotch sauce are such a perfect match. It's only natural to keep them together :).

Sticky date scones


Recipe by Gary Mehigan. Remember to work quickly and do not overwork the dough.

150ml-175ml milk
150ml cream
1 egg
3 cups self-raising flour
2 tbs caster sugar
1 cup chopped, dried dates
Finely grated rind 1 lemon
Cream & butterscotch sauce, to serve

Makes 12

1. Preheat oven 200°C fan forced. Line large flat oven tray with baking paper.

2. Whisk 150ml milk, cream and egg together until well combined. Combine flour, sugar, dates and lemon rind in a large bowl. Add milk mixture and stir gently to a soft dough, adding remaining milk if necessary. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough comes together.

3. Press dough out to 2cm-thick. Cut scones from dough and place onto tray flat-side up. Press dough together gently and repeat using the remaining dough. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake 12-15 minutes until golden and well risen. Serve hot with butterscotch sauce + cream or creamy yoghurt

Sticky date scones

Butterscotch sauce

Adapted from

Ingredients (serves 4)

60ml (2/3 cup) thin cream
155g (3/4 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
50g (2 1/2 tbs) butter, cubed
2 tsp ginger powder

Place the cream, sugar, butter and vanilla essence in a medium heavy-based saucepan, stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until well combined.

Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove the pan from the heat. Set aside. Serve at room temperature.


Best-ever Cocoa Brownie. And the miracle.

>> Friday, August 20, 2010

Cocoa brownie

I have been down with a really nasty flu this week. Second time this winter. With that comes medication, and hours staying inside without the strength to do anything interesting.

I learn something in the past few days - acceptance. My friend, H., she may never get well again. And this last stage of cancer is hard and cruel. There is no easy way out. The miracle that we all hoped for might never come truth. But then, isn't life, and the time we had together in highschool a miracle in itself? It is a miracle since 10 years have passed and I still remember H. so vividly. The memory of us riding our motobikes through the old quarter of Hanoi. I was at the back, and she rode so fast. Young, wild and full of life.

Another corner, another point of view

You may guess it - I haven't been that active in the kitchen. The brownie in the photo is something I made a while back. It's a classic recipe from Alice Medrich. I love this brownie - fudgy and intensely chocolaty. While I am not a big fan of these brownie shots, I thought the recipe is good enough to be mentioned and shared around :).

Best ever cocoa brownie

A recipe by Alice Medrich. As seen on my favourite buddy Patricia's blog.

Vietnamese text of the recipe can be found here.

10 tablespoons (140g/1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter
1 ¼ (250g) cups sugar - I used vanilla sugar
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (80g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
½ cup (70g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (74g) walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm (8in) square baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the foil.

In a medium heatproof bowl, add the butter and set on top of a large sauce pan with barely simmering water. Melt the butter, then add sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. Next add the cocoa powder and stir until mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.



Simple food photography styling idea & a mini product review

>> Monday, August 16, 2010

{A note to myself #2}

Playing with chocolate

I’m not one of those who spend a lot of time on food styling. But I’m also one of those who get bored easily if I do thing repeatedly – say, the same set up for every food shots, the same props etc.

Of course I am not against those ‘trademark’ simple shots in Donna Hay or similar. It is a trademark, a signature shot kind of thing. But I like to experiment here or there and add colors and contrast to my photography, even if it’s unconventional. It is all about experiment. Sometimes it works. Most time it doesn’t. But it’s fun and gives me heaps of experience.

I like contrast and warm colors (which is quite different to the way I dress, most of the time in monotonous corporate colors). I like messy, unstructured, organic kind of look in photography (this is me in real life).

What I want to illustrate is the use of simple colourful ribbons as extra prop in the photos to create better and more colorful mood. I'm sure you have those somewhere in the house. Mine was the wrapping of the freebie product. I simply shredded them to create thinner strands.

Playing with chocolate

Products in use: freebies chocolate waterthins wafer straw

Background: texture paper from an online shop I would not recommend (expensive + snail-speed delivery).


+ Tea cups from a set I bought from a home-ware shop in Melbourne.
+ Ribbons: free

Lighting: this is my normal set up (if I have time to shoot during the day) – using the main source of light which is a large window in my living room (we have an open kitchen overlooking living/dining area). The blind is adjusted to diffuse the light.

Playing with chocolate

Now a bit of product review. I received a package of waterthins chocolate selection to try out. Two products to be precise – Waterthins Wafer Straws and Waterthins Crème Delight.
In short, go for the straws, forget the crème delight. The wafer straw is nice and crunchy, which reminded me a tiny bit of pocky, Good for snack. The crème delight is just dull and tastes like chocolate plastic. Pass.


A moment in life #41 - Expired Feeling

>> Saturday, August 14, 2010

Expired Feeling

And they told her she had only 6 months to live.

And she wrote...

"The timeline is 6 months. People seem to be in denial. I myself dont really know how to handle it. Most of the time I am in so much pain, other time I am drugged up so I am still not able to finish my translation work."

I cry for her. I guess I am in denial myself.

I turned 26 last Tuesday.

26, she is the same age as me.



Delicious Vietnam #5 Announcement

>> Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bonniebella has posted the roundup for Delicious Vietnam, August edition. Please check the roundup on her blog for a number of fantastic entries. Delicious Vietnam #5 is returning to Australia for the September edition and will be hosted by yours truly.

To participate to Delicious Vietnam, it’s simple.

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 September (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 #4” with the link to your host.

Please submit to your post by the deadline September 12th 2010, which is:

+) 12 noon, Monday, 13 September 2010 – Melbourne (Australia) time
+) 7 pm, Sunday, 12 September 2010 – Los Angeles (US) time
+) 9am, Monday, 13 September 2010 – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city time

Send your entries to
anhnguyen118 [at]

with Delicious Vietnam #5 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!


Sweet corn pudding with coconut milk - Delicious Vietnam #4

>> Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sweet corn pudding with coconut milk sauce (chè ngô)

I'm running so late for this month Delicious Vietnam! Blaming it on the weather, interstate trips or whatever. Life has been hectic around here...

Anyway, I managed to whip us a lovely and utterly simple dessert for the event: sweet corn pudding (chè bắp or chè ngô). Like most other Viet dishes, it relies on simple ingredients and quite minimal cooking. In this case, fresh corn kernels are must. Usually, sticky rice is added to bind the whole pudding together. I didn't have any on hand, so tapioca pearls were used instead. This substitution is quite nice since it gives the pudding somewhat a lighter texture.

The pudding is best served warm with some coconut milk sauce and toasted sesame. A lovely sweet dessert to warm up the cold nights we still have recently in Melbourne.

(I think this kind of dessert can be found in all places in Asia. To be truly Vietnamese, or truly Hanoi style strictly speaking, an essence made from pomelo blossom (dầu hoa bưởi) should be used - Again, I didn't have any so pandan leaves were used here :))

This post is submitted to Delicious Vietnam #4, hosted this month by Bonniebella.

Sweet corn pudding with coconut milk sauce (chè ngô)

Sweet corn pudding with coconut milk sauce (chè ngô)

Serves 6-8


3 corn cobs
5-6 cups water
A pinch of salt
Around 100g sugar (to taste)
1-2 pandan leaves, knotted

1/4 cup tapioca pearls

Coconut sauce: 250ml coconut cream, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp potato or corn starch, 1 pinch of salt

Toasted sesame seeds, to serve


Clean the corn cobs. Using a thin blade knife, cut the corn kernels from the cob.

Put all the corn kernels in a large sauce pan. Add in water (the water level should be 2 inches above the corn surface) and the pandan leaves. Bring to the boil, and simmer around 10-15 mins or until the corn kernels are just tender, but still retain the 'biteness'. Remove any foam.

While the corn mixture is cooking, prepare the tapioca pearls. Put them in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly to prevent it to burn. Keep on stirring until most of the perls are opaque.

When the corn mixture is almost done, remove the pandan leaves and stir in the tapioca pearls. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, then, put in enough sugar to taste. Keep warm.

Now, prepare the coconut sauce by mixing all ingredients together, and bring to the boil with gentle heat. Stir until the mixture thickens.

To serve: laddle the warm pudding to a bowl, then add in enough (more or less to taste) coconut sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Enjoy!

The pudding is equally delicious served cold!

Tray, after the pudding :)


Sichuan-inspired spicy mutton stew. Spiciness glory

>> Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Sichuan-inspired spicy mutton stew.

It seems that I’ve been on a spicy wagon in the past few days – Korean, awesome Thai food with fabulous blog friends, and not to mention this fantastic mutton stew.

This is the first time I chanced upon mutton at the local butcher. Mutton, meat from mature sheep, is a fantastic cheap cut for stewing and braising. The slow cooking process helps to break down the tough and chewy muscle, yielding such soft and meaty awesomeness. Braising the meat is also a good way for the meat to absorb as much flavor from other seasoning as possible – In this case, a blend of Sichuan peppers, cinnamon, black cardamom, star anise.

Spices for Sichuan-inspired spicy mutton stew.

I am a big fan of Sichuan cooking, and this is such a perfect way to cook mutton. Some Asians don’t like the smell of lamb, and cooking it with lots of spices sort of helps to mask it. No, actually I think the smokiness of the spices enhances the mutton in a good way – the result is a smoky, meaty and perfectly tender meat.

You will notice a traditional Chinese cooking technique in this recipe. The meat is boiled briefly first then rinsed under water to remove impurities. It’s a reliable technique to get a somewhat clearer sauce or broth at the end.

Oh, and don’t skip the daikon.It helps to tone down the spiciness and add some lovely vegie goodness. Potatoes might be good, too.

Sichuan-inspired spicy mutton stew.

Sichuan-inspired spicy mutton stew

Like all stews, this dish tastes better the next day.

Ingredients (for at least 8-10 serves)

2kg mutton leg meat, cut into stewing pieces {can substitute with beef or lamb stewing meat}
5 garlics cloves, slices
thumb-sized ginger, sliced thickly
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
10 dried chili

Spices: 1 cinammon, 1 black cardamom, 1.5 tablespoons sichuan pepper, 1 star anise

Seasoning: 4 tablespoons chili bean sauce (toban djan), 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon or two sugar (to taste)

Others: 1 daikon, skinned and cut into pieces and some oil


First off, put all the spices in one muslin bag and tie up.

Put mutton pieces and just enough water to cover the dish. Bring to the boil, reduce the fire for about 5 minutes. Turn off the gas, take the meat out and skim the foam in the broth.

Bring the broth to simmer again while frying the meat with spices.

In a separate frying pan, heat up some oil. Add in the dried chili, ginger, garlic and onion and fry until fragrant. Stir occasionally.

Next up, put the meat into the frying pan together with all the seasonings. If the mixture is a bit too dry, add in some hot broth. Simmer until the meat is well coated with the seasoning.

Now, add the meat mixture to the hot broth together with the spice bag. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat so the stew barely simmers. Place a piece of baking paper on top (to make sure the meat emegeres totally in the broth).

Let the stew simmer slowly until the meat is completely tender (mine took about 2 hours, but of course it depends the type of meat you use).

In the last 15 minutes, put in the daikon pieces. Cook until the daikon is soft and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve hot with lots of rice and greens. I highly recommend a creamy dessert at the end!


Birthday month & Co-hosting International Incident Scones Party!

>> Sunday, August 01, 2010

August finally comes :). This is a special month for a number of reasons - my birthday in less than two weeks and a special occasion for my family. All waiting!

On this occasion, I have been honoured to co-host Internaltional Incident Party with another August babe, Cherrie from Sweet Cherrie Pie. Thanks Penny for the suggestion!

Here is some of the essential information for the event! Remember, SCONE is the theme of the month! Can't wait for the party get started!

Simple rules for August's International Incident Scones Party!

  1. Dishes must be on theme, of course. And please LINK back to me and my co-hosts, Anh of A food's lover journey & Cherrie of Sweet Cherrie Pie
  2. We will all post the dish on the 22nd of August at 11am (Melbourne) – You can convert to your local time here.
  3. Please email to International Incident Mailbox
    • Your name & Blog URL
    • Name & URL of dish
    • 300x300px of dish
  4. Please upload image and link to flickr group – International Incident. This will be shared with everyone around the world
  5. TOTALLY OPTIONAL - Add #tacosparty #iip when sharing your creation on twitter or upload photo or link on IIP Facebook fan page
  6. Most importantly, ENJOY yourself

**** Please remember to use Linky below to add yourself to the list and also add a comment so that I am able to contact you via email if there are any updates or changes. ****

International Tacos Incident Party

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