Saturday, July 04, 2015

Pho-mplings (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Dumplings)

Pho-mplings (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Dumplings) 1

You guys! Why did this not occur to me sooner? A couple of years ago, I had the bright idea of making Pho Burgers, by grinding the spices I used for making Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) and adding them to ground beef. You'd figure that after making Pho Burgers and Banh Mi Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Sandwiches), it would have dawned on me that I could use the spiced meat to make dumplings too...

But it wasn't until last fall when I stumbled upon this Gothamist article about Phumplings in Brooklyn that the pho-spiced dumplings started to take shape. Phumplings are larger and filled with soup, closer to xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings). A bit too much work for lazy old me. Not that I probably won't try that at some point.

Instead, I decided to make regular dumplings with pho spices. I had a rather lean cut of beef, but if you use fattier ground beef, you can get juicier dumplings. I used the same proportion of spices and aromatics as my Pho Burgers -- pureed onion, garlic, and ginger with ground cinnamon, cloves, and star anise spices. Then topped the dumplings with green onions (actually, chives from the garden) and basil, small squirts of Hoisin Sauce and Sriracha, and squeezed a bit of lime. With all the components in place, it was like eating pho in one bite.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Crock Pot Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)

Crock Pot Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) 1

My most popular and most commented recipe on the blog is Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup). I'm not going to rant again about how bun bo Hue is not Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) because with different noodles, different broths, and different meats, you obviously know that by now, right? If you don't, I'll wait while you click over before coming back.

Bun bo Hue is a bit more laborious to make, what with the beef and pork bones, pig's feet, and lemongrass to give the soup its depth of flavor. Not to mention the kick of chilies for spice and shrimp paste for savoriness. So how to squeeze all that into a 5-quart Crock Pot? Obviously, I couldn't use beef or pork bones because that would take up all the space. So I decided to go with a combination of pig's feet, pork spare ribs, and beef shank meat. I reduced the portions of the other ingredients accordingly.

The test came on May 15, 2010. That was a big day in the Wandering Chopsticks kitchen! Tony of SinoSoul was getting a new oven and giving me his old one. It's hard to believe, but for three years, my old oven literally could not boil water. It's a wonder I've been able to cook as I have. I mean, I still cooked noodles, it just took longer until they were done. We were so excited to see the water boiling that we even took pictures! This momentous occasion deserved a corresponding recipe.

In the morning, I prepped the meats for the stock and put them in the Crock Pot on high heat. While the stock was cooking, I prepped the garnishes -- the steamed pork loaf, blood cubes, bean sprouts, onions, and mint leaves. Normally, I'd slice some banana blossoms, but a simplified recipe meant a simplified garnish platter as well. I shoved everything into the refrigerator until it was time to eat.

Nearly four hours later, after picking up my new-used oven and swapping the old one out, and obviously, testing that new-old oven could boil water for the noodles, we sat down to eat the Crock Pot bun bo Hue. Hey! Pretty good! Now, I will admit that the broth isn't as full-bodied as it could have been via the traditional method, but the bones in the pork spare ribs and pig's feet added some heft to the broth. And when it came down to it, the convenience of a Crock Pot bun bo Hue outweighed the few cons. So if you don't have time or are too intimidated to try making bun bo Hue the traditional way, do give my Crock Pot bun bo Hue a try. Like I've proven with my very popular Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) recipe, Vietnamese tradition can be updated for modern convenience without sacrificing authenticity or flavor.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. - Chula Vista

Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. - Chula Vista 1

The Banh Pa Te So Nhan Banh Mi (Vietnamese Pate Chaud (French Hot Pastry Pie) with Sandwich Fillings) and other pastries I brought from Au Coeur de Paris Patisserie & Boulangerie - Westminster (Little Saigon) were great, but by dinner time, we were all hungry. So lil' sis, oldest and second-youngest nephews, their friends, and I all piled into our cars and drove nearly to the Mexican border in Chula Vista.

When we pulled up, the parking lot of Tacos El Gordo de Tijuana B.C. was packed; always a good sign. I was also amused by the signage that said, "Now in California." Tijuana-style tacos for which I don't have to wait hours to pass through border inspection? Score!

The taco selection was pretty awesome too - cabeza (beef cheeks), lengua (tongue), sesos (brains), Asada (steak), tripas (tripe), suadero (back), and adobada (spicy pork) and buche (stomach) for about $2 each. The mulas, sopes, and quesadillas were $3.75. The mula was new to me. It's basically another tortilla on top.