Sunday, July 05, 2015

Thien Long Restaurant - San Jose

Thien Long Restaurant - San Jose 1

First lunch at Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose down, second lunch to go. My high school friend had requested that I take her to a new Vietnamese restaurant for her to try so she could come back with her husband after I'm gone. She says I know what to order. But I don't, really! I just go by what sounds good.

She wanted to find a broken rice place closer to her because one of her favorite places to go when she visits me is Da Nang Com Tam Tran Qui Cap - Westminster (Little Saigon), but the place I bookmarked was closed. So I decided to try Thien Long Restaurant in San Jose because they had Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill) and Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Pork) combined into one.

How awesome is that?! Since most places have Cha Ca Thang Long as a large serving for two people, you can just order an individual serving of grilled pork and turmeric fish in one bowl.

Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec)

Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec) 1

Shortly after dining at Vung Tau Restaurant - San Jose, I was in the mood to recreate one of my favorite dishes from there, Hu Tieu Ba Nam Sa Dec (Vietnamese Mrs. Five's Clear Noodle Soup from Sa Dec). Unlike the more popular Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp), the version from Sa Dec, a city in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, also features ground pork in tomato sauce and a disc of shrimp tempura.

So who is Mrs. Five? Vietnamese often refer to people by their birth order. Since parents are always no. 1, the first child is no. 2. Ba Nam (Mrs./"auntie" 5) is the fourth-born in her family. Or her husband was fourth-born if she adopted his birth order salutation status after marriage. According to Tin Tuc (Vietnamese news), ba Nam was born in 1907 and her name was Nguyen Kim Chung. She had some fame singing Vietnamese opera, and not to be confused with another singer who was also ba Nam, but from Can Tho, she went by ba Nam Sa Dec.

In 1973, after some financial difficulties, she supplemented her income by venturing into the restaurant business, selling her version of hu tieu with the ground pork in tomato sauce and shrimp tempura. As word spread, people would mention hu tieu ba Nam Sa Dec when talking about it. After the Vietnam War ended, ownership of the shop changed. Her adopted child ended up in Sweden, where her photo is displayed at the restaurant that bears her name.

Vung Tau Restaurant is the only place I've eaten that has hu tieu ba Nam Sa Dec on the menu so I've based my recipe off its version. Instead of boiled pork, which is also used to make the broth, I salted and pan-fried mine. The shrimp can be boiled, grilled, or as I did, quickly sauteed. The real key is to add some tomato sauce to the ground pork and to fry up some shrimp tempura. If you don't want to, you could substitute by adding a shrimp to a potsticker wrapper and fry up that. Hu tieu can be served dry or with broth on the side.

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.