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Friday, May 31, 2013

Thit Suon Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops)

Thit Suon Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops) 1

While grilling up Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers) for my Memorial Day luncheon, I decided I could toss in a few pork chops into the marinade and re-do the photos for my Basic Vietnamese Marinade for Chicken and Pork. Well, I re-did the chicken pictures several years ago by making wings, my favorite meat for the recipe, but never did get around to making pork chops.

I ended up leaving the pork chops to marinate overnight, although you can get away with doing it for only about an hour or so. You can also cook them in the pan, like I've done many times before in the pictures with the basic marinade recipe. They grill up rather quickly if you choose pork chops that aren't too thick.

I served the pork chops simply with rice, steamed cabbage, and an egg doused in soy sauce and Sriracha chili sauce.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad)

Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad) 2

I wanted vegetables to serve alongside my Memorial Day luncheon of Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers) and this Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad) was the perfect complement. Crunchy, light, and flavorful. The spaghetti squash strands stay crispy even heavily doused with a fish sauce dressing. The Vietnamese vinegared onions provide a nice tart contrast.

If you cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time and have the vinegared onions already marinating, the whole salad comes together in minutes. In fact, I deseeded the spaghetti squash, separated the strands, sliced the cabbage and herbs, and dressed the salad while Jin of Seeking Food skewered the meat. She finished her task, turned around and wondered when I had made the whole thing.

Ha! Cooking with me is magic. :P

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers)

Thit Heo Nuong Xien (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Skewers) 1

For months, Jin of Seeking Food and I had been trying to meet up, but couldn't get together until Memorial Day. Of course that meant I had to barbecue. Well, I didn't have to barbecue, but no Memorial Day is complete without one!

I found a one pound chunk of pork shoulder in my freezer, leftover from when I made Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon and Lotus Roots. The pork made me think about reshooting my Bun Thit Heo Nuong (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork) recipe long ago. Even though I said grilled in the initial recipe, I didn't have one at the time and just cooked it in my kitchen. Jin was eating low-carb though so the rice vermicelli noodles were out. I had spaghetti squash on hand, but instead of making a rice noodle bowl with spaghetti squash, which would have been a good idea actually, I made Goi Bi Soi Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Salad) to serve on the side since I was pairing it with pork skewers.

She liked the Vietnamese spaghetti squash salad so much that I sent her home with some. As for the pork skewers, I was only making lunch for two, so you can easily double or quadruple the recipe if you're making them for a party.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Angel's Knoll and Angel's Flight - Los Angeles (Downtown)

Angel's Knoll and Angel's Flight Railway - Los Angeles (Downtown) 3

After leaving The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles, we headed up Bunker Hill to Angel's Knoll. Otherwise known as Angelus Plaza (no idea why they called it thus in the movie) or the park with Tom's bench in "(500) Days of Summer."

There used to be a plaque on the back of the bench commemorating the movie, but I guess someone stole it. You can just barely see someone sleeping to the right of the bench, so we wandered around the park to other benches to take pictures, but it just wasn't the same. This really was the best bench for views!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles (Downtown)

The Last Bookstore - Los Angeles (Downtown) 1

After a quick snack at Sarita's Pupuseria Salvadorean Food - Los Angeles and quick snaps around Grand Central Market, we walked over a few blocks to The Last Bookstore for some more pictures. Specifically upstairs, where there were several book sculptures that I'd been wanting to photograph.

The Last Bookstore is huge, with aisles of new and used books, and records. While it's no Powell's City of Books - Portland - Oregon, it's the largest and nicest bookstore I've encountered in my years in SoCal.

Love the antique-looking globe and chair. You can see a hint of the records area in the back.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bong Bi Nhoi Ca Tom Chien (Vietnamese Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Fish and Shrimp)

Bong Bi Nhoi Ca Tom Chien (Vietnamese Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Fish and Shrimp) 1

I love when squash blossoms are in season. I meant to update the photos for my recipe for Bong Bi Nhoi Tom Chien (Vietnamese Shrimp-Stuffed Deep-fried Squash Blossoms) when I decided to tweak it a little bit instead.

I added minced fish to make it a little healthier, and added chopped cilantro for a bit of freshness. Otherwise, the recipe is pretty similar to what I originally made long ago, fresh squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp, lightly dusted in rice flour, and fried crispy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amaryllises, Blueberries, and Night-Blooming Cereus

5.23 Amaryllises, Blueberries, and Night-Blooming Cereus 1

May is quite a lovely month in the garden. The amaryllises in the side yard were in peak bloom. The amaryllises were there when I moved in so I can't take any credit for them.

A few weeks later, most of the blooms had faded.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sam Woo Crisp Fish Skin Laver Flavour

Sam Woo Crisp Fish Skin Laver Flavour 1

While at Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra recently to pick up a to-go order, I saw a young couple in front of me buy a bag of Sam Woo Crisp Fish Skin. Huh! I've never seen this before.

Is it good? I asked the cashier.

She said it was, and at $2 a bag, not too bad of a price to experiment. They had regular and laver flavor. I opted for the seaweed, thinking just plain fried fish skin didn't sound very flavorful. I thought maybe it'd be like the salmon skin in salmon skin rolls at Japanese restaurants?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry

Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry 1

A 5-minute meal for when you're starving and want a yummy homemade dinner right away.

OK, I lied.

It technically took me six minutes, but that wasn't nearly as catchy. I needed that extra minute to slice the shallots and mince the garlic.

That's not counting the cooking time for the rice, but if you have leftover rice that you could quickly zap in the microwave, then you're good to go. If not, this Thai Basil Beef Stir-Fry goes great in lettuce wraps for those who want to eat right away or are watching their carbs.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Amok Talae (Cambodian Steamed Seafood Curry)

Amok Talae (Cambodian Steamed Seafood Curry) 1

A few weeks after making Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry) (Twice!), I decided to switch it up a bit by adding shrimp and clams to the fish, swapping out the wild betel leaves for Thai basil leaves, and adding Thai red curry paste.

You can opt to use all of the modifications, or just one, but it's nice to vary the recipe a bit just to keep it interesting. If you're feeling lazy and don't want to slice and dice, you can skip adding all the aromatics and just do a big spoonful of Thai red curry paste instead.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Com Chien Ca Man (Vietnamese / Chinese Salty Fish Fried Rice)

Com Chien Ca Man (Vietnamese  Chinese Salty Fish Fried Rice) 1

One day while stopping off at my youngest uncle's house to borrow some tools for my dad, his wife sent me home with several pieces of dried salted fish.

"So you can make salty fish fried rice," my aunt said.

My uncle said it wasn't the "right" kind of salted fish, but my aunt insisted I could still use it to make salty fish fried rice if I wanted to.

So I did.

Actually, it was their oldest son, cousin Q's older brother, who turned me on to salty fish fried rice from Sam Woo BBQ - Alhambra. How come his parents didn't give him any salted fish, my cousin asked. I dunno? But he could come over to my house for some if he wanted. And even though my uncle said it wasn't the "right" kind of salted fish, it tasted good to me!

I'd been on the lookout forever for the "right" kind of salted fish for fried rice and had no idea which to choose from the varied selection at the Asian grocery stores. Too many kinds of salted fish! Anyone have any idea which is the "right" kind? Perhaps I was making it too difficult and should have just taken my aunt's attitude of using any type of salted fish I like.

You don't need much salted fish for this recipe. Salted fish is salty! So I save the soy sauce for drizzling at the end if I decide the rice needs a little more, instead of stirring it into the fried rice while it's cooking. And like Sam Woo, I also paired it with some sauteed lettuce to cut the fishiness factor down a notch.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry)

Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry) 1

I was brainstorming ideas to make use of my new grill, thinking of Otak Otak (Indonesian Spiced Fish Paste Grilled in Banana Leaves), but I haven't located my food processor from the move (I know! It's been nearly a year! Still unpacking!) and didn't want to mince fish by hand. The Malaysian version, which is of Nyonya origins is more of a steamed curry, and similarly named because the mixture resembles brains. Hmm. Other versions include, Hor Mok (Thai Steamed Fish Mousse) which uses pureed fish and Mok Pa (Laotian Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves) which has dill, but it was the Cambodian version, Amok Trey (Cambodian Steamed Fish Curry) that held my interest.

Perhaps it's because the few Cambodian dishes I was aware of or had eaten before, were actually Vietnamese or Chinese in origin. And while the above-named Southeast Asian fish custard dishes seemed similar to each other, with some minor variances, they were quite different from anything I could think of in Vietnamese cuisine. I wanted to try making something Cambodian.

The steamed curry is more like a light custard or mousse than the soup-based curries that I'm used to. The recipe uses Kroeung (Cambodian Spice/Herb Paste) that varies from each cook, but includes lemongrass, kaffir lime zest and leaves, galangal, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and chilies. Rather than buying a packaged kroeung mix, I used those basic ingredients in the amount of spices and herbs that I prefer in my cooking. I substituted the galangal with ginger as I don't care much for the former. And lastly, I used Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste) instead of Prahok (Cambodian Fermented Fish Paste). I guess Mam Nem (Vietnamese Fermented Anchovy Sauce) would have been a closer substitute, but I do love my fermented shrimp paste.

The result was a savory, fragrant dish that paired perfectly with plain jasmine rice. I mistakenly wrapped it completely in banana leaves the first time, but it was so good that I made it again the next day to photograph it properly. Even my dad, who hates curries, ate a bowl of this steamed fish curry. If you're not so concerned with presentation though, I'd recommend wrapping it completely in banana leaves as they impart more flavor to the curry custard while it's steaming. If banana leaves aren't available, then just use oven-safe bowls.

It does take a bit of work mincing the various herbs and spices, but trust me, it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon and Lotus Roots)

Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon and Lotus Roots) 1

My dad was in town last month to work on the house again. He can be very difficult to cook for. My dad doesn't like spices or curries, both of which I love. Since my parents have become much more health conscious these days, a lot of Vietnamese comfort foods like Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) aren't made often, if at all anymore. But after too many meals of fish or venison, my tastebuds were craving pork or chicken, the latter of which my dad doesn't like either (I told you he was difficult!).

When I spotted fresh lotus roots at the Asian grocery store, I started to brainstorm for recipe ideas. I've made Canh Cu Sen (Vietnamese Lotus Root Soup) before, but that was too simple for what I was craving. Perhaps I could replace the hard-boiled eggs in the usual braised pork recipe with lotus roots? I spotted daikon radishes on sale too and it seemed like the perfect foil, the freshness of the radish to balance the earthiness of the lotus root. The daikon also helps tenderize the meat. I used a relatively lean cut of pork shoulder for this recipe to keep it healthier, but feel free to use a fattier cut or even pork belly if you wish. I think a bit of Chinese five-spice powder would be lovely as well, but as I said, my dad doesn't like spices so they were omitted.