Category Archives: vietnamese

Back to school announcements

It’s been ages since I felt like the whole “back to school” thing affected me. But here I am, in full mom mode, having dropped my child off for his first day of preschool. He put his lunch away in his little cubby, kissed me goodbye, and charged into the classroom in his walker without looking back. I was so proud of him.

Sure, things might be changing for him, but I feel like they’re also changing for me. Sitting down, I feel like I need to have a little come to jesus with my computer. Where am I? Who am I? What am I writing next? I have so many exciting small projects, but I need big picture focus. I need lesson plans.

In the meantime, I want to share a few things with you. They’re like announcements, only the loudspeaker is hopefully much less annoying:

  • First, the September/October issue of Edible Seattle is out, and The Recipe of Summer (or The Recipe My Wife Won’t Put Away, if you ask a certain someone) is on the cover. Yup, that’s it, right up there – the vermicelli noodle bowl that’s taken over every dinner party, every weekend, and every ingredient in my refrigerator. I’ve made it a gazillion ways, often with squash, sometimes whirling hot peanut butter into the dressing, sometimes topping it with grilled spot prawns, sometimes containing it in rice paper wrappers, like Vietnamese-style summer rolls on steroids. I’ve tinkered with the vinaigrette until it’s just the way I love it. The recipe is below. Pick up a copy of Edible Seattle for more recipes; they’re designed to help you use the abundance of squash hanging fat on their vines these days.
  • Tomorrow, September 7th, a joint art exhibit opens at the Gage Academy in Seattle. Spearheaded by my friend Hannah Viano, a papercut artist, “Straight Back Home to You” explores the concept of home through physical art, dance, voice, and smell. (Guess where I come in?) You can experience all of them together at the opening reception on September 21st.

In the meantime, here’s that new favorite…

Summer Garden Vermicelli Salad (PDF)
Originally published in Edible Seattle’s September 2012 issue

serves 4 | start to finish: 30 minutes
This flexible, colorful salad takes advantage of whatever your garden gives. These days, that probably means cucumbers, carrots, and squash, but use whatever vegetables you prefer—think tomatoes, thinly sliced peas or beans, or shredded basil. Use the marinade on chicken, per the recipe below, or substitute tofu or fish. If you’re feeling fancy, fry thinly sliced shallots in canola oil and use them as a crunchy topping.

for the dressing
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fish sauce
2/3 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 to 3 teaspoons sriracha, to taste

for the salad
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed of excess fat
About 8 ounces rice vermicelli (8 little bundles)
2 large carrots, peeled
2 small yellow or green zucchini, trimmed
2 small cucumbers, trimmed, peeled if needed
2 cups thinly sliced crunchy lettuce, such as romaine
4 sprigs mint, finely chopped
12 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

First, make the dressing: Whisk the dressing ingredients to blend in a medium bowl.

Combine 1 cup of the dressing, the canola oil, and the chicken breasts in a baking pan, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (about 400°F). Soften the rice vermicelli according to package instructions.

Put the chicken on the grill, allowing any excess marinade to drip back into the pan first. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is well marked on both sides and cooked through.

Meanwhile, divide the noodles between four large bowls or plates. Grate the carrots, zucchini, and cucumbers with a food processor or hand-held grater, and add them in little piles next to the noodles, along with the chopped lettuce. Slice the chicken and divide it between the salads. Top with the mint, cilantro, and peanuts, and serve while the chicken is still warm, drizzled with plenty of the dressing.


Filed under egg-free, Et cetera, gluten-free, recipe, stir-fry, vietnamese

Soup for consumption

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker's Soul

Calling this beauty a soup is a bit of a stretch. Sure, it fits on a spoon, and slides down the throat like a cure, but it’s really meant to be just that – a tonic, with some occasional added chewability.

I met her at Frank and Michelle’s house last week. We gathered there for a Saturday night feast, with a Wooly Pigs Berkshire pork shoulder and a few bottles of St. Joseph, to hear about their trip to India. (We never did talk about India, did we?)

Before dinner, Michelle pulled a pot off the back of the stove. “It’s a quick little consommé,” she murmured nonchalantly. Like we all make consommé on Saturday nights.

The kitchen showed no signs of the true consommé process, a (probably, once you’ve done it more than twice, not all that) tenuous procedure that involves adding ground meat and finely chopped vegetables and egg white to an intensely flavorful stock. (The choppy bits gather up all the impurities in the stock (read: the fat), and eventually float to the top of the liquid, to form what’s ridiculously (in my opinion) called a “raft.” You take the raft off, and serve a perfectly clear, delicious liquid. Here’s a great Cookthink post on making pho from scratch with good pictures of how the raft works. The final product is gorgeous, but I’m only convinced it’s worth it when I’m not the one cooking.)

Chopped chilies

Michelle’s consommé was a well-dressed, low-maintenance version. She started with a rotisserie chicken and a box of store-bough chicken broth, and let the two simmer together with ginger and lemongrass, and enough spice to really get the nose running. We chopped basil and cilantro and mint up good and fine, stirred it into the strained liquid, and served it in big mugs, along with lime juice and thin hot pepper slices.

It was as convincing as chicken soup, but bright, and fiery, and somehow quite springlike, with the soft, sweet herbs floating on top. The night got cold more quickly than any of us expected, and when we went outside to wait for the pork to cook, the consommé was a necessary companion. I almost didn’t want dinner to come.

Then the pork came out, with silk stockings around each and every string of muscle, and we ate it with Frank’s lemon gnocchi, and we were ohso happy we hadn’t stopped at soup.

I made Michelle’s soup again a couple nights ago, only for dinner, with shredded chicken, to feed the cold Jim contracted in Boise. (Last weekend, he and my brother had another adventure. They rode Bogus Basin Road, 16 miles and 3,000 feet up. At the top, they got caught in a thunderstorm. Jim stuffed his jacket, Tour-style, with the first 100 pages of a phone book, to stay warmer on the way down. Even so, the next day, he was sick sick sick. We thought perhaps it was consumption. Or SARS.)

I left the herbs whole this time, simply because they seemed more fortifying that way.

Sure enough, when Jim left for Finland this weekend (I do hope we’ll hear from him here, but no promises), he seemed stronger.

Maybe it’s just a cold. Or maybe it’s The Soup that Cures Everything.

I certainly feel better.

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker's Soul 2

Chicken Soup for the Road Biker’s Cold (PDF)
When your immune system gets caught in the undertow, you need a soup that sasses back. Here’s a spicy Asian-inspired broth for spring, whose bright spice and fragrant whole herbs make eating chicken soup out of “soup season” an actual pleasure. This shortcut version, based on one my friend Michelle makes, is spicy enough to warm you up, but if you’re really under the weather, load up on the chilies (or use a spicier variety) and smoke the bad stuff right out.

For a more filling soup, turn it into a version of pho, with vermicelli and bean sprouts, or stir in chopped spring vegetables, like asparagus, chard, peas, and green garlic.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

3 1/2 to 4 pound rotisserie chicken (look for a plain flavor)
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2” piece ginger (about 1” in diameter), peeled and thinly sliced
3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1” chunks (white and light green parts only)
5 peppercorns
5 cilantro stems
2 red jalapeno peppers, very thinly sliced (seeds included)
Juice of 2 medium limes
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce (or to taste)
4 big stalks Thai basil
4 big stalks mint
1 cup cilantro

If your chicken has any sort of wacky seasoning on it, remove the skin. (Your dog will be happy to help, if it’s not crisp and delicious enough for your standards.) Remove much of the chicken’s breast and thigh meat and shred it. (You should have 4 loosely packed cups of meat, and enough meat left on the bones to flavor the broth.) Set aside.

Place the chicken carcass in a large soup pot, and add the next 7 ingredients, along with about 10 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 1 hour.

Add one jalapeno’s worth of pepper slices, and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Strain the broth carefully through a fine-mesh sieve, and return to a clean pot. Add the lime juice, and season with salt and fish sauce, to taste.

Divide the chicken and remaining jalapeno slices between 4 large bowls. Add broth to each bowl and top with herbs. Serve immediately.

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Filed under chicken, gluten-free, husband, recipe, soup, vietnamese

One snazzy slaw

Done with tomatoes. For now. And back to real life in Seattle, soon.

Red Cabbage Slaw with Cashew, Lime, and Basil

Red Cabbage Slaw with Cashew, Lime, and Basil (PDF)
Recipe 225 of 365

“Slaw” usually evokes minimally-flavored vegetables clumped together with mayonnaise, but this is about as far from that as you can get: thin slices of cabbage, bell pepper, and scallion are dressed (but not bound) with a bright, tangy, slightly spicy vinaigrette that echoes the flavors of Southeast Asia. Add chicken, snap peas, shredded carrots, cilantro, or mint, if you’d like.

TIME: 30 minutes total
MAKES: 6 servings

1 small red cabbage (about 1 pound), quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, quartered, seeded, and cut into 1” strips
3/4 cup red or white scallions (including green parts), very finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon sriracha (Thai chili-garlic sauce)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 cup roasted, salted cashews, finely chopped

Place the cabbage, peppers, and scallions in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and sriracha until the sugar has dissolved. While whisking, add the canola oil in a slow, steady stream, and whisk until combined. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, add the basil, and season with a little salt. Just before serving, stir in the cashews.

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Filed under recipe, salad, side dish, snack, Thai, vegetables, vietnamese

Everybody loves fish sauce

A staple ingredient in many southeast Asian kitchens is fish sauce, known as nam pla in Thai kitchens or nuoc mam (also spelled nuoc nam) in Vietnam. It’s basically fish wine, if you can stand to think of it that way – fish that’s been stacked in barrels and fermented with salt. But really, it tastes way better than it sounds. Just don’t spill it in your sleeping bag, like we heard friends of ours did recently.

Although the stir-fry beef available in most grocery stores will work for this recipe, it will really be best with high quality cuts (such as tenderloin) sliced very, very thin. I buy mine from a local rancher, or in the section that sells thin, gristle-free cuts of meat for shabu-shabu at my local Asian grocery. Serve simply over lettuce, or over a bed of chilled rice noodles.

For a pescetarian version, simply skip the beef and replace it with shredded carrots, green papaya, jicama, and perhaps a few peanuts or tofu pieces, if you’re looking for protein.

Vietnames beef and cucumber salad

Recipe for Vietnamese Beef and Cucumber Salad
Recipe 166 of 365

The dressing for this salad is based on Mark Bittman’s recipe for Neua Nam Tok, a grilled Vietnamese beef salad from The Best Recipes in the World.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 3 servings, or 4 servings over rice noodles

1/4 cup nuoc mam, nam pla, or other fish sauce
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sriracha (chili-garlic sauce)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (1-pound) English cucumber, sliced 1/16” thin on a mandolin
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 packed cup mint leaves, torn into smaller pieces if large
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 pound thin-sliced beef for stir-frying, cut into bite-sized pieces, if necessary

Whisk the fish sauce, lime juice, shallot, garlic, sriracha, and sugar together in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cucumber slices and herbs, and toss to blend. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat. When hot, add the peanut oil, then the ginger, and stir once. Add the beef and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, or until no pink remains. Transfer the beef to a strainer and any liquid drain out while the beef cools, for about five minutes. Toss the beef with the cucumber mixture and serve immediately over lettuce or rice noodles, or refrigerate and serve the next day.

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Filed under Beef, recipe, stir-fry, vietnamese

Phad Thai Noodles

I wish pad thai wasn’t so likeable. Its popularity crested like a bad fad, but unlike Hypercolor shirts, I still love it every time. Why should I be embarrassed to order it at a Thai restaurant, then? Somehow I can’t. I feel the server’s judgmental eyes searing through my skull, wondering if I’m a real eater. Ordering pad thai seems like the ultimate cop-out, like I’m a kid again and there’s only one thing on the entire menu that sounds even remotely appealing. Like if I ordered it, I’d have to explain myself.

A lingering pad thai craving steered me toward these noodles. There’s nothing particularly Thai about them (they’re made with spaghetti and cashew butter, for goodness’ sake). In fact, with lime, cilantro, and fish sauce, they’re more Vietnamese than anything (but please don’t call this Vietnamese food). My husband dubbed them phad thai, pronounced like “fad” to make fun of how much I love noodles in anything nutty, and it stuck.

Most importantly, they’re delicious. With plenty of deep cashew flavor and a little heat, they have what it takes to cure my pad thai craving when I don’t have the ingredients for pad thai or the guts to order it in.

Phad Thai Noodles 1

Recipe for Phad Thai Noodles
Recipe 64 of 365

Feel free to substitute cooked shrimp for the chicken. And make plenty – they’re delicious the next day straight out of the fridge.

TIME: 35 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

2 large chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup cashew butter
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup chopped scallions (green and white parts)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus limes for garnish, if desired
1 – 3 teaspoons sriracha, Chinese chili paste, or other hot sauce
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
1/2 cup whole roasted cashews, chopped

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. When the pan is hot, add the oil, then add the chicken and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred the meat. Cover with foil to keep warm.

While the chicken is cooking, combine the cashew butter and the boiling water in a large mixing bowl. Allow the water to melt and soften the cashew butter for about 5 minutes, then use a fork to stir the two together until the mixture is smooth. Stir the scallions, ginger, soy, brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, hot sauce (to taste), and cilantro into the cashew butter to make a sauce, and set aside.

Salt the pasta water, and cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Place the pot over low heat, add the cashew sauce and shredded chicken, and toss with tongs until well combined and the sauce is warmed through. Stir in the cashews, and serve warm, garnished with lime wedges, if desired.


Filed under chicken, Pasta, recipe, Thai, vietnamese

Recipe: Udon Vegetable “Pho” with Cashew-Chili Paste

Chicken noodle soup is great and all, but I’m most excited by the panoply of broth-based soups that most Asian cuisines offer. There’s Vietnamese pho, with its fragrant broth and all those bean sprouts and licorice-scented basil leaves you get to pile in yourself, Thai soups like Tom Kha with plenty of ginger and coconut milk, and the whole family of Japanese ramens . . .here’s my “mixed-race” version (if I may say that without being attacked), made with Japanese udon noodles, a gingery cashew-chili paste, and all the fun pho fixins you could want. Of course, you can also use rice or soba noodles, and add thin chicken or beef slices, if you prefer.

Recipe: Udon Vegetable “Pho” with Cashew-Chili Paste

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Filed under japanese, vietnamese