Monday, February 18, 2008

Morning Cravings

Before going to bed last night I did some browsing on the interweb, searching for anything on vietnamese sandwiches to get inspiration and ideas for making my own banh mi. I LOVE LOVE them. I get teased a lot for it, but I think they are perfect sandwiches and one sandwich always fills me up. When I woke up this morning I had to start off my day with a banh mi. It's probably not normal to eat like this in the mornings, but I grew up eating noodle soups for breakfast or whatever was available. We didn't eat cereal and milk for breakfast in my house.

For my sandwich, I grabbed what I had on hand. I had sub rolls, gio lua, liver pate, pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumber, and jalapeno peppers. I toasted the bread in the oven for 5 minutes while I steamed the gio lua. Once the bread was ready, I split it open and added sliced gio lua, pate, the vegetables, and mayo.

My favorite banh mi is the dac beit, but at home I use whatever I have in the fridge. I'll make them with leftover grilled meat or if I have ground pork I will make a meatball type sandwich. For this sandwich the flavors were all there, but sometimes I feel like sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them. It can be made by my mom, friend, at a restaurant, a store and it will taste better than the one I make. I think I'm ready to start my day now.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

I was suppose to work on weeding my little garden today, but I was feeling lazy and decided to make a snack. Since moving to San Diego, I've been reading local food blogs like "mmm-yoso!!!" and learning about all kinds of foods. I'm very excited about trying Vietnamese cuisine. And it seemed that every blog I looked at the blogger would mention banh beo. I noticed that I had a package of the flour to make banh beo so that's what I did today.

I started off with one package of the flour mix, some dried shrimp, and dried mung beans. I followed the instructions on the back of the flour bag. For one bag, add 2.5cups of cold water then slowly add in 2.5 cups of boiling water.

I brought my water up to a boil and added my dishes. Then I added the flour/water mixer into each dish and let it steam for 3-5 minutes and then removed the dishes to cool before removing the little steamed cakes onto a plate.

I prepared my garnishes. I rinsed, soaked, and boiled the beans until tender. Then I mashed the beans with some salt. I soaked the dried shrimp, drained them, then chopped them up. I made the green onion oil by chopping one bunch of green onions and adding it to hot oil. Then I made my sauce. I didn't know what kind of sauce goes with banh beo so I made the sauce I usually make for eggrolls. I boil some water with sugar, let it cool down, add chili paste, minced garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, and shredded carrot.

I arranged the little cakes on a plate and topped it with the 3 garnishes and served the sauce on the side.

I had a lot of fun preparing these. I would like to eventually go to a restaurant and order some authentic banh beo.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Love Letters

Oh yes, another Valentine's Day has come and gone. What am I left with? Love Letters..Julie's Love Letters that is. They are coconut flavored (egg rolls) cookies/biscuits. They have a crispy texture. They taste sweet, sort of reminds me of a fortune cookie with coconut flavor, but lighter. As a child, my father would buy cookies very similiar to these for me everytime he went to an Asian grocery store. Whenever I want to treat myself or cheer myself up I buy a box of these. In these Love Letters, comes 28 cookies packaged in 2 sealed foil wraps. I can eat all 28 by myself! They come in other flavors, such as strawberry, chocolate cream filling, vanilla, and coffee. I've only had coconut, since that's what I prefer. I've already eaten 6 cookies while composing this post. I had better slow down.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Laap or Goy?

What's the difference between laap and goy? Forgive me if the spelling is incorrect. For some reason I always thought that laap was made with sliced meat and goy was made with ground/minced/chopped meat. I grew up eating a lot of it...with a lot of sticky rice. And it was so delicious, especially since it was made by my parents. There are so many variations and I don't know how to make any of them (but I try). I don't have the toasted rice powder or padek so I use a mix from an envelope.

Along with the the laap, my parents would sometimes serve pork rinds, sliced cucumber, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce, or sadao.

Here's a picture of frozen sadao. I tried looking it up on the internet and only found 'Neem flower'. It's hard to describe. My parents always purchased it frozen and would boil it and let it cool before serving it with laap. It has green stems, leaves, and flower bulbs. It tastes extremely bitter. But I think it goes well with the spiciness of laap.

I made pork goy. I cooked 1lb of ground pork. I followed the instructions on the back of the envelope mix. To that I added juice from 2 limes, shredded pork skin, 4 thinly sliced green onions, 1 diced shallot, 1 diced large jalapeno pepper, chopped cilantro and mint. And I served it with the sadao and steamed jasmine rice.

Tet Festival at Balboa Park

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Vietnamese New Year celebration at Balboa Park. The festival was a mix of carnival rides, traditonal live entertainment, pageants, games, and ethnic food vendors. I had a fun time, but wish I had stayed all day. I wanted to catch the night time live entertainment and fireworks.

Since the next best thing to live entertainent is food, I got into line for some delicious Vietnamese food. I went to 4 different vendors total. The first one was selling coconut waffles and banh khot. I've never had banh khot before. After eating some, it reminded me of kanom krok and tastes like banh xeo.

Did I mention how long the lines were? The second line I got into was a bust. As I approached the front of the line, they vendor ran out of food! So it was on to the next line.

Here is how they make banh khot.

Here's a closer look at the banh khot.

I also got some eggrolls, meatball on a stick, grilled beef on skewers, and Laotian sausages. Some other things I tried and didn't take pictures of were banh chung, banh tet,steamed pork buns, and banh mi. I did a lot of eating. Overall, I had a great time and the weather was perfect. Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Trying Out Something Different

One of my favorite Lao dishes is som moo (soured pork sausage). As a child, I remember watching and helping my parents make it. I think this is the same envelope mix they used. I really wanted to make some but I don't quite trust myself with the task yet. I don't want to end up giving myself or worse others food poisoning. My parents usually made som moo for special occasions or for when we went visiting other Laotian families. Sometimes my mom would make an extra batch and save it to make nem khao, which is another of my favorite dishes. Eventhough I live in an area where I can buy som moo, I had a hard time finding 'the right kind' to satisfy my nem khao craving. I've mistakenly purchased in the past some that were 'sweet' instead of sour/salty. So I decided to do what my mom did when she didn't have any som moo available to her. Here's my version of nem khao. There are two steps to making this dish. First you prepare the rice balls and fry them and then the second step is assembling the dish.

I don't have a recipe with exact measurements. For the rice balls, I cooked 3 cups of jasmine rice. To that I added, 1 1/2 C of grated coconut, 3 tablespoons of Mesaman red curry paste, 1/2 lb. of cooked ground pork, 6 thinly sliced green onions, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Everything can be adjusted to your personal taste preference. I love the taste and smell of the curry paste but others might not like it as much.

I add all those ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix.

To form the balls, I put some of the mixture into a zip lock bag and form the balls (so that I don't touch the mixture - the curry paste irratates my skin). I made about 16 balls. After forming all the balls, I placed them on a tray in the freezer before I fried them. When I was deep frying the balls, I did have one that fell apart on me.

To assemble the dish, I chopped up more green onions and a large bunch of cilantro, fried 14 dried chili peppers, chopped up some dry roasted peanuts, sliced two limes, and prepared some thinly shredded pork skin.

And one package of cubed ham. I know this recipe is strange but it really does taste great. And I find it hard to get others to try som moo so this is a nice alternative to the traditional nem khao.

In a large mixing bowl, I crumbled the balls, mixed in the lime juice and the rest of the ingredients except for the peppers. I served the nem khao over lettuce and garnished with the peppers and mint leaves. I could eat this for the next 3 days. It never lasts more than a couple of hours in my house.