Category Archives: food i eat

Bò Kho | Vietnamese Stewed Beef

Every Saturday growing up I would wake up to a big pot of food that would last the weekend. The two most popular pots of food that I would wake up to were Pho and Mi, but every once in a while I’d wake up to Bò Kho (Vietnamese Stewed Beef). Usually it would be a big pot filled with tons of stewing beef with large chunks of potatoes and carrots enjoyed with freshly baked bread. Admittedly, stewed beef was always my least favourite of the three. I decided that I would try giving the classic a bit of a facelift while trying to keep as much of what made the dish a classic intact.

Stewed Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1kg – Beef Brisket (cut into chunks).
  • 1.5 L – Coconut Water.
  • 1 large onion (diced).
  • 5 cloves garlic (diced).
  • 2 stalks lemongrass.
  • 1 stick cinnamon.
  • 2 roma tomatoes (peeled and diced).
  • juice of 1 lemon.
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce.
  • 2 potatoes (julienned).
  • 4 carrots (julienned).
  • Chives for garnish.

Method:

  1. Brown the chunks of brisket and reserve.
  2. In the same pot add the onions, garlic, lemongrass and cinnamon.
  3. Cook the onions until translucent and then add the tomatoes.
  4. Add the brisket back to the pot and cover with all the liquid ingredients (fish sauce, coconut water, lemon juice).
  5. Simmer for 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile:

  1. Cut carrots and potatoes into little matchsticks.
  2. Fry the potatoes until crispy and golden.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and toss together and reserve.

I like to sit the salad of potatoes and carrots on top of the beef stew. The crunchiness of the potatoes and carrots adds some textural contrast to the rich and succulent brisket. I finish the dish with chives here but you can toss any herb you want over this. My favourites include thai basil, thyme, and cilantro.

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Sour Cream & Chive Potato Salad

Usually I am inspired by classics that I love. Usually it is something I’ve grown up eating. This week however, I was inspired by something that always lets me down. This is of course mostly my fault since the only times I’ve eaten potato salad is when it comes as part of a combo involving chicken at the grocery store. The last potato salad I had was not too long ago from Loblaws. I decided I had had enough. I had to make my own to see what a real potato salad is like.

Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes cut into chunks roughly a sq. inch.
  • Sour Cream.
  • Chives.
  • 1/2 Celery stalk per potato, chopped.
  • Black Pepper.
  • Salt.
  • Olive Oil.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven with oven tray inside at 400f.
  2. In a bowl combine potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper (all to taste).
  3. When heated, place the oiled and seasoned potatoes onto the hot tray and put back in oven for 35 minutes.
  4. In the meantime chop the celery and the chives.
  5. Combine roasted potatoes with sour cream, celery, and chives in a bowl.

It turns out potato salad is a great accompaniment for chicken after all. It is a great dish you can make a lot of since it tastes great warm or cold. I often make enough potato salad to last me a few meals. I just have the potato salad hot the first time and cold all of the other times.

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Com Bi | Vietnamese Shredded Pork

I’ve been eating shredded pork since I can remember. It is a very traditional Vietnamese dish which my family still regularly makes. It is quite Vietnamese in the sense that there are very few components but they all compliment each other very well. I feel like what a lot of the modernization of cuisines all over the world have in common is this notion of keeping what is important to the classics and getting rid of anything nonessential. On top of more tasteful plating, I feel like there is definitely a more minimalist approach to food these days. I suppose that is why I’ve found it a bit more difficult to modernize Vietnamese food compared to other cuisines since traditional Vietnamese cuisine is fundamentally minimalistic already. Thus, although this shredded pork recipe is not by the book traditional, I wouldn’t say any modernization really happened.

Shredded Pork

Ingredients:

  • 200g pork chop
  • 2 tbsp roasted rice powder
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • salt to taste

Method (Pork): 

  1. Cook the pork chop in a pan with butter until golden brown and cooked all the way through.
  2. Take out and cut into matchsticks and reserve in bowl.
  3. In a clean pan melt butter on medium high heat and add in garlic, sugar, fish sauce, and white pepper.
  4. Add the pork chop matchsticks back to the pan and incorporate over medium heat.
  5. In a separate pan warm up the roasted rice powder on medium low heat.
  6. Incorporate all ingredients from both pans.

Ingredients (Pickled Carrots):

  • Equal Parts water and white vinegar
  • sugar and salt to taste
  • carrots

Method (Pickled Carrots):

  1. Place the sugar, salt, water, and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. While this is happening julienne your carrots and place in a jar.
  3. Pour the boiling pickling liquid into the jar of carrots and leave overnight. (They will last for 4-6 weeks in the fridge)

I like to serve the shredded pork on rice. I top the pork with a medium fried egg and some pickled carrots and fresh cucumber. I like to finish the dish with chives, chive flowers, and some homemade fish sauce (I will blog about this soon).

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Persimmon Salad

Something that I always had growing up was a good fruit bowl. I first realized I had taken them for granted when I got to university. In hindsight, the lack of vitamins probably exacerbated the incessant greyness of the Kingston winters. Most of my favourite fruits happen to be summer fruits (probably because I love all berries) however, my two all time favourites are actually pomegranate and persimmon.

Persimmon

 

I’ve never tasted a persimmon cooked in any way that was as good as a ripe fresh persimmon so I decided to just compliment it with some feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, and pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette. I finish the plate with a bit of basil.

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Rosemary Balsamic Roasted Figs

Figs aren’t big in Vietnamese cuisine. In fact, before last night, I was the only one in the household to have ever actually tasted them. I used to talk to a friend about how growing up in an Asian family (he’s 3/4 Chinese and I’m Vietnamese), we were almost made to feel bad whenever we did not like something. It was even worse when we did not want to try something. As was common practice, the elderly at dinner parties would comment on how mature they thought your palate was. This cultural phenomenon is so deeply rooted it can be found embedded in the language (at least in Vietnamese). When I used to express my discontent for stomach or intestines my family friends would exclaim in Vietnamese that “I didn’t know how to eat it.” Of course, cultural differences account for the fact that this sounds extremely rude in English. Hilariously enough, I found it a bit hypocritical how the same people exclusively ate Chinese and Vietnamese food, refusing to ever try foods originating from other parts of the world. Luckily for me, my family is always up for new flavours.

Roasted Figs

 

For the figs, I just stabbed them with the stems of rosemary and popped them in a pan with a balsamic reduction. The balsamic reduction can be made by simply adding icing sugar to simmering balsamic vinegar. I basted the figs until they became a bit darker in colour by absorbing some of the balsamic vinegar. After taking them out of the oven the balsamic vinegar thickened a bit and became much sweeter. To balance this out I finished the dish with some basil ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and some pine nuts for texture.

The figs were a hit which I hope will reinforce the “try anything once” mindset my family currently holds.

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Korean Inspired Braised Short Ribs

I probably order Kalbi over 75% of the time I go to a Korean restaurant. The flavour is unmistakably delicious. It should come as no surprise that eventually I would want to make my own. Although I kept the flavour roughly familiar, I decided that it would be interesting to play with the texture. I cut thicker slices of the short rib as opposed to the traditionally thin cuts found in the Korean version and braised them to achieve a melting texture. For 7 lbs of short rib I just added the following together as both the marinade and the braising liquid:

  • 1.5 cups soy sauce
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 750 ml mirin (rice wine)
  • 2 large grated apples
  • 2 large grated onions
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil

After 24 hours submerged in the marinade and 2 more hours in a light simmer, the short ribs start to fall off the bone. This made plating quite difficult.

Braised Short Ribs

 

With the short ribs having a Korean flavour to them I decided to go with an asian starch. Taro root can be prepared similarly to potatoes which ultimately is what I ended up doing. With the richness of the short ribs and the heaviness from the mashed taro, I felt that the dish would do well with something crunchy and acidic.

This is where the carrot, cucumber, and shallot pickles come in. Together, the pickles, taro, and short ribs create a cycle of salivation when eaten together that make you want more and more. 1lb of short ribs per person and nobody left dinner satisfied.

Braised Short Ribs

 

I finish the plate by spooning over some of the braising liquid as well as some green onion.

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No Bake Cheese Cake

Seeing as how classic new york cheese cake is in my top 5 favourite desserts of all time, it comes as a bit of a surprise that I actually like Gordon Ramsay’s no bake cheese cake even more. The original recipe can be found here: http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/gordon-ramsay/vanilla-cheesecake-recipe however, I had some left over Captain Morgan from the weekend among other things:

Ingredients:

For the topping:

  • 6 – Mr. Christie’s Arrowroot Cookies
  • 6tbsp – Sugar
  • 75g – Unsalted Butter

For the cake:

  • 400g – cream cheese
  • 6tbsp – icing sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 600ml – double cream
  • icing sugar to dust
  • fresh mint to garnish

For the berries:

  • 200g – blueberries
  • 100g – pomegranate
  • splash of rum

Cheesecake

 

Method:

For the topping:

  • crush arrowroot cookies into tiny pieces
  • melt the sugar into a light caramel
  • to prevent the caramel from becoming too dark, take it off the heat as soon as the colour is right and add in cold butter to cool down the caramel
  • add the crushed biscuits and coat them in the caramel

For the cake:

  • Combine all of the ingredients except for the icing sugar and the mint in a large bowl
  • Keep cool in fridge to make it easier to shape

For sauce:

  • Combine berries and pomegranate in a pot and bring to a boil
  • After some of the berries burst deglaze the pan with a splash of rum and turn down the heat to a simmer
  • take off the heat when the sauce reaches desired thickness

I finish the cheesecake with the crushed arrowroot cookies on top and some fresh mint. This lighter take on a cheesecake works well when you don’t want to go into an everlasting food coma.

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Butternut Squash Soup w/ Fried Potatoes and Fresh Sage

After coming home and eating Pho 3 meals in a row I decided it was time for a change. Having had so much beef in the last 48 hours I decided to do something vegetarian. In the Mai household, vegetarian meals are not considered complete so it was to my surprise when everyone said they were on board for a soup.

I started off by roasting some butternut squash and some garlic in a 400f oven for an hour. After it cooled down I put everything in with a handful of chopped sage and a cup of cooking cream into a pot to incorporate. After all the flavours have gotten to know each other I blend it until smooth and serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Soup

 

I finish the smooth soup with some crunchy fried potatoes which I made while the squash was roasting away in the oven. The contrast in texture and the bold creamy flavours make this a great holiday starter.

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Butternut Squash Gnocchi

As winter makes its presence more obvious, I decided that I use the sage in my garden before it became too late. Less than 24 hours after I picked the sage came a pretty sizeable snowstorm. Feeling blessed for what I had I decided to make something I had never actually made before. Usually, Gnocchi is made with potatoes however I decided to go with roasted butternut squash which would help explain the colour (if you were wondering).

Even after an hour and a half at 400f the squash still had a really wet consistency. I decided to cook it out in a pan to thicken it as we were going to have to make pasta after all. It was here I added the sage and nutmeg to give it a more seasonal twist. After adding an egg and some flour I rolled everything into a long stick of dough before cutting into bite sized pieces.

I was quite amazed at how much the gnocchi grew in size during the boiling period. I decided to finish the gnocchi in a pan with some brown butter.

Gnocchi

 

With all the carbohydrates and fat in the gnocchi at this point, I felt like it would be too rich. I was right. I decided it would be best if some acid came to the rescue which is why I finish the dish with some balsamic vinegar.

Gnocchi

 

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Braised Pork Belly Revisited

In June I decided to write about Dongpo Pork which can be seen here. I used the ingredients I was used to eating growing up. Here however, I decided to put a wintery touch to it. I recently met someone who did not know of Innis and Gunn / lived under a rock. After speaking with this person I realized that perhaps Innis and Gunn was not as popular as I had thought as I probably had a very distorted view of the successes of my favourite brewery. It was then that I decided to try my luck at cooking with one of my favourite beers.

Braised Pork Belly

 

The dish actually does not have very many elements to it. First, I toast some pine nuts in some butter for about 5 minutes. Blending this gives you a delicious pine nut butter that can be used in place of peanut butter if you are getting bored. Next, I braise some pork belly in some Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter and brown sugar caramel.  A low and slow 3 hour simmer will leave you with the definition of melt in your mouth. Next, I poach some turned beet root in some Innis and Gunn as well. This yields a beautiful complex sweet, bitter, and oaky juice on top of course the actual beets.

I like to sit the turned beets and braised pork belly on top of the pine nut butter before spooning over some of that magnificent Innis and Gunn beet juice. I finish the dish with some sun flower sprouts. I realize that these aren’t exactly the most wintery of plants but I personally like how it helps the beets liven up an otherwise rich plate.

Braised Pork Belly

 

I really enjoy the oaky elements that the Innis and Gunn adds to the dish. I think it enhances the effect of the massive amounts of glutamic acid imparted onto the pork belly during the slow cook. This umami dense dish is one that I will continue to work on as I am encouraged by how tasty the first attempt was.

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