BBQ Pork Meatballs on Vermicelli

I grew up with friends that would go out for Pho once a week.To this day I’ve yet to order Pho at a restaurant because I’ve always been able to get my hands on some homemade stuff. Now I’m finding a lot of my friends falling in love with Vietnamese Vermicelli. The three classic proteins are BBQ pork shoulder, pork spring rolls, or BBQ pork meatballs. Any combination of the three is delicious, although I prefer all three as its a great way of serving pork three ways.

Vermicelli

Marinated Pork Shoulder Slices fresh off the fire.

Like most Vietnamese dishes, pork vermicelli relies on how fresh the ingredients are. Luckily for me, my herb garden grows both mint and purple perilla. You’ll find that most Vietnamese restaurants will add pickled carrots to the mix as it is a great way to add texture and acidity. It is also much like a salad in the sense that you just toss the ingredients in fish sauce and it is ready to enjoy. My all time favourite protein with vermicelli is the BBQ pork meatball. The sweet and spiciness is unique and it also just so happens to be the most visually appealing.

Vermicelli

You’ll want to see this full size.

This has always been my favourite Vietnamese dish. I always found it to be underrated growing up although judging from my what my friends now order I believe that to be changing. In my opinion, this dish sums up everything that is great about Vietnamese cuisine. You have a lot of raw components which taste horrible if they aren’t fresh. You also have a very light tasting noodle in order to keep the overall fresh mouth feel. Next, you have a complexly sweet, savoury, and smokey protein (and in the case of the spring roll you also get a more obvious texture contrast). Last, you get a wonderfully balanced fish sauce which tastes incredibly light considering it has one of the highest glutamic acid concentrations that you’ll be able to find (what makes things taste savoury). Usually in other cuisines you’d smother the protein in some tomato product. It is not by total chance that Indian tomato based curries have become popular worldwide, along with tomato based pasta sauces and our favourite, Ketchup! Just a light glazing of this fermented fish product however, gives you a deep meaty sensation. It does this without compromising the light and fresh feel of the dish which to me is incredible.

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Deviled Eggs Revisited (Recipe)

I did deviled eggs last fall but I didn’t include a recipe. While I was stuffing my face with these last week I decided that something I love enough to overeat every time I make should be shared. I often find that the simplest things to make taste the best.

Ingredients:

  • 12 – Eggs.
  • 1/2 cup – Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp – Dijon Mustard
  • 1 stick – Minced Celery
  • 12 Slices – Double Smoked Bacon
  • 24 – Cherry Tomatoes
  • Salt, Pepper, and Smoked Paprika to taste
  • Chopped Chives for garnish

 

Deviled Eggs

Click for full size

 

Method:

  1. Hard boil the eggs and take off the shell.
  2. Cut the eggs, in half, lengthwise and remove the yolk into a bowl.
  3. Use a fork to mash up the egg yolks and combine with the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, celery, salt, and pepper until smooth.
  4. Fill each egg white with the egg mixture.
  5. Fry off the bacon and use the smokey bacon fat to cook the cherry tomatoes in on medium heat until they just burst a little.
  6. Garnish with more minced celery and chopped chives.

Tips:

  • The egg mix can also be used in an egg salad sandwich (egg salad sandwiches with smoked bacon is in my top 10 all time best sandwiches).
  • They can be made in advance and stored in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.
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Reflecting with Marinated Mushrooms

A while ago I had a conversation with a friend about deleting old content. This is a natural temptation I used to face almost daily. With practice, we all better our skills and after about half a year of blogging I grew embarrassed  of my old stuff. The most obvious thing is how much better my photos look now in comparison. Also, my views on food, cooking, and eating have changed enormously which is perhaps the most embarrassing thing about reading my old posts. I think it is for this very reason however, that it is important not to take down my old stuff.

Before I started publishing anything on Mai Food I talked to another friend and her most memorable advice was to make sure my blog had something to offer people that would make them want to come back. I’m not sure I was successful in this regard despite my best efforts. A few months ago I started posting recipes. If I made anything clear when I started blogging it was that I did not believe in recipes and that I would never put them up despite moans from friends and family.

I feel like my maturing philosophy towards food makes it difficult to commit to one set of ideals when it comes to blogging. As I continue to learn, the nature of my posts are likely to continue to change. I’ve become very interested in this idea which is why I think it is important that I keep all my old stuff up. To me, the process of maturing is more compelling than any one thing I could ever write about.

With that in mind, one of the first things I ever blogged about was marinated mushrooms. I’ve never written anything that has got as much attention as these marinated mushrooms. I’ve got no idea why because everything that I find embarrassing is evident in this post and yet nothing I write now can even grab a tenth of the attention these marinated mushrooms got. I’m not hugely popular or anything but the fact that what I’m most known for is something I find extremely unpolished was becoming annoying. I decided I’d give marinated mushrooms another go in hopes of besting my previous work:

Marinated Mushrooms

Click for Full Size

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion – julienned.
  • 4tbsp – red wine vinegar.
  • 3/4 cup – water.
  • 1tbsp – salt.
  • 1tbsp – sugar.
  • 1 handfull – enoki mushrooms.
  • 25 cremini mushrooms – cut however you want (I even had some whole)
  • 5 sprigs – fresh thyme (separate the leaves from the stems)
  • 4 slices thick cut smoked bacon – cut into matchsticks.
  • 1/2 cup – butter

Method:

  1. Mix 3tbsp of the red wine vinegar in with the salt, sugar, and water and bring to a boil.
  2. As soon as it boils, pour the pickling liquid into a jar containing the red onions and reserve.
  3. Cook the bacon in the pan until crispy and reserve.
  4. In the same pan, cook the mushrooms in the bacon fat on very high heat in order to ensure that the mushrooms gain colour instead of boiling
  5. Throw in the thyme stems and the butter.
  6. Wait until the butter becomes brown butter and then add in the remaining 1tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss.
  7. Remove the stems and reserve.
Marinated Mushrooms

Click for full size close up

Plating:

I like to put the cremini mushrooms down first and then drape the pickled red onion over top. Then, I like to fill in all of the crevices with bacon bits and enoki mushrooms before I finish the dish with the brown butter, bacon fat, and red wine vinegar vinaigrette and fresh thyme leaves.

Hopefully people like this one more than the first one. I know I do.

Thank you Kasley and Rosalyn for our conversations.

 

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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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