YES – I made it back for another weekly edition of vendredi vietnamien! This is quite a feat for me, given my less than frequent posting habits. Lately, I’ve been seeking ways to get my creative juices flowing again to help develop my non-existent photography skills. I’ve been reading quite a bit on techniques for capturing food, leafing through our stacks of cookbooks and browsing gorgeous sites that I have recently discovered, such as B comme Bon and Christopher Cina. Though I don’t own a DSLR and am rather limited in what I can produce with my compact camera, particularly during this time of year when the sun sets shortly after 5:00pm, I feel newly inspired by the talented work of the many others who share my love affair with food.
Despite getting a healthy dose of inspiration, I didn’t experience any sort of creative breakthroughs this week. As a matter of fact, this week’s recipe is almost a repeat of last week’s dish. Once again, I cooked a dish, sườn ram (caramelized pork ribs), that features both pork and nước màu (Vietnamese caramel sauce). It is a variation of a dish that I had learned from my grandma shortly after I had moved to Texas. At the time, my repertoire of Vietnamese recipes was rather sparse and I desperately needed to add some variety to it. I was constantly craving home-cooked food but I had only mastered a couple of my mom’s simpler recipes. Though I really enjoyed those dishes, I was getting tired of eating the same thing over and over. With my mom living in California and me in Texas, it was difficult for me to learn how to make new dishes over the phone, particularly because my mom’s instructions were always vague, without any precise quantities. It was always much easier for me to actually watch her cook in person, allowing me to take copious notes of each and every step.
On one of my trips back to California, I had asked my grandma to teach me how to make something savory, yet not too complicated. Her version of this dish only differs in that it omits the green onions and garlic powder and has the added ingredients of finely chopped lemongrass and dried pepper flakes. Though this version is very commonly eaten, I actually prefer my grandma’s recipe because it’s spicier and more flavorful. My husband, on the other hand, prefers this recipe, so I make it fairly often for him. In fact, he likes it so much that he eats it with rice for breakfast. Yes, that’s how much he loves rice too – he has it with something savory almost every morning before heading out the door! I, however, cannot stomach any breakfast until 10 or 10:30.
Travers de Porc au Caramel
750g spareribs*, cut into 4 cm long pieces
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tspn salt
2 tspn granulated sugar
1 tspn garlic powder
1 tspn ground black pepper
2 tbspn nước màu
4-5 green onions
Marinate the spareribs with 2 tspn salt, 1 tspn sugar, 3/4 tspn black pepper and the garlic powder. Allow the meat to marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Chop the white ends of the green onions into 4-5 cm pieces and the green parts into smaller pieces and set aside. Heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add the shallots and garlic and sauté. When they become fragant, add the pork and season with the remaining salt. Brown the meat and once it is about halfway cooked, distribute the nước mầu evenly over the meat and add the rest of the sugar and black pepper. Then, cover the meat about three-quarters of the way with the hot water. Allow to simmer until all of the liquid has reduced completely and becomes a caramel sauce, enveloping the meat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the green onions, gently folding them in until they are well incorporated. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.
*note:Here in France, the ribs at the Asian markets are already cut into smaller pieces and recently, I’ve started seeing such cuts in the French markets. In the US, however, I never saw the ribs pre-chopped into smaller pieces at the American grocery stores. You can certainly ask your butcher to cut them for you or you can do it yourself with a cleaver.