Vietnamese bitter melon soup

kho qua

I didn’t have any luck recovering the notebook that I had left behind at the grocery a couple of weeks ago. I called them twice last week to see if anyone was kind enough to turn it in, but after checking the objets perdus (lost and found), nothing turned up. Both gals whom I spoke to said someone probably took it or trashed it and since a week has passed since I lost it, they said that it isn’t likely that it will turn up. Ugh, I knew the chances were slim, but my heart sank after calling them. Nearly a decade of home recipes gone, the most precious ones being those from my grandma and mother.

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Vietnamese bitter melon soup

Sauteed Bitter melon with Eggs

Sauteed Bittermelon

I suffered a major setback in my cooking journey today. I realized, to my horror, that I had left my notebook of recipes that I have been recording notes and recipes in for the last 7 or 8 year at the grocery store yesterday! I remember leaving it in the shopping cart and I had made a mental note not to forget to take it out before returning the cart. But of course, having the memory of a fruit fly these days, I left it behind, and being in France, the chances of recovering this precious notebook of mine is next to zilch! After realizing that the notebook was nowhere to be found in the house, I started bawling like I had just received news that my dog Elroy had just crossed the rainbow bridge. The thing is, this notebook is that precious to me. I’ve recorded recipes that my grandma had taught me before passing away, those that my mother taught me, those that I have learned since becoming a wife, recipes that I had been developing. Having already had a really emotionally tough week, this immense loss was just too much to handle this morning and I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to recover from this. Though I can now make some of those dishes in my sleep, there are many that I was still learning how to perfect.
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Sauteed Bitter melon with Eggs

vendredi vietnamien ~ aubergines braisées

japanese eggplant

My poor blog fell to the wayside and started collecting quite a bit of dust while we were re-doing our kitchen. The renovations had taken much longer than I had anticipated because the mister did all of the handy work himself, including the electricity, plumbing, flooring, painting, and installing the new cabinets. With a regular 9-5, however, his progress had been rather slow, particularly because noise ordinances here in France prohibit any sort of construction that causes excessive noise that could be a nuisance to neighbors on Sundays and after 7:30 pm on weekdays.

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vendredi vietnamien ~ aubergines braisées

vendredi vietnamien ~ soupe à l’aubergine éclatée

aubergine
It’s been a good minute since I’ve shared any Vietnamese recipes, and my rather nascent weekly series has been badly neglected lately. I do, however, have a recipe that I’ve been dying to share with you for months. Being a soup with dark-colored spices and veggies though, I had trouble capturing a decent photograph of the dish hence, no post. Thanks to these long summer days (which are already getting shorter by about 3 minutes everyday), it was still light out when we were getting ready to eat dinner the other day. I seized the opportunity and quickly snapped a couple of shots before inhaling the dish!

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vendredi vietnamien ~ soupe à l’aubergine éclatée

vendredi vietnamien ~ smoothie à l’avocat

smoothie à l'avocat

Winter has definitely arrived. We woke up to a couple centimeters of snow this morning. I know, that’s not much, but it’s not very characteristic of the weather that we normally experience here during this time of year. Usually, the real cold doesn’t come until January or February. This weather is actually very reminiscent of what it was like when I arrived in France exactly two years ago this week. It was a bit of a shock to my system, since we only have two seasons in Austin, extremely hot and mildly hot. So you can imagine, I was less than thrilled to be greeted by wintry weather that year. Despite my affinity for warmer temperatures and sunshine, I think the cold is actually starting to grow on me now. It doesn’t seem to bother me as much anymore, or perhaps, I’ve just learned how to bundle up more appropriately these days. Nonetheless, I was rather surprised to find myself feeling happy to see the snow this morning.

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vendredi vietnamien ~ smoothie à l’avocat

vendredi vietnamien ~ travers de porc au caramel

IMG_5158

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.

xuong ram

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.
xuong ram

IMG_5141

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
hot water
4-5 green onions
oil

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.

Bon appétit!

vendredi vietnamien ~ travers de porc au caramel

vendredi vietnamien ~ porc au caramel

IMG_5081

I must admit that I’m not that great at this blogging thing. My enthusiasm for cooking and baking hasn’t translated quite so successfully into good blogging habits. I’m always eager to share my culinary concoctions, yet my commitment to the blog has waxed and waned since restarting it. Clearly, creating my weekly Vietnamese Friday series has not done much to sustain my motivation to post. I also haven’t been so inclined to post recently because I haven’t quite honed my picture taking skills yet. What I cook up in the kitchen is usually pretty tasty, or so says the husband, but any attempts to photograph my food have only resulted in atrocious and unappetizing images, thus, making me reluctant to share.

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vendredi vietnamien ~ porc au caramel

vendredi vietnamien ~ sauce caramel

IMG_4371

Finally, vendredi vietnamien returns! I’ve actually been cooking quite a bit lately despite the heat in August, but I’ve neglected my blog again recently because I haven’t been able to successfully take any decent pictures of the food I’ve made. Temperatures have already started to drop (8˚C this morning!!) and the sun is setting earlier these days, so there isn’t adequate natural lighting after 7ish for picture taking. And, since I do most of my cooking in the evenings, that makes it next to impossible to take any photos without artificial lighting.

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vendredi vietnamien ~ sauce caramel

vendredi vietnamien ~ soupe à la mousse de crabes

red perilla

Just as quickly as the sun breezed through, bathing us with its warm rays and cheer, it appears as though it will be abandoning Paris soon, along with the mass exodus of Frenchies heading to anywhere but here for their month-long respite. July was filled with nothing but chatter about where everyone is going to vacation and when their long awaited departure would be. When asked when I would be taking off, everyone balked when I said that we’re not planning on taking our vacation until la rentrée, which is when everyone has returned to work and students start school again. The idea of not going away during the summer months is a completely foreign idea to the French. Frankly, I’ve never witnessed such a phenomenon back home in the states where everyone takes off for at least three weeks sans blackberries and laptops. Although I’m a big fan of lengthy vacations and I’ve easily adopted this cultural practice, I prefer to travel when it’s not so hot and the airports and train stations aren’t teeming with people.

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vendredi vietnamien ~ soupe à la mousse de crabes

vendredi vietnamien ~ poulet au gingembre

Gingembre

Welcome to the second edition of vendredi vietnamien! Restarting my blog and creating this series has definitely reignited my food mania and titillated my tastebuds again! I was afraid that my food adoration had been forever extinguished after moving here. Though living in the city of light had been a seemingly intangible dream ever since I first glimpsed the Arc de Triomphe in its full glory, with mini cars whizzing around the turnaround, adapting to life here wasn’t as seamless as I had imagined it would be once the dream was actually realized.

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vendredi vietnamien ~ poulet au gingembre