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Friday, February 9, 2018

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Dried Bonito Flakes (Bắp Cải Brucxen Chiên Giòn)

I was in my vegetable garden early this morning - meaning after 10 am when it's nice and toasty - contemplating what to grow this year. The usual lush greens of various plants and veggies gave way to mostly brown with a hint of mustard greens and edible chrysanthemum. I suddenly thought of brussels sprouts and how my girls would be so excited to see their favorite vegetable flourishing right now. My girls won't mind if I feed them brussels sprouts every day, but it has to be cooked in a certain way.

In a previous post, I shared with you one of my girls' favorite brussels sprouts dishes (click here for the recipe). But there's one more - deep fried or roasted in the oven, then topped with dried bonito flakes (pinkish-tan flakes of dried skipjack tuna), or furikake (seasoning made from combining sesame seeds, sugar, dried and ground fish, chopped seaweed, and salt), crispy rice, and drizzled with sriracha aioli or dipped in ponzu sauce. Can you smell it yet?

Surely, deep fry food are unhealthy, but it's so decadently delicious. I do limit the amount of fried food my family eat. But honestly, I like brussels sprouts best when they're deep-fried. It brings out a wonderfully sweet and nutty flavor from the brussels sprouts, making them irresistible. I get that not everyone is a brussels sprouts fan, but that may change after you venture to try this recipe.
RECIPE: Fried Brussels Sprout with Dried Bonito Flakes

1 pound brussels sprouts
1/4 cup cooked steamed rice, optional
bonito flakes
ponzu sauce
yuzu citrus 
cooking oil, for frying

Dehydrating Cooked Rice

My girls love brussels sprouts with crispy rice.  Their faces become animated as they are popping the crispy rice in their mouths.  If you use the crispy rice in this recipe, spread cooked rice out on a tray and dry the rice at 250° for approximately half an hour.
Preparing Brussels Sprouts


I purchased a 2 lb bag of brussels sprouts from Costco. They're already pre-washed. Cut off the brown ends of the brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Keep the loose green leaves separately because they get all crispy and delicious when roasted, and the texture is incredible. Cut each into halves. Make sure they are dry at room temperature. Brussels sprouts that are cold or damp will bring the oil temperature down and the sprouts won't be crispy.
Deep Frying Brussels Sprouts and Rice 

Brussels Sprouts - line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels. In a pot or deep pan, heat oil on medium high. When the oil is hot or reach 400°F, add brussels sprouts. Oil temperature will drop, so adjust heat to maintain this temperature. Be careful, as the oil can splatter.  Fry and stir with a slotted stainless steel spoon until brussels sprouts have a nice golden brown color; usually takes about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.

If you prefer to bake brussels sprouts, preheat oven to 450°F. Mix brussels sprouts with the olive oil on a baking tray.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly.

Rice - fry the dried rice. Once the grains of rice are popping and turns golden brown, carefully use a strainer to remove the popped rice from the hot oil. Place the popped rice on a paper towel to allow any excess oil to be absorbed.

Tossing Brussels Sprouts

In a bowl, toss brussels sprouts and crispy rice, if used, to combine. Set aside.

Mix half of ponzu sauce and yuzu in a small bowl.  Set aside.

If you want to try sriracha aioli sauce, stir 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and 1/2 tablespoon of sriracha hot sauce together in a bowl until the color is consistent; add about 1/4 lime or lemon juice and stir.

Transfer brussels sprouts and crispy rice to a serving plate. Pour the sauce on the bottom of the plate so that brussels sprouts will not get soggy and become salty from soaking in the sauce.  Top with dried bonito flakes.  Serve immediately. 
Eat well.  Stay healthy. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Baked Catfish (Cá Bông Lau Nướng Da Giòn)

It's the Super Bowl. Are you excited about the ads, the game or half-time?
I'm sure my husband can't wait to hog the TV all day.

On Friday morning, my plan was heading out to run some errands and do one small thing a day that makes me happy - that happened to be buying myself some plants and flowers. I had finally stow away my winter decorations and wanted to usher in the blossoms and bloom in anticipation of spring.

Two days prior, I wanted to serve dried chicken noodle - phở gà khô (click here for the recipe) to my family but as I was browsing through a local market, I found myself stopping at the fish section. Right away I remembered hearing my husband complaining we haven't had enough veggies lately. I knew I needed to prepare a meal that would give us a chance to catch up on veggies and what can be better than fish rolls - baked fish with abundant of fresh vegetables wrapped in rice paper. Roll it up with strings of noodle if you want some carbs in your diet. You can buy dried noodle from the store or make it from scratch. It's so much easier to make noodle using a Philips pasta machine but if you don't have one, a potato ricer would work

The baked fish looks beautiful once it's out of the oven.  It inviting and totally irresistible when topped with scallion oil, crispy fried onion, and fresh roasted peanuts.  I just realize what really made me happy today is accomplishing this recipe to share with you.  
RECIPE: Baked Catfish
1 catfish, ask the store to clean and butterfly or split the fish
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
for honey mixure
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
for toppings
green onion, minced
crispy fried shallot or fried onion
roasted peanuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Preparing Honey Mixture

Add honey and lemon juice in a small bowl, mixing to combine.  Set aside.
Marinating the Fish

Pound garlic with a mortar and pestle into a paste. Add salt, sugar, five spice powder, black pepper, and olive oil, mixing to combine.

Using your fingers to rub the spices in and distribute evenly all over the fish. Line onion slices on the baking tray.  Place fish on top of the onion, skin-side up.  Tuck the onion in so the fish covers the onion. 
Baking the Fish

Put the fish tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the fish and baste the fish skin wit honey mixture. 

Place it back into the oven and increase the oven temperature to max (mine is 550 degrees F) until skin is crispy golden brown.
Preparing Toppings

Scallion Oil - while the fish is being baked, in a sauté pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and a clove of smashed garlic over medium heat. The purpose of using the garlic in oil is to impart the garlic flavor in oil You can skip garlic if preferred.  I am a fan of garlic.  When the garlic starts to turn brown, remove oil from heat.  Let it cool down for a minute then add the green onion and mix well.  Discard the garlic.  Set aside. 

Fried onion or fried shallots - I used the premade fried onions. From scratch, slice shallots thinly then fry in oil until crispy.

Roasted Peanuts - I sometime use Planters dry roasted peanuts.  You can roast raw peanuts in the pan over medium low heat until golden.

Use two spatulas to transfer fish and onion onto a serving plate. Spoon scallion oil over the top of the fish. Top with crispy fried shallots or fried onion, and roasted peanuts. Serve with rice papers as spring rolls or lettuce wraps with noodles along with herbs, lettuces, cucumbers, granny smith apple or green mango, and pickled daikon and carrots if preferred. Dip rolls in fermented shrimp pineapple sauce, fish sauce, or tamarind fish sauce.
Here's to your Superbowl celebration with this grand delight.
Eat well.  Stay healthy. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Baked Striped Bass With Vermicelli and Vegetables (Cá Vược Đút Lò)

Happy New Year!

No, I haven't forgotten about this blog nor my readers. Nor do I plan on shutting it permanently, even though that thought had crossed my mind once in a while. But the truth is that my laptop has been acting weird for the last half of the year. It took me hours just to type up a paragraph. Thanks to my  husband who didn't want me to give up on writing so he surprised me with a brand new one.

As the Lunar New Year of 2018 is fast approaching - it's on February 16th this year - let us welcome the year of the dog. There're many traditions and customs for the lunar new year in each country of the countries that celebrate it - China, Korea, Vietnam. Food apparently plays a large part in every country.  From the foodie's point of view, there is no better way to celebrate and learn about lunar new year traditions than through food. Every dish has symbolism deeply rooted in its culture. For instant, fish is a must-have dish in any Chinese new year dinner as it's a symbol of prosperity and surplus.

So, while I was browsing through the clearance section at William Sonoma, I couldn't help myself when I spotted this beautiful red terra-cotta fish baker. Right away, it brought back fond memories of my dear friend and wonderful boss Ellen - when I was employed with the state - who always included us as part of her family and invited us to celebrate Chinese new year at her house every year. Fish was one of the dishes that she always had on the dinner table. As I stared at the fish baker, I knew I had to bake a fish for dinner that night. The striped bass I bought from Costco fitted just perfectly in it. I lay the fish on layers of sweet onion and mushrooms then tucked both sides of the fish with sweet peppers, vermicelli, green onion, and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper. It didn’t take much to be a happy camper as the fish came out from the oven beautifully and tasted so yummy.

If you like this Terra-Cotta Fish Baker as much as I do, it’s available at online William Sonoma for half off.
RECIPE: Baked Striped Bass With Vermicelli
for the fish 
1 whole striped bass
2 bunches vermicelli
1 pack beech or king oyster mushrooms
8-10 sweet baby bell peppers
1 large sweet onion
green onion
freshly ground black pepper
1 bulb of garlic
for the sauce
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sweet cooking rice wine
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
small piece of ginger, peeled, julienned 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Preparing Ingredients for Fish

Fish - gut, scale, trim the fins from the fish, rinse and pat dry. Set aside.

Vermicelli - soak in warm water until soft, drain, and cut into shorter length.

Mushrooms - I love mushroom in general, but my favorite types are king oyster and beech mushroom. King oyster mushroom also known as king trumpet mushroom is sweet, mellow, meaty, and tastes like abalone while beech mushroom has a crunchy texture, delicate, mild flavor that is sweet and deliciously nutty. If you use king oyster mushroom, slice however you prefer - crosswise or lengthwise thinly. Set aside.

Bell Peppers - cut into strips or cut crosswise into rings. Set aside.

Onion - cut crosswise into rings. Set aside.

Green Onion - cut into an inch length.

Garlic - slightly smash, and peel.  Set aside. 

Place slices of onion on the bottom of the baking dish.

Place mushroom on top of layer of onion.

Lay fish on the bed of onion and mushrooms. 

Insert garlic inside the fish's belly. 

Tuck both sides of the fish with sweet peppers, vermicelli, green onion, and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper. 

Cover the baking dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil and cook for 35-40 minutes.

Be careful when removing the fish as the dish is really hot.  
Preparing the Sauce 

Cook shallots, garlic, and ginger in oil until tender.  Turn off the heat.  Add soy sauce and cooking rice wine.  Mix well.  


Serve fish with sauce on the side. You can also drizzle sauce over the fish, noodle, and vegetables. Serve immediately with steamed rice. 

I personally enjoy this dish by itself, especially the noodle and the mushroom.  They go well together.  

Eat well.  Stay healthy.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dự Án Nguồn Sống (Living Water Project in Ca Mau, Vietnam) - Part II - Final Update

It’s hard for us to imagine life without a constant supply of water, let alone potable water. But at this very moment, this is life for many people in remote villages in Vietnam. 

In July, we wanted to provide the basic need of clean water for 32 of the poorest families who lack access to clean water in a remote village of Hop Tac Xa, Ca Mau Province. Your support and generosity have fulfilled the dream for not only these vulnerable villagers but also their future children. 

Our goal of building a community water well was completed in August of this year. The estimated cost was $7000. We not only funded the project, but also helped to rebuild 6 damaged water wells for a nearby village. 

rebuilding water well

As I mentioned in the previous post (click here), the water well system includes:

- a 840 ft deep well
- powerful pump
- a 2000 liter storage tank
- a 6-meter high platform to house the tank
-1,200 meters of main pipes that are installed underground along the path right in front of the villagers' homes. 

The water is pumped continuously to the tank to ensure that it stays full. Each household is connected to the main line to access the water. We also installed a meter for each house to measure consumption and ensure that no one family is overusing the supply. 

It's been 3 months since the community well was built. These families are thrilled to have direct access to a constant supply of clean water suitable for drinking, bathing, cooking, and cleaning. They no longer need to collect rainwater to store. They're no longer forced to use dirty water to wash their hands and clothes, to drink and cook. Their hopes no longer dash by broken promise after broken promise in the past.

The villagers express their sincere gratitude for the simplest of blessings - something that many of us take for granted on a daily basis - and millions around the world lack. 

Together we delivered on our promise and helped this corner of the world to become a little cleaner, a little less thirsty, and a lot more joyful - all because you decided to pitch in. 

Thank you!

Happy Holidays.