Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Green Mango Chile Salad





We eat green mango salad in Hoi An. It lasts but minutes as we attack it with chopsticks. Our group has gotten very adept at their use! I try to make the delicious salad at home. My son's fiance, Tammie, gives me a cookbook on Vietnamese cuisine. Using one of those recipes as a guide I try, though  my take isnt the same. Close, but no cigar!

Peel and shred a hard green mango.  I bought a shredder in Hoi An, but it wasn't that effective. I find my Kuhn-Rikon peeler does a better job. You could shred the mango up to an hour before serving. Anymore time than that and the mango shreds will soften. You want the shreds to have a bite, not be limp. As I discovered. But in spite of being slightly limp, it still was refreshingly good.

Chop a red onion. Thinly slice a green chile. Make a dressing by pounding garlic and green chile together in a mortar. Add sugar, salt, fish sauce and lime zest and juice. Let it sit for fifteen minutes. Drizzle over the shredded mango. Eat it at room temperature.  Peanuts are essential to a traditional salad. Allergies restrain us from using any. If you could use them, they add a delicious crunch. 


GREEN MANGO CHILE SALAD
Serves 4
DF, GF, VN, VG, WF, EF


1 large Green Mango
1/2 Red Onion
2 Garlic cloves
2 Green Chiles
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Fish Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Lime Zest
3 tablespoons Lime Juice
10 Mint leaves
Cilantro
Peanuts(optional)


Peel and shred the mango. Pile the shreds into a bowl.





Hard to use.

Very easy shreds

Chop onion into small dice. Add to mango.

Slice 1 green chile thinly. Add to the mango.

Chop the other chile into small 1/2 inch chunks and place in a mortar.

Add garlic cloves to mortar and pound till you have a thick paste. Scrape paste into a small bowl.

Add sugar, salt, fish sauce, zest and juice into the paste. Whisk to mix. Keep aside for 15 minutes.




Drizzle dressing over mango.

Top with mint, cilantro and peanuts (if you are using)

Toss salad and dig in.




Not quite the salad we made short shrift of at Morning Glory Restaurant, but a close second. We relish it nevertheless.




Saturday, March 21, 2020

Barley Mushroom Risotto



I come across a New York Times insert, a compendium of one pot meals. The barley risotto looks delicious, then again the stylized picture is meant to whet our appetites! Yes, that means my mouth is watering.

I have a handful of mushrooms. Some wilting broccolini. And lots of barley. Barley is the base. Use any stout veggies that will hold up to a fast braise.  Onion and garlic is sauteed till fragrant. Barley toasts along with mushrooms. Broccolini is the green.  I like the color contrasts. Chicken stock hydrates the barley. The risotto braises in a hot oven. Once uncovered, you can see how the barley has plumped up, the nutty aroma an open invitation to sit down to dinner asap! 


BARLEY MUSHROOM RISOTTO
Adapted from NYT Kay Chun risotto recipe
Serves 4

3/4 cup Barley
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion
4 Garlic cloves
1 cup sliced Cremini Mushrooms (any mushrooms will do)
4 Broccolini stalks
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Lots of Ground Black pepper
2 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese


Chop onion into small dice.

Slice garlic cloves thinly.

Cut mushrooms into quarters.

Cut broccolini into 1 inch pieces.

Heat oven to 375F or 190C.

Heat olive oil in an oven proof skillet with a lid.

Add chopped onion and garlic to hot oil and saute till translucent. 




Add chopped mushroom and saute for a few minutes.

Drop broccolini into the pan and mix well.




Stir barley into the oil and saute well for 2 minutes till toasty.




Pour chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil.

Cover the pan and braise in the oven for 30 minutes. 

Uncover and stir in butter.

Scatter parmesan cheese over the risotto. Enjoy. 



The mushrooms cook up soft and chewy. The addition of butter and cheese gives the risotto an appealing silky look. It is a forkful of divine taste. 




Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lamb Curry with Papdi or Papdi Ma Ghosht





Parsi food is always appreciated in our house. I try an easy version of mutton with papdi and eggplant from the Time & Talents cookbook. This compendium is treat to work with, a handbook with an array of cuisines. All recipes come from home chefs, their personal favorites for us to enjoy. 

My adaptation, a faux Parsi experiment, takes the easy way out. No grinding of masala, not too many ingredients. In place of the ground green masala I use bottled green chutney with a few spices added to it. I only use one vegetable, papdi, Indian flat beans shaped like half moons. You will find these at any well stocked Indian grocery store. Top and tail these beans as you would do green beans. Then unlike green beans, you pull them apart. A handful of beans should be enough. 


The meat and beans cook in a pressure cooker. You could very well use an InstaPot in the same fashion. Pressure cook the meat, wait for the whistle, lower the flame and in no time at all you should have a simple yet delicious meat curry.

LAMB CURRY WITH PAPDI or PAPDI MA GHOSHT
Adapted from the Time & Talents Cookbook
Serves 4


1 pound Lamb or Goat shoulder, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons Green Chutney(store bought or home made)
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
2 small Onions
4 Scallions
1 cup Papdi or Flat Romano Beans, trimmed and pulled apart
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons Canola Oil


Wash and dry meat. 

Marinate meat in green chutney and garam masala for 4-5 hours.


Chop onions and scallions into small dice. 


Heat oil in a pressure cooker pan. 

When it shimmers, add onions and saute till light brown.



Add chopped scallions and saute for 1 minute. 



Drop the marinated meat into the oil and saute on a high flame till meat sears and browns. 



Add papdi, kosher salt and enough water. The water level should be just below the level of the meat. 



Pressure cook for 16 minutes. 

Open cooker and allow meat to simmer for 10 minutes so the gravy thickens slightly.

Serve with chappatis or rice.


Easy meals satisfy that sweet spot. Life today is about keeping things simple. This meal fits that bill.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Orange Cake




Orange you glad I'm making cake? No need to answer as the cake is being made regardless!  I've eaten this cake when Prassy's friend Niloufer brings some over. It is delicious, so much so I actually can't help myself, eating several slices. She makes it after reading Atul Sikand's version on Sikandalous, a foodie group. His is good, so I look for the original by Cleobuttera. This page has detailed insights into the cake, gorgeous photographs. So version I will try is the original one. 

I make a huge mess zesting oranges and lemons, not sold for a penny, but more! Juicing oranges also turns out to be one sticky affair. The rest of it is easy. Beat butter and sugar. Add zests. Flavor with vanilla and sour cream. Add flour and leavening agents alternately with orange juice, Scrape the batter into a baking tin and into the oven. Its waiting time. The more I peek in the oven the longer it will take!



ORANGE CAKE

From the blog Cleobuttera
Serves 4


1 1/3 cup AP Flour

1/1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Butter, softened
3/4 cup +2 tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Orange Zest
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Zest
2 Eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Orange Juice

Glaze

1 tablespoon Orange Juice
1 teaspoon Sugar





Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

Butter or spray a 9x4 baking tin with canola spray.


Heat the oven to 350F or 180C.


You could use a stand mixer or a hand mixer. 


Beat butter on medium speed for a minute till soft. 


Gradually add sugar and zests. Beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes. Batter should be light and fluffy.


Lower speed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.


Add vanilla and sour cream. Mix well.


Add 1/3 of flour blend followed by half of the orange juice. Make sure the flour mixes in. Add the next 1/3 followed by the remaining juice. The last 1/3 portion of flour goes in last. Let the mixer go a few rounds just until the flour is incorporated. 



Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tin. 



Bake for 30 minutes till done. A skewer poked into the cake should come out clean. If it doesn't, bake for an additional 5 minutes. The top should be golden brown.




While cake bakes, gently heat the remaining orange juice and sugar till small bubbles appear. Keep aside.

Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes.


Pour glaze on the cake.

Unmold onto a plate. Slice and enjoy.




The recipe calls for a 40 minute wait to slice and savor the cake...don't think so!!! The aroma is just too inviting. Warm cake and a hot cup of tea...bliss!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Eating The Vietnamese Way


Vietnam is charming, magical. It is a country of contrasts from white sand beaches and verdant rice paddies to odd-shaped moss green mountains. Rivers run muddy, coconut palms grow stunted and the people are welcoming. With many rivers in the country, we were transported in bamboo boats, sturdy punts, fast river canoes, always enjoying the lush countryside. It is a poor country, especially in rural areas. And yet the children smile enchantingly, the landscape pleases and the food, oh the food is ever so delicious! This post is a foodie's guide to some of the most delectable, palate pleasing meals we had. Let me whet your appetite with some of the classics. 

Lunch or dinner could begin with Summer Rolls, softened rice paper filled with rice vermicelli, carrots, greens and shrimp or fried fish. Freshness of ingredients is par for the course. The dipping sauce comprises of miso, fish sauce, green chiles, peanuts, sugar, salt and lime juice. Divine! Fried Spring Rolls are small cylinders tightly packed with pork, crab and rice noodles and spices. Extremely divine! 







Pho is omnipresent at breakfast, lunch and dinner. People slurp and spoon it on roadsides and in restaurants. The best, yes I mean the very best I've ever had, can be sampled at Pho Pasteur in Ho Chi Minh City. Served on communal tables, the hot bowl of broth is surrounded by a blizzard of bean sprouts. basil, shiso leaves, mint, and other unidentifiable herbs to add to the broth. Oblong donut like puffs accompany the pho as well. Then there are the chiles! Contrary to popular belief, the red chiles are not as spicy as the green ones! We learned that lesson very fast! A squeeze of lime, chopsticks in one hand and a spoon in the other, we slurp our way alongside the locals. Pho in Saigon is much more robust than the northern versions.




Banh Xeo (phonetically pronounced baan sayo) is a turmeric laced rice pancake, filled with sliced veggies, bean sprouts and shrimp. It should be eaten piping hot. We ate some in The Mekong Delta, but our favorite was a hole-in-the-wall in Da Nang. Banh Xeo Ba Duoung is a small restaurant at the end of a nondescript narrow lane. Looking at your surroundings, you might wonder if you are in the wrong/right place, so use Google Maps and you will get there. Once you are seated the meal appears magically without ordering! That's just the first plate! Crusty pancakes filled with small shell-on shrimp peeking out, steam and sizzle. A mound of herbs, salad, sliced cucumber and eggplant, green papaya slaw, chiles, a peanut and pork sauce to die for and rice paper are on the table. Peel off a rice paper, place the pancake on it, top it with a little of everything, roll it into a cylinder, dunk it in the sauce, take a bite. Experience the burst of flavor in your mouth! A warm crunch, softness, spice, freshness! We polish it off and start again! The trick is to add the fillings sparingly so the rice paper doesn't tear. It takes a little practise, but once you get the hang of it, you are off to the races. We went through five plates easily!! This is what they are famous for. They also had an intriguing beef stir fry and Nem Lui, minced meat on sticks. All of it was delicious. It was an industrious lunch! We licked the bowls of pork and peanut sauce clean!






And then there's bun or rice noodles. Vietnam is dotted with rice paddies, swathes of eye-pleasing emerald, shamrock and chartreuse.  Noodles made with rice, swim in some kind of broth. The Bun Bo, noodles with beef, we had at Bun Bo Nam Bo Bach Phuong  in Hanoi, was exceptional. They only serve this one dish. The noodles come in a large bowl, smothered with fried onions, garlic, lettuce, herbs, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, thinly sliced raw papaya and beef. Chopsticks helped the mix the noodles as the broth at the bottom of the bowl is where the flavor lies. This bare bones restaurant only serves bun bo, and they do it masterfully.




The other noodle dish is Bun Cha, with an addition of grilled pork. Bun Cha Dac Kim, also in Hanoi, is another small establishment with trestle tables and wooden stools. You can follow your nose, smelling the barbeque. The owner looking in askance at five Indians at the table, agitatedly asked us if we eat pork! After an affirmative answer his relief was evident and the bun cha arrived. Broth ladled over grilled pork, sausage, pork belly and raw papaya... the aroma enough to drive us mad! Accompanied by rice vermicelli, herbs, salad and a pungent garlic sauce, we set about adding items to the broth. We order crab spring rolls, which are to be dunked in the broth, transforming crispy rolls into soft ones. It is like nothing I've tasted before! 




One night we ventured into another small place to eat another Hanoi delicacy, Banh Cuon. Soft, velvety rice paper rolls filled with barbecued pork and smothered with fried onions and basil, are made to perfection at Banh Cuon Gia Truyen Thant Van. The rice flour wrap is made on a thin muslin cloth stretched tight over steaming water. The wrap takes five seconds to form, after which it is quickly filled. Every roll is made fresh, so our order takes a while since everyone wants their own! They melt in your mouth, their slippery texture a challenge to pick up with chopsticks!




If you've indulged in too much meat and fish, then it is time to step inside Hum Cafe in HCMC. Be prepared for a flavor explosion. Our three meat lovers were drooling over the sweet potato salad, fried lotus stems dusted with spices, mushroom spring rolls and the tofu scallop curry. A must-do if you are in HCMC!






The scenic coast brings us to clams with ginger and lemongrass, oysters on half shell with wasabi, squid and grilled prawns. No sauce required! We sit at Ba Le, a beach cafe, dig our feet in the sand, enjoy the cool sea breeze, savor the peace and quiet and scarf down fresh seafood.










Street vendors churn sugarcane juice in super clean machines. We buy a ridiculously cheap glass every so often. Coconuts are ubiquitous, with sweet water and soft flesh. Sliced mango with chili and salt is mouth puckering. Dragon fruit, pomelo, jackfruit, passion fruit, custard apples, longans, oranges and guavas were part of our daily diet.




If you haven't had a Vietnamese cold coffee, you will have missed an essential taste of this country.




We come to the Banh Mi, the addictive sandwich of Vietnam, a crusty French bread loaf, filled with pate, roast meat, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and a fish sauce vinaigrette. Anthony Bourdain ate at a small sandwich shop in Hoi An, Banh Mi Phuong, and now the lines are out the door. Then there's Madam Khanh- the Banh Mi Queen. Both sandwiches were outstanding, Madam Khanh having a slight edge over Bourdain's preference. 



I have to mention Quan Banh Khoai Hanh in Hue, where we ate a plateful of shrimp and pork wrapped in a glutinous coating and then steamed in banana leaves. Banh Bot Loc is so much fun to eat, messy but delicious. Chopsticks help some!





We stumbled with dessert. There weren't too many choices. On many occasions it was a sizzling banana pancake from a roadside stand, drizzled with condensed milk. Or ice cream.




Then there was che. Little Bowl in Hanoi does a tender coconut, jackfruit, tapioca pearls, pandan jelly, coconut and condensed milk bowl, served with a side of ice. Refreshing and light, che was the perfect ending.




We did enjoy fine dining at Morning Glory, Nu Eatery and Hai Cafe in Hoi An. We reveled in our stay at the luxurious Ana Mandara in Hue. Highway 4 in Hanoi offered us an extensive menu in exotic meats. The only non-Vietnamese meal we relished was the excellent thin crust pizza at Pizza 4P.  

Vietnamese food is diverse enough not repeat a meal. We left with a gamut of dishes we had yet to try !You could eat like a king or a pauper and still be completely satisfied and replete.

Chopsticks are de rigueur. An adventurous appetite is a must. The Vientiane table awaits you!