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Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Cha Gio)

October 25, 2010

Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Fried wontons

So, this is a long awaited recipe – that I’ve been meaning to post for some time now. The summer just flew by, and fall – well fall is almost over too. Where does the time go??

If you’ve never had Vietnamese spring rolls, you are definitely in for a treat. No, they are not egg rolls – and I take offense to anyone calling them that. They are so much better, and so worth the effort to make. In general, I don’t like to make deep fried food, but these just don’t taste the same if you don’t. Trust me, I have tried baking them – and they end up tasting too dry. But,..hey…once in awhile we can splurge a little for something we love.  I try not to make them that often (even though my kids and hubby love them), otherwise, they wouldn’t be a treat anymore.  I do try to make them a little healthier by adding some spinach and carrots. My recipe is a meat version though – I always feel cheated when I bite into a vegetarian one that is mainly cabbage and needs to be doused in plum sauce to make them have any taste at all (hence – my thought on Chinese egg rolls).

Before I met my husband, I had these spring rolls for the first time in a little Vietnamese restaurant here in Ottawa. It was in love at first bite. And that orange sauce – nuoc mam – was just a perfect pairing – I was in heaven.

Then, when I met JJ, his parents made them for dinner one night. I didn’t think anything could top the spring rolls I had in that little restaurant until I tasted JJ’s parents. They were even better – lots of filling, not too much vegetable and I wasn’t biting into a roll of oil.  I HAD to know how to make these. That was 15 years ago. Now, I am known for MY spring rolls and have many people who pay me to make them for their events.
Secretly…I think my version is even better than my in-laws….but…shhh…don’t tell them that.

Now, making spring rolls require a little time and time management.  I usually make the meat mixture and do the rolling the night before the event. Once you get the hang of rolling them, doing 40-50 will take about 1/2  hour. Refrigerate no more than 2 days. There is  raw meat in the rolls and you don’t want all you hard work go to waste. If you like to really plan ahead, you can freeze them at this state, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  I’m usually not that organized. About 2 hours before the event, I will deep fry them. 1 minute per roll. So, if I’m frying 8 at a time, that would require 8 minutes. So, if I need 48 of them, that would mean 6 batches of 8  -and it would take be about 50 minutes to fry them all. So, I need to get things going at least 2 hours before the event – get the oil heated, fry them, get myself ready and also count-in  driving time.

So, your probably saying, enough of the talking, just give me that recipe. So, here it is. Step by step instructions.

The ingredients.

The ingredients:

ground pork (you could also use ground chicken or turkey)
1 bunch green onions
2-3 carrots
2 cans shitake mushrooms (or rehydrate the dry version)
vermicelli noodles
oyster sauce
(you can find these ingredients at an Asian store or the even the bigger grocery chains like Loblaws)
salt
garlic powder
1-2 pkg of spring roll pastry (you will have to find this at an asian grocery store).
2 tbsp flour (don’t add to meat – this is the glue to hold the rolls together)

Optional Ingredients:

shrimp, spinach, hoisin sauce

Preparation:

Step 1: Cover the noodles with hot (but not boiling) water. Allow to soak for about 5 minutes to soften, then drain.

Chop up roughly with some scissors.

Glass noodles

Cutting up the noodles

Step 2: Grate the carrots, slice up the green onions and shitake mushrooms. Add the meat and chopped up noodles. Then add the seasonings: oyster sauce, garlic powder, salt. This is all to taste – and depends on the amount of meat you are using. I use about 1/2 cup of the oyster sauce and about 2 Tbsp of garlic powder. Mix it all up together by hand.

In a separate small bowl, add the flour and about 3 tbsp of water. Mix it up until you get a glue like texture. Just add more water/flour to change the consistency. Set aside.

Meat Mixture ingredients

Adding the seasonings

The meat mixture ready to be rolled.

The glue!

Step 3: Prepare the spring roll pastry, by carefully peeling the layers apart. Try not to rip them if possible.

Spring roll pastry

Ready to Roll!

Step 4: Now, you’re ready to roll. I like to use a 1 tbsp scooper to spoon the mix out on the rolls. That way, I don’t have to get my hands dirty, and I get an even amount of meat in each roll. Put the mix onto one corner of the wrap. Fold that corner over the meat mix and gently pull back and squeeze to spread the mixture out a bit. Then fold the two outer corners inward, and roll up towards the the top corner. Add a small dollop of the flour glue to the top corner to seal the wrap. Work as quickly as possible to make sure the other wraps don’t dry out, which makes them harder to roll. Follow the picture steps below to see how I roll them up.

Step 5: Once you’ve rolled them all – you are ready to fry them. Make sure the oil is nice and hot.  A good test I do, is to insert a wooden chopstick into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the chopstick, it is hot enough. My rule is that for each spring roll you add to the oil – add a minute to your timer. I usually cook 8 at a time, so I set my timer for 8 minutes. Drain on  paper towels. Change paper towels if getting too oily.

Ready for frying.

Ready for sampling!!

So, there you have it. They are tasty enough on their own, but I will usually serve this with a mix of nuoc mam and sweet chili sauce. People always like to dip, and this just gives the spring rolls a little kick of heat!!I hope your enjoy making them as much as you like eating them. Let me know how yours turn out!

Hot Pot

July 10, 2010

If you’re ever looking for a fun and Adventurous meal to have with a group of friends, Hot Pot is a great social meal. You get a bunch of ingredients, share a pot of broth, and cook up your ingredients, and scoop out whatever you can find. It’s a fondue – but so much more healthier than a cheese, oil or chocolate fondue. The ingredients are totally up to you, and are never the same from house to house, but, always equally fun and delicious. Again – this recipe has been adapted by me, but originally from my mother-in-law. It’s relatively easy to put together. I serve it with some fried rice on the side.

Hot Pot with Broth and Platters of ingredients for cooking

Tools you’ll need:

Hot Pot (or just use a small pot)

Butane Burner (or you can use an electric wok)

Food nets (see above) and chopsticks

Dipping bowls

Ingredients:

Broth:

I use a mix of chicken and pork bones. I find the broth has a nice flavour that way. But, you could use just chicken, pork or beef, or even just a pre-made broth or powdered bouillion. I like to make my own – for one, to control the amount of salt that is in it. Two, that I can make a huge stock pot of it to have some of the soup leftover for any remaining ingredients to enjoy as a soup the next day. And, I just think homemade soup is generally tastier and healthier than any store bought pre-made stuff.

Broth ingredients

Sometimes I add a few stalks of lemon grass just for added flavour.

Lemon grass

Boil a stock pot of water about half-full of water and add about 1 Tbsp of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the meat and lemon grass. Allow the broth to bubble and boil for about 1/2 hour while constantly skimming off the foam that rises to the top. This part is important to end up with a nice clear broth. Lower the heat and allow to boil just enough to see bubbles surface and put the lid on. Cook at low heat for about 1 hour, then turn off heat until ready to serve.

Skimming off the scum/foam.

Hot Pot ingredeints:

As mentioned, the ingredients are really a personal preference. Here is what I have used:

some hot pot ingredients

Beef/Pork balls

I also use pre-packaged pork/beef balls – only because my kids love them. I will usually add them to my broth in the hot pot as they take a little longer to cook and they enhance the flavour of the broth.

Arrange them on platters as I have done below:

Meat Platter

Here I have used pre-sliced lamb and raw shrimp. Beef, pork and chicken work well too. Just make sure they are sliced thinly so it doesn’t take too long to cook. I would normally have the seafood on one platter, and other meats on another platter, but, I ran out of space.

Other fun ingredients to try

Here I have used: mushroom fish (looked interesting, so I thought I’d give them a try), calamari, assorted fish balls and quail eggs.

Vegetables

Taro

Here, I have used sliced taro, enoki mushrooms and yu-choy.

About a half hour before dinner, heat up the broth again. Once it’s boiling, carefully ladle the broth into your hot pot pan. I have a pan with two sides. On one side, you can add a satay type sauce to make a spicy soup, or tom-yum style broth, the other, you can leave as is to make a plainer broth. Serve everyone a bowl of plain or fried rice, crank up the heat on the burner and get your guests to start cooking!!

I like to serve with a few choices of dipping sauces: sesame dressing, hoisin sauce, hot sauce, soya sauce or peanut chili sauce. Use whatever you like. I make my own by mixing a couple of these ingredients together.

The key here is : BE ADVENTUROUS! Try things you haven’t tried before. There are alot of interesting things at Asian grocery stores. A hot pot is the perfect time to give them try!!

Chai Tea

June 6, 2010

One of my most favourite type of teas is Indian Spiced Chai. I especially love the Chai Latte’s at Timothy’s or Star Bucks, but they are full of sugar and the flavour doesn’t really come from a true brewed tea. I’ve also tried chai at many Indian restaurants, and it seems to be a hit or miss. I’m not fond of strong flavours like ginger or the bold/bitter taste of ceylon tea. I like a more calm flavour – so, my version actually omits these ingredients. I use decaf tea which is not as strong to allow the flavours of the spices I do add to really shine. If you don’t like cardamom – then this tea is not for you. But, if you do and want to try an adult version of hot chocolate – then you should definitely give this tea a try. Many of my friends have asked for this recipe, and I get many requests to make this for family or friends’ functions. I hope you are able to duplicate it and enjoy it to.

cup of chai

Ingredients:

Chai Ingredients

2 sticks of cinnamon

1/4 cup cardamom seds

1/8 cup cloves

tea bags (1 bag per 2 cups)

sugar (to taste)

cream or whole milk

cheesecloth and string (optional)

4L of boiling water

Step 1:

Start off by boiling a pot of water. Fill it up as high as possible. I am using a 4 quart pot. It will make about 10 cups of tea in the end.

I don’t have a tea infuser that is large enough to hold all my spices, so, I just use a piece of cheesecloth. You could just throw the spices in the boiling water, but you will have to strain them out before serving. I prefer to use the cheesecloth, so I can just fish out all the spices at once. So, first start off by putting the cardamom seeds in the centre of the cheesecloth. Then fold the cheesecloth in half, and smash/bruise the cardamom seeds with a mallet or pestle. Smash the seeds enough that the cardamom seeds open up and expose the seeds inside. Don’t throw away the seeds or the powder residue that gets left behind. This is where the intense flavours are – so throw it in the pot.

cardamom in cheesecloth

Bruised cardamom seeds

Step 2: Add the cloves, then wrap up the cheesecloth into a nice neat sack.

Bruised Cardamom and Cloves

fold outer edges of cheesecloth

fold in half from bottom to top and tie up with string

trim off excess string and cloth of spice bag

Step 3:

Put spice bag and cinnamon sticks in pot. Add about 4 Litres of boiling water. Allow it to boil for about 1 hours, or until the volume of water is reduced by half and the water has changed into a dark brown colour. Then, add the tea bags. I will usually add about 10 tea bags. I bag per cup of tea.

Put spices in pot

Boil until water is reduced by half and water is brown in colour

Add the tea bags

Step 4: Once the tea is fully steeped, remove the tea bags. You can leave the spices in the pot to make the spice flavour stronger. Then add about 1 cup cream or whole milk. I find if I use 2% or lower milk, the tea tastes too watery. I prefer to use just cream. Then add the sugar – to taste. Don’t omit the sugar though. The sugar really brings out the flavour of the cardamom and other spices.

Remove the tea bags and spices

Add cream or milk

Add sugar

Step 5: bring to a boil again, and serve hot!

Cup of Chai

Creme Caramel

May 11, 2010

Creme Caramel

Creme Caramel is actually a French dessert – but alot of Vietnamese dishes are influenced by French cuisine. I made this for the first time around 15 years ago for JJ’s family not realizing that this was a real Vietnamese treat. In fact, the recipe I used called it a Mexican Flan – so I had no idea they would love it so much. I personally do not like the egginess of it as I am not fond of egg tarts either, but, I will eat a couple of bites just to make sure I made it correctly. Instead, I prefer to watch those that love this dessert eat it with such delight. Since my initial trial, I have been baking this (yes baking…not steaming it) for special occasions and it gets requested for many extended family gatherings.

Actually, I made this for Christmas on our trip to Vietnam last year. Very few people have ovens in Vietnam, so, I was forced to steam it. Steaming it is actually the traditional Vietnamese way. Anyway, it turned out just as perfect as when I bake it. So…you could make this whatever way you prefer.

The ingredients are pretty basic and it’s fairly simple to put together as well. It’s best to make this dessert a day or two ahead of time so it is well chilled. I will use the word flan and creme caramel interchangeably.

I have modified the original recipe so much that I consider this my recipe now. Here is my version of Creme Caramel. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

2 cans of Evaporated Milk

8 large eggs

1/2 cup and 3/4 cup white sugar (total of 1 and 1/4 cup)

1 can coconut milk OR 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1/2 cup milk

Ingredients

Step 1:

Preheat the oven to 350deg F. Boil a kettle of water for the water bath.

In a 4 quart stainless pot, gently heat the evaporated milk and coconut milk. If you do not want to use coconut milk, just add 1 tsp of vanilla extract and add an additional 1/2 cup white milk (doesn’t have to be evaporated milk). I generally just use the vanilla and milk and it tastes just as good, if not better. Add 3/4 cup white sugar. Stir until it is dissolved and the milk just starts to boil. Bring heat to low and allow to simmer. Watch that the milk mixture doesn’t scald or overflow.

Heat up Evaporated Milk and Coconut Milk

Step 2:

In the meantime, prepare your caramel. In a small saucepan, heat up 1/2 cup white sugar. Many other recipes add water to the sugar, but, I prefer not to. Just hold the pan over med-high heat and constantly stir the dry sugar. Slowly, the sugar will start to form clumps, then melt into a uniform dark honey-brown.

Melting down sugar

Sugar is caramelizing

Sugar is completely caramelized

Step 3:

Immediately pour the hot caramel into your baking dish. Quickly swirl it around so it evenly coats the base of your baking dish. Set aside and allow the caramel to harden.

Pour hot caramel in baking dish

Quickly swirl caramel on base of dish before it cools down

Make sure caramel is evenly coated on base

Step 4:

Turn the heat off your milk mixture. Crack the eggs into a measuring cup as you will need to pour this into your milk mixture. If your measuring cup is big enough, you could beat the eggs using a hand-mixer or whisk first, then add them to the milk mixture. I just add the eggs slowly to the pot while beating on med-high. Did I mention to use a stainless steel pot?? You shouldn’t use metal beaters on non-stick pots. Once all eggs are in, beat an additional 1-2 minutes to make sure it is uniform and smooth in texture.

Beat in eggs one at a time

Step 5:

Pour egg mixture into prepared baking dish. The caramel should be hardened by now. You could also pour these into individual ramekins to have single servings. Just make sure your coat the bottom with the caramel first.

Pour egg mixture over hardened caramel base

Fill as high as possible

Step 6:

Now, you need to prepare your water bath. I use a sheet pan with 1 inch rims – but, you can use any pan that will comfortably hold your unbaked creme caramel dish. Place your creme caramel into the pan you are using for your water bath. Make sure there is at least 2 inches surrounding your creme caramel. Carefully place this into the oven and pour hot water in the outer pan and fill up as high as possible without spilling the water. Bake for 45 minutes or until it is slightly golden on top. The mixture might be a little jiggly still, but that’s okay. It will set once it has cooled completely.

Alternatively, you could set this in a steamer and do it stove top. Make sure there is water in the bottom of the pan, elevate the dish with the egg mix in the water bath, cover with a lid and steam it for 30 minutes or so.

egg mix sitting in water bath in oven

Baked creme caramel

Step 7:

Allow the creme caramel to cool down then put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. It must be chilled completely. Once you are ready to serve, run a thin knife all the way around the edge. Go down all the way to the bottom of the mold. Place your serving plate upside-down on top of the mold. Make sure the plate is rimmed to catch all the liquified caramel. Quickly invert and slightly tap the bottom of the baking dish. You should feel a slight shock as the flan comes out and lands on your plate.

Place serving plate upside-down on flan

Quickly invert, tap and lift up

Creme Caramel

And, there you have it. Make 16 even slices and watch it disappear in no time!

Slice of Creme Caramel

Vietnamese Rice Paper Wraps

May 1, 2010

Vegetarian Rice Wraps with Nuoc Mam dipping sauce

Here is an example of something I have learned to love. The first time I had rice wraps was about 15 years ago when I was dating my husband. I must admit…I was not a big fan. I couldn’t get over the texture of the rice wraps, and thus could not appreciate the rest of the ingredients in it, the beauty of the wrapping and the overall healthiness of this meal. After many more trials, this is now one of my favourite standby meals. Even my kids get excited when I make it. While there are many variations of what to put inside these wraps, I have tried to make this as healthy as possible. The main protein ingredient can be all sorts of things: shrimp, baked fish, bbq’d beef or chicken, pan-fried thinly sliced pork or chicken with onions and peanuts or even tofu burgers as what I have used here.

This recipe is my adapted version of rice wraps that was first introduced to me by my Vietnamese mother-in-law.

Ingredients:

Protein source: Tofu burgers, BBQ’d chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, baked salmon/trout, pan fried chicken or pork

1 pkg. Rice Noodles

Greens: leaf lettuce (I’ve used spinach instead), cilantro, and mint. You can use other Vietnamese herbs like purple basil – I just don’t know all the names.

Vegetables: julienned carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers (I’ve used zucchinni), and sliced peppers

1 pkg. Rice Paper

rice noodles and tofu burgers

Wrap ingredients

Rice paper

Step 1: Prepare the noodles

Cook as many noodle portions as you think you need. Generally, I cook as many squares as the number of guests I will be serving.

Put the squares in a boiling pot of water. Cook for 3-4 minutes maximum. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking together.

Cook the rice noodles

Step 2: Prepare you fresh ingredients. Wash up the lettuce, mint, and cilantro. Julienne the carrots, and thinly slice the cucumbers and and peppers. Put all these ingredients together on a plate as shown above.

Step 3: Cook up your protein ingredient. I have just used store bought tofu burgers and pan fried them until they are crispy and golden on the outside.

Fry the tofu burgers

Step 4: Slice up the tofu burgers. My kids don’t care for the tofu burgers, so I am giving them the option of some fried shrimp which is also quick and easy to prepare.

a few types of protein ingredients

Step 5: Prepare your dipping sauce.

The picture I have above is with nuoc mam (fish sauce), but, my kids love to eat it with a peanut satay sauce. I only took pictures of the peanut sauce, so I will describe that. I will add the fish sauce recipe at the bottom.

satay ingredients

Here it is, my ingredients for the satay sauce. Smooth peanut butter and hoisin sauce. And the measurements is usually to taste. I use about equal parts peanut butter and hoisin sauce (about 1/4 cup of each). In a small sauce pan, add the peanut butter and hoisin sauce. Then add about 1 cup of boiling water. Heat and gently stir until it is all mixed uniformly. Add additional water if the mixture is too thick. You could also use a can of coconut milk instead of water which adds a nice richness to the flavour. I have just used hot water.

preparing Satay: smooth peanut butter

adding the Hoisin Sauce

Heating and mixing satay sauce

Sauce is evenly mixed

Pour into individual dipping bowls. You could also add sambal and roasted crushed peanuts to each dipping bowl.

Wrapping the rice wrap rolls:
If you had the time, you could pre-roll the wraps for your family and guests. But, half the fun of this meal is to have your guests add in their own ingredients and roll them up themselves. In this case, just put all the ingredients on the table, give them a quick lesson, and let them at it! It’s a great social dinner as you can feed many, and most people will love it.

Here’s a quick visual lesson:

quickly immerse rice paper in warm tap water

immediately put rice paper on plate

Start adding ingredients: Leaf Lettuce or spinach first

Next, I've added some cilantro

julienned carrots

rice noodles

sliced vegetables (zucchinni and peppers)

Add the protein (tofu)Add the mint

Start wrapping - out edges folded inward

Fold over the bottom edge

Roll until it's all a neat little wrap

Rice wrap with peanut satay sauce

So, there you have it. Slice it in half and look how beautiful and colourful that is.

Nuoc mam (fish sauce recipe):

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup hot tap water

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup fish sauce

optional:

thinly sliced carrots and daikon (lobok

2-3 garlic cloves pressed

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp sambal chili

First, dissolve the sugar in the hot tap water, then add the vinegar. Mix thoroughly. Then add the fish sauce. Adjust to taste.

Add the thinly sliced carrots and daikon. I also like to add juice of 1 lime, 2-3 pressed garlic and 1 tsp sambal chili.

You can store this is your refrigerator for about 1 month.

Here is a link to a good website I found that describes many of the fresh herbs that Vietnamese dishes call for:

http://vietherbs.com

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup – Pho

April 28, 2010

Pho - Beef Noodle Soup

Now here’s a soup that’s the ultimate comfort food. If you’ve never tried Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup – or Pho – then you are in for a treat which will soon become a favourite when you are feeling sick, tired, happy, sad or if you just want something to warm you up in side. Good-bye Chicken Noodle soup – say hello to Pho!

Pho is available in most cities with a China town. It’s a simple quick healthy meal, but tastes so satisfying. I must admit, my family does go out to have pho once in awhile. However, with most restaurants, there are some ingredients that we can do without – namely MSG. That’s why, with a little planning, I can skip the ingredients I don’t like when I make it myself. While making a homemade soup from scratch does take time, it’s definitely worth the effort. Invite a few friends over and they’ll be begging you for more!

This is a recipe I have adapted from JJ’s mom – so it truly is a Vietnamese recipe. I have tweaked it here and there to suit my personal taste – as I’m sure you will too when you attempt to make it!

So for now, here is my version:

Broth Ingredients

beef – I use about 3-4 beef shanks, and beef bones with marrow (sorry I forgot to take a picture of the meat) – doesn’t necessarily have to be shanks – but, try to use some beef that has some bone on it. I also will get a small roast of some sort (whatever is on sale), and slice it up about 1 inch thick. The fattier the cut, the more flavour your broth will have.

pork bones (optional – but I use it because it adds additional flavour to the broth)

1 pkg of prepared beef balls

1 onion

chunk of ginger

3-5 star anise

salt

sugar

fish sauce (optional – but once again – I like the flavour it adds to the broth)

about 5 Litres of boiling water. Get out your biggest stock pot.

1 tbsp chinese 5-spice powder (cinnamon, cloves, fennel, anise, pepper)

Pho broth ingredients

Additional (but not optional) ingredients:

1-2 pkg. Rice Noodle

1 lime, cut into quarters

1 onion, thinly sliced

2-3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped up finely

1 bunch fresh thai basil

hoisin sauce

hot sauce

Optional Ingredients:

thinly sliced up beef – optional (If I use this, I usually buy this presliced at an asian store)

fresh bean sprouts

red chili

1 bunch spinach (my add on) finely chopped

Rice Noodles

Garnish ingredients

Step 1:

As with most soups, the flavour develops with time. I usually make the broth the day before I plan to eat it. But, you can make it the day of, just start in the morning and it should be okay for dinner. But, I guarantee you, the leftovers the next day will be much better.

Boil a stock pot half full of water. Add about 1 Tbsp of salt and sugar to the pot. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to medium and add the sliced up beef and all the bones. Your pot should almost be full now – careful to not to let it overflow. If the meat is not fully immersed in water, add additional water to just cover the meat to allow it to cook.

Step 2:

Cut up the onion in four pieces, leaving the skins on. Peel the skins off the ginger and slice into 2-3 slices, then bruise slightly in mortar and pestle. Char the outside of the onion and ginger pieces. I have a gas stove, so, I just place them on the element where they get in direct contact with the fire. If you don’t have gas, just place the pieces in a fry pan and dry fry them until they blacken on the outside. Add the charred onion and ginger to the soup broth. This was a step my mother-in-law told me to do. It seems to impart a key fragrance and colour to the soup. Sorry – I also forgot to take a picture of this step. I hope you get the idea.

Step 3:

Allow the broth to boil at med heat and skim off the whitish brown foam that floats to the top of the broth. Keep doing this until no more foam forms. By skimming off the foam, you will get a nice clear broth. Then, turn down the heat to low – but enough heat to still see bubbles break the surface of the broth. Once the heat has been adjusted, cover with a lid and allow to cook for about 1 hour. This low temperature cooking will make the meat nice and tender. After 1 hour, turn off the heat, adjust the seasoning – by adding more salt or sugar (usually more salt). At this point, I also add about 1/4 cup of fish sauce and chinese 5-spice powder. So, go easy on the salt as the fish sauce is salty too.

Step 4:

An hour or two before serving, skim off the congealed fat and reheat the broth and add the beef balls. Sorry, no pic of this either for now. I usually just buy these in an Asian supermarket. Once boiling, bring heat down to low again. Just enough to see bubbles break the surface of the broth. The beef balls will add additional flavour to the broth as well.

Pot of Pho

Step 5:

While you are reheating the broth, you can prepare the rice noodles. I usually soak the noodles in hot water from the tap. When I am ready to serve, then I will cook them up to keep the soup as hot as possible. If I add cold noodles to the broth, the soup will cool down too quickly. You want to serve up this soup as hot as possible.

Step 6:

So, while the noodles are soaking, then I prepare the rest of the condiments. Thinly slice the onion. Then slice up the scallions and cilantro, mix them both up in a bowl and set aside. Wash the thai basil and bean sprouts and slice up the lime. Put the thai basil, bean sprouts, lime and red chili on a plate and on the table beside the hoisin and chili sauce. These items you can add to your bowl once it has been served.

Step 7:

When you are ready to eat, boil up some water again and cook the noodles. If you had soaked the noodles, you will only have to have them cook for 2-3 minutes. Immediately drain, then divide into bowls.

Cooking up the rice noodles

Drain rice noodles

Step 8: When you have portioned out the noodles, add some meat and beef balls from the broth, then garnish it with some sliced onions and the scallion/cilantro mix. If you are using the thinly sliced raw beef, add a couple slices on top. The final step is to ladle enough hot broth over all these ingredients and serve it immediately.

Adding the final touches

You can adjust the flavour to suit your taste by adding fresh lime juice, hot sauce and chili sauce and the any of the other ingredientson the table.

I hope you love this soup as much as we do! Enjoy!

Once I make this again, I will fill in the missing pictures for some of the key steps.

Samosas

April 21, 2010

Samosas

The other night, I had a craving for Samosas. When I buy them, I always feel a little bit disappointed in them. I love the filling inside, but hate the fact that they are deep fried. I found a recipe in my Best of Bridge series cookbook that used phyllo pastry and was baked. I don’t really like working with Phyllo, because it’s so delicate and dries up quickly, but I had a box of it my freezer, so I had to try anyway. Rolling up each individual samosa was alot of work, but, in the end, the taste and overall look was perfect.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb lean ground beef and 1/2 lb lean ground pork (I feel that ground pork adds more moisture and flavour)

1 onion finely chopped

1 tsp. vegetable oil or coconut oil (I used coconut oil because it can withstand high heat and is good for you)

2 tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. turmeric

1/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. mild curry paste

2 Tbsp. beef broth

2-3 tsp. liquid honey

1 cup frozen peas

1-2 cups cubed potatoes (cooked al dente)

2 cups chopped spinach (optional – but, why not!)

10 phyllo pastry sheets (or more)

1/4 cup butter (to seal the ends)

Preparation:

In a non-stick pan, heat the oil and cook the onions until softened. Add the curry powder, cumin, turmeric and salt. Once all the spices are mixed, add the ground meat. Break it up into small pieces and cook until meat is no longer pin.

In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes. I like to make small cubes and cook them for about 4 minutes in the microwave. Drain and set aside.

Once the meat is cooked, add the curry paste and beef broth and honey. Then add the frozen peas and chopped spinach. Once the peas are cooked, gently mix in the cubed potatoes and cook for a few minutes longer. Try not to break up the potatoes too much.

Samosa meat mixture

This is what my meat mixture looks like. It is now ready to be rolled up in the phyllo pastry.

First, take one sheet of phyllo, and cut it into 4 long strips. Make sure to wrap up the remaining phyllo sheets in plastic or a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out.

Cut Phyllo sheet into 4 long strips

Take one strip and add about 2 Tbsp of the meat mixture to one corner of the phyllo strip.

Meat mixture

Add the meat mixture to phyllo strip

Gently fold the corner of the phyllo over the meat mix. It should line up to the top of the phyllo strip.

Fold over into triangle

Continue folding into triangles (flag-fashion) until the meat is completely sealed in phyllo.

Wrapping up the samosa in phyllo

Before you reach the last fold over, brush some butter on the remaining unfolded phyllo to help seal the ends on your last folds. It should look like a neatly wrapped triangle. Put the sealed side down onto your baking sheet.

final fold

samosa triangle

Repeat these steps until all phyllo or meat mixture is done. At this point, you could freeze them on a cookie sheet to be baked at a later date. When baking from frozen, do not thaw.

ready to bake

Bake in a 375 deg oven for 20 minutes or until the phyllo pastry is golden.

Baked Samosas

Samosas with some Date chutney

Serve with a bit of chutney.

These are best baked on the day you are serving them to keep them nice and crisp.

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