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I can’t remember the first time I had this dish, but 1) it always stuck with me and 2) my family always ordered it when we went there. Tay Do Restaurant (in Houston, Texas) is where I’m referring to and Dau Que Xao Cay is the dish.

For 20(?)  years, we’ve eaten at Tay Do for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, Tet, funerals, Christmas or general family gatherings. It has changed a little bit over the years…but not the food. Muc Rang Muoi (the best thing and you can’t find made this way anywhere else), Soup Mang Cua, Ca Kho, Canh Chua — some goodies I recommend getting if you’re ever in the neighborhood. We frequent the restaurant less now, but it has a dear place in my heart.

On Tay Do’s menu, they describe this as “string bean sauteed: mince pork sauteed with string bean in spicy sauce.” That’s why the title of my recipe says “sweet(ish),” because the hoisin sauce does add some sweetness to it. This recipe isn’t a replica or dupe, but I’d like to think that it’s pretty close, AND it’s an easy dinner + leftovers for lunch!

green beans and ground pork vietnamese

Recipe: Spicy & Sweet(ish) Green Beans with Ground Pork

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 12 oz of French green beans, cut into 1.5/2 inch pieces
    • For Texans, I usually get them from HEB in the bagged veg section
  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 3 gloves of garlic
  • cooked white rice

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1(ish) tsp cornstarch
  • a splash of fish sauce
  • pepper
  • salt

Make sauce:

  1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix and season to taste! Leave aside.

Cook green beans:

  1. Fill a medium stock pot with water and heat to a roaring boil.
  2. Make sure to season your water with salt!
  3. To be disputed: do you or do you not cut the tips off your green beans? If you do, now is the time. Then, cut your green beans into bite sized pieces — this could mean cutting your green beans in halves or thirds.
  4. When your water comes to a boil, throw in your green beans for about 2 minutes. You don’t need a long time because they will cook further with the meat, and I PERSONALLY like a good crunch to mine.
  5. After 2 minutes, dump the green beans into a colander. I don’t think you need an ice water bath, but you can do that method if you so choose. A good cold water rinse will do. Set aside.

***AT SOME POINT before you cook your meat, cook your rice! Follow the directions on the packaging…or get a rice cooker for stress-free rice cooking!***

Brown Your Meat…and The Rest

  1. Peel and dice your garlic cloves. Set aside.
  2. You’ll need a heavy bottom pot/pan on the stove with medium-high heat.
  3. Pour in some neutral oil, but for the most part, your ground pork will render fat, so you don’t need your pot to be TOO oily. (Am I good at directions guys??)
  4.  Drop your garlic into the pot, let it cook for a hot second and then add your ground pork in a nice even layer in the pot.
  5. The browning meat process will take a few minutes. Don’t touch it too much, let it brown. After you flip the meat over is when you can start breaking up the ground pork into little pieces with your spatula. I personally like little bites and not big chunks of ground pork, but THIS IS YOUR SHOW.
  6. Warning: this process goes pretty quick…When the meat is browned, add half of your sauce. Stir and mix the sauce with the meat for an even coating.
  7. Now add in your green beans, give it a stir to combine meat and green beans in perfect harmony…and then drizzle the rest of your sauce and stir/mix well. This takes a couple minutes and after that, you can turn off your stove so the green beans don’t get sog.
    • Sidenote: the reason why we add cornstarch to the sauce is so that it gets thicker and will adhere better to the meat and green beans. You don’t want slippery sauce, do you?
  8. Serve a happy helping over a bed of rice (pictured).
  9. Mời!

vietnamese ground pork and green beans

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Cooking is a labor of love. It might be love for the individual ingredients you use, the people you’re cooking for, the memories that a specific dish gives you, or…it could be all of the above. It is often all of the above for me…except tater tots, that’s just love for tots.

Think about it. Our moms (or dads/grandparents/etc) cook us the foods we love because they know we love it and they love us. One of my aunts gets so excited for an event (i.e. whether it’s a holiday, grandma’s birthday or a family get-together) that she will wake up at 4 a.m. to cook…and she doesn’t cook one thing, she cooks several. It is in her nature to cook and to serve the food (a lot of it).

I recently got the chance to practice this labor of love for some of my siblings. And I’m going to  preface here that this is a WORKING recipe…but I love it so much I had to share it. It’s called Mi Xao Giòn in Vietnamese, which translates to crispy noodles with beef and broccoli (or as my siblings like to say “CRISP-AY NOO-DUHL”). It is one of my absolute favorite things to eat because I like a good crunch, but this dish also has a nice balance. You’ve definitely seen this on a menu and you can put different things on top of your crispy noodles like a seafood/vegetable medley.

Should I have paid more attention when my mom was cooking it three weeks ago? Yes.
I have the noodles down at least, okaaaaay?

mi xao don crispy noodle

Mi Xao Gion (Crispy Noodles with Beef and Chinese Broccoli)

Difficulty: Intermediate because my recipe is…loose
Noodle Frying Time:
45 mins
Total Cook Time: 1.5 hours
Yields: 5 “bird noodle nests,”  generously serves 4-5 peeps

Ingredients:

  • Egg noodles, specifically Canadian Style Wonton Mein and can be found in the frozen/refrigerated aisle where all the noodles are in your local Asian grocery store
  • 1.5 lbs of London broil or flank steak
  • 2 bunches/bags of Chinese broccoli (Cai Lan), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, diced and minced
  • 3 to 4 tbsp all-purpose flour, maybe more**
  • 2 to 4 tbsp oyster sauce**
  • 1 to 2 tsp hoisin sauce, this has a strong flavor, so start with 1 tbsp and taste**
  • 1 to 2 tbsp soy sauce**

**Note: these are rough estimates and slowly added to taste. Keep in mind that the flour is to create the “gravy” and the various sauces are to support the flavor of the “gravy”

candian style wonton mein

To prep & fry noodles:

  1. The noodles I use are already divided into 5 equal servings, but you still need to unravel them and form them into piles. See below…you do this so that the noodles don’t clump together because that’s gross. Making these piles also help give you an even fry.
    candian style wonton mein
  2. Personally, I use a cast iron (which is shallow), but you can use whatever pan you use for frying. I like using a 10-inch cast iron because it helps me form the shape that fits nicely on a dinner plate.
  3. Add about ½ inch of neutral/canola oil to your pan and heat to ~350 degrees.
    1. PRO TIP: If you have wooden chopsticks…stick the chopstick into the pan. If there are lots of bubbles coming off it, it’s ready. A smoking pan is a bad sign, and if this happens to you…take the pan off the heat to let it cool.
  4. When the oil is ready, take your noodle pile and try to spread an even, flat-ish layer in the pan. If you don’t get this, that’s ok! After you drop it in, immediately take your chopsticks (or tongs) to spread it out. You do not want clumping because you will get uncooked noodles. 
  5. I kept my eye on it but if I had to say a time…about 2-3 minutes until it’s golden (more yellow than brown) before you flip it over for another 1-2 minutes. I use chopsticks to do this, but if you are not good with chopsticks…I think tongs could work!
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’re done. You may need to add more oil into the pan. You may also need to wait a little bit in between frying so that the temp can get back to where it needs to be. Put a paper towel between each “nest” of noodles, so it can soak up the oil.

To prep meat & veg:

  1. Peel, smash and dice your garlic. This will be incorporated with your meat in its “tenderizing” process.
  2. Slice your meat against the grain, PRETTY THIN (not pho tai thin, but close), and about 2ish inches long. Not bite-sized, but small/short enough so that you don’t need a knife.
  3. Grab a medium sized bowl and add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to tenderize the meat. I DON’T KNOW WHY, my mom does it. Add the garlic and mix with your hands.
  4. Let it tenderize while you prep the vegetable.
  5. Wash and cut the Chinese broccoli.chinese broccoli cai lan
  6. There are two parts to Chinese broccoli: the stem and the leaves.
    1. If the stem looks too thick, cut it in half lengthwise, this will make it easier to eat and cook.
    2. You can cut the leaves if it looks too big, but keep in mind that they wilt and shrink.
  7. Set your Chinese broccoli aside.
  8. Fill a medium-sized stock pot with water (fill up about 2/3 of the way) && salt your water!
  9. Get a dutch oven or a heavy-bottom pan — this is where you will be browning your meat and preparing your “gravy”/sauce.
  10. Add enough canola/vegetable oil to your pan to cover the surface, and when it’s hot (right before it starts to smoke) add your meat.
  11. You want to brown it, but not cook it all the way through because it will finish cooking later when it’s incorporated all together. This part should take a few minutes.
  12. In the interim, if your water is boiled, throw in your Chinese broccoli. I don’t know how long it takes (I told you this is a working recipe), I would check it after a few minutes. Again, you don’t want it FULLY cooked because it’s going to get cooked in the sauce and meat. Let’s go with check in at 3 minutes (I Googled it).
  13. Take out your browned meat and set aside in a bowl. Turn your heat to low-medium and now add flour. Use a whisk and stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn.
  14. If you have ever made a roux, the process is similar. The goal is to cook the flour with the meat drippings (?) and not let it stick to the pan.
  15. Slowly add water to the pan to loosen the sauce/gravy.
  16. Add soy sauce, hoisin sauce and oyster sauce, still stirring. Taste. Add more if you need to.
  17. You are looking for a gravy-like consistency — not too thick, not too watery. You may need to add more flour, you may need to add more water. Keep stirring.
  18. This may take 10 minutes to figure out the right taste, but once you do…it’s time to dump in your Chinese broccoli! Let it warm up for 1-2 minutes…then dump in your meat!
  19. At this point, you are warming your sauce and goodies, and checking to see if you need to add more salt/soy sauce/water/etc.
  20. To serve: each nest goes on a plate. Personally, I let each person to ladle their own because some like it saucy and some don’t (like me). See above image for reference.

The first time I did it…I didn’t make enough sauce. The second time I did it…same thing, so I guess the lesson here is: make more sauce than you think you need to!

If you’ve stuck around to this point, thank you for being patient. I am amazed by the response from people about my blog, I cannot thank you enough for pushing me to publish this dang thing! I don’t think it’s a difficult recipe, but it might take some trial-and-error. Godspeed and good luck.

One of the most inspirational people in my mind once said, “you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”

Too Long ; Didn’t Read: I’m providing context to this project because I need you to know that I wasn’t always curious about cooking, and I never paid attention. BUT I started to read more, write down recipes, and forc—encourage my mom to cook, to let me watch and to tell me measurements (because AZN moms/gmas don’t do that, ever). It’s never too late and it’s scary but JUST DO IT, OK? It will be worth it.
(Scroll down if you’d like to get to the recipe.)

Both sides of my family love food. They love eating food, and more importantly, they love cooking food (especially my mom + aunts). I have a lot of memories of my grandma pounding pork with a mortar and pestle to make ruoc, my brother shaping banh bao (with photo evidence somewhere), and big crawfish boils (or is it broils, tell me guys!!!). But honestly, I never paid attention. Step-by-step visuals are vague, but I can tell you exactly how certain dishes should taste (or not taste). I know what pho should taste like or thit kho or mi xao don…but I can’t tell you exactly how to make it. Are you still with me? 

So, the time is college, the place is Austin, Texas — as an Asian American kid, I think when you’re away from your mom’s cooking and Asian food…you develop withdrawals. I wanted some com bo luc lac (aka shaking beef), some pho ap chao (pan fried rice noodle with veg and protein), some banh mi thit nuong…but I had never made it by myself. Of course buying/going out was an option, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Fast forward to present time, the place is San Antonio, Texas. I’ve thankfully had a handful (or two) of people who have encouraged me, inspired me to learn how to cook Vietnamese food…including/especially my mom. My stomach inspires me. Strangers’ comments about how much they love Viet food inspires me. Seeing and eating Viet food inspires me. I hope it inspires you, especially my AZN friends out there. We’re missing out on so much when we walk away from the kitchen while our parents are cooking. Like I mentioned above, you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal and I believe that includes the preparation of the meal.

If you’re reached this part of my post, thanks for sticking around.

Enter “Project Nam Noms,” the beginning of posts like stories from growing up as a Vietnamese American kid, my mom’s voodoo and ultimately recipes that I’ve tried/tested out/loved/maybe hated.

There are a lot of recipes I wanted to start with, but I’m basing this purely on the fact that I have a picture of it. I made this for the first time…a little over a year ago. It’s easy, balanced and a crowd-pleaser. You’ve definitely seen this on a Vietnamese Restaurant menu and I’m picky about how it tastes.

vietnamese shaking beef com bo luc lac

Recipe: Com Bo Luc Lac (AKA Shaking Beef)

Adapted from The Ravenous Couple (which is a GREAT food blog btw!!)

Feeds: 2 people generously, but 4 people realistically
Prep Time: 1 to 2 hours (including marinade time)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Family style meal, but what Vietnamese dish isn’t?

Note: Please bear with my recipe writing skills…I try to be as thorough as possible but it’s friggin’ hard!

Main Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs beef sirloin (or skirt steak), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small to medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of watercress, keep stems but cut into bite size
  • 2 tomatoes, halved & thinly sliced
  • Cooked white rice

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (Note: I guess and use 2 to 3 cloves)
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (Note: the Red Boat brand is pretty solid, but I grew up with squid one. AZN FRIENDS: tell me what you use!!)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp thick soy sauce
    • To make thick soy sauce (which is essentially a sweet, thick soy sauce and great for many things such as fried rice):
      ¼ cup of water, 1 cup of dark brown sugar, ½ cup of soy sauce
      Bring water to a boil, add your ingredients and stir. Then, stop stirring completely — cook on medium to low heat. Watch it bubble until it gets dark and thick. Then, you done!

Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • ½ tbsp salt

Dipping Sauce(s):
Option 1: Juice of lime, ½ tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper
Option 2 (my personal preference): Leftover vinaigrette in a dipping sauce dish + cracked pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare by combining your marinade ingredients – garlic, sugar, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, thick soy sauce with beef.
  2. Let marinate for ½ hour to 2 hours.
  3. Prepare quick red onion pickle for salad — thinly slice red onion and 3 to 4 tbsp of vinaigrette, set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Cook rice. I advise you to get a rice cooker.
  5. Prepare your bed of salad — watercress, thinly sliced tomatoes (red onion pickle comes in later) — on a serving platter.
  6. IT’S GONNA GET SMOKY. Heat your pan (we use a large cast iron) over high heat. Add 2 tbsp of cooking oil and when it begins to smoke (KEY: IT’S HOT), add an even layer of beef — allow to sear for ~2 minutes before “shaking” or turning/flipping to cook the other sides. This may take an additional 1 to 2 minutes, it goes pretty fast. Do this in batches if necessary, overcrowding is a no-no.
  7. Transfer beef to bed your salad of watercress and tomatoes. Drizzle 3 to 4 tbsp of your vinaigrette and add your pickled red onions!
  8. Lastly, make your dipping sauce of choice.
  9. La table: serving platter + bowl of rice + dipping sauce = voilà!