Weekly Salad 19: Gỏi Mít – Vietnamese Green Jackfruit Salad

 

Goi Mit

 

Here is a salad that we had in Viet Nam on our last trip. It’s a nice change from the usual Gỏi of either cabbage, cucumbers, lotus root, mango, and papaya, – which I love all the same. Green, unripe jackfruit is something I didn’t grow up eating but have come to really enjoy since trying it in Viet Nam. Until fairly recently, the only types of jackfruit available in the States were the canned version that was packed in syrup, dried or perhaps frozen in plastic packages — all of ripened fruit. Nowadays, fresh and ripened jackfruit has become available, though still quite dear. To see what the inside of a fresh jackfruit looks like and watch a video on how to harvest a ripened fruit, head over to WhiteOnRiceCouple‘s post here.

Outside of Southeast Asia (as well as parts of South America, Australia and Africa), young and unripe (green) jackfruit (Mít Non) is mainly available packed in water or brine and canned. Unlike ripe (yellow) jackfruit, unripe jackfruit can be eaten whole – that is, flesh and seeds, as both are still tender. It has a fairly neutral taste that seems to absorb whatever dressing you give it and serves as a textural contrast to the shrimp, pork, sesame seeds (or peanuts) and crunchy fried shallots. My favorite brand for green jackfruit is Richin – I’ve found that the fruit is never discolored but is white and unblemished and the texture tender without being mushy.

 

Green Jackfruit

 

GỞI MÍT TÔM THỊT – VIETNAMESE GREEN JACKFRUIT SALAD WITH SHRIMP AND PORK

INGREDIENTS: (4 main-dish servings)

  • Three (3) cans – 10 oz. (280 grams) of green (unripe) jackfruit
  • juice of 1 small-medium lime
  • 1 Tbl. (15g) sugar
  • 1 (5g) tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) poached pork tenderloin or pork belly [chicken breast can also be substituted]
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) fresh unpeeled, de-veined shrimp
  • large handful of Viet. coriander (rau răm) and spearmint (rau húng)
  • 1 Tbl. (15g) lightly toasted white sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbl. (45g) Crispy Fried Shallots (hành phi)
  • sweet-sour dressing – (nước chấm)
  • lightly crushed, freshly roasted peanuts (optional)
  • shrimp chips (bánh phồng tôm) or Viet sesame rice crackers (bánh tráng mè)

In a skillet, dry-fry the shrimp for several minutes until opaque in color. Allow to cool before removing shells – leaving the tails intact. Set aside.

Poach the pork until cooked through. The internal temperature should reach 160F. Allow to cool before thinly slicing into 1/4 inch (.5cm) strips. Soak the jackfruit in clean water for about 15 minutes. Drain and (using your hands or a potato ricer) squeeze the jackfruit segments to remove excess liquid. Cut the jackfruit segments into thin strips, similar in size to the pork. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar, lime and salt. Once dissolved, add the jackfruit along with the pork and toss to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the marinated jackfruit and pork with the shrimp and herbs (I leave the herbs whole, but you can roughly chop them if you prefer). Just before serving, toss the ingredients with 2-3 Tbl. of Nước Chấm (add more or less depending on your taste). Transfer to a serving plate. Scatter sesame seeds, fried shallots and crushed peanuts (optional) over the top of the dish. Serve with shrimp chips or sesame rice crackers.

 

Bon appétit!

 

Weekly Salad 18: Mango Salad

 

mango

 

Mangoes are a favorite fruit of mine. I’ll take a mango over a pear or an apple any day – yeah, even a Michigan apple(!). When I have in mah hot hands some ripe mangoes, you will undoubtedly find me eating all of the fruit and then standing over the sink and gnawing the seed, my hands and wrists covered in sticky mango juice. Because that is the only sensible thing to do.

Perhaps not as popular or common as papaya salad, mango salad (Gỏi Xoài) has all the crunchy and herbally goodness of the version made with papaya. Traditionally made with firm, green mangoes (Xoài Xanh), it’s another simple and rather addictive salad that is great for the muggy weather we’ve been having here. WanderingChopsticks has a really, really great version here. For mine, I used regular, very firm, unripe mangoes that I peeled and then shredded using the blue Kiwi knife, some fresh spearmint, some sliced red bell pepper, and the usual sweet-tart-tangy dipping sauce.

Bon appétit!

 

Weekly Salad 15: Gỏi Bắp Cải Gà – Vietnamese Chicken & Cabbage Slaw

 

Viet Cabbage Slaw

 

I’ve slacked off a bit with posting my weekly salads. No need to be alarmed – I haven’t quite fallen off the wagon. (I did, however, eat 2 Coney hot dogs a day for three days straight, last week.) Those things are so awesome. Anyway, to balance my meat-on-a-bun binge, I’ve enjoyed this salad. It’s sort of an everyday salad because the ingredients are ones many of us usually have in stock. If you like coleslaw but want something healthier but still bright and flavorful, you could try this salad. Also, because there is no mayonnaise or cream in the dressing, it’s great for parties or picnics as there’s less of a spoilage issue.

I used Taiwanese Cabbage – which can be distinguished by its flatter shape. When cut in half, each side has an oblong shape. The leaf ribs of this cabbage are smaller and narrower than regular cabbage and it has a slightly milder (& sweeter?) taste. You can also use regular cabbage, as I often do. Red cabbage would also be nice, for both color and flavor.

 

GỞI BẮP CẢI GÀ – VIETNAMESE CHICKEN & CABBAGE SLAW

INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1 head green [Taiwanese] cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lb. (450 g) cooked [leftover] chicken meat (dark/white), hand shredded
  • 2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • large handful of fresh mint, leaves left whole or roughly-hand torn
  • large handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • large handful of freshly ground, toasted peanuts (optional)
  • approx. 4 Tbl. (60mL) of Spicy Sauce/Dressing (for this salad, replace 3 Tbl. (45mL) of white rice vinegar for the lime juice)

STEPS:

Combine all ingredients except for the peanuts and dressing. When ready to serve, thoroughly toss with the dressing and scatter the ground peanuts over the entire dish.

Bon appétit!

 

Phở Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

 

Pho Ga

 

Second in popularity to Phở Bò (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) is Phở Gà. If you live in Southern California, you might have heard of or dined at Phở shops that make only the chicken version. Perhaps not as rich or unctuous as the beef or oxtail versions, Phở Gà still has all the depth and flavor that comes from combination of natural meat stock, ginger, shallot, and spices like star anise, Vietnamese cassia cinnamon, cloves, and coriander seed. The use of preserved or salted lemon here (as called for in the original recipe) is new for me but it added a fragrant, slightly salty-savory accent. I also used fresh Phở noodles, rather than the dried ones, made by Sincere Orient Food Co. — (it has a photo of the beef noodle soup on the front). I’m sure there are other great brands for fresh Phở noodles but this is the best one I’ve found here in Michigan. At Asian markets like Hua Xing Market in Ypsilanti, you can find it in the refrigerated aisle. Unlike the dried noodles, these do not require pre-soaking in water before cooking.

Phở would not be right without the requisite herbs and garnishes of Thai basil, culantro, bean sprouts, chilies and fresh lime wedges. With the cold snap we’ve had here, a hot, steamy bowl of Phở Gà is more than a welcome treat.

 

Pho Ga - Viet Rice Noodles

 

PHỞ GÀ – VIETNAMESE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

adapted from Quick and Easy Vietnamese Home Cooking for Everyone

INGREDIENTS: (4 servings)

  • 16 oz. (454g) pkg. fresh Phở noodles (bánh phở tươi)
  • 3 quarts of Phở Gà broth:
    • 1 whole chicken (approx. 3.5lbs/1.5 kg)
    • 2 lbs. (1kg) chicken neck/back bones
    • 1/4 cup (60mL) Vietnamese fish sauce (nước mắm)
    • 2 Tbl. (25g) sugar (or 1 small/medium piece of rock sugar)
    • 1 tsp. (5 g) salt
    • 1 stalk of celery
    • 10 whole cloves (đinh hương)
    • 5 whole star anise (hoa hồi)
    • 2 small pieces of Vietnamese cassia (cinnamon) bark(vỏ cây quế)
    • 10 coriander seeds (hột ngò)
    • 1 preserved (salted) lemon
    • 4 shallots and a 2-3inch(5-8cm) piece of fresh ginger, both broiled in the oven until slightly charred on the outside.
    • water
  • Herb and vegetable garnish:
    • cilantro (rau ngò)
    • thai basil (rau quế)
    • culantro aka sawtooth herb (rau ngò gai)
    • bean sprouts
    • fresh lime wedges
    • thai “bird” chilies or Sriracha chili sauce

 

Pho Ga Ingredients

 

STEPS:

Prepare the Phở Gà broth about 2-3 hours before serving time. Cover and tie the spices with cheesecloth and add along with the rest of the ingredients for the broth into a stockpot and cover with approximately 4 quarts (~4L) of cold water. With the heat on medium, bring to a boil, skimming any scum that forms at the top. Once it comes to a boil, adjust the heat to low and simmer (covered) for approximately 1 hour. At this point, test the chicken for doneness [the internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C)] If done, carefully remove the whole chicken from the pot and transfer to a large plate/platter. Tent the chicken with foil. Continue simmering the stock (uncovered) for another 2 hours. Taste the broth and add more salt or sugar if needed.

At serving time, bring the stock to a vigorous boil. At the same time, bring another large pot of water to boil. Divide the noodles into 4 portions and using a mesh strainer, separately boil the noodle portions for approximately 1 minute each. The noodles should be cooked but still “al dente.” Give the noodles a quick “shake” to remove excess water and transfer the noodles to individual bowls.

Using your hands, shred the chicken into small pieces/strips. (Knife-cut chicken gives a less satisfactory mouthfeel for this dish.) Top the noodle-filled bowls with the chicken pieces and ladle the hot broth into each bowl. (You could strain the broth before ladling it into the bowls, but, due to laziness and impatience — I just avoid the bones and vegetables while scooping up the broth.) Serve the Phở Gà bowls with a plate of herb and vegetable garnish and let guests help themselves to whatever combination and quantity they like. Slurping is highly encouraged.

Check out these other posts:

Phở Gà from WanderingChopsticks
Phở Gà from VietworldKitchen
A poem on Phở Gà from Geroi (Vietnamese text)

 

Bon appétit!

 

Weekly Salad 14: Spicy Calamari

 

Squid salad

 

Do you think I ate that all of that Nutella Bread Pudding? I can tell you with a clean conscience that I did not. I enjoyed my generous serving and the rest went into the metabolic abyss that is Pierre’s stomach.

Wandering Chopsticks outed my inconsistency and indeed, it seems wrong to post a diet salad one day and then proceed with a gazillion calorie-laden and thigh-enlarging bread pudding the next. But the key word is Moderation – a word that rises and falls in its efficacy around here but one that I subscribe to nevertheless.

I do make and eat a lot of Vietnamese and various other salads regularly. I also exercise [fairly] regularly. Still, I’m no willowy twig. I eat chocolate and butter and cream and whatever else I like on occasion but I try to be conscious of the amount and to not over-eat. While my weight may fluctuate somewhat at times, I am committed to eating right most days – well, except on Sundays and on any ethnic holiday ;)

These salads keep me *in check* and they manage to delight me as well.

 

SPICY CALAMARI SALAD

INGREDIENTS: (2 main dish servings)

  • 1 lb (500 g) cleaned small squid (calamari), tentacles left whole and body cut into 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) rings, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 large english cucumber, de-seeded and cut into thin, 2-inch (5cm) julienned strips
  • 1 medium sized red bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into thin, 2-inch (5cm) julienned strips
  • cilantro
  • white sesame seeds,for garnish
  • 1.5 Tbl of Spicy Sauce/Dressing
  • cooking oil

STEPS:

Add oil to your wok or skillet and turn the heat to high. Quickly fry and sear the calamari for about 45 seconds (not more than a minute). Remove from heat and toss with the rest of the ingredients.

Next, pat yourself on the back for getting a healthy, tasty meal together in such little time.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!

 

Weekly Salad 13: Gỏi Dưa Leo – Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with Shrimp and Pork…and Some Foolishness

 

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

 

I mentioned a few times before how special Gỏi is and how different it is than salad here and here. This particular dish has a rather special place in my heart because I once lost some seriously chubby, Asian poundage eating it every week for about 6 months [insert legal disclaimer] as part of a healthy, balanced diet that included plenty of exercise.

Many people, particularly women, gain the notorious Freshman 15 in college. For me, it was more like Freshman 30+. When you’re not even 5 feet tall, that ain’t right, man. Of course, it didn’t help that Asian people (like my parents and their friends) are blunt, careless jerks who will not hesitate to say, “Wow – you so fat and ugly! What da hell happen?”

After many failed attempts at low-carbing, de-toxing, Atkins, etc., I realized that white people’s diets were not going to work for me. I looked at my mom and my cousins and saw that they kept their trim figures by eating healthy, Vietnamese food and by getting out and moving about everyday. They didn’t deprive themselves of food they liked but they understood and practiced portion control and moderation. Another thing they didn’t have was a guilt complex with food. If they had a high calorie or fatty snack/meal, they would enjoy it and balance it with other healthy food and exercise.

I started to eat Vietnamese food again, particularly Vietnamese salad (Gỏi ) - on a regular basis. This proved to be a wise choice as Gỏi can be so varied and interesting; thus I did and have not become bored with eating the same ol’ nappy salad for lunch/dinner — I didn’t *fall off the wagon*. Coupled with regular exercise, I lost almost 30 of those crazy pounds (okay, that number’s fudged a bit since last Thanksgiving, but hey…)

 

GỞI DƯA LEO – VIETNAMESE CUCUMBER SALAD WITH SHRIMP AND PORK –

AKA THE SALAD THAT SHAVED SERIOUS POUNDAGE OFF MY BUM

INGREDIENTS (2-4 servings):

  • 2 large English cucumbers (approx. 2.2 lbs/1 kg), cut into very thin *half moons*
  • 1 Tbl. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) pork shoulder, poached and then cut into thin strips (the size of matchsticks)
  • 1/2 lb. (225g) shrimp (I use the 31/40 size), poached with their shells on and then peeled once cooked
  • 1 large carrot, finely grated
  • large handful of peanuts, roasted and crushed
  • 1 Tbl. freshly toasted white sesame seeds
  • large handful of Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), stems removed

SAUCE/DRESSING FOR SALAD:

  • 2 red chilies (Thai bird)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 Tbl. sugar (+ more to taste)
  • 2 Tbl. fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water

STEPS:

Make your dressing by smashing the chilies and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add the sugar, lime, fish sauce and water. Mix thoroughly to dissolve all the sugar. Taste and add more sugar/fish sauce/lime according to your preference. Set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise or and if you have a Japanese Mandoline, use that to then slice it into thin half moons. Add them to a large bowl and toss with the salt and sugar. Allow to sit for at least 1/2 an hour. The salt will cause the cucumbers to weep their water.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients – the pork, shrimp, carrot and garnishes (peanuts, sesame seeds and herbs). Drain the cucumbers and rinse well with water. Next, take a handful of the cucumbers and squeeze and ring out as much liquid as you can. (A potato ricer will also do a nice job of this step.) Mix all the drained and squeezed cucumbers with carrot, pork, shrimp and herbs. Right before serving, toss with the dressing and garnish with the sesame seeds and peanuts. (Preparing the cucumbers this way wilts them but I find them a nice textural contrast to the crisp carrots and tender pork and shrimp and crunchy peanuts.)

Bon appétit!

 

I want to leave you with a few photos I took on Sunday in downtown Ann Arbor where the 2008 Festifools took place. FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art (mostly large, papier mâché ) that is free and accessible to everyone. It was a glorious day with blue skies and warm weather. You can also view some fabulous photos from the festival’s official photographer, Myra Klarman, here.

 

Fesifools 2

 

Pandanus Crème Brûlée – Kem Nướng Lá Dứa

 

crm_bru.jpg

 

Ah, crème brûlée, I remember you well. I first tasted you on a big-girl date wearing big-girl heels and blue eye shadow. We were so young (and so regrettably unfashionable) then, weren’t we? And now, that boyfriend-turned-psycho is but a distant memory and I’m no longer a size 2, yet and yet, you’re still with me, after all this time. How nice of you…

You know, I’m a self-professed vanilla custard purist. I don’t go for the lemongrass/thyme/verbeena/yuzu/sha la la la/sha la la la- infusions. I want plain, vanilla bean custard – c’est tout. But, for no apparent reason, I bucked all that and made crème brûlée with one of my favorite flavorings – pandanus (Lá Dứa.)

 

crm_bru_3.jpg

 

Pandanus is a fragrant, green leaf, sometimes referred to as Asian vanilla because of its sweet, earthy perfume. Vietnamese recipes call for steeping the leaves in coconut milk, soy milk, silken tofu or sticky rice for various dessert dishes. It can also be used in savory dishes where it is steamed with jasmine or basmati rice or as a wrapper for fish, seafood or meat. I don’t know how to best describe its flavor and perfume but I know it’s one of my favorite scents. (If, by chance, anyone has the Dior or Chanel hookup, a pandanus-scented perfume would be really awesome.)

I’m very, very pleased with the flavor of this dessert and my heretical leap. The pandanus flavor was not too strong or overpowering as I was fearing but just enough to make me want to hair spray my bangs and wear a cropped, pink tank top all over again. It’s that good.

 

crm_bru_2.jpg

 

PANDANUS CRÈME BRÛLÉE – KEM NỨỚNG LÁ DỨA

adapted from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2

INGREDIENTS (6 servings):

  • 4 cups (1 L) cream [I used Calders]
  • 7 pandanus leaves (if fresh is not available, you can find these in the freezer — oftentimes near the frozen banana leaves at many Asian grocery stores) — tied into a knot.
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (225 g) superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup (112 g) superfine sugar (for the topping)

STEPS:

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Place the cream and pandanus leaf bundle in a saucepan over low heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Slowly pour over the cream mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium low heat for 6-8 minutes or until thick enough to coat the pack of a spoon. Remove the pandanus leaves and strain the mixture into 6 x 3/4 cup (each 6 fl. oz/185ml) capacity ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to come up halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the custard is set. [You can test by gently wiggling the ramekin - the outer edge should be almost set and the center should jiggle like Jell-O]

Place the ramekins on a baking tray, sprinkle with the extra sugar and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Place ice cubes in the tray around the ramekins, place under a preheated broiler and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is melted and golden.

Check out these blog posts:

Crème brûlée with Jen’s amazing step-by-step photos at Use Real Butter

Crème brûlée from Nordljus

Crème brûlée from WhatsForLunchHoney

Bon appétit!

 

 

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