Monday, August 10, 2015

Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Vermicelli)

My recent obsession has been Vietnamese Vermicelli with grilled pork, or Bun Thit Nuong. I was first introduced to this dish by a co-worker within the last year. Actually, I had my first try of this dish a few years ago when I decided to become adventurous at a local Vietnamese restaurant. Rather than ordering my usual Pho, I decided to give a dry noodle a taste. When I did, it really was a dry noodle. It wasn't bad. It was just that nothing stood out of the dish. Who eats just salad with noodles?! So I never ordered it again on my own.

Then one day, a few co-workers and I went out to lunch. We decided to share plates so we could try different dishes. One of my co-workers ordered the Bun. She poured all the sauce on top of the dish and mixed the whole salad up. She equally plated the noodle salad dish on each or our plates and then I took my first bite from a real Bun Thit Nuong. It was love at first bite. I realized that you don't just dip the meat in the sauce. The sauce was the dressing! DUH!!! lol. The sauce, better known as Nuoc Cham, made a whole difference in the world as I knew it. Aside from getting its flavor from the grilled pork, the sauce made the dish. From that day on, whenever there was Bun on the menu, its the only thing I order. Its a large bowl of lettuce and rice noodles with all kinds of different toppings - pickled carrots and daikon, sliced cucumbers, cilantro, bean sprouts, fried onions, crushed peanuts, and grilled meat. Its so filling, but so light. And I just love it.

This recipe is actually a shortcut recipe, in that I used a prepared grilled pork, a Filipino delicacy called Tocino. It has the same flavor as the grilled pork they put at the restaurant we went to. For the pickled Carrot and Daikon, I used this recipe from Hungry Huy. However, I have since been eliminating the daikon altogether. If you aren't familiar with a daikon, please be warned that though its supper yummy, it releases a very foul odor that lasts in the kitchen for a very long time. The Nuoc cham was made using this recipe from This dish came out just as good as the restaurant's. I was so excited, because now I can have Bun anytime I want. Maybe one day, I'll make the grilled pork from scratch. But to get a quick fix, I'll stick with the prepared tocino. For now.

chopped lettuce
cooked vermicelli/rice noodles
prepared grilled pork or Filipino tocino
cilantro leaves
cucumbers, julienned
bean sprouts
fried onions
crushed peanuts
pickled daikon & carrots (recipe below)
Nuoc cham (dressing recipe below)

1) Layer the bottom of a large serving bowl with chopped lettuce. Top with cooked vermicelli noodles.

2) Arrange the remaining ingredients in a nice pattern, except the nuoc cham, on top of the noodles.  When ready to eat, pour nuoc cham on top of the noodle salad and toss until evenly coated. Enjoy!

For the pickled daikon & carrots 
1/2 lb. daikon radish
1/2 lb. carrots
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup hot water to dissolve 5 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup water
4 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar

(note: Daikon radish emits a very foul odor, but tastes so yummy. If the odor really bothers you, you can totally eliminate the daikon radish and double up on the carrots)

1) Julienne the carrots and daikon (you can use your food processor for your convenience). Sprinkle salt and toss well. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

2) Rinse the carrots and daikon well, and squeeze out excess moisture. Dry and add in mason jars.

3) Dissolve sugar in hot water. Combine with the remaining water and vinegar. Pour on top of the vegetables until completely covered. Seal and store at room temperature until pickled to your taste, about 12-24 hours. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks until ready to use.

For the Nuoc cham
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 Thai red chilies, finely minced (or 1 tsp. red chili flakes)
1 can coconut water (or 1 1/2 cup water)
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1) In a medium bowl, combine coconut water (or regular water) with the sugar. Whisk until sugar completely dissolves.

2) Add fish sauce, garlic, chilies and stir until combined. Add lime juice and stir.

3) Check for taste and add more sugar, fish sauce, or lime juice as needed. Store in an air tight container and refrigerate for up to 4 months.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Green Tea Ice Cream

One of the best gifts I got this past Christmas was my Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker attachment from my brother and sister-in-law. And I absolutely LOVE it. I've only been using it for about month, but I've made quite a few batches of ice cream since then. So much that my freezer looked like an ice cream shop. Which really is a good problem to have. lol. This attachment is so much easier than my old ice cream maker that I don't have to fuss over using rock salt and making sure I have enough ice in the bucket. And the cleanup is so much easier.

I love making ice cream from scratch. Its easy to make (especially now that I have a better ice cream maker), it always tastes so fresh and creamy, and you always know what is in your ice cream. You know that its not loaded with any kind of preservatives.

One of the first few ice cream recipes I made with my new gadget was this Green Tea Ice Cream from Just one Cookbook. Simple ingredients and simple to make.  If you have trouble finding Matcha Green Tea Latte, I found mine from Trader Joe's (I love Trader Joe's!). If you happen to find the actual Matcha Green Tea powder, by all means, use it. Just add a little more sugar to the mixture. This tastes just like the green tea ice cream you get at Japanese Restaurants. So yummy! Thanks bro & sis for my new toy! I'll be sure to give you some of the ice cream ;-)

2 cups half & half
3 Tbsp. Matcha Green Tea Latte of Matcha Green Tea powder
1/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if using Matcha Green Tea powder)
pinch of salt

1) Freeze ice cream bowl for 24 hours.

2) In a medium saucepan, whisk together half & half, sugar and salt over medium heat. Add green tea latte (or green tea powder). Whisk often, and continue heating until it begins to foam and very hot to touch (do not boil).

3) Remove from heat, pour mixture into a large bowl. Place bowl in an ice bath to cool. Once cool, cover bowl with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

4) When ready, pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions, about 20-30 minutes. Pour soft ice cream into an air tight container and place in a freezer for 8 hours before serving.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hummingbird Cupcakes

I've been seeing quite a few recipes for Hummingbird Cakes or Cupcakes all over the blogosphere for a few years now. To be honest, the name just didn't appeal to me. It never interested me to even look into what was in a hummingbird cupcake. However, I knew it was a Southern favorite, with recipes passed down from mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers.

Because I frequent Pinterest a lot, this cupcake version came up from A Spicy Perspective. I clicked on it and found out its made of all kinds of yummies - pineapple, coconut, banana, and pecans. Just like how a tropical Hawaiian dessert would entail. I just knew hubby would love this cupcake. Its got everything he loves. So I had to make it. I replaced the frosting in the recipe with my go-to cream cheese frosting and the outcome was delicious. It went over so well with hubby. This has become one of his favorite cupcakes I make. I don't know why I never bothered to make this. Now I'm going to make this more often.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup crushed pineapple, with juices
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

2) Combine the first 4 dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Turn the mixer down on low and add eggs and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture. Add bananas, pineapple with the juices, coconut, and pecans. Continue until blended well.

4) Scoop batter into paper lined muffin tins, about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes until tops are golden and bounces back when touched. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then cool completely on a cooling rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese frosting
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp. milk, depending on consistency

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese for about 1 minute. Add butter and beat for 1-2 minutes until incorporated.

2) Add brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated.

3) 3) Slowly add 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat well. Continue adding powdered sugar and alternating with the milk until desired consistency. Frost cupcakes.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

One of my favorite places to eat is at a Churrascaria, which is an all-you-care-to-eat Brazilian BBQ. They serve the bbq with a buffet of different kinds of sides. My kids are not real big meat eaters, so they end up only eating whatever rice, potato, or bread dishes found on the buffet line. But their absolute favorite thing to eat at a churrascaria is their Pao de Queijo, Brazilian Cheese bread. 

I've been seeing quite a few recipes for Pao de Queijo all over Pinterest, like this one from Rasa Malaysia. The recipe is pretty easy and doesn't require much cleanup. However, the tricky part of the recipe is finding tapioca flour. You can find them in most Asian markets. Usually, when I find them, I buy quite a few bags of them because I like to make big batches for my kids to snack on. It also saves me a trip from constantly going to specialty Asian markets just to purchase tapioca flour. These are best eaten hot, but you can easily store them at room temperature in a large freezer bag or an air-tight container for 3-5 days. Then warm them up for  few seconds in the microwave. 

1 egg at room tempature
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice, packed
1 heaping tsp. salt

1) Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Grease mini-muffin tins generously.

2) Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender and continue pulsing. Batter will make about 2 cups.

3) Pour batter into muffin pans, about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, until puffy and lightly golden. Cool in the pan for about 2-3 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve warm. Store remaining in a freezer bag or an air tight container for up to 5 days, and reheat when ready.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Butterscotch Pudding

My family and I always go out to lunch after church almost every Sunday. Recently, we went to the local California Pizza Kitchen and my sister had ordered their Salted Caramel pudding. It was so rich and decadent and it got me thinking of trying to make a homemade version. I figured that the pudding was nothing more than a butterscotch pudding, so off I went in search of a good butterscotch pudding and it lead me to this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, the Brown Eyed Baker.

If you've ever made caramel before, you know how tricky it can be with watching the temperature of the sugar as you cook it. This recipe is almost the same concept. Its tricky, but its quite simple. Once done, I placed the pudding in individual mini mason jars, topped them with my homemade salted caramel sauce and sprinkled a little Fleur de Sal to top it off. It was just as rich and decadent as the pudding we had at CPK. I think this was sister-approved.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 1/4 cup whole milk, divided
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. vanilla extract
caramel sauce to top
Fleur de Sal (optional)

1)  Bring butter, sugars, water, corn syrup, lemon juice, and salt to a boil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugars and butter melt. Continue boiling until temperature reaches 240 deg F using a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.

2)  Immediately lower the heat to medium-low and gently simmer with a steady stream of bubbles, stirring frequently until temperature reaches 300 deg F with the candy thermometer, about 12-16 minutes longer. The color should resemble dark peanut butter and has a burn smell.

3) Remove from heat and carefully add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Swirl to incorporate (the mixture will bubble and steam). Allow the bubbles to subside then whisk vigorously, scraping down the sides of the pot until mixture is completely smooth, about 30 seconds.

4)  Return pan to medium heat and gradually whisk in the remaining heavy cream until smooth. Whisk in 2 cups of the milk until smooth, making sure to scrape the sides of the pan to remove the remaining bits of caramel.

5) Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of milk in the microwave for 45 seconds (it should be simmering). In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in  the heated milk into egg mixture until smooth. Set aside.

6)  Increase heat of the pot to medium-high heat and bring to a rapid boil, whisking constantly. Once mixture begins to boil rapidly and beginning to climb to the top of the pan, immediately pour into the yolk mixture in a single motion (do not add gradually). Whisk thoroughly for 10-15 seconds (it will thicken after a few seconds). Pour pudding through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla extract.

7)  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent it from forming a film on top. Refrigerate until cold and set, about 3 hours. Whisk until smooth before serving. Top with caramel sauce sprinkled with Fleur de Sal.