Personally, I believe that picked mustard cabbage is one of the most liked dishes in Vietnam, and is the one that us students who study abroad miss the most, simply because the crunchy texture and the acidic taste of the picked mustard greens is very addictive. Pickled mustard greens can be served as a side dish to rich tasting dishes like caramelized braised pork, it can also be used to make new dishes like crispy skin pork stir-fry, or to make soup with ribs or beef shank when the weather is chilly (I always eagerly wait until the pickled cabbage is very sour to make it into a soup )
Pickling cabbage is not difficult at all, really. The ingredients for the brine are simple (water, sugar and salt is something everyone has in their kitchen), and the process is simple as well, so let’s dive in a pickle some mustard cabbage, shall we?
November just starts, the weather is turning into autumn, making its way to the market stands with the bright orange of pumpkin, squashes, the deep red of juicy apples. Autumn, for a lot of people, is the leaves turning yellow, the smell of cinnamon apple pies, the sweet pumpkin soup. For someone who is hopelessly imaginative like me, autumn is the season to put on my favorite coat, wear a light scarf, takea leisure walk between the trees and, the same time picking chestnuts, and then roast and enjoy the sweet nutty flavour.
For study-abroaders like me, especially girls, chetsnut picking is one of the fun activities in autumn. It’s a chance to hang out with friends, to take photos with the romantic background of autumn leaves, and then leaving with a bag full of delicious chestnuts When I first got intereted in chestnut picking, I found it strange that people have to go so far for chestnuts, while I saw a lot of what I thought to be chestnuts lying around on the streets, those like the ones in this photo.
Source: Reader’s digest
I read a bit online and found that those are called horse chestnuts, usually only used for decoration and are inedible becaus ethey are poisonous (fortunately I didn’t pick any and try to eat them ). I have friends who also made the same mistake as I did, and even Matthias thought the same thing before, so this post, beside sharing how to roast chestnut in an oven, I will also share how to distinguish horse chestnuts and sweet chestnuts, as well as chestnut picking spots that I know near Paris.
I love eating meat balls in tomato sauce. A plate of meat balls in tomato sauce can “carry” a lot of rice. When I first attempted to make this dish, one problem I had was that my meatballs tend to fall apart while cooking, and they have a rather crumbling texture. In my memory, the meatballs I ate back in Vietnam were very tender, and when you bite into them they are smooth, not crumbling and falling apart. After doing some readings on the internet, I found out that the minced meat I bought is rougher-minced than the one I usually have in Vietnam, so they will have a more crumbling texture. Luckily I have a food processor so in went the meat, pulsed once or twice and the meat is much smoother. I also got a small tip from making Meat loaf of adding breadcrumbs into the minced meat to help the meat balls stay together and keep them moist as well.
For the cooking part I kind of follow the cooking process of fried tofu in tomato sauce, so I flash-fried the meat balls and then simmer them in the sauce. Personally I prefer frying to steaming, since it give the meat balls a very tempting golden brown crust and fragrance. I usually make this dish for dinner, eat half of it, reheat them the next day and put them in bread and I’d have a delicious meat ball sandwich for lunch. You can also make a big batch on the weekend, divide them into smaller boxes and freeze them, and when you don’t have time to cook you just have to take some out, thaw, reheat, and serve with rice or bread
My Facebook was flooded with photos of Floating rice cakes/ Vietnamese mochi balls with brown sugar filling, which means it is the time of the Cold Food festival. We were preparing for Matthias’s leaving to Paris yesterday, so it was not until this morning that I sat down and made myself a plate of this treat. The Cold Food Festical is a 3-day festival, so it’s still in the right time for this treat today
Let me rant a bit before getting to the recipe. When I talked to my friend in England yesterday evening, telling her I was going to make Floating rice cakes for The Cold Food Festival, she asked me what this festival is about. I was caught a bit off guard to be honest, since I kind of celebrate this festival by default, and my mom always bought Floating rice cakes for this festival when I was in Vietnam so I didn’t really know the origin of the festival. I did a search on Google and found the story of the origin of the festival, which is pretty interesting so I want to share with you guys (copied from Wikipedia, with some slight modifications)
During the Spring and Autumn period, Prince Chong’er of the state of Jin endured many hardships while he was exiled from his home state because of the Li Ji Unrest. Once, when Chong’er and Jie Zitui passed through the State of Wey, all their provisions were stolen. In order to help the prince who was tormented by hunger, Jie Zitui cut off the flesh from his thigh and offered it to the prince for sustenance.
Later, when Chong’er became Duke Wen of Jin, he ordered a search for Jie Zitui who had gone into hiding in the remote mountains with his mother. Jie Zhitui had no political ambitions and felt ashamed to work with his hypocritical fellows, hence refused invitation of the Duke. Duke Wen ordered the mountains to be burned down in order to force Jie out of hiding. However, the fire ended up killing Jie and his mother.
Filled with remorse, Duke Wen ordered that each year during these three days the setting of fire is forbidden – all food was to be consumed cold (from the 3rd to 5th March of the Lunar Calendar). Therefore, the Festival is named The Cold Food Festival.
It is really not difficult to make Floating rice cakes, a search on Google with give you a few thousands recipes. The best way to make this dish is to use fresh glutinous rice flour grounded from soaked glutinous rice. It is impossible to find that here, so I have to use dried flour from Asian stores. The cakes will be a bit less flavorful, so I decided to give it some more color and taste, to make the dish taste better and make it looks more fun as well.