When ‘Vietnamese sandwich – banh mi’ is mentioned, what comes to your mind? The crispy thin crust? The flavourful pâté? The crunchy pickled vegetables? Personally for me the ‘soul’ of the Vietnamese sandwich is the ham (or usually referred to as red meat). The thinly sliced meat, balanced meat-fat ratio, flavourful marinate, the flavour just combines beautifully with every other ingredients in the sandwich. When I was in France, I missed this dish a lot, especially since most stores that sell Vietnamese sandwich replace this ham with charsiu. It’s not that it’s not tasty, it’s just not the same as it does at home.
It’s for this reason that when I found out that making this ham was way easier than I’ve thought, I was so excited! Even though it takes a bit of time to make, it’s pretty low maintenance, and every time I’d make a big piece of pork belly, thinly slice it and store it in a freezer, it’s really worth it.
I love everything glutinous rice, so I actually have that for meals even more than normal rice. Sometimes just plain glutinous rice served with sesame salt is tasty enough for me.
About this “Tứ bảo glutinous rice balls”, ‘tứ bảo’ basically means ‘4 types of fillings’, and it usually includes: chicken breast, minced pork, Chinese sausages, and shrimps. However over time, the fillings are changed according to the person who makes it, and vegetables are also added to the mix. The interesting thing about this dish is that the glutinous rice will be spread thinly, then the fillings are added on top and then the whole thing is formed into a ball. When you cut one open, you can see a thin layer of white rice surrounding the colourful fillings. With this shape, this dish is very suitable for picnics, plus one ball of rice has everything from meat to vegetables and rice, very convenient right?
This is also one of the dishes that is in my list of “storing-in-the-freezer-food”. I’m not sure if I’ve talked about my habit of storing premade food on this blog? Anyway when I started moving out, I formed a habit where every time I go for a big grocery shopping at the start of the month for the whole month’s food (I usually buy all my proteins, portion and store them in the freezer, so that during the month I only have to buy vegetables and fruits), I will spend the first weekend to make a big batch of several dishes, divide them into boxes and store them in the freezer. Whenever I’m home late or I just feel lazy to cook I just have to take one out of the freezer, reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave and I’d have a nice hot meal in no time.
Back to this Japanese charshu pork. Actually I wanted to make char siu in the beginning, but all the char siu recipes require roasting the meat. I don’t have an oven at the moment, so after surfing our dear friend Google for a while I found out about Japanese charshu that only require simmering on the stovetop, I guess it can be considered a distant cousin of char siu. Looking at photos of those mouth-watering shiny and tender slices of meat, I decided to give it a go and was not disappointed at all. This meat is usually served in ramen in Japan, so I think it would go great with bread, noodles, or rice as well. The original recipe has sake and leek, I simplified it a bit to ingredients that would be easily found in Asian supermarkets everywhere, and I find it not much less tasty.
I love roasts, especially this cold and cloudy weather make any roast dish that much more tasty. Plus, roasts always use little to no oil and is pretty much self-maintenance, so on days that I don’t feel like constantly watching a pot on the stovetop, I would always turn on the oven and roast something along the line of chicken wings, pork belly, etc.
One of the roasts that both Matthias and me really love is BBQ ribs. Usually roasted ribs takes a lot more time to make compared to the other roasts since beside the whooping 80-90 minutes cooking in the oven, you have to marinate the ribs for at least 12-18 hours for the flavours to soak in. However for someone who is absent-minded and is usually prompted by sudden cravings like me, I don’t always remember or crave at the right moment to defrost the ribs from the freezer and marinate it. That is why I had to look for a method to reduce the marinating time but still allow the ribs to be flavourful.
After reading a bunch of tips and recipes online, I chose to combine cutting the ribs into individual pieces (instead of roasting the whole rack), and start the ribs with a short dry rub marinate and then roast the whole thing in diluted BBQ sauce, hoping that the individual ribs and the diluted sauce will allow the flavours to cling more onto the ribs. The results did not disappoint me at all! The ribs were so flavourful and tender, with the thick and sticky sauce evenly coats every pieces. You can use store-bought BBQ for this recipe, but personally I prefer the homemade sauce since I find that it has a bit more depth to the flavours.
The reason this title sounds a bit ‘head-on-the-cloud-kind-of-title’ is because of my motto of eating summer rolls no matter if I’m happy or sad. If I’m feeling happy I will boil a piece of pork belly to make summer rolls, if I’m sad I will…boil a bigger pieace of pork belly to make summer rolls When I was in university, I always had lunch at an Asian restaurant nearby since they have a pretty cheap set menu, and I always chose summer rolls as my entrée. The main source of protein in those rolls were the one shrimp sliced in half, the rest was only vegetables and rice vermicelli, but I ordered them every lunch nonetheless.
When I moved out, my weekly shopping bag always consist of a piece of pork belly for summer rolls. This dish is pretty popular with both my French and Vietnamese guests, and it works well both as an entrée or as a main course. Summer rolls can be served with simple chilli and garlic dipping sauce (recipe here), in this post I will introduce a peanut diping sauce and sweet & sour dipping sauce, both of which go very well with summer rolls.
Just kidding, but really we do love tofu. Our first dish to dip in the hot pot would be tofu, I even replace half of the meat with tofu when making my Vietnamese fried spring rolls (recipe here). So of course with this hot weather, dishes made with tofu is on the top of my list, because no matter what dish it is, tofu always bring a very refreshing and light mouthfeel. My last meal can proably be names “The tofu medley”, because tofu is included in both the meat and the soup dish. It’s really delicious though, so we both ate to our heart’s content.
Vietnamese broken rice always remind me of H, my best friend since high school. Back then, I rode my bicycle to school 2 days in the week with H (the other 3 days my dad will take me to school so my mom can pick me up in the afternoon and took me to my French class ). My high school didn’t have a dining hall, so students were to bring their own lunch, and on days that H’s mother was too busy to make her lunch, she would buy something for munch on her way to school. I remember that H usually buy this Vietnamese broken rice, simply because it has everything she loves: scallion oil, roasted pork chop, crispy fat cubes, pork skin tossed in roasted rice powder, and most importantly a sunny side up egg with a creamy runny yolk
I was not a fan of this dish back then, because I don’t like the texture of the broken rice (picky eater ), so I ended up not liking the whole dish. Now that I think about it, it’s a bit too extreme of me, because beside the broken rice, every other components in the dish are among my favourites, so I only have to replace the broken rice with medium grain rice when I make this dish. Basically, a complete plate of Vietnamese broken rice has the following components:
Sunny side up egg or Vietnamese egg meatloaf (Vietnamese egg meatloaf recipe here)
Roasted pork chop
Pork skin tossed in roasted rice powder
Pickled carrot, fresh tomato and cucumber (you don’t have to have all)
Light dipping sauce (how to make dipping sauce here)
When I decided to make this dish for Matthias, what troubled me the most was how to marinate and roast the pork chop so that it’s tender and flavourful. After reading some recipes online I decided to…bunch up all the tips and ingredients, mixing and tasting as I went, and fortunately the pork chop came out very tender ad tasty just like I wanted. Matthias finished his portion and still asked for a small bite from my dish
I made this dish on my own so I started the marinating in the morning. When dinner time comes I started the rice. While waiting for the rice to cook I made the Vietnamese egg meatloaf mixture and bake it in the oven. While waiting for that to cook I cleaned and tossed the shredded pork skin in roasted rice powder, making scallion oil and crispy fat cubes. When the egg meatloaf is cooked I transferred it to a closed microwave to keep it warm, and finally stuck the pork chops in. It took me in total 40-50 minutes to prepare everything
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
I’ve introduced the recipe for Vietnamese style chicken liver pâté on Miamivores. It would be a big miss if I don’t introduce Vietnamese style pâté using pork liver. Compared to using chicken liver, pork liver pâté is a bit less fragrant, but the pâté is more compacted and flavourful, and can be cut into slices to put in a sandwich or quickly pan fried to give it a thin crust and serve with glutinous rice (I’m already drooling just writing these )
The ingredients to make pork liver pâté is nothing special, and is almost identical to chicken liver pâté, the only additional ingredients is lace fat (crépine/caul fat) or pork fat slices to line the tray. Since pork liver has a much firmer texture than chicken liver, pâté made from pork liver tend to get dry, lining the tray with pork fat will help increasing the moisture in the pâté. I found the lace fat in Géant Casino, it’s “crépine” in French. You can also found in Géant Casino pork skin with a lot of fat left on it, you can buy that and cut the fat out to line the tray
Last time I’ve introduced a very simple dish that goes well with white rice, which was the fish sauce glazed pork belly. This time’s dish is a bit more ‘complicated’, but it goes just as well with white rice: Vietnamese caramelised pork dip. The reason for this dish was because both Matthias and I were a bit tired last week, and we only wanted to eat light things with rice. When I went to the Asian supermarket to buy ingredients for summer rolls, I saw a box of fresh chayote squash, and suddenly Vietnamese caramelised pork dip just appeared in my head. The craving increased by the minute, and so I finally decided to make this dish.
Just like the fish sauce glazed pork belly, this caramelised pork and shrimp dip was considered a ‘poor dish’ in my country, and was usually made when there’s not a lot of meat left. You only need a bit of pork fat, some garlic, some fish sauce, some sugar and a clay pot and this dish is basically done. Heat the pork fat until it releases the lard, then use the lar to fry the garlic until fragranced, add the fish sauce and sugar and simmer until it thickens, after that you only need to boil some fresh veggies from the backyard, dip in the sweet and salty sauce together with the crunchy fat cubes. Caramelised pork dip was that simple, now we are live bit more ‘luxurious’ so we add more meat and dried shrimps as well.