cháo cá kho

Chao Ca Kho

today marks 3 years since
my beloved gpa passed away.
we are currently in CA,
in celebration of his life,
visiting gma,
and taking a much needed breather.

today’s recipe is one of my childhood faves,
which i have gone & bastardized.
normally it’s eaten with rice,
but gpa would make it with
rice porridge
and we’d have it for breakfast.
gpa always ate it with chopsticks,
which is weird,
this is stew-soup-porridge,
but the man was deft with them sticks.
he is dearly missed.

Chao Ca Kho

cháo cá kho
cháo amount makes 4 small servings, or 2 hefty servings (which is the norm)
cá kho amount makes 6 servings

*note: in feb, dw & i visited charleston, sc, and one of the places we dined at, Xiao Bao Biscuit had a special: fishball congee that was fresh and completely different from any congee experience i’ve ever had, at home or at a restaurant. i only like vietnamese style congee, which is called chao, every other version is not good to me, no offense to all other congees out there. their version, the balls were deep fried and proportion of balls to congee is the exact opposite of what i’m used to. chao is supposed be a quick filling and warming meal, bland with a few bites of salty. their version tipped it to the opposite side of the scale and my version attempts to even it out. the presentation is a little on the precious side for me, but it was a special occasion.

*note: the consistency of this chao is on the thick side, which is my preference, almost to the point where you could stick your chopsticks upright in the bowl and it won’t topple (don’t do that though, especially in japan).

Chao Ca Kho

fishballs
1 1/2 lb catfish filets, skinned and de-boned
knob of ginger, skinned and thin sliced
2 garlic cloves
2 scallions, rough chopped
1 tsp fish sauce
fresh cracked black pepper
oil, for frying

in a food processor add all the ingredients except the filets. pulse until all the ingredients are rough chopped and mixed together. with a spatula, push down the mixture and clean the sides of the bowl.

chop the fish filets into bite sizes and add to the processor. pulse until all the ingredients are chopped and mixed through. you don’t want it to be mush but you do want it to get incorporated.

using a tablespoon or if you’re fancy, a ice cream scooper, scoop up about 1.5 tablespoons worth into your hand and roll it around until it’s ball. place on plate or parchment lined cookie sheet. do this for the entire mixture.

in a pan, heat up a splash of oil. fry the balls until they’re all browned on the outside. don’t worry if they’re not fully cooked on the inside (though they probably are). set on paper towel lined plate and set aside.

braising/caramel sauce
1 generous tsp sugar
1/2 cup – 1 cup coconut juice (water if you end up sipping all the coconut juice waiting for the sugar to caramelize)(no judgement)
half onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
a knob of ginger, thin sliced
1-2 TBL fish sauce

you’re working simultaneously here:
in a pot heat up some oil. saute the onions until they are richly browned, add in the garlic and ginger, all the while stirring to prevent burning.

meanwhile, in a small sauce pan heat up the sugar. it’s going to melt, it’s going to harden and you might smell some burning. don’t freak out like dw did, add the liquid (coconut juice or water) and mix it all together and the liquid starts to simmer. at that point, add it to the pot of onions/garlic/ginger.

mix it all through and then carefully, nestle the fried fishballs into the pot. allow the pot to simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. turn the balls to allow for even coatage, add more liquid if the pots gets too dry.

while that’s doing its thing, make the chao.

cháo
1/2 cup rice, rinsed and drained (any kind, whatever your preference)
3 cup water

in a medium pot, add the water and rinsed rice. heat on high until boiling, stir, and then lower heat to medium low, until just a simmer. semi-cover and ignore for 20 minutes. check on it, stir and check consistency. you’re aiming for a thick porridge, if you prefer looser, add more water. take off heat. as it cools, it will thicken, just add water to loosen.

toppings/garnishes
pickled red onions (paper thin sliced red onions in a sweetened vinegar mix)
fried onions
fried garlic
green scallions
sliced red chilis

to assemble
in a bowl add the chao then top with fishballs. drizzle with the caramel/braising sauce. add the garnishments to your heart’s content.

BAM!

Chao Ca Kho

previous gpa posts:
citrus curd mille feuilles
salt & pepper shrimp
guinea hen liver pate

hot pot + condiments

Randoms

a few things have shifted
in the last few years:
i don’t wear make up much anymore,
like my cakes,
my face is naked,
and it’s all the better for it.
i’ve also leaned twds repeat recipes,
meals that stand the test of time,
but mainly,
dishes that i know are pleasing
and full-filling.
hot pot makes an appearance
when the weather turns
for the cold,
and then to the ebbing winter,
bookends in autumn and spring,
it is best shared with friends,
though it’s just as lovely for two.

Randoms

there are plenty of versions,
though i am partial to the viet style
(surprise surprise).
differences are in the dipping sauces
and the broth.
the recipe i’ve featured is the most commonly
found in my family home,
though one of the sauces is japanese in origin.
there was the one time i made a stinky anchovy-pineapple sauce
that i absolutely adore,
but would hesitate to serve to friends.
these pictures are from past hot pot gatherings,
as the most recent shared meal did not
garner any publishable pix.
we’ve been hit with a wave of freezing temps,
and this has kept us afloat until spring makes her appearance.

Randoms

hot pot dinner + condiments
serves 2 – 8 people

*note: when i make this, i don’t really measure anything. it is all based on what is available in the pantry, and how things taste that day. but these are the general list of ingredients, but i recommend tasting as you go. like, i’m freaking out right now trying to think up how i made the sauces because i do not have exact amounts, and it never comes out the same every time. it still tastes good though…

the meal itself:
mushrooms – any variety
tofu – cubed to bite size
variety of sliced meats – wegmans and asian markets now have them available, already cut and packaged
meat and fish balls – can be found in frozen section of asian markets, i gravitate twds the shrimp, fish, beef and pork balls
glass noodles
baby bok choy, and whatever else greens you fancy to eat

hot pot stock:
1-2 bottles of beer, usually Heineken
2-4 cups of bland chicken stock, no sodium or as little as possible
2-3 bruised lemongrass stocks
2″ knob of ginger, smashed
2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed

add all together in pot, bring to a boil and simmer, with lid on, for about 30 minutes.

dipping sauce #1 – spicy soy sauce:
1 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 TBL maple syrup or honey
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2″ knob of ginger, grated
1/2 cup of water, give or take
juice of half a lime
1 tsp sesame oil
garlic-chili sambal, optional, to taste

in a jar with lid, mix everything together. taste it. add more of something if needed. you’re aiming for hits of sweet, sour, and salty.

dipping sauce #2 – goma dare/tahini miso sauce
3 TBL rice vinegar
1 TBL mirin
1 heaping TBL miso
1/3 cup tahini
1 TBL soy sauce or tamari
2 TBL maple syrup or honey
1 garlic clove, minced
2″ knob of ginger, grated
1 tsp sesame oil
water to thin

in a jar with lid, mix everything together. add water to thin, you’re aiming for almost a dressing-like consistency, season to taste.

to assemble the entire thing:
put the electric hot plate in the middle of the table. simmer the hot pot stock. remove the lemongrass stalks, ginger pieces and garlic cloves.

while that is doing its thing, display the plates of sliced meats and veggies around.

assemble all your friends and go to town with the cooking of everything.

when i’m hosting, i usually play facilitator… i leave it to each person to cook their meats according to preference. i usually throw in the glass noodles, handful of bok choy/greens, meatballs, tofu and mushroom… then everyone else can choose sliced meats to cook at their leisure.

as the meal goes on, the broth gets deeply flavored from all the added meats, seafood, and vegs. you can sip the soup if you want. add more stock or beer as needed.

BAM!

hot pot

3 years ago: quinoa chocolate cake (gluten free)
2 years ago: seaweed sushi bites
1 year ago: ginger tumeric latte

travel | charleston, south carolina

Charleston, SC

speaking of celebrating:
we spent a long weekend away!
the thing about travelling with dw
is that the man likes to walk.
our first day in Charleston,
a trip we planned months ago
due to some crazy airline sale,
we walked 13 miles,
the 2nd day, 8 miles
and 3rd day, about 5 miles.
i’d complain, but we discovered a few gems.

Charleston, SC

|sleep|
airbnb **

|eats|
the park cafe
leon’s oyster shop
bakehouse bakery cafe
husk ******* (it was an emotional meal, the pigs ear salad wrap was a revelation, and i got teary-eyed over the duck entree)
poke tea house ** (we went TWICE, gimme all your salmon)
king street cookies
xiao bao biscuit ** (their special: fish balls + congee was delicious, i’m already thinking about recreating it)
hominy grill
glazed gourmet doughnuts

Charleston, SC

|sights|
hampton park
the citadel
old city market
waterfront park *
rainbow row
the battery *
old city jail
college of charleston
natural history museum of charleston
halsey institute of contemporary art
charleston library society
old slave mart museum *

Charleston, SC

3 years ago: soy sauced chocolate chip cookies – dairy free
2 years ago: chocolate meringue kisses – gf
1 year ago: chocolate chip cookie dough + coffee ice cream – gf and vegan
other travels: adventures galore!

diy | flameless fire pit + fake rocks

Flameless Fire Pit

i know,
this is kinda ridiculous.
however, i’m willing to bet
there are plenty of people,
(as it were, my kind of peeps)
who would appreciate this
level of ridiculousness.
it’s been a mild season,
but winter nonetheless,
and i am giving
H Y G G E
the seriousness it deserves.

DIY Flameless Pire Pit

DIY Flameless Fire Pit
adapted from free people

materials:
tree branches, size up to you, but aim for the thicker ones
white or light grey fabric strips
aluminum foil
mod podge glue
paint brush
LED light string (i got mine from IKEA, leftover xmas lights are fine)
rocks, real or homemade. recipe below

wrap branches with aluminum foil, make sure it’s covered

brush glue on a fabric strip and wrap it around the foiled branch. overlap if necessary, but cover the entire branch.

do this for all the branches and set on WHITE/LIGHT colored paper and allow to dry (you risk the paper sticking to the glue/fabric, and having newspaper ink stuck will mar the effect.)

when completely dry, anywhere from overnight to a couple nights (i lost steam with the project after the first sitting… it took me almost a week to get back to it… don’t judge me), using an xacto knife or box cutter, carefully cut down the seam of the branch, end to end. it’s ok if you cut through the foil, the goal is to peel the whole thing off the branch. carefully take the cast off the branch, peel the aluminum out. reshape if necessary. do this for all the branches.

chuck branches and foil.

arrange stones/rocks in a circle, within reach of an outlet. pile the stringed lights in the middle. then like you’re building a fire, arranged the branches in a cone-shape over the lights.

turn lights on and squeal in ridiculous child-like abandon.

Flameless Fire Pit

DIY homemade ROCKS
adapted from handmade mamas
makes 8 palm-sized rocks

26 oz coffee grounds (still wet from the day’s brew)
1 cup corn flour (or cornmeal)
1/2 cup soy flour
1/2 cup salt
1 scant cup whatever flour (i used whole wheat, cus my precious spelt is pricey)
water

preheat oven to 250F. line cookie sheet with parchment paper. if you planned ahead, use an old/used one cus RECYCLE.

in a bowl mix dry ingredients together. the coffee grounds will be wet. as you’re mixing you can determine just how much water to add.

slowly add the water, 1/4 cup at a time. you’re aiming to bring the mixture to play-dough consistency. if you don’t know what that is, i feel sorry for you, aim for pasta-dough consistency. you want the stuff to stick together.

shape into rocks. they don’t have to be perfect, irregular shaped and dents and cracks are nice.

place on prepared cookie sheet.

bake for 20 minutes.

turn off oven, flip over the rocks and leave in oven while it cools.

BAM!

DIY Flameless Pire Pit

3 years ago: kale + tofu balls with pasta
2 years ago: frozen old fashioned waffles
1 year ago: feijoada – brazilian bean stew

mohinga – burmese fish noodle soup

Mohinga - Burmese Fish Noodle Soup

in an effort to end 2016 with some
kind of happiness,
with some mad hope,
dw & i split the 4 day break
with friends,
then snuggled up,
(hygge, H O L L A!)
hiding from people,
watching sherlock.
we are our best selves
after a period of anti-social behavior.
it’s been a whirl of short weeks-long weekends,
now faced with not another holiday until spring,
i’m doing what i can to break the monotony of winter.

Mohinga - Burmese Fish Noodle Soup

the first step is a minor adjustment
to my social calendar.
i signed up to volunteer
at our local IRC office,
i was matched with a burmese family.
for a few hours a week
i will tutor them in english,
along with whatever else they’re up for.
this will likely challenge me,
i’m not naturally inclined toward teaching,
but this is necessary,
as i fight,
COME AT ME KC,
in a small way,
the absolute cluster of the next 4 years.

but first, let’s eat.
happy 2017.

Mohinga - Burmese Fish Noodle Soup

mohinga – burmese fish noodle soup
adapted from luke nguyen

makes an ass ton – we were eating this for dinner for about 5 days, and there was still more, but i had to put an end to the leftover thing

note: i did not add the rice powder, because i didn’t feel like grinding rice. my spice grinder is for coffee grinding anyway.

noodle bowls:
rice vermicelli noodles
hard-boiled eggs, halved
chopped cilantro, to garnish
lime wedges, to serve

broth:
1 head of fish, if you had to choose, catfish is fine
1 lemongrass stem, bruised
2 garlic cloves, bashed
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 TBL cooked chickpeas, mashed (i used jarred jovial)
1 red onion, quartered
1/2 red onion, chopped
fish sauce, to taste
1.5 lbs catfish fillet, cleaned and de-boned

spice paste:
3 lemongrass stems, finely sliced, white part only
2-4 red chilis, to taste
1/2 red onion, rough chopped
4 garlic cloves , diced
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled & sliced
1/2 cup grape seed oil
2 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sweet paprika

make the broth: place the fish head in a large pot with the lemongrass, garlic, red onion quarters and turmeric. pour in enough cold water to cover the head and bring to a boil. skim off any muck, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. strain the broth and put back in pot. keep the heat at low, and gently lower the fish fillets into the broth and cook for about 15-20 minutes. remove the fillets and with forks, flake them into chunky pieces. set aside. keep the broth pot on low though.

while the broth is simmering, make the paste: in a mortar & pestle, pound the lemongrass, chillies, chopped onions, garlic and ginger into a smooth paste. you can use a food processor for ease.

in a saucepan, heat up the grape seed oil. add in the paste and saute for 20 minutes. you’re gonna question if the amount of oil is correct, and i’ll just say, i asked the same question and it worked out fine. stir in the shrimp paste, tumeric and paprika. add in the flaked fish, be gentle with mixing, cook on low for an additional 5 minutes.

returning to the pot of broth, add the fish mixture to it. next, throw in the mashed chickpeas and chopped red onions. season with fish sauce to taste. stir to combine, and let simmer for 30 minutes.

to serve:
cook vermicelli noodles according to package instructions. divvy into soup bowls.

ladle soup over noodles, being sure to add in chunks of flaked fish.

top with half hard boiled egg and generous smattering of chopped cilantro.
spritz with lime juice.

BAM!

Mohinga - Burmese Fish Noodle Soup

3 years ago: coffee chocolate chip ice cream
2 years ago: carne rustida de navidad
1 year ago: spiced mexican cookies