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

butternut squash polenta & veggie sausage

Butternut Squash Polenta + Veggie Sausage

it’s Sunday morning,
10:00am,
i’m under a thick blanket
my friend Nuria knitted for me,
a parting gift made up of
old, random strands of yarn i had laying around.
the sun is full on bright out,
but the day lies,
because it’s below freezing.
i’m watching The Mind of a Chef,
season 4, episode 3,
trying to be motivated
and inspired to make something in the kitchen,
instead, all i can think about is
sipping a negroni.
first, i don’t even like gin,
the shit tastes like shit.
second, it’s taken about 4 watches of
Gabrielle Hamilton for me to even like her.
third, it’s now going on 10:30 in the A M.
BUT!
the way she describes
how the gin ebbs the edges of a hard day,
how the campari’s bitterness coaxes an appetite,
the combination leaves you warm, hungry,
and then the vermouth brings it all together.
damn, an aperitivo for breakfast, please!

and, should you find yourself,
later in the day, still awake,
breakfast for dinner it is…

Butternut Squash Polenta + Veggie Sausage

butternut squash polenta & veggie sausage
makes 4 servings

note: this dish came about because we had a butternut squash on our counter since autumn. for a hard veggie, it doesn’t really take that long to cook, especially when it’s chopped small. cooking two ingredients that take a fair amount of time to be done, together, seemed to make sense. and then to bring it all together, i topped with breakfast stuff. i’ve always viewed breakfast for dinner meals to be fun, somehow whimsical, but always satisfying and warming.

1 cup of polenta
a cup, give or take, of cubed butternut squash
1 bay leaf
4-5 cups of homemade veggie stock, or water

veggie breakfast sausage patties, chopped
1/2 onion sliced
olive oil
1 glove garlic minced

medium-hard boiled eggs, sliced in half
chopped chives, dried or fresh, optional, for garnish

in a large pot, heat up the veggie stock or water, along with the bay leave. bring it to a boil and slowly stir in the polenta and squash. reduce heat to medium and simmer. stir every so often, when you think of it, but think of it often. you’re aiming for a soft creamy mixture, anywhere from 20-30 minutes. you might have to add more liquid if it gets too thick. salt/pepper to taste. if you’re fancy, mix in a pat of butter.

between stirrings, in a skillet, heat up a splash of olive oil. add in the sliced onions and a sprinkle of salt. mix until well coated and then add in the minced garlic. you’re aiming for soft and tender and browned caramel-y onions. don’t burn the garlic.

push the onion/garlic mixture to side, and heat up the chopped veggie sausage.

to assemble, ladle in a scoop or two of the polenta. top with sauteed onions and chopped veggie sausage. finally, add on half an egg and garnish with chopped chives.

BAM!

Butternut Squash Polenta + Veggie Sausage

another polenta option: creamy polenta and roasted mushrooms
3 years ago: ultimate white cake
2 years ago: overnight steel cut oats
1 year ago: ny style cheesecake

gochujang sloppy joes

Gochujang Sloppy Joes

years from now,
i hope i can recall
how it felt when the the world descended into madness.
that sounds dramatic,
doesn’t it?
but that is how i currently feel.
i don’t want to forget:
how my feet hurt from standing in a crowd,
arms raised, holding a sign,
flushed against my beloved
as he held me from behind.
or, how helpless i felt when
i heard about the ban,
sitting under warm blankets on our couch,
watching the news on low volume
as to not disturb my beloved in his slumber.
or, how infuriating and humiliating it felt
to witness 7 men sign documents
dictating a woman’s choices about her body.
never in this lifetime will there
ever come a time when the situation would be reversed.
and as angry as i am,
i would never want to be in that kind of situation.

Gochujang Sloppy Joes

years ago,
when i still lived with my grandparents,
after we immigrated to this country,
(actually, we were refugees. there is a difference),
and they scrounged pennies to pay for my school lunches,
hot lunches that fueled me for the day at just 65¢.
sloppy joes were always a favorite,
that salty-sweet kick,
served with tator tots.
this combination always takes me back,
back to a time when the debate on immigration
was more civilized.

Gochujang Sloppy Joes

Gochujang Sloppy Joes
dw made this up, i don’t know where, it just showed up on the table for dinner.
i also told dw i was going to edit his recipe but it seemed like a lot of work, so this is in his words.
also, he’s dreamy.

In a bowl, combine the following and stir to a thick paste:
1 T honey
½ T brown sugar
2 T Apple cider vinegar
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1 heaping T Gochujang
1 T Dry Ground Mustard
1 t garlic powder
1 t smoked paprika
½ t kosher salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper

Caramelize a half or whole onion, sliced in bite-sized pieces, in a T of olive oil – Set aside
Brown 1 pound ground dark meat turkey
Add 1 diced red bell pepper and simmer until bell pepper is cooked to your liking
Add 16 ounces canned diced tomato with juices
Drain juices from turkey, tomato, and bell pepper to another saucepan and reduce until thick

Add caramelized onion, reduced juices, and seasoning paste to the simmering turkey mixture and simmer until hot, aromatic and delicious

Serve over toast, or on buns.

Gochujang Sloppy Joes

3 years ago: chocolate ginger molasses cookies
2 years ago: brinjal pickle hummus
1 year ago: crock pot baked beans

spinach salad + baked falafel balls

Spinach Salad + Baked Falafel

i’d say in the last 6 months or so
i’ve had a strong feeling
of lethargy.
not physically per se,
but like i’m tired of the grind.
i’m perfectly content to have cereal for dinner,
and more often than not
i’ll turn to dw
and say we’re eating out
or it’s his turn, again, to make something.
i still go through the motions of
being an adult:
menu plan
grocery shop
meal prep.
if i’m really good,
i might even blog about it.
i would say though,
butt-end of 2016 was cereal all day, err’day,
and repeats,
like this spinach salad that is so stupid good,
and some form of bean ball,
whichever i happen to grab from the pantry.
it’s not a hardship when ingredients are good
to begin with,
but it certainly does make for
a quieter food space.

Spinach Salad + Baked Falafel

 

TL; DR:
i’m beat, i might drop off the face of the earth
cus all i eat is breakfast for dinner,
unless it’s this salad,
in which case, it’s dinner for breakfast.

Spinach Salad + Baked Falafel

spinach salad with dates & almonds
adapted from the cookbook jerusalem by ottolenghi
the NY Times has the full recipe

*note: we made this salad all autumn and it looks to be something we’ll be consuming all winter. i’ve used spinach, arugula, kale, or lettuce mix. my vinegar use is also spotty, sometimes it’s generic distilled white, other times it’s sherry vinegar and recently it’s been rice vinegar. i obviously have an issue with following recipes to the T. i also eyeball amounts of everything, because sometimes the fridge needs clearing or the meals needs to be stretched to the next day. it’s whatever tastes good, man.
**note: the butter can be omitted & double down on the olive oil, but if you’re able to consume it, or have access to lactose free butter, DO IT.
***note: the falafel balls are an added healthy protein option, though any meat or hard boiled egg would do. the salad is fine as a stand alone meal. i have taken to par-cooking or full on cooking the garbanzo beans before shaping. soaking is not enough and my stomach rebels if we skip the boiling part. besides, this method offers an almost creamy hummus-y like texture that’s quite pleasing.

3 TBL vinegar, take your pick, you can do whatever you want
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
4-6 dates, pitted and rough chopped
Salt
1 TBL unsalted butter, i use Green Valley Organics
2 TBL olive oil, divided
2-3 pitas, roughly torn or cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
1/2 cup raw, slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tsp sumac
healthy pinch chili flakes
spinach or greens, aim for like 2 really big healthy handfuls
2 TBL freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional (real talk: i’ve never done this step, and up until i had to type this recipe out, i didn’t even know about it)

in bowl, add the vinegar, onion slices and dates. throw in a pinch of salt and mix. set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.

in a frying pan, heat up the butter & 1 TBL olive oil. aim for medium heat. add the pita pieces and cook until golden. this step can take up to 10 minutes sometimes, depending on how big the pieces end up being and how crunchy you want them to be. add in the almonds and mix well. take/turn off heat and add in the sumac & chili flakes and a pinch of salt. mix thoroughly.

to assemble, in a large mixing bowl add in the greens with the pita mix with the onion/date dressing, excess vinegar included. drizzle with an additional tablespoon of olive oil and lemon juice if using, and toss well.

BAM!

baked falafel balls
makes 22 balls

soak 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans with a healthy pinch of baking soda overnight
1/4 cup of parsley, WITH STEMS
1/4 cup of cilantro, WITH STEMS
1/4 cup of minced onions
2 tsp cumin
salt/pepper to taste
1-2 tsp almond meal

cook garbanzo beans for about an 30-45 minutes, in the same soaking water. drain.

pre-heat oven at 350F and prep a baking sheet with parchment paper.

in a food processor, pulse the parsley, cilantro and onions. add in the cooked garbanzo beans, cumin and salt/pepper. pulse, you’re not making hummus, it’s a chunky texture that you’re aiming for, there might even be whole beans in there, you’re wanting the mixture to stick somewhat. add almond meal, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the mixture binds enough to make a ball.

using an ice cream scooper, scoop out a portion and rolling to a ball. put on baking sheet and continue.

bake for 20-30 minutes. if you think of it, turn the balls to brown all over. it’s not detrimental if you don’t.

remove from heat. can be eaten hot or at room temp. usually i drizzle bit of miso-tahini dressing, which doesn’t clash with the spinach salad dressing.

BAM!

Spinach Salad + Baked Falafel

1 year ago: chili + fennel seed pork pies
2 years ago: lentil tacos
3 years ago: diy toy kitchen