Bo Nhung Dzam (Beef “Fondue”)

This dish is part of the famous Bo Bay Mon (Beef in Seven Ways), a popular Saigon feast consisting of seven different beef dishes. You will need a fondue pot, or some other means of cooking the stock at the table, and some utensils for letting each diner simmer their beef (the little wire baskets with long handles, sold in some Asian groceries, are ideal).

1 lb well-marbled beef fillet

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 recipe Do Chua (pickled carrot)

1 cup fresh coriander leaves

6 scalliions, slivered

2 heads Boston lettuce, or one head leaf lettuce

24 quarter-round Banh Trang (dried rice papers)

Fondue Stock:

1 T peanut oil

2 medium cloves garlic

1 T sugar

2/3 cup rice vinegar

3 cups water

1 stalk lemon grass

Dipping Sauce:

4 medium cloves garlic

1 1/2 Tsp Sambal Oelek

6 tsp sugar

1 oz anchovies, patted dry

1 lime

1/2 cup hot water

2 T finely chopped fresh pineapple

Two hours before serving time, put the beef in the freezer to chill for later slicing. Arrange the sliced onion, scallions, coriander leaves, pickled carrot and lettuce on a large platter, leaving room in the center for the beef. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.

Heat the oil in a fondue pot (put it on a stove burner for this) and fry the garlic until its golden. Add the rice vinegar, water, and sugar. Cut off the bottom 6″ of lemon grass, remove outer husk, and halve it lengthwise. Cut into 2″ long sections, and add to the fondue pot. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.

In a mortar, pound the garlic and sugar together to a fine paste, then add the Sambal Oelek and anchovies and mash well. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze the juice of the lime into it. Rinse out the mortar with the 1/2 cup of hot water (to make sure you get all the mashed ingerdients), and pour into the sauce bowl. Add the pineapple, mix thoroughly, and divide, if you wish, into smaller individual serving bowls.

Remove the beef from the freezer when chilled firm and slice it into paper-thin slices. If the slices are too thick, pound them flat with the side of a cleaver. Arrange the slices in the center of the vegetable platter. Just before serving time, prepare the Banh Trang by brushing one side of each paper with water (use a pastry brush, and brush sparingly – the papers should be moist but not drenched). Lay the papers wet side down on a plate, overlapping, but leaving about 1/2″ of each one exposed. Put the Banh Trang on the table along with the vegetable/beef platter and the dipping sauce. Light the burner under the fondue pot and let the stock simmer.

Each diner immerses a little beef and onion in the stock and lets it simmer until the beef is cooked to taste. Peel off a sheet of Banh Tranh and lay it on your plate with the wide end nearest you. Arrange at that end  some lettuce, a little of each vegetable, and then the beef and onion. Roll up, tucking in the sides, and dip in the sauce before eating. You can also serve a bowl of Nuoc Cham, for those who don’t like anchovies.

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Cha Cua (Vietnamese Pork and Crab Omlette)

Good for lunch or a light dinner. The quality of the crabmeat used is all-important, so if you don’t want to kill live crabs, use a nice lump crabmeat, either canned or vacuum-packed.

6 live Blue Crabs

4 oz ground pork

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp fish sauce (in all)

1 scallion, minced

4 large eggs

1 tsp freshly fround black pepper

1 medium onion, halved and sliced thinly

3 T peanut oil

Coriander leaves for garnish

1 recipe nuoc cham (seasoned fish sauce)

Kill the crabs by running very hot tap water into their faces, or put them in a steamer. Either way, steam them  over boiling water for 30 minutes, then rinse under cold water and scrub them clean with a bristle brush. Crack them open and remove the meat. There should be about 1 cup. If any of your crabs are female, include any orange roe you find.

Mix the pork with the salt and 1 tsp of the fish sauce. Mix in the minced scallion.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, pepper, and the rest of the fish sauce. Add the pork mixture, stirring to break up any lumps, then add in the crabmeat and mix.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and set an oven-proof platter inside.

Have the bowl of omlette mix, the sliced onion and the peanut oil ready by the stove. Heat a 12″ omlette pan over high heat for 1 minute, then add 1 T of peanut oil and let it heat for 1 minute more. Add 1/3rd of the sliced onion slices and let them brown slightly.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Use a soup ladle to pour 1/3rd of the omlette mixture into the pan. If any onion pieces get shoved to the sides, remove them and put them on top of the omlette. Cover the pan and cook on low for 3 minutes, or until the bottom of the omlette is browned. Turn carefully and cook, covered, to brown the other side. Slide onto the platter in the oven, then make two more omlettes in the same way, stacking them on top of each other like a stack of pancakes. Remove to a serving plate, cut into quarters, garnish with the coriander leaves, and serve with the nuoc cham on the side.

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Ga Nuong (Vietnamese Barbequed Chicken)

Very simple, but very delicious. You do have to make nuoc mau (Vietnamese caramel syrup), but once made, it keeps forever.

Make the nuoc mau:

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup hot water

Set a heavy 9″ skillet over high heat for one minute, then pour in the sugar and reduce heat to medium. Cook the sugar, stirring frequently, until it’s frothy and orange in color. Turn off the heat and stir constantly for another three or four minutes, until the foam has subsided and the syrup is very dark (it will look almost black). Add the hot water and stir, turning the heat back on to low, if necessary, to facilitate mixing, until all the syrup is dissolved in the water. Set the pan aside to cool. When cool, pour into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Nuoc mau will keep indefinitely on the pantry shelf.

Ga Nuong:

6 whole chicken legs (thigh included)

7 medium shallots, peeled

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

3 1/2 T fish sauce

3/4 T nuoc mau (Vietnamese caramel syrup)

1/4 tsp salt

Put the shallots and whole black peppercorns in a mortar and mash together. Add the fish sauce, nuoc mau and salt.

Separate the legs from the thighs and prick each piece all over with a metal skewer or sharp fork. Mix the chicken with the marinade, rubbing the marinade in with your fingers to ensure that each piece is coated and the marinade is forced into the chicken. Let sit 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the grill. When the chicken has marinated, grill it directly over the coals for 10 to 15 minutes on each side. The chicken should get slightly singed, but not burnt. Serve while hot.

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Nuoc Cham (Seasoned fish sauce)

Fish sauce is “nuoc mam,” but seasoned fish sauce is “nuoc cham.” It’s addictive, and a must for any Vietnamese meal. To make it efficiently, you need a mortar and pestle.

1/2 lime and it’s juice

1 clove garlic, peeled

8 tsp sugar

1 tsp sambal oelek (red chili paste, found in most Asian groceries)

2 T fish sauce

1/3rd cup hot water

Cut the lime in half around the circumference, then (holding it over the mortar) use a sharp knife to section one half the lime as you would a grapefriut. Cut out the “meat” and add with the juice to the mortar. Add the garlic and the sugar and mash everything to a paste (the granulated sugar helps absorb the lime juice and aids in mashing). Add the sambal oelek and the fish sauce and mix, then add the hot water and stir. Taste, and add more lime juice, fish sauce or sambal oelek to taste, if desired. Transfer to a small serving bowl, or, if you wish, to individual bowls.

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Negi-Maki (Beef and Scallion Rolls)

These can also be made with baby asparagus spears. Boil the asparagus until just done, then use only the tender top parts in the rolls. This recipe makes enough for an appetizer for 4 people.

1/2 lb well-marbled beef, sliced into 8 thin 4″ x 6″ pieces

8 scallions (skinny ones), trimmed

1 T peanut oil

2 T Japanese soy sauce

1 1/2 T sugar

1 T sake

1 T dashi, or water

If the beef pieces aren’t thin enough (they should be about 1/16″ thick), pound the slices with the side of a cleaver to flatten them.  Lay a slice on a cutting board, with the long side running from right to left. Lay a scallion lengthwise along it at the bottom, then roll up like a jelly roll.  Repeat with the rest of the beef and scallions. Tie the rolls closed with kitchen string.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat and fry the rolls, truning them to brown them on all sides. Add the rest of the ingredients, and braise, turning often, for two or three minutes, adjusting the heat to keep the soy sauce from scorching. When the rolls are glossy from the sauce, remove them to a cutting board and slice each one into 4ths. Serve them with a little of the sauce from the skillet dribbled over them.

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Carrot Kimpira

Kimpira is usually made with burdock root, but whole, fresh, burdock (gobo, in Japanese) can be hard to find. This carrot version is just as good, I’ve found.

4 large carrots, peeled

1 T peanut oil

1 T sake

1 T sugar

2 T Japanese soy sauce

In each carrot, make a series of lengthwise cuts, about 1/4″ deep, all around the carrot, trying as much as possible to keep the cuts parallel, and as close together as you can (1/8″ apart is ideal) . Use a sharp vegetable peeler to lightly peel off thin strips by peeling lengthwise down the carrot. Strips should be as thin as you can make them. Add new cuts to the carrots, if necessary. Collect all the carrot strips in a bowl. Discard the carrots’ hard yellow cores.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the peanut oil over high heat and add the carrot strips. Turn and mix and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the sake and the sugar and turn the heat down to medium. Mix well and stir-fry for 3 more minutes until the carrot is glossy, then add the soy sauce and continue to stir-fry until the carrot is dark golden brown, and tender to the bite. Pile in a tangled heap in individual small serving bowls, and serve as a side dish to a Japanese meal.

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Sukiyaki

In restaurants, Sukiyaki often contains Nappa cabbage. I think the taste is too obtrusive, so I leave it out. If you don’t have access to a Japanese grocery that sells very thinly sliced sukiyaki beef, buy the best well-marbled cut you can, semi-freeze it, then use a very sharp knife to carefully slice it as paper-thin as possible. The suet makes a big difference – ask your butcher for a piece. If you can’t get it, use peanut oil.

3 oz suet, cut into 2 or 3 pieces

8 oz mushrooms, sliced 1/8″ thick (use white, Crimini, or fresh shitakes)

6 oz fresh (or canned whole) bamboo shoot, cut in half, then sliced thinly

1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and slivered (see note below)

1 12 oz block tofu, cut in 1/2″ cubes

1 cup Japanese soy sauce

3/4 cup water

2 1/2 T mirin or sake

2 T sugar

10 – 12 oz shiritake (clear yam noodles), run under hot water in a colander and drained.

1 lb very thinly sliced beef

Heat a large skillet for a minute over high heat, then turn down to medium and add the suet. Turn it occasionally, until most of the fat is rendered out. Add the vegetables and tofu, placing each in a separate section of the skillet, and turn each section carefully to cover all pieces as much as possible in the fat. Saute in this way for about 5 minutes. Mix the soy sauce, water, mirin and sugar in a large measuring cup, then pour into the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer a few minutes, until the onion is al-dente. Add the shiratike in the center and cook for 3 minutes. Lay the beef slices on top and cook, turning it once, until as much of the red color of the meat is gone as you wish (the meat is too thin to be able to cook it to “rare” or “medium,” but you can have some parts of it remain rare, if you wish).

As soon as the meat is done, turn off the heat and ladle the sukiyaki into large soup plates, being careful to get a little of everything in each bowl.

You can, if you wish, give each diner a small dish of beaten raw egg (with the usual caveat about raw eggs in mind). Diners dip each bite of sukiyaki in the egg before eating. This is a traditional practice, but if you’re worried about the safety of raw eggs (which should be avoided by pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system), then simply omit it.

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Chilliquelles with Fresh Tortillas

This is my adaptation of a chilliquelles receipe from “Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking.” This one has eggs, and fresh tortillas.

6 fresh corn tortillas

2 T unsalted butter

1/2 cup salsa, or to taste

2 to 3 T. freshly grated parmesan

4 large eggs, combined in a bowl and lightly beaten

salt and pepper to tasteSlice the tortillas into strips about 3/8″ wide. Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet, then toss in the tortillas strips and turn them to coat them all with the butter. Add the salsa, parmesan and eggs and stir on low heat until the eggs are cooked and the tortillas are like rags. Season with salt and pepper and serve while hot. Serves two.

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Chilaquiles

This is my favorite breakfast – but then, I’m a cheese addict and a Mexican food fiend, so it figures. This is best when you use the kind of tortilla chips you get in a brown bag at the Mexican market, or left over from an order of chips from Mexican takeout – but a good quality commercial chip is okay, too (no Doritos, please).

2 oz tortilla chips

chicken stock to moisten the chips, about 1/3 cup or more

2 to 3 T salsa, or to taste

1 oz grated cheddar cheese

Place the tortilla chips in a small non-stick frying pan, then pour in the chicken stock. Turn the chips to moisten them all. Top with the salsa and the grated cheese. Cook undisturbed on medium-low heat until the chips are soft and the cheese is melted (add more stock, if necessary, to keep the chips moist and soft). This makes one serving – double everything for two servings, and use a bigger pan.

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Fiesta Nachos

Nachos make any party more fun!

Fresh Salsa:

1 large tomato

2 serrano chilies

1 medium white onion

½ cup fresh coriander leaves

tortilla chips

1 can refried beans, heated

8 oz. Mexican chorizo, cooked and crumbled

8 oz cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Prepare the salsa: seed the tomato and chop it. Seed the chilies and mince them. Chop the onion. Combine the tomato, chilies and onion in a bowl, add the coriander leaves, and mix well.

Lay tortilla chips out side by side on a large baking or pizza tray. Top each one with a dollop of beans, then add chorizo and top with the grated cheese. Bake in the top 3rd of the oven for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted. Remove to a platter, and top with the fresh salsa.

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