Monday, January 28, 2013

Che Suong Sa Hot Luu

Since VN's trip overseas last year, she wanted to recreate a dessert she enjoyed in the streets of Vietnam to finish off our day of finger food-themed day. It's a multi-layered dessert called che suong sa hot luu. Again, VN's comments will be in green.


Che Suong Sa Hot Luu:
Water chestnuts, tapioca starch, palm sugar, water, mung beans, grass jelly, agar agar jelly, coconut milk

At home, I cooked the mung beans in the rice cooker and brought them over. It started with one cup of mung beans. They were carefully sorted through a few times to make sure all the small pebbles were out. Then the mung beans were left to soak in cool tap water for about ten minutes. After they briefly soaked, the mung beans were rubbed between the hands to get rid of the skins and rinsed a few times until the water ran clear and not yellow. The water was then drained out and measured out to a ratio of two parts water to one part mung beans. They were cooked in the rice cooker and then allowed to cool.

The agar agar jelly was made with a small envelope of agar agar (25g) to six to seven rice bowls of water but I originally used five rice bowls. First I added four and a half rice bowls of water into a pot and brought it to a boil with two tablespoons of sugar. The remaining half bowl of water was used to dissolve the agar agar powder. Once the pot of water began to simmer, I added the dissolved powder into the pot. Mom reminded me to keep stirring the pot or else the bottom will burn. And so after the liquids boiled for a minute, the pot was taken off the heat to cool off a bit. When the liquid jelly was warm, they were poured into a baking pan to set and a container. A few drops of green food colouring was added to the container of agar agar jelly that I had planned to bring over. This is optional. Unfortunately the jelly was too firm, so the jelly was reheated and mixed with more water to produce a softer jelly. The jelly was almost crunchy with only five rice bowls of water. Gross, huh? When the jelly was finally set, it was shredded with one of our orange hand shredder/peelers.

With the two components done already, I boiled some water and cane sugar together to make the simple syrup once I got to VN's place. We didn't have palm sugar, or else we would've used that, but the cane sugar was a fine substitution. I think I used about one part of sugar to the same of water. I went by taste. The pot was allowed to cool off for a bit and then we covered it and placed it outside on the balcony to chill -- one perk in living in Ottawa; a giant outdoor fridge/freezer.

If you've had this dessert before, you've most likely ate the small chewy and crisp red things that looked like pomegranate seeds. They're actually water chestnuts covered in tapioca starch. Does that blow your mind? My mind was blown to bits because I strongly dislike water chestnuts. I don't like them in cheung fan. I don't like them in stir-fries or dumpling fillings either, but they're so good in the dessert. I was surprised that I couldn't taste the water chestnuts at all. Anyway, neither VN or I have made it before. We were determined to try and make it anyway.

We rinsed out the water chestnuts and then diced them. The diced water chestnuts were mixed with red food colouring and were then tossed with tapioca starch. VN flicked some water onto the water chestnuts while tossing them in the wire strainer. We broke up the pieces that were stuck and then tossed the moist water chestnuts with more tapioca starch. VN repeated those steps about five times to get a good layer of tapioca starch.

A pot of boiling water cooked the tapioca starch-covered water chestnuts in batches. We didn't want them to clump together, so while I stirred the hot water, VN slowly added the water chestnuts in. After they floated for about two minutes, I took them out and placed them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. I gave the cooked little nuggets a taste. It definitely tasted water chestnut-y. The tapioca starch coating was great though. I definitely suggest that you do at least four layers of tapioca starch.

Along with a cold can of grass jelly and coconut milk, we put the dessert together: grass jelly, mung beans, green agar agar jelly, white agar agar jelly (though you can't really see them), tapioca starch-covered water chestnuts, more mung beans, ice, and coconut milk. In hindsight, maybe we should've started with a base of mung beans and then grass jelly for a nicer look.

This wasn't as delicious as the one I had in Vietnam. But it was pretty good for a first time attempt. To get rid of the water chestnut taste, I think that soaking the water chestnuts in water might get rid of their taste. I would've preferred more coconut milk in my glass since I love coconut milk. I guess it's just the ratio of everything that was a bit off.

When I ate it the next day, I warmed up the coconut milk in a saucepan so it turned into a liquid again. The coconut milk was chilled and so the coconut cream clumped up when we added it to the glasses of che. The che tasted so much better with the warmed coconut milk! The water chestnuts no longer tasted as strong either. Not because of the coconut milk, but because I dumped the water chestnuts, mung beans, and palm sugar together and kept it in the fridge overnight.

In any case, this is one of those desserts where you can personalize them to your taste. Do you like more grass jelly? Fine, add more. You don't like the green agar agar jelly? Leave them out. People can put together their own glass of che suong sa hot luu. It's a great party dessert for that reason.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finger Food: Dips & Banh Pâté Chaud

I am still so pumped that the NHL has ended the lockout. It's been over two weeks since the first few NHL games were played (Jan. 19th, 2013), but I'm still giddy while being bombarded with hockey related news, rumors, highlights and updates.

Our beloved Ottawa Senators were among a few other teams who played on the first day that the NHL returned. VN, KN, and I celebrated the return of the NHL and the Sens with a finger food-themed menu. We also wanted to make a Vietnamese dessert (che suong sa hot luu) too. Stay tuned for that article. We wanted to pace ourselves since we wanted to watch the Leafs vs Habs game too. VN's comments will be in green.

Spinach Dip (Low-Fat Version)
Spinach, low-fat sour cream, light mayo, onion soup mix, one garlic clove, black pepper, salt


One bunch of spinach was washed, sorted through, boiled, drained, squeezed, and then chopped with a small clove of garlic. I added 250ml of low fat sour cream, a few squirts of mayo, and a couple shakes of the onion soup mix before stirring vigorously. I gave it a try and then tweaked the dip with more onion soup mix and black pepper. The spinach dip was put aside to be reheated in a ramekin while we baked Vietnamese meat pies.

Marbled cheese was mixed into half of the dip before the ramekin was placed in the oven with the meat pies. Looks pretty good, doesn't it?

The spinach dip was quite light. I was expecting to taste the creamy and rich spinach dip Richard made, until I remembered that this dip used light sour cream and a bit of light mayo instead. The one garlic clove was enough to give the dip a light garlic taste. Next time, I'd probably add real onions and not rely solely on the onion soup mix. It's just not the same.

I really liked the spinach dip with the light sour cream. It made it more light and not heavy like other spinach dips that I've tried. If you prefer the more heavier (more richer) dips, then use the cream cheese instead of the sour cream.

For the original recipe (yes, it's an actual recipe) with cream cheese, head over to the Homemade Spinach Dip article.

5-Ingredient Fake Crab Dip
Fake crab, mayo, cilantro, lemon juice, salt


The first dip I wanted to make was a fake crab dip. Aunt IS made it a few years ago and it has been on my mind ever since. She told me the ingredients that she used and I just played around with the proportions until the dip tasted good.

While I worked on the fake crab dip, VN made the Vietnamese meat pies (more details below). A handful of cilantro was washed and sorted through, then finely chopped. The fake crab was sliced and roughly separated so that there weren't many chunks left. A few squirts of light mayo, a few squeezes of lemon juice, and a little sprinkling of salt were all added then stirred together. I gave it a taste and made some adjustments of more lemon juice and mayo, the fake crab dip was ready to be served.

I put out a bowl of the fake crab dip with Wheat Thins for us to munch on as we continued to cook. The rest was left in the fridge to be consumed once the Sens and Jets game began.

To be honest, I couldn't (and still can't) remember what the original fake crab dip, that Aunt IS made, tasted like. The fake crab dip that I made was addictive. That's all I know. The amount of cilantro and lemon juice kept our palates excited.

This was yummy too. The added the cilantro and lemon made it so that the dip wasn't just some boring dip. My only suggestion would be to use real mayo and not Miracle Whip. It might be my own personal preference but I'm not a fan of Miracle Whip. It tastes sweeter to me than real mayo (Hellmann's Mayo).

Banh Pâté Chaud (aka banh pateso, flaky Vietnamese meat pies)
Ground pork, celery, onions, cilantro, fish sauce, corn starch, sugar, pepper, salt, puff pastry package, egg wash 

Banh pâté chaud is a French-inspired Vietnamese pastry. My dad used to eat them in Vietnam, usually for breakfast. The pastry is usually made into a round shape, but I wanted to make them smaller for our finger-food theme. And since we didn't want any scrap pieces of puff pastry, I just made them into small rectangular savoury puff pastry pockets. You can do the same, too, if you're lazy or in a hurry.

This was the first time I've heard of the dish. Mainly because we didn't have to make the puff pastry, it sounded very easy. With prior instructions from her mumsy, VN whipped up the ground pork filling with diced celery, onions, and cilantro. It was seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, black pepper, and salt. When we tried the filling (we nuked a bit in the microwave), it was quite salty so we added more cilantro to help brighten things up. The fish sauce was a bit on the strong side, but I knew that most of the flavours and smell would be mellowed out once baked.

When I looked over towards VN, it looked like she was making giant raviolis again. Oh gawd! The tops of the pastries were poked with a fork and then a knife to let the steam escape while they baked in the oven. We didn't want soggy meat pies. After a quick brushing of egg wash, the tray of pastries were baked in a pre-heated 325 F oven on the middle rack for 25-30 mins. Towards the end of that time, we popped the spinach dip in the oven.

Banh pâté chaud were so simple to make and so delicious! My dad said that eating these reminded him of having breakfast in Vietnam. My younger sister loved them and wanted me to make her an endless supply.

If you make the pastries bite sized, they are perfect appetizers for any party/occasion. My aunt always makes them for our large family gatherings. The Super Bowl is coming up and these would be great for any Super Bowl party too.

These little pockets of flaky Vietnamese meat pies were great! The celery and onions were softened in the oven and provided sweet bites of veggies. I'll definitely make these for my homies fam in the near future.

The Sens ended up beating the Jets 4-1 in the season opener. Shaweet!

We also made some chicken fingers (with crushed pita puffs for the breading) before the start of the Leafs vs Habs game for some more snacking. With a bit of sweet Thai chili sauce for dipping, we had another snack on the table.

Although we originally wanted to spend less time in the kitchen and more time for playing NHL 12 on the PS3 and watching the hockey games live on TV, we probably spent the same time cooking, baking and doing the prep work for all the different snacks. But you know what? I like grazing over a few hours while watching hockey. Don't you?

Speaking of watching sports, the Super Bowl is only a week away. These are great snacks for your Super Bowl party, mainly because they taste great. But more importantly, these snacks can all be made ahead of time and then served on game day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spicy Hot Pot: Perfect for Cold Winters

It's been getting cold in Ottawa. In this brisk weather (it'll be -28 Degrees, or -18 Fahrenheit for our American friends, tonight), you need to come home to something that will warm you up. And what better way to do that than with spicy hot pot?


We had the following dinner on Boxing Day. While people hit the malls and websites, we went grocery shopping for dinner. The photo, above, was taken after the second significant snowfall in Ottawa (Dec. 27th, 2012).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Breakfast: Pancakes, Bacon, Eggs

Bacon strips.


Homemade pancakes: cooked in butter to get that buttery edge.


Over-easy eggs with black pepper and sea salt. Hong Kong-style milk tea.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Brunch: Maple Ham Omelette


Sometimes when you rummage through the cold box, you get inspired by the contents inside. Then sometimes the fridge is just empty and you just stare at nothing in particular. This was one of those lucky times where ingredients seemed to scream a dish. Eggs, maple ham, mushrooms, red peppers, cheddar cheese screamed omelette to me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kim's Restaurant: Awesome Take-Out Containers

Happy new years everyone!

Back in December, Andrew came back from Waterloo for the Christmas break. He mentioned that he had missed certain foods while being away from home. One of the things that he craved was my noodles and dim sum, which was music to my ears. "No prob!" I told him.

Lucy and I went out and ordered some take-out from Kim's Restaurant. Using my new smartphone, I looked up the menu and asked for some shrimp balls (A-11), two orders of rice noodles with chicken (FN-04) with the sauce on the side, and stir-fry veggies with cashews. When we picked them up, we made sure we had hot sauce and chopsticks. We brought the goods back home and enjoyed a late lunch.

On a related note, read about my past experiences at Kim's Restaurant here.
You get four shrimp balls to one order. Somebody took one before I snapped this shot. There was a small container of some kind of sweet chili sauce for dipping. The shrimp balls were as good as I remember. They were bouncy and juicy shrimp balls. I mentioned this before, but I wish there were green onions for some added freshness.


The sauce came in plastic containers, which Lucy loves. They're reminiscent of the sturdy Teriyaki Experience to-go containers. These containers are the best! Just give them a wash once you're done with them and then you can use them to pack your lunch for the next day.

Anyway, the noodles came in the styrofoam containers. The smells that came off of the noodles were smoky. I forgot to ask them to hold the bean sprouts.

We all found the sauce bland. Very disappointing. It's too bad because the three or four other times I had the noodles, the flavour of the sauce was spot on. I hyped these noodles a bit too much.

The contents of cashew stir-fry looked a bit off. I'm not a fan of celery, ever since Lucy and I ate tuna salad sandwiches all day one summer day. I also spied what looked to be canned mushrooms and bamboo. Lucy didn't enjoy the celery, canned mushrooms, and canned bamboo. "If they're going to use canned mushrooms, why even put it in?" She vented. I totally agree. The only component I was really interested in were the cashews.

Andrew wasn't home for lunch, so I saved him a little bit of everything and set it aside. He barely ate any.

Although the sauce for the noodles were really disappointingly bland, I'd still go back to Kim's Restaurant for those noodles. I'll remember to ask for no bean sprouts next time.



Kim's Restaurant
1766 Carling Ave.
Ottawa, ON
Kim's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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