Monday, 28 August 2017

 Food Safari with Maeve O"Meara of SBS : Cha ca revisited
Five years later, and so much water under the bridge but late is still better than never.
I will slowly post my memories of sights and tastes from New York/ WashingtonDC/ Virginia/Florida/ Minnesota/ Montreal /Quebec/ Chong Ching/ Wuhu/Yellow Mountain and the traditional and modern Pottery kilns /Hangzhou/ShangHai/Hong Kong/Hanoi/ Ho chi Minh City/ Da Nang/ Hoi An / Ha Long Bay/ Tokyo/Kyoto/ The Japanese Art Islands with Athol and Yoshiko and friends from Swan Hill and Japan and my latest sojourn through the Provence with a short stay in Amsterdam watching and tasting spit roasted wild piglets. in Durance Aquitain, a village with a population of 280 persons.  among family and friends of the Bardet FamilyIt was an impressive experience 
I will start with my latest event since coming back from the Provence
the filming of  Cha ca La Vong for SBS Food Safari program.
Earlier this year I got an email from Georgie looking for a Vietnamese who can speak English well to make Cha Ca La Vong for Food Safari with Maeve O"Meara, the Queen of Food Safari. Maeve was mobbed by the shoppers at Queen Victoria Market where I was to purchase the fish for this recipes. As soon as Maeve appears she was selffied with hundreds of shoppers and the opposite fisherman did a rowdy performance for Maeve with octopuses and barramundi. The director insisted on adhering to the traditional recipes including using lard for marinating and frying and he is right the flavour is richer and the texture is velvety smooth. We bought the lard from the Polish Deli in the market and the director was delighted at the sight of organic dill not wrapped in plastic. And to grill and fry the fish at the table , we bought a genuine Vietnamese metal clad terracotta stove with Hanoi style grill frames from Thuy my friend from Hanoi, now live and works in Melbourne, and bags of Safari Charcoal When we came back to Kensington to the location in the suburb, where Thuy and Michael had set up everything ready and I told Maeve the following story:
Chả Cá Lã Vọng :
Lien Yeomans

“Cha Ca“ has been one of the iconic dishes of Hanoi for the last 130 years. It was the result of an experiment with a special fish given to a Mr Doan of 14 Hang Son Street Hanoi in the 1890s.
During that time, Mr Doan participated in the struggle against the French. He used his shop front house as a safe place for members of the Nationalist movement to meet.
The family made enough to live  and to support Mr Doan’s comrades  by running a noodle pork (bun cha) shop in the front, the pork then was marinated in turmeric, galangal, shallot, prawn paste, fish sauce, fermented rice ...nowaday the pork for bun cha is simply marinated in fish sauce, burnt sugar water (nuoc hang), shallots, pepper.  Recently this dish was made known world wide by President Obama.
When Mr Doan was  given the Lang fish,  a fresh waterfish with fatty yellow flesh. It was perfect for grilling, so Mr Doan’s family decided to replace the pork with the fish using the same marinating ingredients but adding dill to it. The result was so spectacular successful and more delicious that they used the Lang fish instead of the pork from then on for the shop and called it  “Cha Ca” .

And “La Vong?” (The Fishermen’s God)
But soon, the French arrested  Mr Doan and  sent  him to Thai Nguyen jail where he and the jailer became good friends. Whenever the jailer went to Hanoi he stayed with Mr Doan’s family and when Mrs Doan visited her husband , the jailer let them have some privacy. As a result they had a little girl.
A few years later, Mr Doan was released from jail. He returned to Hanoi just in time for the mid Autumn Festival for children and Mr Doan took his daughter out to buy her a toy. his daughter loved the statue of La Vong , the fishermen’s god, so Mr Doan bought her the statue and it was proudly displayed in the front counter of the shop,  since then the shop was refered to as “Cha Ca La Vong”

Cha Ca la Vong  became so well known that Hang Son street was changed to Pho La Vong. Now it is known as Pho Cha Ca.

The preparation of Cha Ca is elaborate but the etiquette of eating cha ca is equally important.
Since Ca lang is best during the winter month and the diner cooks it at the table. Therefore this dish is more popular during the cooler time  and it is known as a conversational dish.  To keep one’s  breath fresh, roasted peanuts and rice wine are served as refresher.
 A special dipping sauce flavoured with a  few drops of essence of “ca cuong” (Mangdana is the artificial version of ca cuong) also helps to divert  any fishy smell.

The fish has to be cleaned, skinned, filetted  and sliced into even pieces  They are then marinated in a mixture of ingredients including turmeric, galangal, dill, shallot, fermented rice (me) Fish sauce, prawn paste, pork fat for 2 hours Then the fish is threaded onto bamboo sticks to be grilled only until partly cooked.
At the table, the oil in the frying pan on the portable gas burner, has to be sizzling hot so when the diner puts the dill and green shallots in they wilt quickly. The wilted dill and shallots  is plated up  as one of the condiments.. Before recooking the fish each diner assembles a small bundle of rice noodle (bun con) a little wilted dill and shallot , a mixture of fresh herbs in their bowl; the fish cooked in the same frying pan and then  dipped in the sauce before topping it on all the condiments in the bnowl taste the magic harmony of taste of all the ingredients
A few roasted peanuts followed by a sip of rice wine would keep the conversation going and becoming  more lively as time goes by.

As Vietnam opens its door again to the world , tourism has become the one of the most important local industries . There is no shortage of guide books to Vietnam and Cha ca La Vong is mentioned  and reccommended as  one of the ”must do” experience for every visitors .
As a result, cha ca shops mushroomed up every where in Vietnam as well as overseas
But none of the cha ca shops and even the original cha ca La Vong can offer the real authentic  eperience of this dish any more
The reasons is simple : it is now  mass produced  for customers in a hurry.
The natural lang fish is becoming a rarity, therefore  snakehead fishes –ca qua in the North and ca loc in the South-  are used in Vietnam and mainly Cat fish is used in Vietnamese restaurants overseas . Since the snakehead is not as fatty as the lang fish, excessive oil and fat is used  to recooked the fish at the table to replace the natural fat in the lang fish itself; but this kills the subtle taste of the dish and also makes it too oily.
Half of the pleasure of eating out depends on the service and the attitude of the staff.  Unfortunately this half is sadly missing in the majority  of cha ca shops, especially at the original Cha ca La Vong.

Lien Yeomans’s Cha Ca
Before  I offered this dish at my restaurant The Green Papaya in Brisbane, I did many research trips to Vietnam, read books by Vietnamese cultural food writers like Thach Lam, Vu Bang, Hoang Dao Thuy and others. I ate a few times at the original Cha Ca La Vong from 1990 – and I also tried Cha ca Thang Long in Ho Chi Minh City . I studied the recipes from various sources including that of , my wise cousin Trinh Thi Nhan, a born and bred in Hanoi .
There is a rumour that the secret ingredient that  makes this dish really special is a little dog fat in the marinade, when grilling the fat burnt releasing a delicious aroma. But it is only a rumour!
After many different tests this is my own recipes for Grilled turmeric fish noodle used by the chefs of the Green Papaya.:
The fish I use is the rock or pink Ling, a cold water fish. Its flesh is firm and fairly fat. I do not twice cook the fish
I use lemon juice instead of fermented rice, olive oil instead of pork fat and I use whole fresh turmeric and galangal instead of just juice.
I use LKK fine shrimp paste and Red Boat fish sauce.
Fresh dill is absolutely vital and  not replaceable
The fish can be grilled or shallow fried.

Ingredients :
1kg                  ling fish filet, cleaned, towel dried, cut into even piece 4cmx3c
1tbspn           fish sauce
1tspn              fine shrimp paste
1tbspn           finely chopped dill
1tspn              freshly ground pepper
Extra oil for brushing before grilling or shallow fry
1tbspn           finely chopped green shallot
1tbspn            finely chopped golden shallot
2tbspns          chopped dill
1tbspn            finely chopped galangal
1tbspn            finely chopped turmeric or 1tspn turmeric powder
1tspn              ground pepper
100ml             fresh juiced lemon
100ml            oil or lard
50ml              fish sauce
1tbspn          fine shrimps paste
Blend  the ingredients above together to mix into a fine creamy marinade (a blender is best)
1packet          rice sticks
 cooked in boiling water, drained well
100g               dill cut into 2cm long
100g               green part of shallot cut into 2cm long
50ml               oil or lar
! cup                each of coriander leaves, mint leaves, dill
1cup               white part of shallot split into thin strips.
100ml             fresh lemon juice     
 50g                fine shrimp paste
10ml               strong white spirit: vodka, gin, rice wine, sake
1tspns           finely minced chili
a few drops    mangdana essence or ca cuong
Freshly roasted peanuts
Rice wine or sake
1.     Season fish piece with fish sauce, shrimp paste, pepper and dill
2.     Blend marinade ingredients into a creamy sauce
3.     Marinate the fish with the marinade for at least 1 hour then arrange fish pieces in 1 layer in a baking dish kept covered in refrigerator
4.     Cook and drain the rice stick.
5.     Wilted green shallot and dill
6.     Pick and wash all the herbs
7.     Roast raw peeled  peanuts in oven at 150C for 20minutes
8.     Mix sauce
Pre heat oven and grill to 250C
Place baking tray in the middle rack, remove fish as soon as it is cooked and plate fish on a plate
Plate noodle with wilted dill on top
Arrange all condiments nicely on the table including sauce

Table setting :
Each guest has:
 A rice bowl with under plate, porcelain  spoon and chopsticks, individual sauce bowl, peanut bowl, rice wine cup,  serviette.

 We followed the recipes and when the fish were grilled over the charcoal, as it partly cooked it had the most amazing turmeric colour and the pattern on the grill frame made nice patterns on the fish.
We cooked the dill and shallots and the fish in hot lard , the aroma was amazing 
maeve and I tried our fist bite with all the condiments , refreshing our palate with freshly roasted peanuts and a little sake , (we could not buy good Vietnamese rice wine here). And I know it was a success when Maeve pronounced happily :" This is much better than Hanoi ".
We all sit down and have a proper taste even the crew loved it. and the director said" the sauce is addictive and I can't understand that none of the Vietnamese restaurants offers this dish, but they do just in another unrecognised reinvention of their own.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Yesterday when I look at the calendar I nearly fell off my chair, realizing it was the 17th of December and my Xmas plan is still in its first draft. I have no hope to even get to the P.O. being a cripple as I am at the moment. And this will be my only excuse for this mass letter to keep in touch with you all.
As you can see from the letterhead, I had been obsessed with my beautiful  fowl of antiquity i.e the bush turkey.  Since September, as I began my spring sowing and planting this quaint creature chose my garden for his nest to lure in his female company. 
So this story went. 

Lien: off to Bunning to get more plants, soil, mulch……
Lien came home: Dug, planted, watered the garden, looking gleefully at the result.

Turkey… waddled through looking gleefully at the lush garden: …..Ah paradise discovered!!!. Perfect place for my nest…..scratched… dug… pulled… tossed ….. the mound mounted up …..

Lien: came down for the afternoon watering looked desperately at the mound…. ARHARHARH BLOODY TURKEY…. Running after the turkey ….  Where are all my new plants….. undo the mound….. re dug, replanted re watered….. 
Dreaming about braised turkey on menu …

Turkey flew up to the tree….. Ha Ha try to catch me!!!!!. 

Lien furiously reacted, fell into the hole in the garden, wrecked her back tore her knee joint. 

Before launching into a big job, I went to see the doctor and he did not think it very serious so I went ahead : did my wedding catering in Tenterfield  and went to MONA in Hobart to celebrate my son’s birthday : Quan being “$)” 
But then it all tumbled down. My left leg collapsed at Hobart Airport so I had to be wheeled around in Melbourne and now confined to the couch with my leg off the ground under nurse Quan’s and Nurse Barbara’s care.
I had fully intended to write to everyone this year by hand, I miss receiving hand written letters through the post.  
So here we are back to the inevitable: a public announcement to let you know that I am still around, a bit crippled but still have most of my faculties even some only at half capacity.
My trainee Chi came for over 3 weeks to help me with the wedding. I am so pleased to know Chi a bit better, he turns out to be a great cook and a constant gardener. We missed having Chi around. But he said he will learn English and tries to come back.
The experience of catering for a country wedding was amazing with the capable assistant of the Captain and his troupe. 
Earlier in the year we did another interesting catering job in Stradbroke Island for the Australian Institute of Architects. 
That sums up my present working life besides a few food experiments. The fish sauce brew result was very encouraging, and I am hoping this year I can make a larger quantity in a small wooden vat with proper spigot. 
As for the other products like sauces and pickles , they have been my casual affairs, similar to my blog writing. May be my new year wish could be : BE MORE CONSISTANT AND PATIENT. A feat to achieve for a hot headed Arian .
The most exciting thing I did this year was to run away to the US for a month with a friend to see the Sydney Theatre Company Production “uncle Vanya” where I saw the iconic Australian actors and actresses close up!!!  Also I had a good time with my family.

But now  the most IMPORTANT POST:
To celebrate the Year of the Snake (which is my totem) and to think over ½ a century in Australia I would love to see everyone whom I crossed path in the last 51 years to come to my party on Saturday 9th February 2013. 
Please remember this date and turn up I am waiting for you
Mean time 
Lien Yeomans

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A long absence

I had been received messages reminding me of my blog, so here I am again.
I have been quite busy since February doing a few things like experimenting with Western dishes, producing sauces, organizing a few parties and a very special catering job in Stradbroke Island for the Australian Institute of Architects.
Brit, my architect friend asked me to cater for the architects two years ago and  since they really enjoyed my after conference dinner, this May she again asked me to cater for their after conference retreat at  Stradbroke Island, but  instead of just dinner I had to provide 5 meals: lunch, cocktail nibbles, dinner, breakfast and morning tea.
It was lucky that Marshall, the owner of “Headlands Chalet (tel. +61 7 3409 8252) managed to accommodate most of the guests and he allowed me to stay at “the cottage” and to use his commercial kitchen to prepare all the meals, while my two close friends Barbara and Pauli offered to help me with the catering as long as we had time for a few games of Shanghai in between services. and we did manage that.
The architects came from different countries (Australia, India, Japan, England, South Africa and Spain so our menus offered were eclectic to suit all tastes.
For lunch we made laksa noodle soup and spicy pinot noir poached pears, which I like to thank Anthony Bourdain for his guidance.  For cocktail nibbles we  made crispy roast kumara  with guacamole, grilled beef wrapped in wild pepper leaves and a selected  Tasmanian cheese platter. We made angel hair with exotic mushrooms, duck in spicy orange sauce, green papaya salad with roasted sesame, black rice pudding with strawberry and ice cream for dinner.  We offered fresh tropical fruit, Spanish omelet, toasts, jam, juice, tea and coffee for breakfast and cucumber sandwiches and orange and almond cake for morning tea.
Pauli is an expert in Spanish fares so he was in charge of the omelet and Barbara, a master baker made the cakes.  
The young architects also helped with setting and cleaning up after.
We were happy that the guests fully appreciated our work.
Barbara the master baker

Pauli peeling potatoes for Spanish omelet

Laksa ready to go

Spanish omelet

The Chalet's dining room

I am not sure if many of you knows about Marshall's Headland Chalet, let me tell you it is the closest to paradise on earth, if one does not expect the run of the mill 5 star hotel services and facilities. The Chalet consists of 11 rooms, some with double bed, some with 2 single beds each room has its own drink fridge and hand basin, most rooms have ocean view, a 2 bedrooms cottage with a double bed, two single beds, a kitchenette and bathroom, it has full view of Main beach. The daily room rates are very reasonable: $70.00 (Monday- Thursday), $75.00 (Friday-Sunday), while the cottage rate is $150.00 (Monday-Thurday); $200.00 (Friday-Sunday) . The share bathrooms have showers and toilet facilities.  Guests can either swim at the Chalet painted in ground swimming pool and relax in the tropical cabana or walk a short distance to various secluded beaches. There is also basic cooking facility for guests.
The Chalet

Main beach from the Chalet's Cottage

The Chalet's terrace

Chalet's room no.6

Sea gull on Main Beach

A lot of requests for the recipes of poached pears , and here it is
Spicy pinot noir poached pears
8 small perfect shaped pears with stems intact (Packhams, Williams, Bosc, Corella)
1bottle of good pinot noir
250g palm sugar
16 black peppercorns
8 star anises
2 cinnamon quills.
16 whole cloves
Empty the wine into a wide shallow saucepan (to fit 8 pears in one layer standing up side by side). Add sugar and all apices. Stir to mix then bring to boil , lower the heat to simmering. Peel the pears leave stem intact, level the bottom so pears can stay upright. Make sure the pears are slightly submerged in the wine solution.
Simmer gently until the pears are soft and coloured.
Careful remove the pears with a slotted spoon and arrange each pear standing up in a deep dessert plate.
Continue simmering the wine until it is thick enough to coat the spoon.
Strain the sauce evenly on each pear. Discard the spices.
Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to each pear and serve immediately

This year is my 50th years living in Australia, so I decided to learn how to make pies, which was my stable food during my student days in Sydney.
I started with a beef and burgundy pie and went on with fish pies and seafood pies. Now I think I know how to make a good tasty pie of any kind.
I read Angela Lawson recipes for fish pie as a guidance  and I made mine with a few personal touches.  I did not like too much pastry so all my pies ended up as potpies.
Seafood potpies:
To make 6 pie-pots
Notes : there are 4 components  in this recipes :
1. Poaching stock:
1 bouquet garni    (2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of flat leaves parsley, 3 sprigs of thyme)
300ml white wine
300ml water
1 carrot (Peel and cut into small rounds )
2 peeled whole golden shallots
Mix wine and water in a pot, add salt, bouquet garni, carrots and shallots . Bring to boiling then simmer gently for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let it cool down.
2. poached seafood:
400g white fish fillet(Ling, snapper, blue  eye cod….)
400g Skinned Tasmanian Salmon fillet
400g king prawn meat
½ lemon
300ml fresh cream
Cut the fish into 2cmX1cm pieces. Keep the seafood in separate plate,  squeeze  lemon over them.
Bring the poaching stock just to boiling, first poach the white fish for 2 minutes, remove fish with slotted spoon. Then poach the salmon for 1 minute, remove with slotted spoon then poach the prawn for 2minutes, remove with slotted spoon.
Reduce stock to half  
Strain the stock  into a measuring cup  keep the bouquet garni with the stock. Add cream to make 600ml.
3. White sauce with leek
50mls olive oil
1tbspn butter
1 leek, discarded green part. Cut into thin rounds, washed well and drain.
4 tbspns plain flour
600ml. stock with cream, discard bouquet garni
Salt & pepper to taste.
 Heat oil and butter in a heavy saucepan, add leek, fry  until soft and translucent. Add flour, stir to mix and  to cook the flour.  Add stock, gently stir and cook until sauce thicken, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Assemblage of potpies:
6 small potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with 60g butter
Poached seafood
White sauce with leek
2tbspn finely chopped dill
3 sheets of short crust pastry or puff pastry (I used commercial made pastry), but if you like to make your own  with flour, lard & iced water it could be better)
6 medium oven proof ceramic bowls.
1 beaten egg
Cut 6 circles of pastry to cover the bowls, with ½ cm overlap
Arrange poached seafood equally among the 6 bowls
Sprinkle over with dill.
Pour 100ml  white sauce over
Cover with mash potato evenly then seal the bowl with pastry with a small rosette flu, glaze with beaten egg.
Bake in 180C pre heat oven until golden. (about 20mns)

I tested this pies 3 times with 2 groups of diners and they all like it.  But be careful, it is extremely hot.

Salmon being poached 

Poached snapper

Prepared Leek

Poached prawns

Seafood potpies dinner party

Seafood potpie

Besides making food  and organized farewell parties to friends going North to avoid the Brisbane unusual cold winter I also dig out the vegetable patch filled it with new organic garden soil and plant in new lettuces, beats, mizuna, coriander, dill, thyme, basil and chili.  It looked so beautiful. Unfortunately the possums discovered the new food supply, so I have been busy trying various strategies to protect the seedlings, but then the poor possums need to eat as well.

The vegetable patch for... the possums

As for me, while I was wondering how to celebrate my 50th year in Australia, my friend Athol asked me to go to New York with him to see the Sydney Theatre production of  Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, so we are going there next Sunday. After 10 days in New York  I will be visiting my family in Virginia, Florida, Minnesota and Montreal  and will be back by mid August.
May be I will have some interesting to post.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Vegetarian recipes

In some historical records Saigon is described as ”a place where unlikely assortment of people meet”:  “la noi gap go cua dan tu chieng”, how true it is for me. the last six months living in Saigon, by chance I ran into so many peoples whom I had not seen or heard of for a very long time.
One of these coincidences was the vegetarian lunch booking by a VIP, according to my trainees.
The VIP turned out to be the daughter of the Ex President of South Vietnam in the 1960s. whom I met in Sydney when they officially visited Australia. As  a Colombo Plan Student I was invited to the reception at the Governor General’s House,
And here we are 50 years later I made lunch for the daughter.

We made lotus seed stuffed tofu with spicy sauce , braised daikon & shiitake mushroom with soy sauce and coconut juice and pumpkin soup with peanuts. She complimented : “I had never eaten such beautiful vegetarian food “ And she took away what were left.

Lotus seed stuffed tofu with spicy sauce.
Preparation time:  45minutes
Cooking time:            20minutes
Make: 4 large filled pockets

600g            Regular soft tofu, divided into 4 portions. Drain on kitchen paper and weighted with a flat plate. Fry. Sli 1 side make into empty pocket. Reserve the soft tofu.
100g            Dried lotus seeds, washed, and soaked in warm water. Boiled, and mashed.
100g            dried split mung bean, washed, soaked and steame & mashed
6            dried shiitake mushrooms,, washed, soaked in hot water until soft. Squeeze dry. Diced finely
2            dry black fungus ears, washed, soaked, drained, finely diced.
2            leeks, use the white part only, washed, finely diced use for both filling and sauce
50g            dried mung bean vermicelli, soaked in warm water until soft, finely chopped.
2tbspns,        finely chopped coriander 
2tspns            salt
1tspns            freshly ground white pepper.
50ml               olive oil
3tbspns           leek (from above)
1                     red hot chili
1tbspn             tomato paste
2                     large ripe tomatoes,  skinned and diced
1tspn               sugar
1tspn               salt
500ml             vegetable stock, or water
1tbspn             shisho (perilla) leaves roughly chopped.
In a large bowl, mix evenly the soft tofu , mashed lotus seeds, steamed mung bean, diced mushroom black fungus and coeiander and leek. Season with salt and pepper  for the filling.
Fill each fried tofu pocket with the filling, and arrange the pocket, slit side up side by side in a pot..
To make the sauce heat oil in a frying pan, fry some leek until soft, add tomato paste, minced chili, stir to make a rich red colour, then add diced fresh tomato, season with sugar and salt, cook slowly until tomato is soft , add stock or water, bring to boiling briefly, then pour the sauce over the stuff tofu pocket, The sauce should generously cover the tofu.. Cook the tofu in sauce on low heat for 10-15 minutes., most of the sauce will be absorbed by the tofu.
To serve, slice each tofu pocket into 4 sliced served with shredded perilla.

Lotus stuffed tofu pocket

Braised Shiitake mushroom and Daikon wheels.
12                    large dried Japanese style shiitake mushrooms, washed soaked until soft, discard hard stem, squeeze dry.
1                      medium daikon, peeled, cut into even wheel (2cm thick) , bevel  all the cut edges, boiled in salt water until translucent., refreshed in cold water.
                     piece of peeled ginger cut into thin slices
1tbspn               raw sugar
50ml                Japanese soy sauce
1 can               coconut juice
Coriander stalks for plating
Arrange daikon and mushroom in a pot, Add Mixture of coconut juice, sugar
and soy sauce.
 Bring to boiling then simmer gently and slowly until sauce thicken.
The daikon wheels should be intact and translucent in rich amber colour and the mushroom  tender.


Braised Daikon and shiitake

Pumpkin Soup with peanut and coconut milk
600g         pumpkin, seeded, skinned, cut into thin slices
50ml         olive oil
4               garlic cloves, squashed
2litres        vegetable stock
2tspns       salt
2tspns       sugar
100g         raw peanut, skinned, soaked and boiled till tender.
100ml       coconut milk
1tbspns    chopped coriander and green shallot
Heat oil, fry garlic  add pumpkin, salt and sugar, stir fry until soft.
Blend boiled peanut and coconut milk.
Add to pumpkin.
Adjust seasoning.
Gently simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with chopped coriander and green shallot

Pumpkin soup with peanut & coconut milk

Vegetarian lunch guests

Next post: Some restaurant experiences in BVietnam

Thursday, 9 February 2012


November 2011 was a busy month for us at Village Chance kitchen, besides lunch bookings for the Australian volunteer dentist team working at the Training Centre, and for the MC of Paris By Night and her friends,  we had dinner bookings for the KOTO staff and  for the Mini Reunion of the 1962 Colombo Plan Graduates.
These bookings gave the trainees the opportunities to practice their new skills and the guests had the chance to enjoy the unique food style which is free of MSG, flavour enhancer, artificial colourings and preservatives .
Many requests for recipes were received and I promised they would be in the next post.
However,  the next post kept getting postponed due to Christmas parties, New Year parties and Year of the Dragon parties. After so many parties I suffered from a disease known to me as "DBC"  (Deflated Balloon Condition) which caused me to be the laziest and most unmotivated person on earth. 
Finally I managed to shock myself out of of this state with the FROGS and here come the duck and the green papaya salad requested by the dentists from Sydney. All other recipes will be in the next few posts.   

Duck in orange sauce (inspired by a TV show of Rick Stein) 
2kg                            duck trimmed off neck, legs, wing tips and back portion reserved for stock. Removed excess fat for frying. Discarded tail glands. Separate drumsticks, thighs, wings,
                                   cut each breast into two with skin on.
2                                tspns salt
2                                tbspns ginger juice
8                                golden shallots, thinly sliced
4                                garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2                                cm ginger julienned
20                              mls fish sauce
2                                lemon grass stems (the white sections only) thinly sliced
2                                red chillies discard stems leave whole
6                                star anises
800mls                      fresh squeezed orange juice
2                               tspns arrowroot flour (heaped)
5                               spiky coriander leaves, cut into 2cm lengths.
In a dry thick frying pan fry the duck skin down until golden brown to extract oil from skin. Remove duck pieces, add salt & ginger juice to marinate for a little while, and place skin up in a casserole pot.
Use two tablespoons of duck fat from the same frying pan, fry the golden shallot, garlic and ginger until aromatic, add fish sauce,  stir to mix, then add lemon grass, chillies and star anises, stir for a few second then add 600ml of orange juice. Mix well, then pour this mixture into the duck in the casserole, add some duck stock if the sauce did not cover the duck.
Bring to boiling then lower heat to just simmer, place the lid on and simmer until duck is tender.
Remove duck pieces,  arrange them on a serving place,  covered and kept warm.
Strain the sauce from the casserole, using a spoon to squash up the solid and ladle some duck stock to get all the flavour out. Discard solids.
 Place the resulted clean sauce into a clean sauce pan.
Mix the 200ml of orange juice left with the arrowroot flour,
Bring the duck sauce to boiling, add mixture of arrowroot flour to thicken the sauce.
Pour the sauce over the warm duck pieces, arrange spiky coriander over. Serve hot with steamed rice or crispy petit pain.

Duck in spicy orange sauce

 Lien Yeomans’ Green Papaya Salad
1                              Peeled, seeded, shredded and rinse in cold water, drained.
200g                        White granular sugar
50ml                        freshly squeezed lemon juice
3                              cloves of garlic, finely minced
1                              hot chilli, finely minced
50ml                        fish sauce
3tbspns                    mixed fresh herbs finely shredded
3tbspns                    finely chopped roasted peanut
2tbspns                    freshly roasted sesame seeds, lighly crushed
Sprinkle sugar over shredded green papaya, leave for 30minutes until sugar dissolves completely. Squeeze off sugar water, loosen shredded papaya into a salad bowl.
Mix lemon juice with garlic, chilli and fish sauce. Pour over green papaya, gently mix well. Add shredded herbs, Arrange on a plate.
Sprinkle peanut and sesame seed over.
 A mountain of green papaya salad

Tim , John Anne-Laure, Lien with the Australian dentist team
Next post: Vegetarian dishes for the MC of Paris By Night who happened to be the daughter of a past South Vietnamese president whom I met over 45 years ago in Sydney.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


When Tri, my trainee at Village Chance, came back from the market one day and emptied a bag full of jumping frogs into the sink, I jumped back as fast as the frog squealing with horror while Tri gleefully laughed at my squeal!
I always feel not sure about eating little god’s creatures, but Tri assured me that these farmed frogs are safe to eat, their meat is soft and white - and has the taste of both chicken and fish.
Before this first direct encounter with live kicking frogs, I only knew about the famous French fried frog legs (grenouilles frites) and the frog hot pot (lau nhai) in Hanoi, so it was an amazing lesson for me to actually observe how Tri skilfully sent these poor creatures over the other world and turned them into various delicate dishes.
First Tri picked out one of the struggling frog, and gave it a big whack on its head with the stone pestle to pacify it. Then he cut of its head and rinse the blood off under the running tap water, then he slipped off its skin, et voila, the spotty brown frog turned into the princely porcelain white blue frog.
After the innards was removed, the frog was portion into bite sized pieces, ready to be marinated and to be made into frog porridge, grilled frog. And spicey stir fried frog.

Live frog

Skinned frog


Gutted and cleaned frog

Frog porridge,
Tri cook frog porridge whenever he feels he is not well, it is known as one of the best nutrition for recovery patients.
But the Vietnamese frog porridge is prepared and served quite differently from the popular frog porridge in Singapore, Malaysia and South China.

Frog porridge Vietnamese style.
To make 4 large noodle soup bowls:
2 skinned, gutted & cleaned frogs  or 4 pairs of large frog legs (frozen in Asian groceries)   cut into small pieces
2tbspns fish sauce
1tspn ground pepper
4 golden shallots, minced
2 minced  large garlic cloves
1cm grated ginger
60ml oil
½cup jasmine rice
1/3cup glutiness rice
1/4cup split mung bean, soaked in  hot water until soft, drain well
3litre chicken or pork stock
4 green shallots, separate white and green part finely chopped
Fresh mixed herbs finely cut mixed with green shallot
Freshly ground black pepper

Marinate frog pieces in fish sauce, shallot, garlic ginger pepper and 20mls oil for at least 30 minutes. Heat 20mls oil stir fry frog pieces to [partly cooked. Set aside
Heat the rest of oil, fry the white part of shall with the rice and bean until golden and aromatic , add stir fried frog mix well over medium heat. Add stock and cook gently until rice is soft and frog is tender. Adjust seasoning  served with mixed herbs green shallot and pepper.
NOTE : A good stock is the base for good tasty dish. If use stock cubes or ready made stock read the list of ingredients carefully.  AVOID those which include MSG (621) (Flavour enhancer) (flavour powder), preserver and artificial colour and flavours.
These additives tend to spoil the natural flavours of the ingredients.

Frog porridge Singapore style
In this style the plani porridge is cooked and served separately from the frog in clay pot.
Clay pot frog
3 Skinned gutted cleaned frogs, sectioned into pieces.
2Tbspns  cooking rice wine
2Tbspns  Light soy sauce
1/2tspn   salt
2Tbspns sesame oil                        
100ml  oil
10 whole dried chilies
4 green shallot, separate white and green parts, cut into 2cm lengths
4 minced garlic cloves
2cm young ginger, cut into thin slices
2tbspns rice wine
2tbspns sugar
50ml water
2Tbspns oyster sauce
 onion, sliced
Marinate frog pieces in rice wine , salt, soy sauce, sesame oil for at least 30 minutes .
Heat 100ml oil , fry whole dried chilies, till aromatic, remove from oil do not burn them. Fry marinated frog in small batch until golden, remove from oil . In the same pan, discard most of the oil , add ginger white shallot stir fry until aromatic, add frog pieces and chilies, sprinkle with rice wine, add sugar and water and oyster sauce, cook over low heat until sauce thickened. Transfer into a clay pot with sauce, add onion , sliced ginger and green shallot, cook with lid on for a few minutes. Serve with plain rice porridge.

Plain porridge
½cup Jasmine rice
1/2cup Glutinous rice
3litre chicken or pork stock
Fry rice with a little oil, add stock cook slowly until rice is soft. Served with clay pot frog.

Frog stir fried with lemon grass & chillies
This is one of the common frog dish in restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City along with the spicy grilled frog.
4  skinned gutted cleaned frogs, cut into small pieces
2 minced garlic cloves
4 golden shallot, finely minced
1 red chili, seeded finely minced
stems of lemon grass, only the white part  minced finely
1/2tspn sea salt
1tbspn fish sauce
1tspn Ground Vietnamese red pepper or Sichuan pepper
100ml olive oil
4 stem of lemon grass, very thinly sliced diagonally the white part
4 red chilies, seeded, cut into strips
1tbspn sugar
100ml  water
1 handful coriander
Marinate the frog in garlic, shallot, chili, lemon grass, salt, fish sauce, pepper and 2tbspns oil for as long as you can, over night in refrigerator is good.
When needed, heat oil until hot, deep fry chili strips and lemon grass slices quickly then remove from oil drain on kitchen paper. Pour the frying oil into a container, and in the same frying pan, add sugar, stir to melt and caramelize sugar, add frog and a little oil with water.  Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, add fried lemon grass and chili. Serve with coriander sprigs.

Grilled frogs 
Some Village residents went to a wedding in the country, and brought back some live frogs. We were given a few and we decided to grill them this time.
The frogs were skinned and cleaned, seasoned with salt peppere, chili, lemon grass then grill till golden brown. They were very tasty and tender, now I am a professional frog eater

Grilled frogs 
If these styles of frog cooking does not appeal to you, you can prepare them the European way, the Latin American way or any of the other South East Asian way. However whichever way you choose remember live frogs have better taste and texture than frozen frogs  and therefore the inevitable bloody murdering job! And a prayer for their early incarnation would ease your conscience.

Next post:
The promised recipes for duck in spicy orange sauce and green papaya salad for the visiting Australian dentists in November 2011.