Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Testing kitchen and Menu at Village Chance

                                   Working with some residents in Village Chance new kitchen

This week I had two sessions testing the new kitchen equipment at Village Chance and also to test two dishes from the proposed menu. I was happy with the function of most of the cooking equipment, however due to my misunderstanding of technical Vietnamese term, I thought we ordered 1 refrigerator and 1 freezer. However, I discovered both of them are freezer when I found all my refrigerated ingredients were solid frozen the next day. Luckily the market is quite close and I could get all the ingredients to replace on time for my second test session, and also the kitchen supplier agreed to exchange 1 freezer for a refrigerator for me.

                                            Some volunteers and children showing interest

Bistro & Juice Bar
Village Chance

Kitchen test & cooking demo
Monday 25th July 2011
Hue Spicy Beef & Rice Noodle Soup with crab patties
Bun Bo Hue voi cha cua
1. STOCK: Nuoc leo
1kg Beef neck bones: xuong co bo
1kg Pork neck bones: xuong co heo
1kg Shin beef: Bo bap
1 pork trotter, bone, rolled: chan gio loc xuong, cuon
100mls Fish sauce: Nuoc Mam
1Tbspn salt: Muoi
1 onion charred: cu hanh nuong
10 lemon grass stalks tied in one bundle: bo sa

Bring a large pot of water to boiling, add a table spoon of salt, blanch the bones, the meat, then rinse in cold water.
Dun mot noi nuoc soi, bo 1 thia soup muoi, tran qua xuong, rua lai bang nuoc lanh.
Wash the pot, fill up with 8 litres of water, add fish sauce and salt. Add the blanched bones first and simmer for 1 hours, skimming continuously. Then add the shin beef and the rolled pork trotter, charred onion and lemom grass. Simmer for another hour or until the meat are tender. Continue skimming.
Rua noi lai cho sach, do chung 8 lit nuoc, dat len bep, cho nuoc mam, muoi, xuong vao ham nho lua chung 1 gio , hot bot luon cho nuoc leo
Trong, Sau do cho bo bap va gio heo , hanh nuong, sa va tiep tuc ham cho den khi thit mem. Tiep tuc hot bot.
2. HUE PRAWN PASTE: Nuoc mam ruoc.
Place prawn paste in a bowl, add a ladle of water and stir it up to blend then leave it until the solid settles, strain the clear water back into a small pot of boiling water, add a ladle of stock to the remained solid in the bowl mix well then wait until the solid settles again, strain the clear liquid in the pot, bring to boiling then pour this clarified prawn paste into the stock , bring to boil, check the meat if they are tender, remove them and set aside to cool then cut into thin slices.
Simmer stock for a little longer then strain it into another clean pot, the stock should be clear.
Cho mot muoi nuoc lanh vao bat mam ruoc, khuay deu roi de mam lang xuong, chat nuoc trong vao mot noi nho co nuoc soi. Roi lai cho them mot muoi nuoc leo vao can mam ruoc, khuay len va lai chat lay nuoc tron mot lan nua. Dun soi roi cho lan vao noi nuoc leo . Dun soi them mot lan, kiem soat thit thay vua chin thi vot ra de nguoi thai lat./
3. CRAB PATTIES: cha cua
300g pork mince: heo bam
500g crab meat: thit cua
100ml vegetable oil: dau
2Tbspns Anato seeds: hot dieu
2 Egg yolks: Long do trung ga
3 Minced purple shallot: hanh tim bam
4 minced garlic cloves: toi bam
Salt, pepper, sugar to taste: Muoi tieu duong vua khau vi

Heat up the oil to smoking, Remove the pot from the stove, add the anato seeds stir to make red colour. Leave aside.
Mix egg yolks with minced pork with shallot and garlic in a mortar, seasoned with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Mix well and pound well. Add anato seed oil to get a good colour, add crab meat mix well using chopsticks. Keep cool in refrigerator.
Dun dau cho nong, bac ra cho hat dieu vao lam nuoc mau do. Tron long do trung, hanh toi voi thit heo say, nem muoi tieu duong cho vua mieng De tu da lanh
4. CHILI OIL: Mau ot
100g fine red chilli powder: ot bot
100ml Stock: nuoc leo
100ml oil: dau
1Tbspn Minced garlic: toi bam
1Tbspn Minced shallot : hanh tim bam
1Tbspn Minced lemon grass: Sa bam
2 golden shallot, sliced:hanh tim lat mong
Mix chilli powder with stock.
Heat 1 tbspn oil and fry garlic, shallot and lemon grass until aromatic. Cool
Pour into the chilli mixture. Mix well.
Heat the rest of the oil, fry sliced purple shallot add extra anato oil for brighter colour. Mix into chilli mixture.
Tron ot bot voi nuoc leo . Dun 1 thia dau xao hanh toi sa cho thom khi nguoi cho vao ot.
Loan making the chilli oil for Bun Bo Hue

The beautiful chilli oil
Dun not cho dau con lai, phi hanh thom cho them dau dieu neu muon mau do tuoi, do vao hon hop ot. Tron deu.

5. SALAD & HERBS: Rau Song
300g Bean sprouts: gia
300g Shredded banana sucker: Bap chuoi bao
300g Split morning glory: Rau muong che.
300g Asoorted fresh herbs: Rau thom du loai

2kg Rice noodle: bun soi to
Condiments to accompany: Shredded Green shallot & coriander, pepper, fresh chilli, fish sauce, lemon wedges
Gia vi an kem: Hanh ngo thai nho, tieu, ot, nuoc mam, chanh


Bring the stock back to boiling, using a table spoon to drop the crab paste into the boiling stock. Add some anato oil and chilli oil
to give colour to the stock. Adjust taste. Lower heat to minimum.
Place 100g of rice noodle in a soup bowl, arrange slices of pork and beef over the noodle with a few crab patties. Sprinkle with green shallot & coriander. Pour hot stock over add chilli oil. Served with fresh salad and herbs.

Serving up the noodle for bun bo Hue
Pour the stock over with slices of beef pork and crab patties


1kg Rice flour :Bot gao te
2litres Coconut milk: Nuoc cot dua
1tspn Turmeric powder: bot nghe
2tspns Salt/fish sauce: Muoi/ Nuoc mam
2 chicken eggs : Trung ga
½ cup finely shredded green shallot

Add flour to coconut milk, mix well. Dilute turmeric powder in a little coconut milk then add to the flour mixture. Season with salt or fish sauce. Beat eggs and blend in well. Leave aside until needed.
Tron bot voi nuoc dua cho deu, hoa bot nghe voi mot chut nuoc dua roi tron chung voi dung dich bot va nuoc dua. Nem muoi mam cho vua. Danh trung roi tron deu, de mot chut cho bot no.

Making the batter for singing pancake
2. FILLING (Prawn & Pork) : NHAN (Tom Thit)
1kg Shrimps (Trimmed of head & tail) : Tep bac (bo dau duoi)
1kg Belly pork (Thinly sliced): Thit ba roi thai mong van ho ban
50mls Fish sauce: nuoc mam
2tspns Pepper: tieu
50mls Oil/Pork fat: Dau/Mo
1 large onion, finely sliced: hanh tay lat mong
Marinate prawns and pork separately with fish sauce and pepper.
Heat 25 mls oil, add ½ onions, stir fry till translucent, add sliced pork, stir fry till just cooked. Remove pork from pan. Add the remain oil and onion, fry shrimps until pink, remove and set aside
Ngam tom thit voi tieu, mam. Dung ½ dau xao hanh thit cho chin toi. Muc ra. Cho not dau va hanh con lai xao tom khi chin do. Muc ra.
Stir fried prawn and pork for filling

3. FILLING: (Vegetables) : NHAN (Rau)
500g Bean sprouts : gia
2 Jicama Finely cut into strips : cu san thai chi
1 bundle Chinese Chives (cut into 3cm lengths): he cat khuc
300g Steamed split mung bean: do xanh hap.

300mls Coconut juice : nuoc dua tuoi
300mls vinegar: dam
150g sugar: Duong
150ml Fish sauce: Nuoc mam.
1/cup pickles (carrot & Daikon): do chua (carot cu cai)


Grease the pan, heat to smoking hot, pour a ladle of batter into the pan , twirl it around to make a large thin pancake. Lower the heat, place a layer of steamed mung bean then a layer of shrimp and pork, finish with a layer of mix vegetable. Cover for a minutes or two. Fold the pan cake in half .
Making three pancake at the same time

Making the singing pancake with a big smile

Served with lettuce and herbs.
Cho mo vao chao, do mot moi bot trang mong, cho dau xanh, tom thit gia song tren nua banh, dong vung mot chut sau do gap banh thanh hinh ban nguyet. An voi rau song cham nuoc man pha.
Enjoying the pancake.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A Modern Reception and Banquet at one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most luxurious Wedding and Conference Centre “La Grande Palace”

I was invited as part of Maison Chance Foundation to attend a wedding of the youngest son of one of MC’s ex partner, even though I had never met this person. I was very glad to have the opportunity to observe some new trends in banquet food, the last wedding I attended in Ho Chi Minh City was in 1993, when the market economy was at the beginning.
“La Grand Palace” occupies a he piece of land behind the main road with a large area to receive guests arriving by cars and buses, with temporary covered walk way to the entrance.
The curved marble stairs leading to the entrance, where female and male receptionists
 in formal white costumes welcomed guests, above is a large modern style chandelier.

Beyond this front entrance a large circular atrium covered with a giant glass dome from the centre hang an oval chandelier, in a moment I thought I was back in one of those casinos in Las Vegas.  It is like in a fantasy world, which did not have any thing to connect with reality.
The giant dome and chandelier above the atrium entrance to the hall

The dining hall was huge it must accommodate at least 500 guests and of course the ceiling is lined with more chandeliers, they must be a sign of ultimate opulence to the new middle class!

The dining hall was slowly filled up with guests, there was not exactly a dress code, some in formal gears, other in short shorts and t-shirts.  After midday, the master of ceremony announced the arrival of the bridal party while the dancers danced to Richard Strauss’ The Blue Danube, which was also projected on two large screens on either side of the stage. I was absolutely fascinated by this modern style wedding reception, may be the entertainment helps the guests to have something in common to talk together, often guests were put together just to fill in a table of 10.

The bride and groom was led to the stage by the attendants in white, after the MC introduced them he invited the rest of the bridal party to come up to the stage to be introduced. The happy moments was celebrated with a mini fire works. A couple of speeches then it was the time for the Bridal Toast. From the entrance three men in white uniforms marched up the stage with bottles of champagne. The bride and groom exchanged their glasses while the dancers danced around them to another romantic love song and the sparkling fireworks.

Then it was time to eat and here is the menu for the banquet:

1. Two entrees:
+salad of young coconut  shoot with prawn and pork.
+Deep fried squid rings
2. Mixed seafood soup
3. Bacon rolled barramundi filet
4.Braised chicken served with bread roll
5. Thai style seafood hot pot  serve with fresh rice vermicelli
6. Grapes from the US
Bon apetit.
As the entrees were served the entertaining program began with a couple of singers singing songs expressing love and happiness,  following by the band playing continuously.
My clearest memory of this meal was the taste of SUGAR.
The coconut shoot salad is predominantly sweet with a slight hint of sour.
The deep fried squid rings were just like those from our fish and chips shop (pre crumbed, frozen
and deep fried) served with a seafood cocktail sauce which is also quite sweet but at least it was a bit spicy.

As for the mixed seafood soup, it is a must in every banquet basically it is a corn flour thicken soup with loaded MSG and broken bits of sea food stick . The traditional version of this soup was crabmeat with asparagus soup with real chicken stock.

The taste of the barramundi was lost in the batter and the deep - frying It was served with sweet and sour sauce. I felt sorry for the waste of good barramundi.

I was not sure what was taste of the braised chicken supposed to be, by the yellow colour sauce I guess it could be a chicken curry but seriously it tasted just like boiled chicken dropped in a very weak and tasteless curry sauce.

The Thai style hot pot looked promising with the great looking raw ingredients, whole tiger prawns, pieces of fish and squid and a host of fresh vegetables including, taro stalk, pumpkin flower, green beans, finely banana sucker slices, kang kong  stems, straw mushrooms, tomatoes and a special vegetable called Rau Rut in Vietnamese.

However the sugary stock spoiled all these fabulous fresh ingredients. The stock was deprived of the basic taste of Thai hot pot: spicy and sour.

It is a very common problem of cooking and serving international food without basic cultural knowledge, and the grapes garnished with parsley is an example.

The waiting staff are trained in basic silver service but it was impossible for them to do their job properly with young kids running around and crowded seating arrangement.
I am thinking about my impossible job at Village Chance Eateries!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The illusive perfect dumpling wrappers Duck Recipes

Restaurant food.

I am working on the menus for Village Chance various eateries: the Tapas Bar, the Buffet Bar and the restaurant.
So in the last two months I have been testing and retesting some of my favourite duck recipes and wrappers for dumplings.

In the past I just made delicious fillings and used commercial wrappers and the results were acceptable.  However they are nothing comparing with the translucent and velvety little morsels I had in China, Hong Kong & Japan.

I decided to have a go at making them. I do not use a lot of wheat flour in my cooking so I need to learn a lot about the process of making flour into different kind dough and batter.
I look on line and through my cookery book collection for dumpling wrappers and there are practically thousands of recipes for them, but the perfect foolproof recipes, so far are still elusive.
Most of the dough is made with wheat flour, water, salt and oil with a few exceptions which required wheat starch, potato, arrowroot or tapioca starch. For dumpling the whiter the flour the better looking wrappers.
I could not find wheat starch so I use normal plain flour and tapioca flour in my last trials but they were not at all translucent.
I was told to just stick with commercial wrappers. May be they are right.
But I am still testing… I will let you know the results.

I made up a few duck dishes based on traditional Vietnamese duck and egg plant curry, duck a l’orange, and the Laos duck with coconut and galangal.
They all work extremely well and very tasty. But I tend not to indulge in the Laos style it could be not very good for your cholesterol level.
Following are the duck recipes.
Duck breast curry with baby eggplant
1 duck breast per serve
Ingredients & preparation:
6                   Duck breasts: trimmed off excess fat and loose skin. Reserve the extra fat and the small  loose strips of meat for other uses. Rinsed and paper towel dried.
Poaching stock:
1.5litres           Water
 500ml           Dry white wine
6cm           Bruised ginger
6           Golden shallot, peeled and bruised
3           Stalks of whole green shallot: trimmed and washed
1tbspn  salt
50mls  fish sauce
Bring water to boiling, add wine and all other ingredients. Add duck breasts Bring back to boiling, lower heat to simmer for 10minutes. Turn off heat leave breasts to cool in stock.
Crisp skin duck. 
Remove breast and arrange them on baking tray skin side up. Sprinkle curry powder over skin grill till skin is golden and crisp. Remove from baking tray to cool.

Baby eggplants:
12                  baby eggplants, trimmed, cut into half lengthwise, soaked in salted water.
1tspn          salt
1tspn          curry powder
1/4cup          olive oil
Remove eggplant from soaking water, squeeze gently to remove excess water, arrange them on a baking tray cut side up. Mix salt & curry powder sprinkle evenly over eggplant. Brush generously with oil. Bake in 150C oven until soft, but not over cooked.
Curry Sauce
2tbspns          duck fat from grilling pan
3          shallots, peeled, finely minced
3          garlic cloves, peeled, finely minced
3cms  ginger, peeled, finely minced
3tbspns          vindaloo curry paste/sauce
3tbspns          tomato paste
3          large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded finely chopped.
500mls          poached duck stock
1tspn  salt
1tspn  sugar
Heat duck fat in a heavy saucepan on medium heat, add shallot, garlic ginger, fry until aromatic, and still tranlucent.
Add vindaloo curry paste, stir to mix well then add tomato paste, stir fry until glossy, add fresh tomato cook slowly into a thick sauce, stir constantly, season with salt and sugar. Add stock. Adjust seasoning and simmer until creamy.
Blend until smooth.
In a baking tray, arrange 4 halves eggplant in a row.
Trim both ends of duck breasts, then slice each slantly into 6-8 slices. Arrange each sliced breast over 4 eggplant halves nicely.
Slowly pour curry sauce over the duck. Cover with foil and bake in slow oven 150C for 45minutes -1 hrs.
2tbspns         Duck fat
1         Large onion finely sliced
2cms ginger cut into thin strips.
1         large red chilli, seeded cut into thin strips
1/2cup         Vietnamese mint finely shredded
Heat duck fat in a frying pan, fry onion, ginger until aromatic, add chilli and mint. Mix well
In a deep plate, arrange 1 portion of duck with sauce, garnish with onion mixture.

This recipes is a bit tedious but it is worth it. The duck is tender and full of flavour, the eggplant is plump with curry sauce. And the Vietnamese mint enhances the flavour of the duck and make this curry distinctive Vietnamese.

Spicy Orange Duck: inspired by the Colonial duck a l’orange
1                  2kg good duck, using a poultry shears, trimmed off wing tips, neck and back bone,   discard skin and fat to make stock. Discard any excess fatty areas and the tail where the duck gland is.  Separate the legs, thighs,  wings and breast which can be cut in half, season duck pieces with salt, pepper, ginger and orange zest.  Leave for about 1hour.

6                   golden shallots, peeled finely minced
6                   garlic cloves, peeled, finely minced
3                   white fleshy stalks of lemon grass finely minced
2cm                   ginger, peeled and finely minced
2                   red hot chilli, seeded and finely minced
2tbspns           arrowroot flour

500mls           freshly squeezed orange juice
500mls           Strained duck stock
2tspns   sugar
50mls           fish sauce
5                   stars anises roasted
¼ cup           finely shredded Vietnamese mint and green shallot.

In a dry heavy frying pan, fry the duck pieces, skin sides down until skin is crisp and golden, turn the pieces over to brown the other side quickly.  Remove fried duck and arrange duck in a large heavy casserole with skin side up.
Leave about 3 tbspns of duck fat in the frying pan on medium heat fry shallot, garlic, lemon grass, ginger, chilli until soft and aromatic.  Add flour , stir to mix.
Mix orange juice & duck stock with sugar and fish sauce, add to the shallot, stir to blend in stock and the mixture. Bring to boil and simmer for a few minutes. Strain the sauce over the fried duck, add the star anise. Bring to boiling then very slowly cook with lid on for 1 hour. Leave lid off and cook for further 15minutes to reduce sauce.
Served sprinkled with mint and shallot.