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.