Vietnamese eggrolls

The holidays are right around the corner, and I have been craving some homemade, nostalgia-inducing Vietnamese food. One of my all time favorites is Vietnamese eggrolls — savory meat filled packets deepfried til golden brown. I’ll eat them with and without nuoc cham (Vietnamese fish dipping sauce), plain, or in a noodle dish.

After years of watching my mom make her meat filling, I set out and derived my own recipe which I feel is an accurate version of hers (but nothing ever compares to mom’s cooking, right?). Plus, what I love about this recipe is the simplicity and ease of making batches to freeze. They taste great fresh, but if you do end up freezing them, thaw the rolls on a paper towel before deep-frying.

Take the following ingredients and mix well. I ran all my ingredients through a food processor and let it do all the heavy lifting.

1 large onion, diced
1 ounce wood ear mushrooms, soaked and chopped
1/2 bag of baby carrots, chopped
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground shrimp
2 eggs
salt and pepper, generously

You should end up with a thick meat paste.
Then, all you need to do is roll the meat in an egg wrapper.

While the rolling process may look daunting, it’s easier than it looks. Basically, take a wrapper and orientate it like a diamond in front of you. Mold some meat paste like a log at the northern corner. Fold the northern corner over the log, roll once, tuck in the east and west corners, and finish rolling.

The last step is to fry to a nice crispy, golden brown and enjoy.
I decided to make vermicelli noodles and eat my eggrolls with mint, sliced cucumbers, and nuoc cham.

How to Shell a Crab Easily

All you need is a fork!

Dungeness crab was on sale for $5.99/lb (still waiting for the famed $3.99/lb), which prompted me to purchase 4 pre-cooked ones. I spent a little over $30 for them. Let me tell you that I love crab meat! I think it is better than lobster, shrimp, and other sea crustaceans because of the sweetness of the meat and therefore had to splurge. Of course, by purchasing 4 dungeness crabs, I intended to pick and save some of the meat. I figured I’d post about how to actually eat a whole crab with minimal waste.

The first step is obviously to cook it. Mine came precooked so I just slightly heated it up in the microwave to speed things along. I could have steamed or gently boiled it but I had to stopper my drool by stuffing my face with crab. The second step is to detach all the legs from the body. Since this step can be messy, I suggest this be done over a bowl or pot that will also serve to collect the shells for making a crab stock. Afterwards, you remove the triangular shaped covering or “tail” as I call it, slip your fingers in between the top and bottom crevice, and pry the two pieces apart. Deliciousness awaits you.

Personally, I like eating the yellow parts that consist of essentially crab guts. While somewhat unappetizing and strange looking, the yellow stuff is definitely a strong taste but I love it (and so does Jake).

The easiest method to get out the body meat is to snap the body in half. Often, I see pictures of people cutting it with a knife but it is super easy (one less thing to wash) to just use your fingers. The trick is to push the two halves inwards first to separate them. See pictures below since the process is difficult to describe. Then you just need your fingers to pick at the chunks of meat in the Dungeness crab; blue crab, being smaller, may require those tiny forks if you have giant hands.

My final piece of wisdom is to not use a crab cracker!! All you end up doing is smashing the delicate, sweet sweet meat. The easiest and best method to extract leg/claw meat is to use a fork. Take the fork and insert it into one end and slit it up along the length of the claw. This gives you a nice long entry point to then break the shell in two pieces and even works for the large claws. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t work with lobsters since their shells are too hard but, for all other shellfish, this works marvelously.

After eating 2.5 crabs and shelling the other parts, I collected roughly 2 cups of crab meat. I also threw most of the shells and miscellaneous crab juices into a pot with some bay leaves, half an onion, and some whole peppercorns and made a stock. The culinary plans for the week are crab egg omelets and maybe a crab corn bisque. ;0

Tempura Vegetables and Seafood

After feeling a wee disappointed in the store-bought pre-fried Cajun style turkey from QFC (flavor was okay but way too salty), I decided that I wanted to eat Japanese food. I am in somewhat of a Japanese phase right now with watch J-drama, anime, and online videos so I thought tempura sounded like a good idea. And it was a great idea.

I followed the instructions from the Kikkoman tempura batter mix to make the batter and heated the oil. I don’t have a thermometer so to gauge whether or not my oil is hot enough, I add a few drops of the batter in. If it instantly sizzles and bubbles, then it is done. The oil can get too hot though so be careful!

collage-2016-11-26

Then all you really need is to dip your veggies and seafood into the batter and deep fry. I choose a selection of sliced pumpkin, baby bella mushrooms, broccoli florets, sliced onions, and chunks of salmon and cod. A quick dusting with salt and pepper, and all the ingredients were ready to be dipped and fried. Salmon fries beautifully btw. To keep pieces crispy, I placed them on a rack for any excess oil to drip off.

dsc_1063

To accompany the tempura, I quickly made rice and a simple broth for udon noodles. Nothing quite memorable as I have yet been able to replicate restaurant versions. I am not providing a recipe at this time since it is not as good as I hoped.

dsc_1068

I had purchased some shucked oysters and figured this was the chance to make delicious fried oysters. Oysters are the best fried seafood in my opinion. Crispy, moist, and flavorful.

Instead of tempura coating them, I decided to panko coat them since panko helps retain all the oyster juices. Basically, I dredged them with flour, followed by a dip in an egg, and then crusted them with panko. After a quick fry, they came out amazingly! Yummy fried oysters.

dsc_1075

So to recap, tempura vegetables and seafood is super easy to make. All you need is 1) tempura batter 2) oil. Just follow instructions on the tempura mix box and make sure your vegetables and seafood are dry.

Panko-crusted fried oysters are amazing and super easy to make as well. All you need is 1) flour 2) beaten egg 3) panko 4) oil. Wipe excess moisture from the oysters and dredge them slightly with flour. Quickly coat the flour-dredged oysters in the egg wash and coat with panko crumbs. Deep fry until golden brown. Simple!

dsc_1074

Any tempura that I couldn’t finish, I refrigerated and then baked in the oven to reheat. For the most part, all the veggies were still crisp and delicious. So make a lot. It’s fun and easy.

Beef: It’s what’s for dinner

Marbled Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meat

I went to my favorite Japanese supermarket, Owajimaya, to buy ingredients for some Asian meals. Let me say that this grocery store sells some pretty nice meat, nice expensive things in general. I’ve been really good at resisting the temptation to buy the nice beef but decided to splurge this time…I mean it was really for poor Jake who was stuck at home eating frozen dinners while I was working in Europe. ;0

dsc_0874

Look at these pieces of beef! Look at the glorious fat! I bought 1/2 lbs for $15 and cooked it simply with salt and pepper. It was the most tender piece of meat I’ve ever eaten. I wouldn’t consider it the best since it was already cut into individual strips and couldn’t be cooked as a normal steak, but it was definitely tender and delicious.

collage-2016-10-16-4

Was it absolutely worth the price tag? Resounding YES! Would I buy it again? Yes but not now. It’s too decadent for a daily/weekly/monthly indulgence. It’s best for special occasions or else I would be spoiled. It has been feeding my obsession with visiting Japan and trying Kobe and other Japanese beef. Yummy beef. I love delicious food.

What’s in my belly…

My weeks have been a blur recently, and I can’t believe it is already September. Where did my summer go? Crisp fall weather strolling in; almost time for hot beverages other than morning coffee.

I barely remember any foods that I’ve eaten except for a few dishes that I either just had — homemade Taiwanese dumplings with Lee and Sharon — or delicious homemade hotpots with Lee and Sharon. Apparently, my most memorable food adventures are will Lee and Sharon.

Hotpots – soo yummy

DSC_0484

Pho (one of Jake’s favorite Vietnamese soups)

collage-2016-09-05

and of course, lots and lots of different seafood

such as our 4 lb lobster

DSC_0650

shrimp pasta

DSC_0645

cioppino

DSC_0715

and clam chowder and dumplings not pictured.

Yummy tummys.

What’s in my belly…

It’s been busy in Seattle!
1. Between my job and traveling and gaming habits, I haven’t updated my blog in so long. I’m currently moving into a townhouse after 6 months of subletting a room…so I’ve been dealing with unpacking and realizing how much stuff I have. Turns out I have too much birdstuff…(who woulda thought?) and not enough board games.
2. The birds are here! They be chirpin and sqwakin all day long. Luckily, the neighbors told me that they heard no noise through the walls! Yay for sound insulation!
3. This weekend has all been out exploring the neighborhood as well. I’ve never lived in a place with a walk score of 89 so it’s super convenient to walk everywhere. Which means I need to get into shape over this summer. The plan is bike around the lake later this afternoon.
4. I’ve been eating too well and have gained some weight! Seattle seafood is amazing! Oysters = yum.

Without further ado:

Oysters, mussels, clams (can eat all day long)
collage-2016-06-05 (1)

Bruschetta, steak, calamari, and clam chowder

collage-2016-06-05 (2)

More seafood!!!

collage-2016-06-05 (3)

And finally some homemade bun rieu — the best I’ve made so far

DSC_0418

Palisades, Seattle

Brunch! Munch!

Seattle’s culinary scene is one of the best in quality, quantity, and variety. Sadly, I haven’t had the opportunity to eat out much because dining solo is not my cup of tea. Most of the food opportunities I get are with coworkers and managers from MS. Recently, I was able to check out a seafood, all-you-can-eat brunch buffet at the Palisades in Seattle. Located off the marina, it harbored amazing views and good food, which inevitably made a substantial dent in my checkbook.

DSC_1333

For my first plate, I decided to enjoy their chilled seafood selection of snowcrab legs, oysters on the half shell, and peel-and-eat shrimp. I was disappointed that they did not have dungess crab, but their shrimp and cocktail sauce was delicious — almost as delicious as the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmos in Indianapolis. Fresh shrimp. Powerful horseradish cocktail. Best combo.

collage-2016-02-27

The next plate consisted of some sushi, prime rib with au jus, two types of salad, and a pesto/salami pasta. I nibbled on an assortment of homemade pickled vegetables including tangy carrots, mushrooms, green beans, and cauliflower. I proceeded to try their steelhead salmon/trout (apparently steelhead is a term for ocean trout and resembles Pacific salmon). In any case, it was tasty and would have been more so if I hadn’t already been full.

DSC_1341---Copy

You have the option of ordering eggs benedict with smoked salmon or ham. I chose the smoked salmon since its a trademark of the Pacific Northwest. The eggs benedict was to die for. Absolutely delicious.

DSC_1338---Copy

Last but not least, their assortment of desserts was quite staggering. I won’t go into much detail about their chocolate fountain, cookie varieties, fruits, parfaits, scones, cheesecakes or homemade chocolate truffles, but I will say that it all looked amazing. The best desert in my opinion was their mocha creme brulee. Not too sweet. Not too rich. Not too large. But just right.

collage-2016-02-27 (1)

It was definitely a culinary once-a-year treat!

DSC_1351

Baconologie: Session 1

Bacon is KING. IMO.

Since I love bacon, I figured it was time to begin blogging about the various brands of bacon I buy and try to figure out if the price justifies the taste. The prices given are rough estimates as they vary from region to region. Without further ado,

Heritage Farms ($3)
Farmland Thick Cut ($4)
Trader Joe’s Apple Smoked ($5)

I can’t resist cheap bacon even if it doesn’t look the best…and obviously it wasn’t the greatest quality as the cuts were of various thicknesses and prone to breakage. It was poorly marbled with a high fat to meat ratio. Still quite tasty and probably best served with thick pieces of bread to soak up all the grease.
collage-2016-01-09 (1)

Farmland was a good bacon purchase. The slices weren’t too thin (but not really thick cut either as advertised) and had a good fat to meat ratio. Plus, it crisped up really well in the oven! Highly recommend for sandwiches and salad toppers.
collage-2016-01-09 (2)

Trader Joe’s store brand bacon is pretty excellent. I think it’s decently priced, and the slices are thick and scrumptious. Perfect for a bacon, avocado, tomato, and¬†lettuce¬†sandwich. I wouldn’t waste chopping this bacon up because you can also buy the bits and pieces version at a cheaper price.
collage-2016-01-09 (3)

Bun Rieu Cua (Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup)

Spicy Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup!

DSC_1261

This is my favorite Vietnamese soup after pho. I love the sweet crab meat mixed with minced pork and eggs in a tangy rich flavored broth. Topped with Vietnamese fixings. It’s filling, healthy, and simple to make. This Bic recipe takes about 1 hour. I cheat with some shortcuts such as using a bun rieu soup base and chicken stock. I also really like eating meat so I make a lot of the crab mixture.

DSC_1239

Ingredients:

for the Rieu (crab mixture)
14 oz “mince prawn in spices”
1 lb canned crabmeat (less is fine)
1 lb pork (less is fine)
3 eggs
1 tbs fish sauce
salt and pepper

for the stock
6-8 cups chicken stock (or less depending on how much soup base you want to add)
6-8 cups water
4 tbs bun rieu soup base (or tamarind soup base)
2 tbs “fine shrimp sauce”
2 tbs fish sauce
6-8 tomatoes, quartered
4-6 hot peppers, sliced (optional depending on your spice tolerance — i used habaneros)

to serve
vermicelli rice noodles
chopped green onions
bean sprouts
lime wedges
mint (traditional garnish)
fish mint (traditional garnish and not for everyone)
shredded banana flower (traditional garnish)
shredded water spinach (traditional garnish)

The stock is incredibly simple. Combine all the ingredients for the stock in a large pot and bring to a boil for 40 minutes before turning down to a medium simmer. Depending on how cooked you like your tomatoes, add them in the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Remember to season to your preferences so you might add more or less of certain ingredients. For example, I prefer to use half water since it’s cheaper than using 100% chicken broth.

While that’s boiling away, prepare the crab mixture by dumping all the ingredients into a large bowl and stirring them together. Slowly add this mixture to your simmering stock. Season again to your taste, and then you’re basically done. All you have to do next is ladle the mixture over vermicelli noodles and garnish with whatever accompaniments you want.

collage (3)

I only had bean sprouts and some assorted herbs on hand so my toppings were simple. Nevertheless, the flavors of this dish are amazing. Enjoy!

DSC_1257

 

 

A Delicious Twist on Ratatouille

Eggplant Parm Makes Everything Delish

My go to comfort vegetable dish is my homemade ratatouille. It’s a more delicious version of the classic dish of eggplant, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and tomatoes. I use eggplant parmesan as my base and layer from there. Topped with melted cheese. It’s absolutely amazing. The eggplant parmesan, cheese, and Italian seasoning really elevate this dish.

DSC_0859

Ingredients:

Eggplant
Zucchini
Yellow Squash
Onion
Bell pepper
Tomato
Egg (for eggwash)
Italian breadcrumbs
Parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper

DSC_0826

I start out with slicing all my vegetables and preparing for my bottom layer of eggplant parmesan, which are dipped in eggwash, coated with Italian breadcrumbs seasoned with cheese, herbs, salt and pepper, and pan fried until golden brown. That’s my base, and it really enhances the flavors in this recipe. Then I begin layering my vegetables and season with a little Italian seasoning and salt and pepper between each layer. I tend to layer the tomatoes last as I enjoy their carmelized taste once baked. I topped my ratatouille with a splash of balsamic vinegar before baking in the oven at 375 F.

collage-2015-10-19

After baking in the oven for 30-40 minutes, I sprinkled the top with a generous helping of freshly grated parmesan cheese and baked for another 10-15 minutes.

DSC_0841 DSC_0843
The finished dish is not only beautiful and easy to serve but absolutely positively amazing. I like to serve it either as a main dish or as a vegetable accompaniment. It’s a little more time consuming than normal ratatouille but 100% worth it.
DSC_0857