DDD #95 – Vegan Vietnamese Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich with Pickled Vegetables & Sriracha Mayo

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Click the image above to watch the video. This fucker was awesome!  There are a few steps to assemble the ingredients but they are all easy.  You can make this with any sort of chicken substitute you might like.  I am obsessed with Beyond Meat strips.  They do not have an overpowering taste & can easily be manipulated & I like the texture, too. Seitan works nicely, too!

Traditionally, banh mi have pork in them but I haven’t found a decent fake pork – unless you believe that pork is “the new white meat.”  If so – this fake chicken could masquerade as fake pork, too.

This takes a few hours of planning ahead so that you can marinate the chicken & pickle the carrots & jalapeno & daikon.

If you cannot find vegan fish sauce – there are lots of pretty simple recipes for vegan fish sauce HERE.  Whatever you do, do not skip the marinade because it tastes great & the sriracha mayo is good enough to eat with a spoon.

 

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Marinated Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich

Makes two sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

2 crusty rolls or some high quality baguette

8 oz faux chicken

1 avocado – cut into slices

1/2 cucumber – sliced thin

leafy lettuce

2 radishes – sliced thin

1 jalapeno – seeded & sliced thin

cilantro

Olive oil or cooking spray

For the pickled vegetables

1 carrot – cut into matchsticks

daikon – cut into matchsticks

1 jalapeno – seeded & cut into matchsticks

3 cups warm water

3 TBS sugar

2 TBS salt

4 TBS white or rice vinegar

For the marinade

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

6 garlic cloves (or to taste) – minced

4 shallots (or 1/2 small onion) – diced

2 TBS fish sauce (vegan version – or omit it)

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp Chinese five spice

1 TBS hoisin sauce

1 tsp sriracha (or to taste)

For the spicy mayo

1/4 cup vegan mayo

1 lime

3 TBS sriracha

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350.

For the pickled vegetables

Warm the water & add the sugar, salt & vinegar & stir until the sugar & salt dissolve.  Put the matchstick veggies in a bowl or jar & cover with the warm water mix.  Store in the fridge for at least and hour or two.

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For the marinade

Blend all the marinade ingredients & add the chicken to it.  Store in the fridge for at least an hour.

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For the spicy mayo

Blend the mayo with the sriracha & the juice of the lime.  Store in the fridge.

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For the Banh Mi

Prepare the cucumber, avocado, radishes & jalapeno.  Set aside.

Heat a frying or grill pan.  Treat it with cooking spray or olive oil & cook up the marinated chicken.  Set aside.

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Scoop the soft part of the bread out & throw it away.  Heat the bread in the warm oven for 5 minutes.

To assemble – simply spread some spicy mayo on the bread.  Then layer on some chicken.  Then pickled veggies (drained well!) & radish slices.  Add sliced cucumber & jalapeno.  Add lettuce & cilantro.  Add some avocado.  Smash it together.  Shove it in your face – and feel free to dip it in the extra spicy mayo.

See?  What’d I tell you?

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DDD #91 – Vegan Spicy Lemongrass & Ginger Beef with Purple Cabbage Fried Rice

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Click the image above to watch the video.  I had a head of purple cabbage in my fridge that was the size of a basketball.   I decided to add half of it to some leftover rice to accomplish two things: not waste all the cabbage & to extend the quantity of rice with some guiltless & vibrant cabbage.  I am very happy with the result both in color & the crunch the cabbage adds to the texture.  I recommend it very highly.

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Purple Cabbage Fried Rice

INGREDIENTS

(I used a tad more cabbage than rice but the ratio is up to you.)

2 cups cooked rice

2 cups chopped purple cabbage

1/2 onion – diced

1 cup grated or slivered carrots

1-5 cloves garlic – chopped

2 or more TBS fresh minced ginger

1 TBS sesame (or other) oil

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a large wok or saute pan.  Add the onions, & cabbage & saute until they begin to soften.  Add the carrots, rice & ginger & stir to combine & warm through.  Add the garlic and saute another minute or two.  Serve.

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Vegan Spicy Lemongrass & Ginger Beef

Serves 2 very well (this is HALF the recipe I made in the video)

INGREDIENTS

2 or 3 stalks of lemongrass – cut into 3″ lengths & smashed with the handle of a knife (to bruise them & release the flavor.  The cooked lemongrass is inedible so pick around it in the finished dish.) . Or – use the juice of 1/2 lemon.

8+ ounces seitan (or other meat replacement like – Beyond Meat Chicken or Gardein beef or pork products)

3 dry red chilies (optional – they are quite spicy) – crumbled a bit

3 garlic cloves – chopped

2 or more cups of fresh green beans – trimmed

1 TBS sambal oelek or garlic chili paste (more for extra heat)

3 TBS vegan mushroom or oyster-favored sauce

2 TBS minced ginger

1 TBS ground anise or szechuan pepper

2 TBS dark soy sauce (it gives the seitan that dark & beefy color)

1 TBS liquid aminos (or soy sauce or tamari)

1 TBS shao xing rice wine

2 TBS brown sugar

Potential garnished: sliced red or green jalapeno peppers, basil or mint or cilantro leaves

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a wok or large pan & add the dry red chilies – if using.  Add the lemongrass & saute a minute or two.  Add the green beans & saute on high heat until they begin to sear a bit.

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Add the remaining ingredients.  Add about 1/4 cup water to aid in steaming the beans a bit & create some sauce.  Heat through – until the sauce thickens.  Serve with rice.

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DDD #41 – Vegan Vietnamese Fresh Salad Rolls with Homemade Peanut Dipping Sauce

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

Click the image below to watch the video.

Vegan Vietnamese Fresh Salad Rolls

Ingredients:

FILLING OPTIONS:

  • 1 package vermicelli rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • Tofu or other protein
  • Basil – fresh (Thai sweet or hot basil is nice, too, if you can find it)
  • Mint – fresh
  • Cilantro – fresh
  • Butter lettuce, washed and separated into leaves – ribs removed
  • Carrots, peeled & cut into very thin matchsticks
  • Cucumber, peeled and cut into very thin strips
  • Avocado
  • Purple cabbage
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Sprouts
  • Micro greens
 Be sure you have the type of wrappers pictured below (or another brand) and not egg roll or wonton wrappers.  Those are an entirely different breed & need cooking.

Directions:

Prepare the noodles & vegetables in advance – being sure they are washed & dried.  Have a large bowl of warm water ready for dipping the spring roll wrappers.
  • 1  Dip a sheet of spring roll wrapper into water very quickly, no longer than a second or two (or they will get too soggy) and lay flat on a work surface.
  • 2  On one edge, lay a small handful of noodles, some basil & mint leaves, some pressed tofu, some cucumber & carrot strips, purple cabbage, avocado & some micro greens (or whatever fillings you are using) – being careful not to overstuff the wrapper.
  • 3  Roll up burrito style, tucking in the sides, then continue to roll up-but not too tightly or the spring roll wrapper will tear.
You will, no doubt, need a few attempts to get one right. Be patient – it gets easier.  Be prepared to throw a bunch away or to settle for some funky shaped rolls!  They should be served fairly quickly after preparing them. Too much time in the fridge after assembly will dry them out. These can be filled with nearly anything so feel free to get creative!

You can BUY a spicy peanut sauce in a jar or can at most Asian markets or online (for example – http://www.lynmarket.com/proddetail.asp?prod=011152198903).  They are usually quite good, but, if you are feeling motivated –

Peanut Sauce Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of peanut butter – smooth or chunky
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 TBS low sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • cilantro, crushed nuts or a swirl of sriracha for garnish

Directions

  1. Combine
  2. Garnish with a squeeze of sriracha or nuts or cilantro

Of not in the mood to make sauce – many options are available at the store.

Ninety-Second Video Vegan – Zero-Carb & Zero-Calorie Vegan Shirataki Pho

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This is a redux of my March 8, 2013 post.  I repost it because I made a new Video Vegan 90-second video of the process to make it.  This pho only takes as long as it takes to heat the water.  Check it out here:

OK – I fibbed a bit in the title of this post.  This soup actually has less than 5 grams of carbohydrates & 85 calories.  Still – it is a huge 3 cup bowl of spicy, awesome soup that is as close to guilt free as a bunch of celery and way more satisfying.  Look at the shirataki packaging:

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It is ridiculous to suggest (as the package states) that this is a 2.5 serving package.  I ate two of these in my bowl of soup – so – I guess I had 5 servings, hence the 5 grams of carbs.  Still – zero calories!!

The calories came from a 30 calorie vegetarian bouillon cube, a 5 calorie TBS of sriracha & a 30 calorie TBS of vegetarian hoisin.

These noodles are a kind of miracle but be forewarned – they are packaged in a stinky water that smells very funky & fishy.  I drained my noodles, washed them in water & let them soak in clean water while I went to the gym.  I came back & sniffed & found them still rather distasteful in the olfactory department.  I read that boiling them removes the aroma – so – I made this soup. It was done in the time it took the water to warm just to boiling & there were ZERO funkified elements in the completed pho.  Had there been any lingering fishiness, the sriracha & hoisin would have overpowered it.  But, sincerely, there was nothing yucky about the finished product.  I am going to have to learn to get very creative with these because I just cannot pass up the opportunity of 85 calorie meals that feel like they are pasta-based.

Zero-Carb & Zero-Calorie Vegan Shirataki Pho

INGREDIENTS

2  7 oz packages of shirataki noodles (I prefer the tofu ones to the yam ones)

2 cups stock (I used water & a veggie bouillon cube)

1 TBS hoisin sauce (or to taste)

1 TBS sriracha sauce (or to taste)

fresh chopped cilantro (or basil or mint)

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DIRECTIONS

Drain & rinse the shirataki in hot water.  Put all the ingredients in a pot & bring just to a boil – making sure your bouillon is dissolved.  Add more fresh cilantro.  Shove it in your face like a glutton & imagine your ass shrinking until it looks like this

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(image stolen from the internet)

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Beyond Meat Vegetarian Vietnamese Lemongrass with Beyond Chicken – Frozen Dinner – Part 2

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or just print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Ever have a bad day? Just found out you need a root canal? Someone blurted out a spoiler for your favorite show? Donated all your “skinny clothes” because you finally accepted that they will never fit again (or even ever come back into fashion)? Somebody put a big dent in your car & didn’t leave a note? Huge zit appeared the day before a blind date? Saw an old photo of yourself that you used to HATE & now you wish you still looked half that good?  Tried to twerk & threw your back out?

Need a little comfort food to go with your box of wine but you can’t really cook or you are too exhausted, anyway?

Beyond Meat to the rescue!

Beyond Meat has done it again!  Very soon, 4 different, single-serving frozen meals will become available.  They might already be available at Whole Foods in the frozen meal aisle.  I was lucky enough to find one of each kind and I will talk about the Vegetarian Vietnamese Lemongrass here today.

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Zaps in the microwave in between 3-6 minutes.  Despite the slightly higher calorie count (compared to the Korean BBQ) – but still only 350 calories – it was lighter than the BBQ dish.  I like my food spicy so I added a TBS or two of sambal oelek to this & it was perfect!  And for those concerned about protein intake – this has 20 grams!

Non-GMO & 100% vegan – this is a welcome new dish in the convenience food market.  I highly recommend it!  Vegan, non-GMO & right in the ballpark with Lean Cuisines (et al) with a very low calorie count.  Win-win-win!

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Vegan Vietnamese Spicy Caramel Beef Bowl

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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This is a dish traditionally prepared with pork.  You might think that a faux chicken would be a closer thing to pork that faux beef and you would probably be correct.  But – I have been using faux chicken a lot lately & decided to mix it up a bit.  If you make this dish – any faux meat would be fine & a faux chicken would certainly be prettier to photograph.

I was going to use this Trader Joe’s stuff –

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but then I remembered I had this stuff in the fridge & opted instead to try it.

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I thought the cube-style rather than a strip-style beef would be better for this dish.  But, Gardein proved underwhelming, yet again.  My complaint with the Gardein products is that the bulk of them are “breaded” or have some kind of bready texture on the outside & that even these beef cubes, while not bready, proved to have a fragile consistency that would never hold up in a stew or something.  And the texture is NOTHING like meat when you chew it.  It just sort of crumbles.  So – my suggestion is, if you are going to make any of the faux beef things I post, use the Trader Joe’s stuff instead.  Beyond Meat makes a faux beef, apparently, but my local grocery store doesn’t carry it so the jury is still out on that version.

I am posting a beef bowl serving suggesting here but you needn’t get all the stuff for that if it sounds like a pain in the ass.  Just serve this shit over rice & scarf it down.

Oh – and I apologize for the photos.  Dark beef items are really hard to make look pretty.  Do not be thrown, however – because this is far yummier than it looks!

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Vegan Vietnamese Spicy Caramel Beef Bowl

Serves 2 with rice

INGREDIENTS

8 oz or so of faux meat

Cornstarch

S&P

1-2 TBS toasted sesame oil

1/2 onion or 1 large shallot – minced

1 TBS ginger – minced (I use jarred)

4 garlic cloves – minced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup vegetable stock

1 TBS soy sauce

2 tsp cornstarch (additional)

2 tsp rice vinegar

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper (to taste)

1/2 red bell pepper – seeded & cut into strips

1-2 red or green jalapenos (or other hot peppers – to taste)

1/4 cup toasted peanuts (I planned to use cashews but forgot to)

Cilantro – chopped – as garnish

Cooked rice

Sesame seeds – as garnish (optional)

For a bowl

Napa cabbage

Red Cabbage

Scallions

Lime wedges

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DIRECTIONS

Make some rice.

If doing the bowl version – chop up some Napa cabbage & some red cabbage & some scallions & cilantro & set aside.

Toss the meat in enough cornstarch (and some S&P) to lightly coat it.  Set aside.

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Whisk the stock, soy sauce, 2 tsp cornstarch, rice vinegar & crushed red pepper together.  Set aside.

Prep the onion or shallot, the garlic, ginger & jalapeno (or other pepper) and set aside.

Slice the other veggies & have them on hand.

Spread the brown sugar on the bottom of a dry pan over medium heat – and leave it undisturbed until it melts.  Then stir it with a wooden spoon until it caramelizes.  Be VERY careful not to burn it.

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Take the spoon out of the pan & VERY CAREFULLY add the stock mixture to the pan.  Be very careful not to burn yourself.  That molten sugar isn’t fucking around.  The caramel will instantly harden so stir again with a wooden spoon over moderate heat until it melts again & the sauce begins to thicken.  Set aside on lowest possible heat.

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Heat the sesame oil over med-high heat & fry the meat up.  I used a lid to press it against the heat.  When it is browned on all sides, put in in a bowl & set aside.

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If you need a little more oil in the pan add it & saute the red or green jalapeno & the onion (or shallot) for a few minutes or until tender.

Add the ginger to the pan with the onion & jalapeno.  My ginger was jarred & wet & spattered everywhere so be careful.  Saute this about a minute & then add the garlic for about 30 seconds.

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Now – a tricky part.  Add the stock to the saute pan.  It will likely splatter a bit so do this carefully and at arm’s reach.  Bring to a boil & then reduce to a simmer.  Add the slices of red pepper & the faux beef & heat through.

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Now – either serve this over rice with some scallions & cilantro or create a beef bowl by layering rice & then meat & then the chopped raw veggie – and maybe some toasted nuts & sesame seeds on top – squeeze a bit of lime & go to town!

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Vegan Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Hey, everyone!  I wrote a hilarious novel and, if you haven’t read it yet, I hope you will.  Read the reviews on Amazon – HERE!  They are very encouraging!

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That said, I have been stocking up on this free vegan chicken!  Get the coupon HERE.  The coupon is good until the end of May so be sure to print a boat load out & have them in the car.  Use one every time you shop!  Here is what the packaging looks like & it is found in the freezer section.

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This dish is very easy & genuinely spicy.  If spice ain’t your thang – cut back on the hot peppers.  If fresh lemongrass is unavailable to you, just squeeze in fresh lemon to taste.

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Vegan Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

serves two with rice

INGREDIENTS

1 9 oz package of vegan chicken (or real chicken)

2 TBS fish sauce (or use soy sauce for a vegan version)

4 garlic cloves – minced

1 TBS curry powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp sugar

3 TBS olive oil

2 lemongrass stalks

1-2 fresh lemons

1 large shallot (or small onion) – diced

3 red chilies (or serrano or jalapeno) – or to taste – seeded & chopped

1 scallion – chopped – for garnish

4 additional TBS sugar

water

Steamed rice

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DIRECTIONS

Mix the fish (or soy) sauce in a glass container with the garlic, curry powder, salt and 1 1/2 tsp sugar.  Blend well.  Add the chicken & marinate for at least an hour.

Make rice according to directions.

In a deep stock pan, heat 2 TBS water & 4 TBS sugar over high heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves & then boil undisturbed until a caramel colored glaze begins to form.  The first time I tried this – the glaze literally spontaneously combusted & burst into flames – so be really careful when doing this.  As soon as it is browned – remove it from the fire.  CAREFULLY add 4 TBS water, combine & set aside AWAY FROM FLAMES.

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Peel the course outer parts of the lemongrass away & dice only the tenderest inner part.  If you have no lemongrass – use 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice instead.  Prepare the peppers & shallot.

When ready to eat, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wok or large frying pan.  Add the lemongrass, shallot & chilies.  Saute until tender.  Add the chicken & the sugar glaze & saute until the fake chicken is heated through (or the real chicken is cooked) and the sauce thickens a bit.  Serve over steamed rice with scallions & lemon wedges as garnish.

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Asian Flavors at Bamboo in Sherman Oaks, Frontier Wok in Burbank & Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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My boyfriend, Miles, has a confusing palate.  At times it is confoundingly conservative & inflexible – expecting each restaurant to serve a standard dish (fried chicken or green pepper beef) exactly as he has come to expect it at his favorite Little Rock haunt.  The tiniest variation can inspire him to push his plate away.  He hasn’t tried arugula and regards it with suspicion.  Goat cheese?  No way!  Vegan food?  He is burned out on it – despite living in Arkansas (not exactly famous for pioneering vegan food) and despite the fact that he is a degenerate carnivore.  Still, he eats sushi & oysters on the half shell and other things like that – things you would never expect him to enjoy.

That said – he is still wary of Thai food – though he eats it.  It is CHINESE food he always requests.  Now, I live on the edge of Thai Town.  In Los Angeles, Thai food is everywhere – especially in east Hollywood – and it is typically cheap & almost always pretty good.  Chinese food, on the other hand, is often expensive & seldom good.  Chinese food in Hollywood is most commonly found in strip malls at establishments that boast serving “Chinese food!  Donuts!  Hamburgers!  Tacos!”  Panda Express is the high end of the Chinese fast food world.  Ew.

Still, frustratingly, Miles’ response to my query, “Whattaya wanna get for lunch?” remains, “Chinese?”  And, something in me tells me that Miles will more likely respond positively to an average Chinese restaurant than a really good Thai restaurant.  Standard beef & broccoli?  Yum, says Miles!  But a Thai mint leaves beef or some such – will be unfairly compared to its Chinese counterpart & likely disappoint.  Mint?  With beef?

So frustrating.

Ugh.  So – I hunt & hunt for decent Chinese that doesn’t require a trip downtown.  Chi Dynasty (in Los Feliz) is very good but it is costly.  In fairness, their portions are enormous but I like to mix it up a bit & try new things.  Especially as I am always feeling pressure to find content for this blog.

I took him to Frontier Wok in Burbank once.  It was pretty crowded at lunch, despite the bizarre frontier-like exterior of the building & this seemed a good sign.

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Miles has incredibly bad food karma in that – his order gets fucked up most of the time.  It really does.  I need to start placing his orders for him because, of all people, he is least likely to roll with an incorrect side dish & he doesn’t like to remind a server if something he ordered didn’t show up.  His standard order at his local Chinese joynt is – green pepper beef, beef sticks, egg rolls & hot & sour soup.  He placed that order almost exactly (Szechuan beef instead of green pepper beef & less the beef sticks) at Frontier Wok.  They never brought the spring rolls.

Here is the menu.

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I ordered a veggie soup & Kung Pao shrimp.  I find Chinese immensely uninspired as a food group but the soup was pretty tasty.  Miles approved of the hot & sour soup.

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Here is the beef dish.

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It looks pretty good to me but Miles was unimpressed.  My shrimp was really good, though, as a Kung Pao dish goes.

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The little salad was barely more than a garnish but there was lots of food & we both took some home.  Personally, I’d recommend Frontier Wok to a person looking for predictable but good Chinese – though I don’t think I will get Miles over the threshold again.

Next effort at Chinese?  Bamboo in Sherman Oaks.

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Bamboo has two large dining rooms & the interior is far prettier than Frontier Wok.  I didn’t bother with the menu as it looked like any menu at any Chinese place.  Miles ordered – wait for it – egg rolls, hot & sour soup & beef & broccoli.  I got Kung Pao scallops or something.  The hot & sour soup was vegetarian so I got to have some.  It had been years since I’d had it at a restaurant.   (I make a veggie hot & soup soup.  You can too!  My recipe is HERE.)

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Here is the food at Bamboo.

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They offered brown rice which I appreciated.  And they served tea – another Chinese restaurant staple I have not had in years, if not decades.  Miles seemed to like the beef & there was enough there for two, easily.  My scallops were right on par with the Frontier Wok shrimp  – though both of us found the dishes a quite a bit less spicy than they could have been.  Hilariously (to me), Miles declared the side salad seen here:

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to be “almost insulting,” and he pushed it away.  That cracked me up – maybe because the little salads are never more than a decoration and also because it just seemed very Anthony Bordain of him.   Taking offense at a Chinese gesture at salad just hit my funny bone.

So – the only real success I have had with Miles & Chinese (so far) has been Chi Dynasty.

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With Miles safely back home, I was free to try something a tad more adventurous.  My friend Dave has been prodding me forever to try Highland Park’s Good Girl Dinette so, this Sunday, I joined Dave & his wife Rose there.

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Good Girl Dinette is a modern take on Vietnamese food – meets diner food – two of my favorite things!  And even better, these hipster joynts seldom disappoint with their vegetarian & vegan options.

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My only complaint is ANY PLACE with bare walls.  I have so much great art that I cannot hang due to lack of space that when I see a place like this – I feel it in my gut.  I get surges of anxiety just looking at those white expanses.  But the menu was really interesting & pulled my attention away from those taunting bare walls.

Eventually, I opted to try the mini-size pho & the mushroom banh mi with spicy fries & a side of (I think) cilantro aioli.

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All of it was fantastic!  The fries were wonderfully heavily dosed with garlic & herbs & the aioli was awesome!  The bread for the sandwich was as good as it gets & Good Girl serves a far better veggie banh mi that they do at the wonderful Golden Road Brewery.  The pho was tasty & substantial, despite being the mini-sized version.  I ended up taking the soup & half the sandwich home.

Dave got a white nectarine hand pie & some roasted pork hash.

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I tried the nectarine pie & it was buttery & flaky & delightful!

Rose ordered one of their homemade sodas.  The soda of the day was pink grapefruit juice – which they basically just carbonated & Rose loved it.  She also got chicken curry.

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I couldn’t try that either but Rose seemed quite pleased.  Then – the kitchen brought us two free desserts!

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Those top two images are a dose of Fosselman’s ice cream with and OUTRAGEOUS caramel sauce & some crunchy stuff in the CUTEST glass Weck’s jars.  Just stupid awesome.  And the other is an orange bread with oranges & whipped cream.  It was lighter & far more delicately flavored – more along the lines of what I would generally prefer as dessert (as I am not a sugar freak).  But that ice cream – and the presentation in those lidded jars – just made us all crazy.

And finally, I spotted these for sale in the corner.

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In a bizarre coincidence, just the evening before, I had been searching for pasta recipes using ether arugula or avocado.  I came across one which I have since tried (see below)

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and which I will soon post – but that required this special fish sauce.  I had another brand already & sniffed it & could not IMAGINE wanting it as a primary ingredient in a pasta recipe so I just made a pasta with both avocado & arugula.  But when I saw this at Good Girl the next day?  I could not resist.  And I made the pasta with it.  And it was crazy good so when I post a recipe using it – TRUST ME!  And – in all honesty – I think any fish sauce will do but this Red Boat is the fish sauce equivalent of a high end balsamic vinegar.  Some can tell the difference – others not so much.

So there you have it.  Now I am going to pick my mother up at the airport!  Have a great day!!!!

Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I’ve loved Vietnamese food since high school when my parents & I would go to the Saigon Inn in the Combat Zone (red light district) in Boston in the late seventies-early eighties.  It was a tiny place on the edge of Chinatown in an old, white, free-standing building that had once been a White Castle or something.  There were 4 or 5 tables and maybe six stools at a counter & everything on the menu was under $4.  It is here that I learned about hoisin sauce & sambal oelek & vermicelli bowls and about eating their little egg rolls (cha gio) wrapped in lettuce leaves & dipped in nuoc cham (sweet chili dipping sauce).  We would go there late nights after seeing bands like Bauhaus or X or Gray Numan somewhere in town – like The Channel or The Rat.  And I walked around looking like this:

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My parents long bragged that they loved the Saigon Inn so much that even the discovery of a cockroach in my step-dad’s half-consumed iced coffee did not dull their passion for the place.  In fact, that roach should have come as no surprise as this restaurant was situated in one of the filthiest & most run down areas of downtown (Chinatowns everywhere are seldom famous for their hygiene & fresh scents – and red light districts have their own grotesquerie to offer).  Also, the roaches at Saigon Inn were bold & you were hard pressed to eat there & not spot a few walking nonchalantly up walls or across menus.

As a quick aside, let me share this gorgeous photo I found as I hunted for a shot of the Saigon Inn.

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Boston, Combat Zone 1970 – by Jerry Berndt.  Found HERE.  Isn’t that sensational?

This one, too, by the same guy.

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And this (though I do not know if it is from the same guy or exhibition in Boston).

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So – with that, I present my Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl!

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A key to this dish is the dipping sauce – the nuoc cham (or spicy chili dipping sauce).  If you cannot find it in an Asian store like this

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then there are lots of recipes for variations of it, if you Google the term.  Here is the basic recipe (from www.VietWorldKitchen.com):

Basic Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Makes ¾ cup

3 tablespoons lime juice (1 fat, thin skin lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce

Optional additions:
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 Thai chilis, thinly sliced or 1 teaspoon homemade chili garlic sauce or store bought (tuong ot toi)

1. Make limeade. Combine the lime juice, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Taste and as yourself this question: Does this limeade taste good? Adjust the flavors to balance out the sweet and sour.

2. Finish with fish sauce. Add the fish sauce and any of the optional ingredients. Taste again and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing out the sour, sweet, salty and spicy. Aim for a bold, forward finish — perhaps a little stronger than what you’d normally like. This sauce is likely to be used to add final flavor to foods wrapped in lettuce or herbs, which are not salted and therefore need a little lift to heighten the overall eating experience. My mother looks for color to gauge her dipping sauce. When it’s a light honey or amber, she knows she’s close.

Notes

Advance Preparation – This sauce may be prepared early in the day and left to sit at room temperature.

Variation – Use half lime juice and half Japanese rice vinegar for a less assertive sauce. Some delicately flavored dishes require this.

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The Vietnamese egg rolls can be purchased like this

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but these might be hard for you to find.  They are nice because they are tiny – about the size of one of my fingers cut in half.  These are also nice because they are vegan.  But, if you cannot find these you could Google a recipe to make them (traditionally, they are filled with ground pork) or you could just use any old frozen egg rolls of your choice.  If they are big egg rolls, just slice them up after frying.

I added shrimp to this dish because I wanted it to be more substantial & I didn’t want to eat a dozen fried egg rolls.  You could go all shrimp or all egg rolls or even add grilled veggies.   These vermicelli bowls were topped with all sorts of things (sliced meats, meatballs etc etc) at the Saigon Inn, maybe even some things we are glad we are unaware of, so feel free to customize this to your taste.

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I had this for dinner two nights in a row.  The first time was less successful because I used fresh vermicelli like this

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which got gooey & clumped together.  These guys are far better for soups, like my Vegetarian Pho.

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As another side note – if you love that pho but do not want the calories those noodles represent, why not try my ZERO CALORIE ZERO CARB Vegetarian Shirataki Pho?

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Last night I made the salad bowl with these dry vermicelli noodles.

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They worked far better so I recommend this type for the salad bowls.

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Spicy Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp & Vietnamese Egg Roll (Cha Gio) Vermicelli Salad Bowl

INGREDIENTS

Vermicelli noodles – cooked as directed, rinsed in cool water & left at room temperature.

Egg rolls – fried as directed (or baked, if you prefer)

Shrimp – peeled & cleaned

Cucumber – cut into matchsticks

Carrot – grated

Sprouts

Red or green leaf lettuce – roughly chopped (leaving some pieces large enough to wrap around bite-sized egg roll slices)

Basil and/or mint (even cilantro works) – to be hand torn & mixed into the bowl after serving

Lime

Peanuts – chopped

nuoc cham (recipe above or bottled)

Sambal oelek or sriracha – as additional condiments, if you want to add a kick

For the shrimp marinade

1 lemongrass stalk

1 shallot

3 jalapenos – seeded

2 hands full basil (I used both Thai basil & Thai hot basil but any basil will do)

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup sambal oelek (or chili paste or sriracha)

1 TBS sugar

2 TBS olive oil

4 garlic cloves

Juice of 2 limes

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DIRECTIONS

Peel & clean the shrimp & put them in a Ziplock bag or a lidded (preferably glass) container.  Hit the lemongrass with a tenderizer or (as I did) with a heavy pepper mill or something & bruise it up.  Slice it into large chunks & add to the shrimp.

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Puree the shallot, lime juice, jalapeno, basil, fish sauce, sambal oelek, sugar, garlic & oil.  Add to the shrimp & toss well.  Refrigerate for an hour or as long as overnight.

Then simply cook the vermicelli.  This is a room temp dish with warm toppings so – make the noodles & assemble them in a bowl(s).  Surround them with the lettuce, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, basil, lime wedges & top with peanuts.

Grill the shrimp & cook the egg rolls.  Add them to your bowl.

Serve with the dipping sauce (you can even pour it on top of the whole lot & mix it all up).

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Vietnamese Fresh Salad Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

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Photo © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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Vietnamese Fresh Salad Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 package clear edible rice spring roll sheets (http://www.amazon.com/Spring-wrappers-paper-Erawan-brand/dp/B000F3NQKS)
  • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp – peeled, deveined & cut in half.  Omit these or use a flavored tofu instead if you do not eat shrimp.  Cooked, sliced pork works, too.
  • 1 bunch cilanto – fresh
  • 1 bunch mint – fresh (Thai sweet basil is nice, too, if you can find it)
  • 1 head butter lettuce, washed and separated into leaves – ribs removed
  • 2 carrots, peeled & cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into very thin strips
  • 1 package vermicelli rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
 Be sure you have the type of wrappers pictured below (or another brand) and not eggroll or wonton wrappers.  Those are an entirely different breed & need cooking.

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 Directions:

Prepare the shrimp (or tofu or pork or other filling) & vegetables in advance – being sure they are washed & dried.  Have a large bowl of warm water ready for dipping the spring roll wrappers.
  • 1  Dip a sheet of spring roll wrapper into water very quickly, no longer than a second or two (or they will get too soggy) and lay flat on a work surface.
  • 2  On one edge, lay a small handful of noodles,a row of shrimp, some cilantro and mint leaves, a lettuce leaf, some cucumber & carrot strips – being careful not to overstuff the wrapper.
  • 3  Roll up burrito style, tucking in the sides, then continue to roll up-but not too tightly or the spring roll wrapper will tear.
You will, no doubt, need a few attempts to get one right. Be patient – it gets easier.  Be prepared to throw a bunch away or to settle for some funky shaped rolls!  They should be served fairly quickly after preparing them. Too much time in the fridge after assembly will dry them out. These can be filled with nearly anything – cooked pork and mango, for example – so feel free to get creative!

You can BUY a spicy peanut sauce in a jar or can at most Asian markets or online (for example – http://www.lynmarket.com/proddetail.asp?prod=011152198903).  They are usually quite good, but, if you are feeling motivated –

Spicy Peanut Sauce Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Using a food processor or blender, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, sambal oelek, brown sugar, lime juice and coconut milk and puree to combine all ingredients.
  2. Pour the hot water slowly into the blender or processor, starting with 1/4 cup and adding more to thin-out the sauce if needed.
  3. Serve the peanut sauce into a community serving bowl – or individual bowls (as you prefer)
  4. Garnish with a squeeze of sriracha (it will mix into the peanut sauce so use more or less – depending on your tolerance for spicy food) and a sprig of cilantro

Vegetarian Pho

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Photo © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

This is the cheapest & easiest dish ever.  If you have a Thai (or other Asian market) around – ask if they sell fresh noodles (http://www.lovingpho.com/pho-ingredients-garnishes/banh-pho-noodles/).  They are typically in the refrigerated section – where milk would be.  Near me – a package cost $1.39 and makes two huge bowls of soup.  I heat some water, add half a vegetarian boullion cube (for one bowl), the noodles, a good squueeze of Sriracha (http://www.huyfong.com/no_frames/sriracha.htm) and another of vegetarian hoisin (http://www.amazon.com/Vegetarian-Hoisin-Sauce-Certified-Kosher/dp/B000TH7B7E) and some chopped, FRESH cilantro.  As soon as the soup is warm enough to eat (not boiling) – put it in a bowl  – squeeze a little lime in – if you like – and eat!  The noodles only need about two minutes in warm water to soften completely.  Overcooking them turns them to a gluey mess.  Try to avoid that!

These are the noodles (type & brand) that I found locally.  I am certain there are many brands but it is specifically THIS type of noodle you need to make this pho.  Maybe copy & paste this photo to your phone & have it handy for when you are shopping for the right noodles.

Photo © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

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INGREDIENTS

Pho noodles

bouillon cube

Sriracha

Hoisin Sauce

Lime

Cilantro

Instructions are above.