Vietnamese


I would have to say that an Avocado smoothie  is hands down–my go to summer guilty pleasure.  It’s wonderfully rich and refreshing–and for all you cynics–tastes nothing like guacamole.   Really, I promise. No onions, lime juice–nothing of the sort.  Yes, it’s strange looking–but have a try and I promise you–you’ll be hooked.

My mom once owned a Sinh To (smoothie) stand in Vietnam before migrating to the US in 1981.  She often reminisces about how successful the stand was and how much ice my brothers had to pick away at to keep up with demand.  So growing up, if you wanted an avocado smoothie–stories came hand in hand.  Plus, it was always a good idea to keep your eye on her–my mom would always try to sneak in some durian into the shake–thinking it was the best combination.  What’s a durian?  A putrid and extremely pungent smelling fruit consumed widely in South East Asia.  Gym sock in in my smoothie–no thanks!

The recipe for the smoothie is very basic–ripe avocados, sugar, milk and ice.  Basic, basic, basic.  You can make the smoothie with condensed milk to take the shake to a whole new level of rich (I won’t pretend–it’s tasty!), but definitely not necessary.  Order an Avocado Shake at a restaurant or boba shop and you can be sure they add condensed milk, but if you’re looking to enjoy this at home–stick to the basics.


Alot of this is simply done by taste, so there’s really not a rock solid recipe.  But here’s a great starting place and change proportions to fit your taste.  Please note that Vietnamese Sinh To is generally a bit thicker than your everyday shake.  Think of it more as a dessert and not so much a shake and you might not be caught too off guard.  Either way, if you prefer your smoothie thinner–play around with the milk proportions until you get the right consistence.  I always start with the basics and end up modifying it as I go.

Enjoy!

Avocado Sinh To

Makes 2 servings

1 large ripe avocado
1 cup ice cubes or crush ice
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (or you can use just sugar)
1/4 cup milk

Scoop avocado and place into the blender and add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse, then blend until smooth. If needed, adjust for sweetness and consistency.  Not sweet enough, add more condensed milk or sugar.  Too thick?  Add more milk.

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You love garlic?  You’ll certainly LOVE these noodles.  I was on Yelp one day looking for some ideas.  The fiance had just finished a rough week of midterms and I wanted to take him out to dinner.  Searching for anything scrumptious from OC to LA I came across a familiar name–Crustacean.  Yes, I’ve heard of the famous Anh family.  An establishment so secretive, they have trap doors or whatnot that guards the real kitchen, guards their precious recipes.  No doubt, their most famous dish–garlic noodles.

I’m Vietnamese and I  love Vietnamese food, but I simply can’t justify spending that kind of money on food that’s classified as Vietnamese fusion–yet shares little or no resemblance to the food I ate growing up.  I don’t know if that makes sense…but it’s just principle.  Again, I’ve never eaten here…but would be open to do so if anyone were to treat me to a meal 🙂

Either way, I was still quite curious about the noodles and searched the web for copycat recipes.  Lo and behold–tons of similar recipes from foodies alike.  All the recipes were rather plain–so I decided to forgo creating a copycat dish–and instead just create a dish inspired by the famous garlic noodles.

First time?  I followed the oil/butter ratio called for in one recipe and found it to be WAY too oily. No bueno.  Second time? AMAZING.   So good Mike had a huge bowl of noodles after his Chipotle dinner.

As far as the recipe goes–bear with me.  I didn’t really take exact measurements and did a lot of adding as I went along.  My mom would be so proud of me.


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh (not dried) Asian yellow noodles (you want to use something like pancit)
4 tablespoons butter
8 cloves garlic, minced (I put mine thru a garlic press)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning sauce
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup reserved pasta water (I always save 1 cup–just in case)
salt and pepper to taste
up to 2 teaspoons of sugar
***optional–you may want to add some vegetables that when sauteed, cook rather quickly (I used baby bok choy)

For Shrimp:

10-20 uncooked shrimp, shell removed and deveined
1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to thoroughly coat shrimp)
3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of dried basil

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cayenne pepper, paprika, and dried basil. Mix to combine.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Let marinate for at least an hour.

In the meantime, cook the noodles.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water (as you would with pasta).  Add the noodles and a dash of oil to keep them from sticking.   Pancit noodles cook much quicker than italian pastas–so keep you eye out for them.   Noodles are generally cooked in about 5-7 minutes.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and set aside.  Do not run under cold water and make sure to reserve up to 1 cup of pasta water.

Now, in a large skillet–saute the shrimp until just barely cooked.  Remove shrimp from heat, but reserve oil.  (If adding vegetables–saute them now and remove from heat)

Add butter to reserved oil from shrimp. Once melted, add garlic and saute until cooked and fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add 1/4 cup pasta water, oyster sauce, Maggie Seasoning Sauce, and sugar.  Mix thoroughly.

Throw in noodles and toss to coat evenly.  Allow to cook for a few minutes.  Add Parmesan cheese and toss to coat evenly.   Now–this is where the recipe becomes all you.  Add more oyster sauce/maggi if you’d like it saltier.  Add more pasta water to make the mixture creamier.  Add a tad more sugar, if too salty.  Once you taste test and flavor the noodles to your liking, I like to let the noodles cook a tad longer–tossing the noodles every 2-3 minutes–for about 5-6 minutes.

To finish, throw shrimp and vegetables back in and mix well.

Enjoy!

Unbelievably good and satisfying–and you wouldn’t believe how easy they are to make.  Well, let me take a step back–“easy” refers to if you’re smart enough to buy puff pastry sheets from the frozen foods area at your local grocery store.  I, being the dreamer that I am, thought it would be a “great” idea to make my own puff pastry sheets.  Major no-no, especially since it was done for a huge catering gig where I had a very limited amount of time.  I will say, that the homemade puff pastry, was wonderfully buttery and flaky. By no means does frozen puff pastry compare.  I will be honest though–when weighing the pros and cons, I can confidently say that I will be buying puff pastry the next time I make this dessert (which will be very very soon!).  There really is no reason to put yourself thru that much work.  If you’re a puff pastry purist and you JUST HAVE to make your puff pastry from scratch, I can definitely vouch for Emeril Lagasse’s recipe that can be found here.  But for those of you who are just looking to make a wonderfully fresh and simple dessert, I’d buy the puff pastry.  You bet I wish I had!

Anyhow, like I discussed in my previous post, I decided to make these since my boss stated that his wife isn’t big on cake.  We were going to make a really light vanilla cake loaded with tons and tons of  fruit.  But I was in Westminster and stopped by a Vietnamese Bakery (Yes, it was Van’s)–and a light bulb went off.  Go to a large Vietnamese gathering and you’ll likely find this dessert there.  It’s always been one of my favorites, so I thought it would be a great idea.  Catch?  I’ve never made anything like this before.  But I was certain with some research and determination, I’d be able to pull it off.  After I got the go-ahead,  I found a handful of recipes to work with.

And well…these things couldn’t be more beautiful.  It’s a wonderfully versatile recipe as well–use it with different fruit combinations, create different fruit based glazes , or heck turn them into fruit pockets.  The possibilities are limitless.

Oh! Save yourself some grief–and make the custard the day before.  You want the custard to be cold/cool when you place it on the puff pastry so that it doesn’t get all soggy.

Mini Fresh Fruit Tarts

1 package puff pastry, thawed (I recommend Pepperidge Farm)
1 egg + 1 tbsn. water, beaten (egg wash)
1 bow of strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 box of blueberries, washed
1 box of blackberries, washed
1 bow of raspberries, washed
1 ripe mango, diced.
For the Custard:

1 cup whole milk (if you’re brave and want to step it up a bit, use heavy cream–makes the custard oh-so-rich. I mean, Jay Z rich.)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (or use a 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pinch salt


To make the custard:

  1. Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add in the flour and the salt, mix to combine.
  3. When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Very slowly stream the hot milk mixture  into the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. When about half of the milk has been added, place all of the yolk mixture into the saucepan over medium heat. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats.  Make sure to thoroughly whisk mixture completely–scraping down the sides of the pan.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken.
  5. Remove from heat and add the butter. Stirring constantly should give you a very smooth cream. If you are unsatisfied with the consistency, strain to remove any lumps.
  6. Place into a bowl, and cover.  Make sure the drop the saran wrap all the way down to the surface of the pastry cream.  This will prevent a skin from forming.
  7. Let cool and refrigerate.
Fruit Tart Preparations:
  1. Defrost Puff Pastry as directed on package.  Remove and unfold sheets onto a lightly floured surface.
  2. Use a knife and cut each sheet into 9 evenly sized squares (each package comes with 2 sheets, so you should have a total of 18).  Take a fork and prick holes all over each square, taking care not to rip the sheets.
  3. Place the squares onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I use my Silpat liner.  I love that thing more than I can ever say!) .
  4. Brush each square with the egg wash.  Bake until each one puffs up to a golden brown (directions should be on package).
  5. To assemble, spread about 2 tablespoons or so of custard onto each pastry and top with the fruit.  Dust with powder sugar when ready to serve.  Enjoy!