I have fond memories of chewing on raw sugarcane pieces as snacks during my younger years living in Vietnam. After chewing on the sugarcane pieces to get out all the sweet juices you would spit out the chewed sugarcane. But what I didn’t like about chewing on sugarcane pieces was it leaves small pieces of fibrous bits in your mouth and it was not pleasant. Now I’m such a big fan of chewing on raw sugarcane pieces as I value my teeth too much. I really like to use raw sugarcane for chạo tôm (prawn paste wrapped on sugarcane) or in asian soups and desserts. Below are some steps on how to remove the tough outer layer of raw sugarcane before use.
When selecting sugarcane for eating, look for the stalk with the long section between the joints, especially if you want to cut into long sticks to use for chạo tôm (prawn paste on sugarcane).
I like to work with clean sugarcane so I would wipe the stalks clean with a damp cloth before cutting.
Before you get started make sure you have some newspapers, a cleaver and a chopping board. I highly recommend you spread out a lot of newspaper and work on top of the newspaper so that you can easily wrap up the mess and throw away. In the photos below I didn’t lay out the newspapers as I was lazy, but end up spending more time cleaning up the sticky mess afterwards.
What you want is the sections between the joints. Place your cleaver on close to the joint where you want to cut and try to cut as much of the cleaver in the sugarcane as possible. If you have strength just push the cleaver through the sugarcane stalk. Otherwise use a hammer and pound onto the cleaver.
Now keep repeating this until you cut away the joints. But if you require long sticks of sugarcane for wrapping prawn paste and removing all the joints will not achieve this then you can just leave one joint in to get your desired length.
Remove the tough outer layer by holding the section of sugarcane upright and place your cleaver near the edge. Slide the cleaver through the sugarcane until the outer layer is removed. Repeat the process to remove all outer layer.
Hold the peeled sugarcane section up right and tap the sugarcane onto the chopping board until the cleaver cuts the sugarcane into half. For one half of the sugarcane stick you can cut into another 2 to 3 thinner sticks (depending how thick you want). Now you have perfect sugarcane sticks ready to be wrapped in prawn paste.
But if you just want to use the sugarcane pieces for cooking in soups or desserts then I would cut them into smaller pieces.1 Comment
My dear friend gave me these fresh sugarcane. It’s cold and making soup with them is the first thing that came to mind. I love the natural sweetness of sugarcane and it is great to use in making asian soups. This pork ribs soup with sugarcane is just so simple and delicious. I’ve added carrot for colour, water chestnuts for crunch and dried fox nuts for extra texture (but adding this is optional). The soup is just so naturally sweet without any seasoning.
The thing about sugarcane is that it takes a bit of work to cut into small pieces and you really need to use a cleaver to cut it. But if you don’t mind the hard work then it is totally worth it as a natural sweetener. I only use the sugarcane to sweeten the soup and don’t actually chew the sugarcane pieces. I just don’t think it’s worth the effort. Fresh sugarcane juice is just divine and I wish I knew a way to juice sugarcane without using those sugarcane juicing machines.
Sugarcane and Pork Rib Soup
500g sugarcane, cut into small pieces
500g pork ribs, cut into small pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
140g can of water chestnuts
30g dried fox nuts (optional), washed soaked for at least 30 minutes,
Parboil the pork ribs by boiling the pork ribs rigorously for 10 minutes. Discard the water, rinse the pork ribs and wash the pot.
In a stock pot, add 2 litres of water, pork ribs and sugarcane. Bring to the boil and skimming the impurities.
Allow to simmer for 20 minutes and add carrots, chestnuts and fox nuts. Cook for another 1 – 1.5 hour until pork ribs is soft.No Comments
A bowl of hot congee is the ultimate comfort food perfect for the winter months. In our family we have congee for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our kids request for congee just about every week (and even in really hot summer days). Chicken congee is our favourite and it is perfect with the chicken cabbage salad, but we also make this fish congee regularly as well. Congee is so easy and simple, and you add whatever protein you like in it. What I’m missing is the fried dough sticks to dunk in my bowl of congee. Yum!
Cháo Cá – Vietnamese Fish Congee
2 litres of homemade fish/chicken stock
1 cup of jasmine rice
500 gram of white fish fillet, cut into small pieces (about 2 inches)
2 inch piece of ginger, cut a small piece and julienned, the remainder cut into thicker pieces and smashed
1 onion, cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
cracked black pepper
Wash rice, drain and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the fish, ginger, spring onion, salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
In a large pot, add the stock, onion, and remaining ginger. Bring the stock to the boil.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the washed rice and cook until rice turns opaque. Remove rice from the saucepan and add to the stock.
Cook the rice for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. How thick the congee is up to you. Add water to thin it out if it’s too thick. Season the congee with some salt (or fish sauce).
In the saucepan used for the rice, heat some oil over medium heat and saute the fish pieces. Once the fish are cooked add the fish pieces to the congee pot.
Serve the congee hot in bowls, with coriander and freshly ground black pepper.No Comments
Mum used to make this quick and easy salad of watercress with stir fried beef all the time. It’s a really simple salad and she would only dress the salad with just the fish sauce dipping sauce. But I really like Luke Nguyen’s method of dressing the watercress with a vinaigrette dressing which takes away some of the peppery-ness from the watercress.
Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad
1 bunch watercress, trimmed and washed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
250 grams beef sirloin or eye fillet, thinly sliced
cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons fish sauce dipping sauce
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pinches of salt
In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette dressing and stir well until sugar dissolved. In a large bowl, add watercress, onion and tomato and pour over the vinaigrette. Gently toss and set aside.
Heat a wok over medium heat then add oil and cook garlic until fragrant. Turn the heat to high then add the beef and cook for 1 -2 minutes until browned. Add salt and pepper.
Add the beef to the salad bowl, then pour the dipping fish sauce. Toss the salad together and then transfer to a serving plate.
This stuffed tomatoes is a popular Vietnamese comfort food and is one of our family’s favourite. The filling is a traditional and versatile filling of pork, woodear mushroom and bean thread noodle. For best results use just slightly under-ripe tomatoes.
Cà Chua Nhồi Thịt – Stuff Tomatoes with Pork and Wood Ear Mushroom Recipe
250 grams minced pork
5 dried wood ear mushrooms
15 grams bean thread noodles
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 shallot diced
2 spring onions
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 tomatoes (slightly under-ripe)
oil for cooking
thinly sliced spring onion for garnishing
coriander for garnishing
Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Reserve the tomato flesh and roughly chopped to use for sauce later.
In a medium bowl, combine the minced pork, wood ear mushroom, noodles, shallot, spring onion, salt, fish sauce, sugar and ground pepper. Combine the mixture well.
Stuff the tomato halves with the pork mixture and set aside. Do not over stuff the tomatoes with the filling.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil and minced garlic over medium heat. Place the tomatoes stuffing side down into the pan. Add the chopped tomato flesh to the pan.Cook for 5 minutes or until until brown. Turn the tomatoes over and cook for another couple of minutes. The chopped tomatoes will turn into a beautiful sauce. Season the sauce some salt and pepper. Garnish with some sliced spring onion and coriander. Serve with rice.1 Comment
I love the amazing flavours of this classic Vietnamese dish. The wonderful aromas of the fried lemongrass, chillies and garlic really awaken the senses. There are many versions of this dish, but I prefer mine as a quick and simple stir fry.
Lemongrass Chilli Chicken (Gà Xào Xả Ớt) Recipe
500g chicken thigh fillet, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 small onion, sliced in chunks
2 chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 glove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoon finely chopped lemon grass (white part only)
oil for frying
2 chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
1.5 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass (white part only)
2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
2.5 tablespoon fish sauce
1.5 tablespoon sugar
In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade with the chicken pieces. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge.
Before cooking, have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go.
Heat a wok or a non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Then add garlic and cook for 15 seconds. Add lemongrass and chillies and saute until fragrant. Add chicken and toss to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes until chicken is caramelised and added the onion. Toss and cook until chicken is cooked and remove from heat. Serve on steamed rice with sliced tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.
Bún riêu is a crab noodle soup with many colours and flavours. So I may have cheated by using the bún riêu flavouring from a can, but if there ever was a time to use canned flavouring for a dish this would be the one time. The aroma and flavours from this canned bún riêu flavouring is just so intense. This is the only dish my mum never makes from scratch. I haven’t had bún riêu made from scratch to know the true flavouring of this dish. To make bún riêu from scratch would involve removing shells from many crabs and then pounding them and mixing with shrimp paste to create the broth. But my cheat method is so tasty and easier so I’m sticking with it.
Bún riêu has a unique delicate crab meat mixture which floats to the top of the soup once cooked called “riêu”. I use the canned bún riêu flavouring to mix with crab meat and egg to create the crab mixture. I prefer mine to be more formed and care is taken when ladling the mixture into the soup and let the mixture set slightly before I dropping it completely into the soup pot.
Water spinach is the special vegetable that accompanies bún riêu along with fresh herbs, bean sprout, coriander, chopped spring onion. I split the water spinach stems by hand which was a little time consuming but you can get a device which does the job quite easily (available at asian groceries).
Bún Riêu Cua -Vietnamese Tomato and Crab Noodle Soup Recipe
Serves 6 – 8
2kg chicken bones
6 litres of water
1 brown onion, quartered
1 kg ripe tomatoes
1 packet of fried tofu, cut in halves
1 packet of dried vermicelli noodles
Crab meat mixture
150 – 200g crab meat
can of prawn in spices
Spring onion, green part thinly sliced
Lime, cut into wedges
Shrimp paste (optional)
To get clear stock, parboil the chicken bones first. To do this, add bones and cover with water. Boil vigorously for 15 minutes. Pour the water, rinse the chicken bones and was the pot.
In the clean pot, add 6 litres of water and add the chicken bones. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmering. Scoop out the scum that rises on top. Add the onion. Leave to boi for 1.5 – 2 hours.
In a large bowl, add the crab meat, can of crab meat in spices and eggs. Mix well. Set aside and refrigerate.
After 1.5 – 2 hours, drain the stock through a strainer into another pot. Bring to a boil and season with salt, fish sauce and sugar. Add tomatoes and tofu. Cook for about 15 minutes on a simmer.
On a Scoop up one ladle of the crab meat mixture and hold it in the stock until it starts to set, then use another spoon to help gently release the mixture into the stock. Repeat this process with the remaining mixture.
To serve, divide the noodles into bowls. Gently spoon the crab mixture on top of the noodles, and ladle soup, tomatoes and tofu into bowls. Garnish with spring onion and coriander. Serve with lemon, bean sprouts, fresh herbs and water spinach.