I think everyone should have a packet of rice paper in their pantry. It is so easy to make fresh and delicious rice paper rolls for a snack or light lunch. You can pretty much wrap anything in it; the choice of fillings is only limited by your imagination.
For these vegetarian rice paper rolls I have gone for the more traditional Vietnamese fillings of jicama, carrot, shitake mushroom, tofu, vermicelli noodles and herbs. I love jicama which is wonderfully sweet and crunchy. Jicama may be hard to find so you may want to substitute it for cabbage.
Gỏi Cuốn Chay – Vietnamese Vegetarian Rice Paper Rolls
1 large jicama, peeled and julienned
1 carrot, julienned
4 shitake mushroom, rehydrated in hot water, very thinly sliced
200 fried bean curd puffs, julienned
1 clove garlic, thinly diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1.5 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce
3 teaspoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
4 tablespoons water
15 rice paper rounds
100 g rice vermicelli noodles
1 cup of mint leaves, roughly sliced
1/2 iceberg lettuce, break into small pieces
For the filling, in a saucepan over medium heat add oil, then add garlic, carrot, jicama, mushroom and bean curd. Cook until soft, stirring gently frequently. Add soya sauce, sugar and oyster sauce. Add a couple pinches of salt. Set mixture aside to cool.
For noodles, cook noodles in a saucepan of boiling water until soften, then rise in cold water, drain well and leave to cool.
For hoisin dipping sauce, in a small saucepan add hoisin sauce, water, sugar and peanut butter. Leave on a low simmer and constantly stirring. Taste test adjust the flavour if required. Remove from heat and let cool.
Prepare all the ingredients (fillings, noodles, rice paper, herbs and lettuce) on the table when you are ready to roll. Prepare a large bowl of boiling water for dipping the rice paper. Dip the rice paper in the water and place on a flat surface (chopping board or large plate). Place a small amount of filling in the centre of the rice paper, add noodles and herbs lettuce on top of the filling. Fold the two sides of the rice paper into the centre over the fillings, then fold the bottom up and roll over to form a tight roll. Repeat the process.
Serve the rolls with hoisin dipping sauce (with each person having their own bowl for the dipping sauce and sprinkled with crushed peanuts).
I have been religiously saving prawn heads for the last couple months so that I could make Har Mee. Har Mee is a spicy prawn noodle soup served with a mix of hokkien and vermicelli noodles, whole prawns, boiled egg, water spinach and garnished with fried shallot. This is one of my favourite dish to order at a popular Malaysian eatery where I used to work. I always look forward to having this dish when it was available on the specials menu twice a week at this particular eatery, and would usually ask for Har Mee with just the hokkien noodles only .
The key to this dish is the flavoursome prawn broth, and the more prawn heads the better. I have accumulated 2 kilos of prawn heads just so I can make this dish. I just love the aroma of the garlic and prawns fried together. In addition to this dish is the homemade chilli paste which really enhances the dish. I have not added the chilli paste into the broth since my kids does not like spicy food, and this has given it a lighter and clearer broth.
Har Mee -Prawn Noodle Soup
2 kg of prawn heads (the more the better)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 kg of pork bones*
6 litres of water
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
25 dried chillies (de-seed and soak in water)
5 fresh chillies (de-seed)
5 gloves garlic
5 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons water
1kg hokkien noodles
1 kg prawns, peeled and deveined
250g of lean pork meat, cooked and thinly sliced
1 bunch of water spinach, washed and cut stem into sections
3 boiled eggs, shell removed and halved
Making the broth:
In a large stockpot, add oil and 3 minced garlic and fried until fragrant. Add the prawn heads and fried until aromatic and cooked.
Add the pork bones to the prawn heads and about 6 litres of water ensuring the water cover the bones. Bring to boil and let it simmer for 2 hours. Scoop out the orange foam.
After 2 hours, strain the broth through a sieve over another pot. Discard the bones and shells. Put broth on a low simmer. Add half the chilli paste (you can omit this if you don’t spicy broth). Season with salt and sugar. Simmer for another 20 minutes and do a final taste test before turning off heat.
Make the chilli paste:
Combine the chillies, garlic, shallot, oil and water into a small food processor until it becomes a fine paste.
Heat up the wok and add oil. Stir fry the chilli paste on a low heat for about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.
In a frypan, fry the prawns in some oil and garlic until just cooked.
Prepare the pork meat by boiling in a pot. Once cooled, cut the meat into thin slices.
Prepare the noodles as per packet instructions.
Prepare the boiling egg and cut into halves.
Blanch the water spinach in boiling water and remove from water immediately.
When you are ready to serve, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat while you are assembling the bowls with noodles. In each noodle bowls, place a couple pieces of pork meat on top and ladle the broth over the noodles. Add boiled egg, water spinach and top with some fried shallot.
* You can substitute the pork bones with pork ribs. To get a clear stock I first parboil the pork bones first before adding to the prawn stock. To do this cover the bones with water in a stockpot and bring to a high boil for 5 minutes. Rinse the bones under cold water before adding to the prawn heads.
* If you’re not a big fan of lean pork meat like us then you can substitute for shredded chicken drumsticks.
* Fried shallot is bought from Asian grocery.
I can’t seem to keep up with the rate the bananas are ripping in this summer heat. The moment I see brown spots I try to save them by putting it in the fridge. But brown-skinned bananas are frowned upon in this household even though they are perfectly fine inside. Most of the time the over-ripe bananas become banana bread or banana muffins. I love simple baking recipes and this easy banana bread recipe is just perfect with not much technique required. The banana bread turned out so delicious and moist. Perfect recipe to make with kids.
Easy Banana Bread Recipe
Adapted from here.
260g plain flour
100g firmly packed brown sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 large over-ripe bananas
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Greased an 11cm x 22cm loaf pan and line pan with a sheet of baking paper, leaving 2cm overhanging.
Sift flour, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt into a bowl with the brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, then stir in the eggs, vanilla extract and cooled melted butter. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they’re just combined – don’t overmix.
Scrape the batter into prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool the loaf in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut into slices.
Happy new year!
We recently got back from our annual end of year trip to the coast for a week of quality family time and relaxation. I can really get used to the carefree life of lazing around by the pool, afternoon naps, eating and just playing with the kids. It’s really nice to start the year after a very relaxing holiday. As much as I love not cooking for one whole week and eating out almost every meal, I was really missing home cooked food. We love our asian food and being in a small coastal town there wasn’t much choice for decent asian cuisine. By the end of our trip we were all craving for a hot bowl of noodle soup.
To satisfy our cravings I made this Vietnamese chicken noodle soup called phở gà. This is the chicken version of the well known phở bò (beef noodle soup). Phở gà is the more popular dish than phở bò in our household, mainly because it takes less work to cook and also a healthier option than phở bò as it uses chicken bones instead of beef leg bone which has lots of bone marrow. Phở gà has a more delicate and clear broth but still has the wonderful flavours and aroma of star anise and cassia bark. This aromatic broth is served with fresh rice noodles, shredded chicken and garnished with spring onion, coriander, red onion, Thai basil, bean sprout and fresh chillies. There’s nothing that says phở than the taste and fragrance of Thai basil with this hot bowl of noodle soup.
Phở Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole chicken, cleaned and remove any excess skin and fat
3 kg chicken bones
1 brown onion, peeled and halved
4 inch piece of ginger, skin removed and sliced in long pieces
4 pieces cassia bark
8 star anise
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1kg fresh rice noodles
10 sprigs Thai basil
a bunch of coriander leaves, roughly sliced
4 spring onion, green part only, thinly sliced
3 red chillies, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
To achieve a clear broth, it is essential to first parboil the chicken bones. In a large stockpot, add the bones and fill the pot with water to cover the bones. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for about 5 minutes. Discard the water, rinse the bones with cold water and wash the stockpot clean.
In the clean large stockpot, add the chicken bones and fill with about 8 litres of water and place the whole chicken on top in between the bones, ensure that the water cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim off any scum that arises to the top.
Add the brown onion, ginger, star anise and cassia bark. Leave to simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken from the stockpot. When the chicken is cooled, remove the flesh from the bones. Return the bones into the stockpot. Set the chicken pieces aside to cool and put away in the fridge (discard the skin if you wish). Continue to simmer the broth on low heat for another 2 hours and skimming of any scum.
After 2 hours strain the broth through a sieve over another pot. Discard the bones. Season with salt, fish sauce and sugar. Taste test the broth and adjust the flavour with additional fish sauce,salt and sugar. Put on low simmer for another 20 minutes.
To prepare the fresh rice noodles, blanch in boiling water and drain in a colander.
Prepare the red onion, spring onion, coriander to be ready to add to bowls. Prepare a plate of garnishes (bean sprout, basil, wedges of lime and chillies). Shred the cooked chicken into pieces.
When you are ready to serve, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat while you are assembling the bowls with noodles. Place a couple of chicken pieces on top of each noodle bowls. Ladle the broth over the noodles of the individual bowls and garnish with slices of red onions, spring onions and coriander. Serve this with a plate of garnishes.
This refreshing vermicelli noodles with wok-tossed beef is our family’s favourite during the summer months. Thin juicy slices of beef with beautiful flavours of lemongrass is served on a bed of cold vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, topped with sprinkles of fried shallot and chopped peanuts, and drenched in fish sauce.
This dish is really easy to make and also very versatile. The vermicelli noodles salad and fish sauce forms the basis of many popular Vietnamese dishes as the beef can be substituted for another type of protein. Other Vietnamese vermicelli noodle dishes are served with pork skewers (bun nem nuong), grilled pork ( bun thit nuong), spring rolls (bun cha gio), sugarcane prawn (bun chao tom) and grilled fish.
The trick to preparing this dish is to prepare all your ingredients before you start to stir fry. Fish sauce dipping sauce can be made the day before to save time.
Bún Bò Xào Recipe (Stir Fry Beef with Vermicelli Noodles)
500g beef eye fillet, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass (about 2 stalks, white part only)
454g packet of vermicelli noodles, cook as per instructions on packet
1/2 bag bean sprouts
1 cucumber, halved and sliced into batons
2 cups of sliced Vietnamese herbs (perilla leaves, mint leaves and Vietnamese mint leaves)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced
pickled carrot and white radish (optional)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
fish sauce dipping sauce
Prepare the fish sauce dipping sauce, cook the vermicelli noodles, wash and sliced the herbs and cucumber.
Combine with the lemongrass, garlic and the fish sauce in a small bowl. Add the mixture to the beef and marinate for 15 minutes.
When you are ready to serve divide your vermicelli noodles into bowls followed by herbs, sprouts and cucumber and set aside.
Heat the wok. Add the oil and sliced onions. Then add in the beef to the work and tossed until it just brown.
Serve the beef immediately the cold noodle salad and dress with pickled vegetables, crushed peanuts, fried onions and fish sauce.
If you don’t have a wok then use a normal fry pan.
If you can’t get some of the Vietnamese herbs then just use cucumber, lettuce, bean sprout and mint.
Fried shallots is sold in asian groceries. I had some left over fried spring onion and decided to use that instead.
These apple muffins are so easy and very delicious. This is such a great recipe to do with young kids cause all you do is put in the ingredients and give it a stir. It is that easy. We added dried cranberries but you can add raisins or sultanas. We wanted a bit of crunch on top so sprinkled some walnut, cinnamon and brown sugar on top.
Easy Apple Muffins
Recipe adapted from here
300g cups plain flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
110g brown sugar (firmly packed)*
1 tbs baking powder
2 medium (about 400g) Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, cut into cubes
125g dried cranberry
125g butter, melted, cooled
2 eggs, lightly whisked
185mls (3/4 cup) milk
Walnut crumble (optional)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Line the 12 medium muffin pans with 12 muffins cases (or just grease the pan)
Sift the plain flour, baking powder and cinnamon together into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, apples and cranberries until well combined.
Whisk together the butter, eggs and milk until well combined.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. It is important that the ingredients are only just combined. If the mixture is over-mixed, the cooked muffins will have a tough texture.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin pans.
If you like a crunchy nut crumble on top, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped walnuts and mix together. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the muffin mixture.
Bake the muffins in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. To test with a skewer into the centre and see if it comes out clean. Once cooked, remove from oven and stand for 2-3 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.
*I don’t like very sweet muffins and have reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe.
Today I baked this cassava cake and my house was filled with the sweet beautiful fragrant of coconut milk. Cassava is a very starchy root and it gives this cake the sticky texture. I’ve added mung beans to my cassava cake to give it a nutty favour. And all that coconut milk makes it a perfect combination for this cake.
Baked Cassava Cake – Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng
500g frozen grated cassava, squeeze the excess water
100g dried split mung bean, soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight
3 tablespoons condensed milk
250ml coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
butter to grease the baking pan
Drain mung beans and steam for 15 minutes or until cooked. Using a mortar and pestle work the beans until it become a fine paste. You can also use a blender to do this.
In a large bowl, add grated cassava, mung bean paste, coconut milk, sugar, condensed milk, vanilla extract. Mix well. Pour the batter in the greased tin (20cm) and bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden.