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Sunday Meal Prep: Tips and New Recipes

26 Mar

With a hectic work schedule and delightfully sassy 20 month old, meal prep is the name of the home-cooked-meal, (mostly) healthy-eating game. It’s tough to plan meals for the week, let alone prepare them in advance and actually eat (and enjoy) what awaits in the fridge after a long commute home.

Did you know that Americans waste nearly 40% of food? I’m sensitive to not adding to this statistic, which has such a significant impact on our environment. Not to mention wasted resources (water, time, money). Anywho, this isn’t one of *those* posts. All of this to say that I’m getting better at Sunday afternoon food prep for the week and wanted to share some tips that have worked well with our little family.  Continue reading

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Vietnamese Greens and Shrimp Soup – Canh cải ngọt nấu tôm

26 Mar

I don’t often travel, but February and March brought me on the road and away from my people for nearly two weeks! Anh is completely self sufficient, but the mom-guilt set in hard for the second trip and I spent the day before heading to SXSW in the kitchen preparing easy meals.

Our new go-to canh (soup) is one of Anh’s favorites from his mom. I can’t always find the right greens, but yu choy (similar to Chinese broccoli) is almost always available. Here’s the foundational recipe.

Vietnamese Greens and Shrimp Soup

Canh cải ngọt nấu tôm

  • 12 oz chicken broth (or equivalent water + chicken bouillon)
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, finely minced
  • 1 bunch Yu Choy, chopped in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 tbs dried shrimps, soaked in hot water for at least 15 minutes (reserve water)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 lb shrimp
  • 3 green onions, white bottoms and green tops sliced and separated
  • 3 tbs Fish Sauce (to start, the rest to taste)
  • 4 tbs Sugar (to start, the rest to taste)
  • 2 tbs Mushroom Seasoning (to start, the rest to taste)
  • 1 tbs neutral oil

In a stock pot, heat the oil on medium high and add the sliced shallot and minced ginger until fragrant (approx 30 – 60 seconds). Pour in the chicken broth, rehydrated shrimp, fish sauce, sugar and mushroom seasoning.

Bring to a simmer and add shrimp — reducing heat to medium low — and cook until they begin to turn opaque. This time I used the last of a bag of langostino tails, which are delicious, meaty bites. You also could skip the shrimp and opt for firm tofu cubes.

Add in the Yu Choy and taste broth, adjusting seasoning to taste. Go slow and allow the flavors to develop and incorporate before adding more. Simmer for five-ish minutes until the greens are cooked but stems still have a bite.

Serve with a bowl of rice and protein. Grilled pork chops or caramelized ginger chicken are excellent companions for this daily soup.

 

Thôi Nôi – Vietnamese 1st Birthday Traditions

9 Jun

Twelve months is upon us and we’re already in full party-planning swing. What they say is true, time really does pass in the blink of an eye. Our little lady has been pure joy and adventure from day one, and we’re so excited for every new milestone and experience.

Father holding infant daughter blowing out birthday cake

Celebrating her Ba’s birthday

We did her one-month name day ceremony, and will be placing out objects for her to select her future profession at the one year birthday bash. For those who haven’t been to an Asian one-year birthday party, essentially you place objects in front of the tot and whatever little Johnny or Jane picks is her future profession. I’ve been to Vietnamese and Korean versions of this and they, essentially, are the same. Of course there is some bias to the parents in what objects are offered.

The Vietnamese tradition is called Thôi Nôi (or, leaving cradle – excuse me while I grab the tissues).

In doing some reading, there are several accounts I have found for the Vietnamese tradition.

  1. Place several objects on the ground in front of them and whatever they grab is it!
  2. Place 12 objects in a tray and allow the tot to explore them. Whatever they end up with (for the most amount of time, I guess), is their future.

Twelve is an auspicious number for this ceremony, as I read, which also is a nice parallel to the number of months they have been on earth (my own interpretation).  The ceremonial altar table is similar to that from the one-month ceremony, but with twelve offerings (preferred) for some items. From one account:

We often pray to “God-mothers” – called “Bà Mụ” – who support the baby during his childhood. In our belief, there are 12 God-mothers and that’s why we have 12 pieces for each ceremonial offerings.

Plans are still coming together, but I’m most excited to see what our little gem selects for her future!

What objects did you place before your child?

Viet Stir Fried Green Beans

19 May

This blog should be renamed – Stopping and Starting Vietnamese. But I have a really, really good excuse for the hiatus. You know, that darling little baby I told you about last summer.

Now that Little is eating more food, and loving everything we put in front of her, I’m getting back in to cooking. Usual modifications for our flavor preferences are upstaged by modifications for less sodium / sugar / spice. Not always easy with Vietnamese cuisine.

Not that we have to worry about flavors – the girl was squawking for more mouthfuls after her first slurp of bun mam, a fermented fish noodle soup that even took me several encounters to love. She hesitated a bit with stir fried bittermelon, but if that isn’t an acquired taste, I don’t know what is.

My frequent routine is to head to market Saturday or Sunday morning, and prepare protein or the most complicated dishes Sunday evening. If I cook ahead or at least marinate and have on hand the right proteins, all I need to do is prepare a quick fresh veggie and it seems like I was chained to the stove all day rather than in the office.

Lately these green beens have been a bright spot with our ca kho (caramelized fish) or ga kho gung (caramelized ginger chicken).

Vietnamese Stir Fried Green Beans

Serves 2 as a single side, 4 with multiple dishes

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, cleaned and ends trimmed
  • 5 green onions, using only 2 white bottoms
  • 2 tbs neutral oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 tbs fish sauce (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp black pepper (or more, to taste)

Clean and trim the ends of your green beans. Roughly chop green parts of all onions, using only 2 of the white bottoms. If you want super onion-y dish, go ahead and use them all. If not, use in soup or kho caramel dish.

Heat oil in sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Add green beans and white onion pieces, stirring to coat in oil and garlic. Add fish sauce, sugar and light soy, mixing well so sugar dissolves with the vegetables. Stir frequently and cook for a few minutes.

Add green onion pieces and black pepper, cook for another minute or two. Remove and serve hot!

Beans will still be crunchy. If you want them softer, you could add some water and cover to steam-cook before adding green onions and pepper at the end.

We usually make a more Chinese-style green bean dish with oyster sauce, but after the first serving, Anh is won over. We’ll be making these from now on.

Enjoy!

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