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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.


Reporting to Bootcamp

2 Apr

Gyms aren’t my thing. My ADD takes over and I can’t focus so cardio machines are the death of me. When we lived in Arlington, we fully intended on making the most of the Gold’s that was literally right across the street. As in take the elevator downstairs, cross the street and walk one block. I mean how much easier does it get?

We are now just over five months away from the wedding and only four to the dam hoi. How did that happen? It’s time to get serious about getting fit.

Facebook usually gets everything wrong in terms of ads. No, I don’t want to ninja candy or crush fruit (you know what I mean). I also do not care to know who is looking at my profile, which isn’t supposed to be visible to anyone other than people I actually know and have as friends.

Needless to say I was surprised/inspired when a friend posted something about a new fitness bootcamp starting in April. I’d previously heard about the trainer Grant Hill (no, not that one) through other DC pals but wasn’t mentally ready to commit. I immediately looked at the deets, decided it was time to get serious and signed up.

Later that evening a nutrition packet arrived and I started to check out their recommendations. Fortunately I’m not that far off from what they suggest for healthy eating and living. Unfortunately they’re not big fans of grain, sodium and z wsugar. No surprise for the latter two. I’ll have to make some adjustments to my cooking but am going to give it my all.

Cue Amazon.

I now have a tub of coconut oil, Red Boat organic fish sauce (with no added sugar), and coconut crystals added to my culinary arsenal.

I’m enjoying cooking with the coconut oil and the Red Boat fish sauce is good – not as sweet as we’re used to but very good. Made great ribeye steaks and veggies with the fish sauce last weekend.

Boot camp starts today, so I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how I’m thriving or surviving. Not to worry – Vietnamese cooking will continue, will just make adjustments as required.

Surprise Vietnamese Cookbook Means Dinner Party for Homework

7 Mar

I came home from an especially brutal day at the office to a delightful surprise from our friend Lan. Look at this beauty!


Chào! Hello!

3 Jan

In September 2009 I began a journey of discovering Vietnamese culture and customs, language and food. Dating – and now marrying – a Vietnamese family has been a learning experience coming from a baseball and apple pie American upbringing. The experience has been amazing – I have always loved international foods, culture and perspective. “Always” being a more relative term if you ask my parents – growing up they never knew if I would love or hate pork chops or meatloaf one week to the next.

At my fiance’s family gatherings – which happen often and are always large – his relatives are often shocked that I’m not somehow Vietnamese already. I love nuoc mam, mam ruoc (fermented shrimp paste – the greyish-brown stuff you often see in pots on tables at Vietnamese restaurants) and have even eaten some duck blood concoction, which both shocked and impressed his cousins and uncles.

In fact, I prefer Vietnamese food above nearly all American meals – with the exception of the occasional pasta cravings and Tex Mex. The food is more flavorful, fresh and healthy, and surprisingly easy to prepare.

Nearly all recipes require a mix and match of staples like fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, lemongrass, cilantro and shallots. If you have those things on hand, you likely only need to pick up fresh veggies and protein. Trust me – it’s far more intimidating before you make a few dishes and develop your own preferences. Hopefully this blog will help you along, while I stash my favorites, tips and must taste lists.

Since we recently purchased our first home together, I can get back to learning Vietnamese. I’ve picked up some words and phrases over the past few years – I can tell you to turn the lights on or off, count to 10 and then some, and importantly order at Vietnamese restaurants. But we both believe it’s important that our future children know where they came from and be able to speak the language and communicate with their elders. My goal is to be conversational – even if broken – by the time we travel to Vietnam with his family in early 2014. Maybe you can help!

Whether you’re a friend, family (Hi Mom and Dad) or just an Interweb browser searching for your next dinner recipe, I hope you enjoy the blog! Cảm ơn!

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