Lena on July 15th, 2011

Summer is here. We all love to grill and enjoy a great time outdoor. Watch the video below for great tips on how to grill perfect steak at home. Let’s grill this weekend!

Enjoy and have fun!


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Lena on July 14th, 2011

banh baoBánh Bao is a Chinese steamed bun dumpling, but we Vietnamese grow up and enjoy this dish very much. It is sold at Vietnamese market, Vietnamese fast food store, Chinese, Vietnamese restaurants, and virtually you can find it everywhere there is an Asian community. Simply, it’s convenient: you can eat it for breakfast, for snack, and big enough to consider it a light lunch or dinner, at home, on the road, everywhere. This is probably the most popular Chinese dish that is loved by Vietnamese. Below is the recipe of bánh bao, an adaptation version from the Chinese baozi to fit Vietnamese taste.

3 cups Gold Medal self rising flour
1 Alsa baking powder package or 2 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp white vinegar (this helps make the cake whiter)
1 cup milk
1 tsp oil

Take 1 tbsp of flour from the package and set it aside for later use. Mix the dry ingredients together. Add vinegar and gradually pour in the milk and knead for 15 minutes. Add 1 tsp of oil and knead again for 10 minutes. Cover the dough in a plastic bag and let it rise for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, move on to prepare the filling:

1 lb pork shoulder, grounded
4 tbsp jicama, diced
5 shiitake mushrooms, soaked, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2/3 tsp pepper
1 tsp sesame oil

Mix the ingredients together.

10 cooked quail eggs or 3 cooked eggs, quartered
1 Chinese sausage (lạp xưởng), slice diagonally into 10 pieces

Make buns:
Divide the dough into 10 parts, form a ball, press it down and roll the dough thinly for each part. Put a scoop (use an ice cream scoop) of filling into the middle of the dough, add 1 quail egg or an egg quarter, and a sausage slice. Fold the sides up and pleat to make a round roll. Put it on a cut out piece of parchment paper. Keep doing the same for the remaining buns, making 10 buns.

Steam the buns for about 20 – 25 minutes. The buns are then well cooked, and ready to serve.

Makes 10 steamed buns.


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banh it ramFried Glutinous Sticky Rice Dumpling is another version of the sticky rice dumplings. In this version, you enjoy a delicious soft, chewy, sticky dumpling sitting on the top of a crispy base. Top with some minced shrimp, pork, and fragrant scallion oil, dipping into the fish sauce, you have a really tasty and wonderful appetizer dish.

Bánh Ít Ram Recipe:
16 oz bag of glutinous rice flour (bột nếp)
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups water

1/4 tsp baking powder

Filling & Topping:
3 shallots, sliced
1/2 lb pork shoulder, thinly sliced
1/2 lb small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cooking oil

Scallion oil:
1 bunch of green onions, thinly cut
3 tbsp cooking oil
Stir fry green onions over hot oil until fragrant.

Banana Leaves

Prepare the filling & topping:
In a skillet, heat up 2 tbsp of cooking oil over a medium heat then stir in sliced shallots, mix it occasionally until it’s fragrant. Add pork shoulder, shrimp and quickly mix them up. Season with fish sauce, ground pepper, and sugar. Stir fry the meat until cooked, 3-5 minutes. Divide it in half, one will use for filling and another for topping.

Put half portion divided above into a food processor or hand chop the meat until it becomes a fine texture. If the topping is still wet, put it back into the skillet and sautéed it until it’s dry, make sure to stir it frequently so the topping is not burned at the bottom.

Cut banana leaves into about 16 3-inch squares. 1 lb package can make about 16 dumplings. Oil the top of the leave so the dumplings won’t stick.

Make dumplings/ Bánh Ít:
Make the Dough:
Add glutinous rice flour, salt into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and start kneading. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of water (less or more if needed) and keep kneading until it becomes consistent.

Divide the dough into two portions: 1/3 and 2/3. 2/3 of the dough will use to make the dumplings, and 1/3 will combine with the 1/4 tsp baking powder, kneading it well to mix it and use to make the crispy bottoms of the dumplings.

To assemble the dumplings, pinch off the dough the size of a small lime, roll it in your hand to form a ball and make an indentation in the center with your thumb, then spoon about 1/2 tsp of filling into the well. Close up all the sides, then gently roll into a ball in your hand and lightly press it down a little bit so it’s not too round. Place it on the oily top of the banana square. Keep doing so for the remaining dumplings.

Place the dumplings in the steamer over boiling water and steam it for 5 minutes or until cooked.

Make dumpling bottoms:
Divide the remaining dough (1/3 portion) into 16 equal pieces. Roll it in your hand to form a ball and flat it out, the same size of the dumpling. In a wok, deep fry the bottom in hot oil.

To assemble the cake, place each dumpling on a crispy bottom, top it with the topping and garnish with some shallot oil.

Serve with the dipping fish sauce.


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banh tieu

When I was a young kid in Vietnam, this was my favorite snack during the school break. We kids didn’t have a lot of money, a warm crispy hollow bread was a wonderful treat that would made us really happy to enjoy. We sometimes happily broke it in half, three, or even quarters to share with our best friends who were not able to afford one themselves. Oh, how I missed those simple sweet childhood moments.

Bánh Tiêu Recipe:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup self rising flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Warm water
- 1/3 cup white sesame seeds
- Oil for deep frying

Prepare the yeast: in a cup, add yeast with warm water and blend it well to activate it. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Yeast will bubble up.

Mix the all purpose, self rising flour, salt and sugar together, then activated yeast. Slowly add about 2- 2 1/2 cups of water, mix it well.

Put some flour on a kneading surface, and start kneading for about 7-10 minutes or until it becomes consistent. The more you knead, the better the dough is and the better the bread will become.

Let the dough rest in a warm bowl, cover it with a plastic bag and leave it in the bowl for about 2 hours. It will rise more than double after that.

Put some flour on a kneading surface and knead the flour again to make a nice ball, then pinch it into small pieces, about the size of a small lime.

Roll each piece in the hand to form a small round ball. Place the ball on the kneading surface and use a rolling pin or a glass bottle to roll it thin, about 1/3 inch thick. Then press each side into a cup of white sesame seeds to coat it. Keep doing that for the remaining balls.

Put them in a warm container and cover with a plastic bag. Let it rise for another 1/2 hour.

In a wok or a deep fryer, heat up a generous amount of oil. When the oil is hot, slowly add the thin dough in, one at a time, do not overcrowd it to allow the dough room to rise. Turn it upside down. Press the corner of the dough down to make sure it’s submerged in oil. The dough will rise up more. Deep fry until both sides turn golden brown.

Use a slotted spoon to remove it from the oil, put it on a rack or plate, bottomed with paper towel to drain off some oil. Serve it warm.



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Vietnamese bread is similar to French bread. Learn the skill to make your own bread at home. You’ll find out how easy it is to bake it. To make Vietnamese sandwiches, you can make smaller loaves, about 5 loaves for the same ingredients.

French Bread Recipe:
1 tbsp yeast + warm water to activate
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp salt

Prepare the yeast: in a bowl, add yeast and warm water together to activate it. Yeast will bubble up.

Mix the flour and salt together, then add activated yeast. Add about 3 cups of water.

Put some flour on a kneading surface, and start kneading for about 5 minutes or until it becomes consistent.

Let the flour rest in a warm bowl and cover it with a plastic bag and leave it in the bowl for about 2 hours. It will rise more than double after that.

Grease a regular cooking sheet and set it aside.

Put some flour on a kneading surface and knead the flour again to make a nice ball, then form it into 2 loaves. Punch the loaf down in the middle and pinch it close and do it over and over until it forms a nice long loaf. Make 3 deep cuts on the loaf and move it over to the cooking sheet, let it rise for about 1 1/2 hr.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Pour a cup of water into the oven to create some steam and then reduce the temperature down to to 350F. Insert the cooking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until done.

Makes 2 loaves.


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This delicious Vietnamese layer cake resembles the look of the pig skin, the name “Bánh Da Lợn” comes after that, literally translated as “pig skin cake”. This Vietnamese steamed layer cake is made from tapioca starch, rice flour, mashed mung beans, coconut milk, and sugar with pandan and vanilla flavors. It is sweet and gelatinously soft in texture, with thin (approximately 0.5 inch) green pandan colored layers alternating with layers of mung bean. You can substitute the mung bean filling with taro or durian.

banh da lon

banh da lon

To make sure the cake turns out nice and soft in texture, you need to whisk the batter well and strain the batter through a strainer to remove any crumbs. The batter needs to be smooth and consistent.

Pandan and Mung Bean Layered Cake – Bánh Da Lợn Recipe:


- 1 package (14 oz) tapioca starch
- 1 cup water
- 2 cans (13.5 oz) coconut milk
- 1 full cup sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp rice flour

- 1 cup mung beans, cooked
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla powder
- 2 tbsp pandan essence

In a large bowl, combine tapioca starch, water, coconut milk, sugar, salt and rice flour together. Whisk it well until the batter is smooth.

Add 1/3 of the batter into a blender, add mung beans and blend it until the mixture becomes smooth. Run it through a strainer to a bowl and discard any crumbs. Add 1/2 tbsp of vanilla powder and mix it well to increase the fragrance of the batter. This the mung bean filling batter. You can add 2-3 drops of yellow food coloring to the batter and mix it well if desired.

Run the remaing 2/3 portion of the batter through the strainer into another bowl. Add 2 tbsp of pandan essence. This portion of the batter turns into a nice looking green color. This is the pandan batter.

Grease an 8 inch mound, and place it in a steamer over boiling water for 2 minutes to warm up the mound, uncovered. Pour in a layer of pandan batter (1 or 2 soup scoops) and steam over high heat for 5-8 minutes, or until cooked. The batter will become clear when cooked, then pour in the same amount of the mung bean batter to make the next layer of filling. Steam until filling is cooked and then pour in some more pandan batter, alternatively. Continue with this process until you use up all of the batter and filling. Make the cake as many layers as you want.

Cool down the cake before serving. Slice into small pieces and serve.



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Lena on June 27th, 2011
shrimp asparagus recipe

shrimp asparagus

One of the quickest ways to whip up a delicious stirring sauce is using the plum sauce sold at the Asian store and mix it up with the soy sauce, then you have a base stir fry sauce. The sauce is delicious by itself for stir fry dishes, or you can use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil for a coconut flavor, minced basil, minced lemongrass or minced garlic for a different flavor each day. Quick, easy, it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients to make and it’s delicious.

Shrimp and Asparagus in Plum Sauce Recipe:

12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bunch asparagus, sliced diagonally
1/4 yellow onion, wedged
2 tbsp full plum sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp chili sauce
2 tbsp cooking oil

In a cup, mix together plum sauce, soy sauce and chili sauce. Set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a skillet then add onion in, quick stir fry until it’s fragrant. Add shrimp and  stir fry until it’s light cooked. Add asparagus, then the stir fry sauce you just mixed from the step above in. Mix it well and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until the asparagus is cooked.

Notes: When stir frying, do not overcook the vegetables. They should taste a bit crunchy when done.

Serve hot over steamed rice.

Serves 2.


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