So hey, it turns out I can cook Vietnamese. Who knew?
There are some things that I have a ton of interest in eating, but none whatsoever in making. Vietnamese food falls into this category. So does Chinese food, Korean food; anything I feel like I have no authority to create. I mean besides the basics. I attempted homemade ginger beef once and for all the effort that went into it I’d rather call up the place down the street and slap down a 10 spot for them to do it for me.
Besides, the mystique is taken away when you make something yourself. Do you ever get that sense that everything you make tastes like slightly different versions of the same thing? You know what went in there, and you’re intimately familiar with the process that made it taste the way it does. I’d rather focus my energies elsewhere and leave some things up to the pros.
But then recently I had the occasion to try, and I’m so glad I was shoved out of my comfort zone. Because that’s how you learn – when you expand your horizons beyond what you already know. (Whether voluntarily or by force.)
Satay aren’t really out of my comfort zone – they’d be more accurately classified as a staple around here. But the marinade is different from my usual. I kind of winged it; using about a pound of skinless chicken thighs and cutting them across into half strips, half chunks, and then mashing them more closely together than my usual slightly graceful (if anything about me could be described as such) “S” shape. I liked it this way.
Vietnamese Chicken or Pork Satay
1-2 lb. skinless chicken thighs or pork tenderloin, cut into strips or chunks
2 Tbsp. honey or sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. Sriracha or a pinch of dried red chili flakes
Put the chicken or pork in a bowl or ziplock bag; stir together the rest of the ingredients and pour overtop. Marinate for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.
Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 10 minutes to prevent them from burning, and thread the meat onto them, squishing the pieces together. Grill or broil for a few minutes per side, just until cooked through.
Fried rice is one of those things I tend to go about on my own. Even when I find a recipe I’m one to ignore it, thinking I know what I’m doing, and right here is a perfect example of something I make that always comes out tasting the same, with the occasional fluctuation depending on how heavy-handed I am with the soy sauce, or whether or not I opted to add curry paste.
But this. It elicited as many oohs and aahs as I’ve received for anything that has come out of my kitchen. The first time I made it, the recipient (who shall remain anonymous to protect his reputation as a mostly generous person) didn’t even share. I think it was the seasoning – the rice vinegar and sugar and fish sauce – but wow. It’s like fried rice that really means it.
Remember – you need leftover cold rice to make a good fried rice – the time in the fridge gives the grains a chance to separate, so that they won’t clump together and get all sticky in the pan.
Vietnamese Fried Rice
This is a bit of a spinoff of one I found on Epicurious
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
canola or mild olive oil, for cooking
5 cups cold long-grain rice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
big pinch dried red chili flakes
1 small bunch of green onions, chopped
1-2 large carrots, coarsely grated
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups bean sprouts (optional)
fresh cilantro and chopped salted peanuts, for garnish
In a small bowl stir together the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat a slick of oil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook for a few minutes, until heated through. Push over to one side and pour in the eggs; stir-fry until the eggs are scrambled, allowing them to cook without mixing them into the rice completely (so that you end up with detectable bits of egg); add the chili flakes, then the green onions, carrots and garlic; cook for a few more minutes.
Pour over the fish sauce mixture, then add the bean sprouts and cook for a minute, tossing with tongs, just until heated through. Serve immediately, in shallow bowls topped with cilantro and peanuts. Serves 4.
One Year Ago: Meatloaf, (S)Mashed Potatoes and Peas