Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
About 1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla) to taste
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
2 fresh Thai chiles, halved, or dried red chiles
1 tablespoon canola oil 1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cilantro sprigs

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce to taste, water, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, pepper and chiles.

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the fish sauce mixture and the chicken and simmer over high heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Mango Salad With Zesty Lime Vinaigrette

Mango salad:
3 mangoes ripe, Alphonso recommended, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
1/4 red onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped

Mango Salad Dressing:
Zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup lime juice freshly squeezed (about 2 limes)
2 tsp white sugar
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil or other neutral tasting oil
Freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients for the Mango Salad in a large bowl. Toss to combine. *If making ahead, cover and refrigerate at this point, before adding the salad dressing.

Prepare the Mango Salad Dressing by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking well to combine. Cover and refrigerate if making ahead or use immediately by drizzling over the salad and tossing to combine.

Summer Mango Salad

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or regular sugar)
1 fresh red chili pepper, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
3 ripe mangoes , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves , finely chopped
2 tablespoons shallots , fried (or French fried onion)

Prepare the dressing by combining the lime juice, palm sugar, chili, and salt in a small bowl. Stir to mix well and set aside.

Combine the mango and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing and toss to mix well. If you plan to serve the dish later, you should transfer everything into a sealed container and store it in the fridge, up to 1 day.

Toss in the cashews and fried shallots. Mix well.

Pineapple Fried Rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 lb (225 g) ground chicken (or ground turkey)
2 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
3 cups cooked rice, overnight rice works best, separated by hand (*Footnote)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup mixed veggies (snow peas, carrots, and/or corn)
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup roasted cashews
1 lime , cut into wedges
Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (Optional)

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet (or a wok, or a carbon steel skillet) until hot. Add the eggs. Let cook without touching, until the bottom is set. Stir and chop with your spatula to separate the eggs into small bits. Once the egg is just cooked (it’s OK if some parts are still a bit runny), transfer it to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil and the ground chicken. Stir and chop with your spatula to separate it into small bits. Cook until the chicken turns mostly white.

Add the rice. Stir and chop to further separate it into single grains. Cook until the rice is heated up, 2 to 3 minutes. If you’re using a wok or a carbon steel skillet, the rice might stick to the pan. You can add a bit more oil and use your spatula to release the rice.

Add the soy sauce and curry powder. Stir to mix well.

Add the pineapple, bell pepper, frozen veggies, green onions, and sprinkle with salt. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add back the scrambled eggs and cashews and toss again. Carefully taste the rice. Sprinkle more salt and stir to mix well, if needed. Transfer everything to a big plate.

Serve hot as a main dish or side dish.

Pin Noodles with Chicken and Sprouts

6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 scallion, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch-long pieces
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 pound fresh silver pin noodles
1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
6 tablespoons thin soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over high heat, and stir-fry a third of the scallions until wilted, about 1 minute.

Add a third of the chicken and continue to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Add a third of the noodles and continue to stir-fry until the noodles are heated through and softened, about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the mung bean sprouts, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, and season with pepper to taste. Toss, cook for 1 minute, divide into 2 servings, and serve hot.

Repeat twice more, splitting each batch into 2 servings.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Ca Ri Ga)

3 tablespoons cooking oil
2 oz shallot or onion diced
1 lb boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into big pieces
3 tablespoons curry powder or Madras curry powder
2 lemongrass white parts only, cut into 4-inch strips, pounded
4 oz carrots peeled and cut into chunks
6 oz potatoes peeled and cut into chunks
1 can 14.5 oz 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat a small pot on medium heat, add the oil until heated. Saute the shallot or onion until softened or aromatic before adding the chicken. Stir the chicken a few times before adding the curry powder, lemongrass, carrots and potatoes. Stir to combine well. Add the chicken broth and coconut milk, turn the heat to low. Cover the pot and let simmer and cook for about 20 – 30 mins, or until the chicken, carrots and potatoes become tender.

Add the fish sauce and sugar, stir to combine well. Serve hot with steamed rice and/or French bread.

Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork and Noodles)

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb dry rice vermicelli noodle

THIT NUONG:
2 lbs pork shoulder/butt
1/3 cup chopped lemongrass
2 shallots finely chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp fish sauce
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

FISH SAUCE DIPPING SAUCE / NUOC MAM CHAM:
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup hot water
3 Tbp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 red chili seeded if you like and finely chopped

SERVE WITH:
1 large cucumber peeled, seeded, and julienned
lettuce leaves shredded
Do Chua
1/2 cup roasted peanuts chopped
Fresh Vietnamese perilla (tia to)
Mint leaves

Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef)

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb of beef sirloin cut into 1-inch cubes
8 cloves garlic peeled and finely minced
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
3 Tbsp of cooking oil
Salad:
1 red onion peeled and thinly sliced
1 red chili -optional seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp of sugar
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch of watercress, baby spinach, or arugula

INSTRUCTIONS:
Place the beef in a mixing bowl. Add in the minced garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and salt and let it marinade for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

While waiting for the beef to marinade, prepare the salad. Toss the sliced onions and chili (if using) with vinegar.

In another bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and pepper and stir to mix everything. Just before serving, toss in the vegetables along with the soy sauce mixture and toss to mix everything.

Preheat the wok or skillet over very high heat. Add in oil. Tip in the beef in single layer and let it sear for a minute undisturbed to create that nice brown. Do this in batches if necessary. Shake the wok or skillet to flip the beef over if you can (or flip it over with spatula) and let is sear for another 30 seconds. Then shake the wok or skillet again if you can and let cook until they are about medium rare or to the doneness you like. (I like medium rare.)

Toss the salad with the sauce and onion you prepared earlier. Place on serving platter. Arrange the beef on top of the salad and serve immediately.

Do Chua (Vietnamese Picked Daikon and Carrot)

3/4 lb daikon, peeled
1/4 lb carrot, peeled
1 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
5 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup distilled vinegar

Coarsely grate the carrots and daikon into strips, or use a knife to cut into matchsticks. Sprinkle on the salt and toss to mix and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a nonreactive saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, and sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat; cool to room temperature. (Don’t cook the vegetables, bathe them). Rinse the vegetables briefly with cold water, then squeeze dry and transfer to a medium bowl.

Pour over the vinegar mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon to ensure all the vegetables are well moistened. Let stand for 24 hours before serving.

It tastes best at 48 hours I think, but I find it acceptable starting at 24 hours point if you are pressed for time. They can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Acar Timun (Quick Cucumber Pickles)

2 medium size cucumber
4 tbsp hot water
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp white vinegar
3 red Thai chili cut into small pieces

Peel the cucumber and then cut into half vertically. Use a spoon with a sharp point, like grapefruit spoon for example, to scoop off the seeds. Regular spoon will work too, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have grapefruit spoon. It just makes the work a little easier.

Cut the cucumber into cubes or you can cut it into half-circle shape.

Place the hot water and sugar in a glass-jar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the vinegar and chili. Add the cucumber. Close the lid of the jar and shake it. You can pickle this in a non-reactive bowl too. Whatever works for you.

Let it pickle for at least 1 hour in a refrigerator. You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Braised Beef Stew)

FOR THE MARINADE:
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, such as Red Boat
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

FOR THE BRAISE:
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 large shallots or 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped tomato, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from a 2-inch piece)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, tender center only
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon annatto powder (optional)
4 star anise pods
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick, or substitute cassia bark
1 or 2 Serrano or Thai chiles, stem on, split lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 cup cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/2 cup mint leaves, for garnish
1/2 cup small basil leaves, preferably Thai, for garnish

Make the marinade: Stir together fish sauce, sugar, ginger, 5-spice powder and pepper.

Put beef in a large bowl, add marinade and massage into meat. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes, or longer if time permits (may be wrapped and refrigerated overnight if desired).

Put oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry the beef cubes in small batches, taking care not to crowd them, until nicely browned. When all beef is browned, return chunks to pot. Add shallots, stir to combine and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened.

Add tomato, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, salt and annatto, if using, and stir well to coat, then add star anise, cinnamon and chile. Cover with 4 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with lid ajar and cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Add carrots to pot and cook 15 minutes more. Skim fat from surface of broth as necessary (or refrigerate overnight and remove congealed fat before reheating).

To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with scallions, cilantro, mint and basil.

Vietnamese Rice Noodles with Lemongrass Shrimp (or other protein)

FOR THE PICKLED VEGETABLES:
1 cup finely julienned carrot
1 cup finely julienned daikon
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE:
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, like Red Boat
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
1 medium-hot red chile pepper, such as Fresno, finely chopped
1 red or green bird chile pepper, thinly sliced, or substitute half a thinly sliced serrano pepper

FOR THE SHRIMP AND NOODLES:
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, preferably wild, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, pale tender center part only
1 pound rice noodles, preferably rice vermicelli
1 or 2 small lettuce heads, with the leaves separated, rinsed and patted dry
3 cups mixed herb sprigs, such as cilantro, mint, basil, watercress and tender celery leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 scallions, slivered
4 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
Handful of bean sprouts (optional)

Make the pickled vegetables: Put carrot and daikon in a small bowl and sprinkle with sugar and salt. Add rice vinegar, toss well and set aside.

Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, ginger and chiles. Stir in 1/2 cup cold water and let mixture sit for 15 minutes. (Leftover sauce will keep up to 3 days, refrigerated.)

Marinate the shrimp: Put shrimp in a shallow dish. Add fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic and lemongrass. Mix well to coat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn off heat and add rice noodles. Soak noodles, stirring occasionally, until softened, usually about 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Leave in colander at room temperature.

Prepare a platter of lettuce leaves and herb sprigs for the table. Keep cool, covered with a damp towel.

Put oil in a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add shrimp without crowding (work in batches if necessary). Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.

To serve, divide noodles among 4 large soup bowls, then top each with hot shrimp, pickled vegetables and a tablespoon or so of dipping sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and peanuts (and beans sprouts if using). Pass herb platter and remaining dipping sauce at the table, and encourage guests to customize bowls as desired.

Grilled or wok-seared pork, beef, or chicken are fine too.

Alison’s Edamame

1 bag frozen edamame

Sauce:
3 tablespoons chili paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Pinch of sugar to taste
Dash of black vinegar to taste
Dash of toasted sesame oil to taste

Steam or boil edamame until just done.

Mix sauce ingredients to taste.

Serve edamame with sauce on the side.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Chicken

For the chicken & marinade:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the nuoc cham sauce:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 red chili, de-seeded and sliced (or substitute 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce or Sriracha)
1/2 cup cold water

To assemble the bowls:
200g dried rice vermicelli noodles
Vegetable oil
2 cups bean sprouts
1 large carrot, julienned
1 seedless cucumber, julienned
6 leaves romaine lettuce, finely julienned
Mint
Cilantro

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with your marinade ingredients, and set aside for 30 mins to an hour while you prepare the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the nuoc cham ingredients and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved into the sauce. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients if desired.

Boil the rice vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside in a colander.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium high heat. You could also heat a grill pan or grill for this. Sear the chicken for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Set aside on a plate.

To assemble the salad, combine the rice noodles with bean sprouts, julienned carrots and cucumber, romaine lettuce, mint, and cilantro. Slice the chicken thighs and add to the salad. Serve with your nuoc cham sauce.

Vietnamese Satay Sauce

25 g garlic (3 large cloves), coarsely chopped
30 g shallots (1 large shallot), coarsely chopped
80 g lemon grass (4 medium stalks), coarsely chopped
About 1 cup peanut oil
8 g fresh Thai bird chilis, minced
30 g crushed red thai chilis, the dry red ones about 3-4″ long
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp. MSG (optional)
3 to 4 Tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce (optional, use for brighter color and extra heat)

Food process the garlic, shallots and lemon grass separately. (An electric mini-chopper works very well for this task.) Get the garlicand shallots to a fine mince, and the lemon grass well processed, but not to powder.

Put 14 tablespoons (that’s 1 cup less 2 tablespoons) oil in a small saucepan and add garlic. Heat over medium low and after the mixture starts bubbling and making sizzling sounds, lower the heat to the low. Let fry on low, low heat for 5
minutes.

Add the shallot and keep frying on low heat for 10 minutes more. It should gently sizzle without browning.

Add the lemongrass and let fry on low for another 10-15 minutes, until the lemongrass is fragrant, toasty, and has sunken into the oil.

Add the minced fresh chiles and fry for 5 minutes to release their oil and turn the mixture pale orange.

Add the crushed red pepper and fry for 5-10 minutes, until there’s a nutty, spicy smelling heat.

Stir in the Sriracha to achieve the desired color — orange red. About 3 to 4 tablespoons should do it. Then stir in the fish sauce, sugar, salt, and MSG. Adjust the heat to lightly bubble and let cook 1 or 2 minutes longer.

Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust with a little more sugar to tame the heat, fish sauce or salt for savoriness, or a bit more Sriracha for extra heat. If you add sugar, warm up the mixture and stir it to dissolve the sugar. There should be a layer of oil floating on top to cover. If not, add more oil as needed to barely
cover the top.

For a smoother texture, use a stick blender or food processor to grind the mixture finely. Allow to cool completely before transferring to a jar. Store at room temperature for daily use or in the refrigerator for infrequent use and longer keeping

Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce (Tuong Ot Toi – Raw Version)

6 ounces hot chiles (e.g., cayenne, Fresnos, habanero, jalapeno, long, serrano, Thai, or a combination of them), stemmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Put all the ingredients in an electric mini chopper or food processor. Process to a coarse texture. Take a whiff and it should make you sweat a bit. Taste and adjust the flavor with add extra salt or sugar. Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate. Let stand at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to blend. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Note: if your concoction is too hot, add some bell pepper to tone it down. You can also mitigate the heat with sugar, salt and/or vinegar.

Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce (Tuong Ot Toi – Cooked Version)

6 ounces hot chiles (e.g., cayenne, Fresnos, habanero, jalapeno, long, serrano, Thai, or a combination of them), stemmed and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Put all the ingredients in an electric mini-chopper or food processor. Process to a coarse texture. Take a whiff and it should make you sweat a bit. Taste and adjust the flavor with add extra salt or sugar.

Transfer to a small saucepan, bring to a vigorous simmer over medium heat, lower the heat to gently simmer for about 5 minutes, or until it no longer smells raw. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. Makes a scant 2/3 cup.

Singapore Chili Sauce

2 or 3 large red chiles, such as Fresno, cayenne, or long chile, coarsely chopped
2 or 3 hot Thai chiles, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon hot chicken poaching broth

Put all of the ingredients into a small electric mini chopper and process to a semi-coarse sauce. Transfer to a dipping sauce dish.