read to start the weekend

freshly published just 1 week ago, quite a cool read, cheese and contralto :-).

Music has been the inspiration behind most of the cheeses Scanlan makes at Andante. She typically comes up with the name first, and listens to or plays music that helps her work out how she will design the cheese. She thought about Contralto for about six years before she finally made it. The idea came to her at a concert in London, when she was deeply moved by the voice of contralto Sara Mingardo. “There was something gentle, with a hint of sorrow, a hint of loneliness, but still a female voice, and this unexpected texture of it.” Scanlan bought several of Mingardo’s CDs and frequently listened to her recording of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in particular. She ultimately created Contralto as a goat’s milk cheese, with a smooth, thick texture and rich but not overpowering taste, reflective of the voice that remained with her after the performance.

(I have been re-listening to Stabat Mater indeed, the past 2 days.. quite hyptonizing.., and addition to Bach.)

vietnamese watercress salad

zoom in of watercress salad with

Another of my favorite vietnamese dishes. Instruction below courtesy of my sister-in-law, with a slight modification. I had to go shopping for olive oil, vinegar, and filet mignon for the first time in life too.. only because previously they have always been handled by little sister who either had the ingredients or used the former hausmate’s.

1 bunch of watercress
1/5 to 1/4 kg of filet mignon
20 grape tomatoes
1 small white onion
3-4 garlic cloves
fish sauce 🙂
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper

1. Thinly slice the beef
2. marinate with some sugar (1 tsp), fish sauce (1 tbsp), black pepper, minced garlic for 1 hour
3. At high heat, stir fried the beef for about 1 minute, add white onion, turn off heat
4. remove meat from pan to prevent over cooking the beef.

Dressing: (this one I follow strictly her measurements… had to sort out those tsb and tbsp…
In a container: add
– 2 tsp sugar
– a tiny bit of salt
– 2 tbsp of vinegar
– 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
stir until all is well mixed.

Put in the watercress, cut approximately 1/2 length of finger in length (we measure things with finger length in Vietnam), cut grape tomatoes in 1/2, put meat + white onion on top, then add dressing to taste.

First picture was from my sister 6 years ago. BElow is mine. super tasty!

canh cà chua sườn

Highly motivated after watching Orphée, and determined to eat better to recover from this damn pollen season, i finally bought some ribs! (first time in life!) and wrestling them in the kitchen (first time too!) But there were precedent: little sister had visited 5 years ago to make one of the fav dishes, and on my trips to visit her during December last year as well as this past month, she made this soup again, so i kept close eyes on how to treat them ribs. So, here’s another fav soups of ours, which can be combined with noodles to make a noodle-soup dish out of it.

ingredients, to make 14L
– fish sauce
– 1,8kg baby back ribs
– 13 roma tomatoes
– 13 shallots , the biggish type
– scalions
– cilantro
– salt
– sugar
– black peppers

1. start boiling a big pot of water
2. put the ribs (cut along eyes) into the 14L pot, marinate with fish-sauce, sugar (not sure how much, i put some, i actually didn’t have sugar at home!), black peppers, thin slices from 3 shallots, let sit until the other pot nearly boils.
3. put pot with ribs on high heat, stir occasionally, let the rib seared (should take 5min? 10min? took me sometimes to stir…)
4. pour the 1st pot of boiling water in, bring to boil
5. scoop out all the goey foams at surface
6. put in diced tomatoes + peeled shallots
7. It should boil for 45min total.. i have never cooked ribs so didn’t know they don’t float :D, and kept waiting for them to come to surface.. hence the tomatoes got overcooked a tiny bit

(have your sisters and sister-in-law on chat lines to verify various steps can be very helpful!)
8. marinate to taste with fish sauce, turn off stove, put in green scalions, as shown at top figure

9. boil thin rice noodles. My sister bought these from 5 years ago, i love them, hollow on the inside.


10. 1 serving: with scallions and cilantro.  yum. works very well with Thai chili peppers.

canh cà chua đậu hũ hẹ

mission accomplished with only 1/2 of the chives overcooked

mission accomplished with only 1/2 of the chives overcooked

A very satisfactory dinner! 🙂 This is one of many very basic vietnamese clear soups (canh) and is typically a staple in daily vietnamese meal. Yet I haven’t made it probably in more than 10 years for various reasons, but the primary being the inability to find chives. May be backing up a little bit, I typically don’t cook unless I’m traveling abroad, and as such normally will only cook what I can find in the local store. And I have wanted to make this for a long time for friends in Germany but apparently it was quite tall order to find “hẹ” (chives, the completely flat type, not round, not piramide in shape.. as they taste very different). One time back in 2008 we had to go to 7 different asian + local vegetable markets in Munich + Heidelberg and in the end had to settle for something very unsatisfactory (for a different dish, the vietnamese fresh spring rolls). In any case, at the current lovely stay, we have located a niiiiiiiice asian store within 5min walking distance, so here we are :-).
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lovely seattle

Greetings from *very warm* Berkeley! After a full week visiting frozen Seattle.
I always say (to self) you can get a good impression of a (livable) city first by its airport, second by transportation from such airport to the city center, and finally by access to Vietnamese food :-). Given my connection to the North I have indeed been to SEA-TAC many times and enjoying its diverse food collection.. but nothing prepares me for how wonderful, vibrant, and accessible the city really is until this official visit. There will not be too many photos to share as it was an intense week where my first photo was the fancy room i stayed at after arriving at 2am and next batch was only the day just before leaving. And in mis-judging the timing of bus/train (more on this soon! read that again, bus + train!!) I won’t offer photos of the absolutely vibrant and beautiful UW campus either.. But here are some impression in case you have time to visit some day: Read more of this post

photo for the week


Bánh Bột Lọc © unknown

ps- people often ask why i barely eat.. mainly because i don’t get to eat what i crave 🙂 (in fact, smorgie can testify when such food is present i have no problem tricking you into leaving so i can eat also your portion 😀 ).
ps2- a good recipe+instruction, or watch the video in english or vietnamese <– note the knife and chopsticks!, damn i hungry…

boston: food

things are winding down here, i back in the office after an eye-opening food tour with experts, aka asians who live for fine nourishment.  Actually i didn’t join them for last night festivities, but generally our day involved late noon gatherings + walk + bakery + cafe + girls watching + superb dinning + passing out at nice ice cream shop.  So, in case you find yourself in boston, these are the places i recommend:

Yankee Lobster Fish Market, highly highly recommended.
Rod Dee Thai,
Pho 2000 in Dorchester, super cute waitress who kept calling me cưng (translation: pamper, cherish, dear, …)
Christina’s Ice Cream (and next to it is Christina’s Indian Spices shop)
Diesel Cafe, aka dyke cafe shop. there’s a darn starbuck opening right opposite of it, boo.

so, if you read reviews of these places, it seems people who have problems are those expecting shiny service! we vietnamese have this way of saying: the shinier the restaurant, the worse the food.  I am there to eat and enjoy the high quality food, not the damn shiny tables + shiny services!   Let’s take Yankee Lobster Fish Market for example: BEST lobster, YUMMMM.  and for $20! did i mention fresh?? can’t believe i have lived in Boston for so long without knowledge of this little hole in the wall.  Read more of this post

vietnamese feast, part II

little sister is here, which means i’m super well fed.  not much to describe.  She asked for a menu (what I wanted to eat), i provide a list, and here we are.  Still more to come of course.  but this post is all about picture.  Some of the ingredients I’m not sure about the english translation, but all in all, very good!


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vietnamese feast

the charming smorgy braved the public and private transportation system in southern california to visit me in LA just in time for a special invitation from my best friend for a vietnamese feast early this week.  there are few people i would show up on the spot when they cook, little sister and best friend are on this short list.  In fact, they were fully acknowledged in my thesis:

“Many thanks to my younger sister XXX and older sister YYY who have helped keeping me sane through all the good and bad times, and for the occasional cargos of food delivered in person or by mails. …Lastly I’d like to thank my best friend ZZZ for her great companionship and superb cooking.”

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