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.

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…

movie weekend

a little detour from normal posts (whatever that might be). summer is always quiet as far as music is concerned, lots of traveling, lots of working. I’ve been hunting down for many live damnation de faust recording including the one here in the area last month under Charles Dutoit’s baton and with a stellar cast of Susan Graham, Willard White, Paul Groves… I have to say though that i quite dislike the generic take of Hungarian March as well as very very dragging tempo of the performance. This piece is so much about the mixing of voice and orchestra/solo instruments and male/female chorus. In the end i liked both versions from Weimar last year and the one I spotted 3 years ago in the UK with Monica Groop, Ildar Abdrazakov, Gregory Kunde, and Gianandrea Noseda (we remember him as the conductor for Vivica Genaux’ debut at the PROM). Here’s a sample from that, including in the 1st minute Marguerite’s lamentation to the drums/horns on her way to execution which i really like (1st take by Monica Groop, 2nd take by Kasarova, then followed by clip of male chorus to end act I. It’s quite a contrast of voice to mostly drums versus voice to more mixture horn/drum. “Il ne vient pas….” The bits after, love the harpsichord, really love, comes in around min 5. Anyhow, rambling, i didn’t mean to write so much about this because…

this weekend, i needed a break from work. have been working days and nights and weekends since got back on land. a PERFECT break popped up out of nowhere: free showing of Kung Fu Hustle for 2 nights !! If you don’t know about the movie, that’s cool, i think you should. I saw it both nights. If there’s another showing tomorrow, i would come too. I’ve seen it once before on tiny laptop screen. The beauty of big screen is not just about the fighting scenes but the music. I like the music A LOT (sample 1, 2, 3). a bit loud, but if you’re gonna make loud music, that’s the way to do it. The fighting scenes are great. One of the reasons I haven’t been to movie theaters in ages is that here in US, they seem to love big grand slow-mo exaggeration/overacting… If martial arts is involved, i want to see a movie from Asia, in native language too, not english. Love listening to foreign languages. But, the true reason i reallly like this movie? It’s the exact sort of things i grew up reading! every afternoon during teenage years. One sister was more into romantic novels, another into poetry or whatever. I on these, hit end of book, looped back to page 1. I also LOOOVE this one, but unfortunately we only had 1 book which was quite torn. Here’s the wiki version in English (why does it have to sound soooo boring in English translation, the title that is…, also here’s the wiki english of 2nd set.) They all fall under this set of Chinese Four Great Classical Novels. (Oh, now that i see that set, i also spent endless hours reading the 3rd novel, that 4th one somehow never made it to our house…). People can have their superman, spiderman, whatever. As a kid (and even now), i love the idea of the master, with a special skill no-one can possess.

Here’s a scene from it, to really lovely music, and sort of give an idea of the flow of film. It’s actually a comedy, done to very good taste (or rather my taste) i’d say. think i might have to dig up the thing on youtube to re-watch again…

cây lúa

on the way walking to office in this suddenly cold weather, i somehow had tons of vietnamese tunes in my head. growing up under communist _and_ catholic settings, i tend to associate these two together. and like many of the church songs and jesus, which i can now recite, there are plenty praising Ho Chi Minh which we sisters now sing out loud for fun at family gatherings or to put the children to sleep :-D. But luckily not all songs we learned was about hochiminh or communist party. The majority is actually about the simple beautiful things, the people, the mountains, the sea, the trees, birds, etc. The title here refers to the individual rice plant, and we have a song dedicated solely to cây lúa, to show appreciation and respect for it.  The song starts with “Tôi hát bài ca ngợi ca cây lúa, và người trồng lúa cho quê hương” (i sing a song praising the rice plant, and the rice farmers who labor for the nation)

Like many of the songs, the message is pure and simple. This one: appreciate and respect what feeds us the people. What’s even nicer is the subtle message to appreciate sweet potatoes and corn (the country was so poor that people couldn’t afford rice. the cheaper things were corn and bad quality sweet potatoes which grew everywhere). very rough translation by yours truly here:

Được mùa lúa thóc chớ phụ ngô khoai,
ăn quả ngọt ngon nhớ người vun trồng.

“with a good rice harvest, do not abandon the corn and sweet potatoes,
eating sweet fruits, do not forget the laborers.”

And again, like many songs, it ends on a positive note, which is needed for people during this extremely harsh period: “Đường lớn đã mở đi tới tương lai, Ngày mai đang bắt đầu từ ngày hôm nay” (the road to the future is opening up, tomorrow begins today.)

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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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