Salad with Vietnamese-style dressing

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I love a good short-cut when it comes to cooking, but when it comes to salad dressing, I try where possible to make my own. Store-bought salad dressing is just never quite as good.

One day I’ll share how I make my own Honey Mustard, Caesar, and Thousand Island dressings but today – it’s salad with Vietnamese-style dressing. I love how it is sweet and salty with a tangy pungency that comes from the addition of fish sauce and freshly squeeze lime juice.

Back story: I deep fried a bunch of Malaysian/Nyonya style chicken over the weekend and wanted a sauce that would double as dressing for salad and dipping sauce for the chicken. Something really salty and flavourful, almost pickled. I remembered then the dipping sauce that one of the Vietnamese eateries near us serves (thank you LS for introducing me to Saiguette :P).

I looked at this recipe from Luke Nyguyen as a starting point, reducing the amount of rice vinegar but increasing the amount of lime juice. Sorry, didn’t get think to take a picture of just the dressing itself!

saladviet1Salad with Vietnamese-style Dressing

Ingredients (makes about 1/2 a cup)
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon white sugar

2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Chilli sauce (or 1 small red Chilli, de-seeded and finely minced)
2 tablespoons lime juice

Method:
1. Heat the water, fish sauce, rice vinegar, and white sugar in a small saucepan over low-medium heat just until sugar dissolves. Let cool.
2. In the meantime, mix garlic, chilli sauce (or fresh chilli) and lime juice in bowl.
3. Add the cooled fish sauce mixture to the bowl of garlicy, fragrant lime juice.
4. Taste – if it’s too salty, add more lime juice or a little bit of water.
5. Drizzle dressing over tossed crunchy vegetables like thinly sliced cucumber, carrot, onion, and a bit of tomato and cilantro leaves if you like. Also goes fantastically with grilled/deep fried meats.

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Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Quiche

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Second attempt at quiche! Broccoli and Cheese!

Instead of using half-n-half in the egg mixture as I did with my first ever quiche , I used whole milk and sour cream. I also toned down the nutmeg, dashing a bit of paprika, chilli powder, and more salt this time around.  I like my own version with sour cream more – the Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Quiche tasted less eggy and creamier than the last one. Hope you enjoy!

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Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Quiche

Ingredients (for 4 modest servings)
1 thawed deep dish pie crust (I used a store-bought one)
1 medium-sized broccoli crown, cut into small florets
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 jumbo eggs or 4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp chilli powder
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste

Method
0. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Saute onion and broccoli in olive oil in frying pan over low-medium heat. I like sauteeing the onions separately for a couple of minutes before adding the broccoli. Keep an eye on these vegetables as you do steps 2 and 3, making sure that they soften but don’t brown. Add a dash of salt. Take off heat when cooked.
2. Prick the base and sides of thawed pie crust with fork. Bake thawed pie crust in oven, 10 minutes or until it turns golden.
3. Beat eggs lightly until mixed, add milk and sour cream, beat lightly. Add nutmeg, paprika, chilli powder, black pepper and salt to mixture, mix.
4. Check pie crust, when done; let cool. Push down any bits that might have risen in the baking process. Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. When pie crust is cool, sprinkle a thin layer of cheddar cheese on bottom. Next, tip in broccoli and onion, arrange in pie so that vegetables are spread out. Pour in egg mixture, and then sprinkle top with cheddar cheese.
6. Bake in oven for 35–50 minutes until no longer wobbly or runny. This quiche took me 40 minutes to bake in a conventional oven.

Silken Tofu with Spicy Preserved Vegetable – based on ChiChi Wang’s recipe

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Silken Tofu with Spicy Preserved Vegetable Dressing based on ChiChi Wang’s recipe

I recently discovered ChiChi Wang’s recipes through Serious Eats and decided to create a version of her wonderful Silken Tofu with Chilli Oil.

The combination of salty and tangy preserved vegetable with the silky, almost sweet nuttiness of tofu works incredibly well. I love pickled vegetables, especially zhacai (Chinese pickled mustard tubers)!

For reference, I deviated from the original recipe in the following ways:
– The original recipe presents the tofu in slabs; I’ve kept it in a block because I think part of the fun is cutting into the tofu when eating.
– Instead of sprinkling the preserved vegetables and spring onion at the very end as garnish, I cooked them in a combination of sesame oil, light soy sauce, and chilli sauce because I wanted the dish to be warm. A matter of personal preference, really.
– Perhaps the original dish tastes ‘fresher’ especially with its addition of cilantro but I didn’t add cilantro (didn’t have any / felt that the tofu was equally fine without).

This dish was a great part to our vegetarian meal on Sunday – eaten alongside stir-fried garlicky Chinese greens and a preserved egg omelette!

Comforting Chicken and Shittake Mushroom Stew

I’ve often fantasized about making this Comforting Chicken and Shittake Mushroom Stew whenever I craved for a simple meal with lots of gravy . Finally I cooked this dish in an attempt to make the a nice meal for W last week when he was ill with a bad cold.

The stew turned out to be right up our taste alley. It was even better the next day for lunch – loved the mushrooms. A little on the oily side (I wasn’t as thorough in trimming the chicken fat as I could have been), but very satisfying with Thai white rice.

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I’ve approximated the measurements here but I’m afraid my recipe is not tried and tested at all. Still, wanted to share.

Comforting Chicken and Shittake Mushroom Stew // Served two ways here

Ingredients:
400 grams chicken thighs, in bite-sized pieces
6-8 x dried Shittake mushrooms, soaked in warm water so that they are reconstituted and soft (remove stalks)
2x cloves garlic, minced finely
a small section of ginger (I use about 4 cm squared), finely sliced into little matchsticks
vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon
salt

for the sauce:
light soy sauce, 1.5 tablespoons
dark soy sauce, 1.5 tablespoons
oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon
rice wine/Shaoxing wine/sherry, 0.5 tablespoon
water, one-third cup
ground white pepper, a few dashes

Method:
0. Soak Shittake mushrooms in warm water. This is done preferably a few hours before cooking but if in a rush, use boiling water and half an hour should do it. Slice each mushroom into 4 wedge pieces.
1. Chop chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces, removing excess skin and fat. Marinate with salt.
2. Heat wok on low-medium heat. Add oil.
3. When oil is hot, stir-fry garlic and ginger until fragrant.
4. Add chicken to wok, stir-fry.
5. When chicken is slightly browned on outside (not completely cooked inside though), add mushrooms.
6. Mix mushrooms and chicken.
7. Mix ingredients for the sauce in bowl. Add to wok.
8. Cover wok with lid. Once mixture has come to a boil, turn heat down to low so that it is just simmering.
9. Let simmer on low heat for at least half an hour.
10. Make sure that there is enough liquid to just barely cover the protein. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary.
11. Taste stew and add salt to taste.
12. You’re done!

When making this last week, I added a few large Romaine lettuce leaves to the wok to steam them for 2 minutes before switching off the heat. I then ladled the stew on top of the lettuce. It was an easy way of getting some green in our meal without having to prepare a side.

In my college days, I used to make a version of this with small chunks of potato – also yummy but the starch in the potato would make the sauce very thick. I refer this version for its relative simplicity.

Enjoy!

Tuna and Green Pepper Pasta Casserole

Desperate times call for creative measures. It was coming to the end of the week when the fridge was slowly depleted of fresh produce but luckily I had a can of tuna, a lonely green bell pepper, dried pasta, and some leftover cheese and half-and-half. Casserole time!

Casseroles have always been associated, in my mind at least,  with American/Western European families eating healthily and cheaply. I love the idea that they have carbs, protein, and vegetable all in one dish.

Tuna and Green Pepper Pasta Casserole

tuna2Not so great picture – yummier than it looks, I promise

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 can tuna, drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups dried pasta – I used shells
1 tablespoon olive oil OR butter
cracked fresh black pepper
150 grams cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, optional

Sauce:
1 cup half-n-half (50% whole cream, 50% light cream)
0.5 cup milk
0.5 teaspoon salt
save about 1-2 tablespoons of the starchy water from the cooked pasta

Method:
0. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (205 Celsius)
1. Cook pasta as per package instructions in salted water.
2. Heat medium-sized skillet on low heat with olive oil (or butter, your preference). Saute onion and bell pepper slowly.

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3. When onion and bell pepper soft and fragrant, add tuna.
4. Heat tuna and vegetable mixture through.
5. Crack black pepper over mixture.
6. Check pasta. When ready, drain but retain some of the starchy hot pasta water.
7. Add half-in-half, milk, and salt to tuna mixture.
8. Add a tablespoon of the starchy pasta water to mixture.
9. In a breadloaf tin, first layer the bottom with a little bit of creamy tuna mixture, second pasta, third cheddar cheese. Repeat twice. On the last (top) layer, put any remaining cheddar cheese and Parmesan if using. At this point I try to make sure there are no gaps in the dish. I also add a little bit of water (no more than 0.5 tablespoon) around the sides to keep the pasta moist.

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10. Put into oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Really loved how the saltiness from the cheese and tuna mixed in with the sweetness of onion and bell pepper. One really can’t go wrong with cheese right? I used a mixture of sharp cheddar and Parmesan. I always keep a tub of grated Parmesan in my fridge. A friend once told me that Parmesan has lots of MSG – no wonder I like it so much.