my kind of fast food

Mung bean noodles with chewy fishcake and some fresh tofu in chicken broth. I add leeks to most of my broth-noodle dishes.

The kids asked me why I didn’t eat pancakes but noodles for breakfast. I told them, it’s my Vietnamese upbringing.


chicken and rice

It’s Mr. O’s favorite rice dish — Hainanese Chicken Rice.

I usually labored for at least three hours in the messy kitchen to cook up this dish using the stove. But yesterday was the first attempt of using the Instant Pot. I overcooked the chicken a little bit, but that gave me a lesson for next time to reduce the time from 25 minutes to 20 or less. The chicken was a bit too done for me, and the skin fell off before I could dip the whole fowl into an ice bath.

And I fried my own shallots…talking about making more work for oneself!

The rice was washed and soaked with a bit of turmeric powder, hence the yellow color. I also used Mogami medium grain rice, grown and harvested in the U.S.

side dish and main entree

Guess which one is the side dish?

Not this one. This was my main entree for dinner last night.
Ripe but firm mango I found at a local market, on sale 3 for a dollar. I made a quick Vietnamese mango salad with whatever I had in the fridge.

And the chicken wings were side dish.
Oven baked chicken wings, with garlic tamarind sauce. Secret ingredient for the sauce — 100% maple syrup!

seafood on the table

Today at Wholefoods I picked up a whole fresh red snapper (a bit more than a pound, at $9.99/lb, from New Zealand), and half of an octopus (about a pound, also at $9.99/lb, from South America). I actually wanted squids, but they didn’t have any, so I picked up the alternative.

I craved for this dish — stir-fried squid with celery, cucumber, and onion.

It was one of my childhood favorites, as I grew up in a coastal town and fresh squids were available fresh off the boats when in season. The octopus was a stand-in, but could not match up with the tenderness of squids. The boys each tasted one small bite of the tentacles and declined my second offer. It’s too chewy for them to eat.

I also craved for this dish — pan-fried red snapper with tomato and dill soup.

This one was not part of my childhood favorite because I think it’s a Northern Vietnamese dish. People from the south don’t eat too much dill, because I don’t think that I grew up eating dill that often. Anyway, I picked up this dish from a friend of mine who came to stay with me for a week when we were still living in Boston many moons ago.

The dish should be eaten like this…

Put a few dash of fish sauce in the shallow plate, cut up some fresh red hot Asian chilies, then ladle a few tablespoons of the broth into it to dilute the saltiness. Take the fish out from the bowl, and put into this concoction…

Then you eat it with fresh rice noodles, bún, not the kind for phở. A little bit of fish, some pieces of tomatoes, dill, and ladle some of the fish sauce concoction into your individual bowl…and don’t forget to sneak some chilies into the bite. There should be more dill that what I had but I only grabbed a small tiny bundle of dill from Wholefoods; should have brought two bunches. I love dills.

Anyway, I didn’t have any noodles left, and ate my meal with steamed short-grain brown rice. (I am cleaning up the fridge this week!)

And when Mr. O is not home, the kids ask for their favorite Vietnamese dish — egg omelette.

A whole view of our dinner. The boys ate pluots afterward to cleanse the palate.

P.S. Dill was not part of my food-consuming childhood back in Vietnam. Even when I was growing up in America, my family rarely, it not never, used dill in our southern dishes. I developed a thirst for dill after my study abroad trip in Vietnam when I visited Hà Nội and had Chã Cá Lã Vọng, the famous fried fish dish with dill and onion and fermented shrimp sauce. Somehow that famous dish cannot be that famous dish without dill, and plenty of it!

P.S.S. While I was trying to take photos in the backyard, my little Peanut wanted his dinosaur to be part of the picture.

a bowl of colors

There are more to noodle bowls than Phở in Vietnamese cooking. Growing up in Vietnam, any kind of noodles would be suffice for a meal, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any time in between. One of my favorite was Bún Riêu, named for the fresh-water crab roes known as “Riêu” that fill the top of the soup bowl amidst the colorful red of tomatoes, green onion, cilantro…Today I made this bowl of noodle soup, but not exactly Bún Riêu. I did not have all the right ingredients, so I improvised to get rid of miscellaneous stuff (veggies, herbs, and chicken broth) in the fridge without trashing them.


Hôm qua đi chợ nông dân, ghé hàng của cô người Mường thấy cô đem rau muống ra bán. Rau ngon và rẻ, $2 một bó, nên mua hai bó về ngắt lá để dành còn cọng thì đem ra chẻ mỏng. Nhìn thấy rau muống chẻ là thèm bún riêu. 😀

Sáng nay biến hoá món bún riêu lai lai này vì ở nhà tìm hoài không ra cái hủ riêu nên khỏi luôn riêu. Chỉ có làm mộc bằng thịt gà xay, mộc nhĩ, rồi bỏ vô nồi cho nó chín. Vậy coi là bún riêu mộc bà Năm cho sang. 😀 Nước dùng thì hôm bữa nấu cơm gà Hải Nam còn nước luộc gà, đem ra nấu luôn cho xong một công hai chuyện. Rau thì còn lại rau quế với rau ngò gai tuần trước ăn phở mà không hết nên gói vô khăn giấy để tủ lạnh cho nó khỏi héo. Trong tủ còn hai bịch măng ống, đem ra chơi luôn…coi như nấu món này là dẹp bớt mấy món lỉnh khỉnh còn lại trong tủ lạnh. Tiếc là không còn chả cá chiên trong tủ đá, nên không có để ăn kèm.

Rau muống ăn giòn và ngon quá là ngon!