Sunday, September 25, 2011

homemade cha gio

for awhile i've been talking to jen and ben about making pho. since they are allergic to gluten, they have ventured into rice noodles and rice papers. awhile ago we made spring rolls which they loved.

we finally made a date in our diaries to make chicken pho (vietnamese noodles). i was able to find most of the ingredients, but i never saw thai basil at any of the asian grocery stores. however, last week, i was ecstatic to find it at the korea food grocery store in new malden! also i needed bean thread vermicelli, and ben suggested using rice vermicelli instead. i gave him this look and said, "c'mon. what kind of foodie are you? " i explained to him, "if we're going to make it, we're doing it the proper way." luckily i found the bean thread vermicelli at korea foods as well.

i packed all my stuff and headed over to jen and ben's. it's a good thing i started at 1:30pm b/c it was an all day process.

we started off by preparing the broth (recipe given to me by my friend, juicy, when she visited me back in april 2011). i didn't want to run out of broth so we prepared 4 pots of stock. i might have overestimated just a little bit. it's a good thing their family likes chicken b/c there's loads of it leftover.

i was excited to make the cha gio (fried spring rolls). this appetizer is one of my favorite vietnamese dishes. i found a recipe on wandering chopsticks blog. so that's the recipe i followed. thankfully jen had a food processor which saved us a lot of time in chopping.

while i continued to roll the spring rolls, she fried the cha gio. i chuckled each time she declared, "no touching! don't get naked." apparently when the rolls touch each other in the oil, they tend to lose their rice paper skin. i suggest not frying too many at once.

when i explained to jen that these spring rolls are best wrapped in lettuce, she slapped me on my arm while exclaiming, "get out!" she was so excited to know that this meal was not just fried food. i mean, who doesn't love fried food? but what i love about this dish is it is healthy as well when eaten with lettuce. i demonstrated to everyone how to eat the cha gio by wrapping the cha gio with lettuce, pickled carrots (recipe below) and cucumber then dipping in the fish sauce. as you take a bite, you can hear the crunch of the crispy rice paper and lettuce. i think i heard jen making lots of happy noises as she took a bite of her cha gio. at first, ben was a bit skeptical about wrapping the cha gio in lettuce, but he too was convinced that it was the better way to enjoy the cha gio.

we enjoyed our pho and our cha gio. i was very happy to share good food with good friends.

Below are the recipes for the cha gio, fish sauce and pickled carrots.

Vietnamese Spring/Egg Rolls (Gluten-Free Cha Gio)

For about two dozen egg rolls, you'll need:

1 lb ground pork
1 package rice paper wrappers. I prefer Three Ladies brand. (if you use small ones, will make about 3 dozen rolls)
1 small section bean thread vermicelli. They're sold individually or in packages, but the packages will tie a small bundle together. You just need one.
½ large onion, finely diced or grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 tsp salt, adjust to taste
2 tsp sugar, adjust to taste
1 tsp black pepper, adjust to taste
2 tsp nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce), adjust to taste

Optional: Ground turkey or chicken may be substituted for the pork. Add 1 cup minced shrimp if you're not allergic. Add finely shredded cabbage if you'd like more vegetables. Add minced crab to make it even more flavorful. Vegetarians may substitute the meats with fresh tofu. Add 1 cup dried mushrooms, soaked and sliced, or 1 cup Tree/Wood Ear Fungus/Mushroom, soaked.

Place the bean thread vermicelli noodles into hot water to soften. Squeeze vermicelli and mushrooms dry and allow to drain. Cut vermicelli into two-inch segments. I use a pair of scissors for ease. Cut off mushroom stems and slice thinly. Sometimes tree ear fungus is sold pre-sliced, if not, then slice into strips.

Grate the onion first and squeeze to remove excess water. Grate one or two carrots. Add 1 lb ground pork.

Add 1 tsp salt, 2 tsps sugar, 2 tsps fish sauce, and 1 tsp ground black pepper to the pork mixture. Mix everything thoroughly. To check for taste, I usually take a tiny lump of the meat and pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds or so. It's easier to adjust seasonings if necessary this way. Just remember to factor in that the fish sauce will make the mixture saltier as it gets absorbed and cooked.

You should only wrap enough egg rolls for however many you plan to eat right then. They don't keep so well. Store the filling in the fridge if you plan to make more egg rolls over the next few days. Otherwise, you can also freeze the leftover filling for use the next time you have a craving.

It's best to work with about two rice paper sheets at a time. On the left is the rice paper before being wetted, on the right, I've just splashed it with water on both sides. Have a large bowl of warm water on hand and just wet the rice paper in the bowl or do it under running water. There is no need to let the rice paper sit in the water. It will become pliable in a few seconds.

So wet one rice paper sheet and leave it to become pliable. Then wet a second sheet and leave it to become pliable. Return to the first sheet and it will now be pliable enough to roll. When you finish rolling, set the spring roll aside to dry out. Wet another sheet, and leave it. Return to the second sheet, which has now become pliable, and roll it. Repeat as desired.

Now, in rolling an egg roll, don't be greedy. A tablespoon or two is more than enough filling. Spread it out on top of the wrapper. See the other sheet in the top corner? It has just been wetted (Yeah, I made up that word.) and is just resting until it becomes pliable?

I usually fry on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the egg rolls.

Drain on paper towels or paper bags.

Serve with lettuce and Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce).

Nuoc Mam Cham Ngot (Vietnamese Sweetened Fish Dipping Sauce)

For a 24-oz jar, you'll need:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar

Optional: Chili peppers

Boil 1/2 cup water. Actually, you don't have to boil the water, just get it hot so that it can dissolve the sugar more easily. Stir in 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup fish sauce, and 1/2 cup sugar. Taste and adjust if necessary. Add crushed chili peppers if you wish.

The taste should be slightly sweet and rather mild, the pungency of the fish sauce quite muted.

Store in a jar in the fridge. Serve with cha gio.

Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables (Dua Chua)


  • 250ml/8 fl oz distilled white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1.2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 carrots, sliced 3mm/1/8 inch thick
  • 675g/1 1/2 lb white cabbage or Chinese leaves, cored and cut into long shreds about 1 cm/1/2 inch wide
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, trimmed and cut into 5cm/2 inch lengths


  1. Put the vinegar, sugar, salt and 600ml/ 1 pint water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil; stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove form the heat and leave to cool until just warm to the touch.
  2. Put the carrots, cabbage and spring onions in a large ceramic bowl and pour the brine over the vegetables from floating.) Cover and leave to stand at room temperature until the vegetables turn sour, 4-6 hours or overnight.
  3. The pickled vegetables will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Drain before serving.

Friday, September 23, 2011

rolling, rolling, rolling

recently a colleague mentioned how their children would trade their desserts for kim bap. he also used to love school picnics because the korean parents brought kimbap. he would take a few and wrap it up in a napkin to enjoy later.

this story prompted me to give them a lesson on how to make kimbap. i, too, miss kimbap. while living in los angeles, i could just drive to the korean grocery store and pick up a pack of kimbap. sadly, i no longer have that luxury. if i want kimbap, i have to make it.

i was able to find most of the ingredients in the local supermarket except for the danmuji (also known as dak kwang which is pickled radish). i had to purchase that from the korean grocery store.

since i had never learned how to make kimbap, i googled a few sites and found recipes from maangchi and aeri's kitchen who both do a good job of presenting how to prepare each item. so i've tailored their recipes to make about 5 kimbap rolls which will make about 2-3 servings.



  • 3-4 cups cooked rice (made from 2 cups of uncooked sushi rice)
  • rice vinegar
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • laver or nori seaweed (“kim”) – 5 sheets
  • yellow radish pickle (“danmu ji”) – found out Korean grocery shop
  • 2 carrots – julienne
  • 2 eggs
  • imitation crabmeat (if available but not necessary)
  • large bag of spinach (200g)
  • soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and seeds, and a green onion
For Beef filling
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams of mince beef
  • 1 green onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic minced
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • black pepper
Preparing the beef filling
    1. In a bowl combine all the ingredients for beef filling. Mix well. Set aside to marinade.

Preparing the rice.

  1. Prepare about 3-4 cups of cooked rice in a large bowl
  2. Make your mixing sauce by mixing up ½ tbs sugar, 1 ts salt, 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds and 1 tbs of rice vinegar until the liquid looks clear
  3. Mix rice with the mixing sauce and stir it evenly. Set it aside for now.

Preparing all the ingredients for kimbap

  1. Slice yellow radish into 1cm strips.
  2. Slice crabmeat into 1cm strips.
  3. Fry the meat in a pan until fully cooked. Strain out the liquid.
  4. In a pan, fry the carrots with a pinch of salt.
  5. Preparing egg.
    1. Scramble 2 eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt.
    2. Fry into one sheet.
    3. Remove from pan and cut into 1cm strips.
  6. Preparing Spinach
    1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds.
    2. Remove from water and rinse in cold water.
    3. Squeeze excess water from spinach and place in a bowl.
    4. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and a pinch of salt.
    5. Mix together.
    6. Set aside.

Let’s roll Kimbap!

  1. Place a sheet of seaweed(“kim”) on the bamboo mat and evenly spread a layer of rice in the center of it.
  2. Place 2-3 spoons of beef on top of the layer of rice. Add a yellow radish pickle strip, some spinach, 1 strip of egg, and carrots.
  3. Roll it up gently using the bamboo mat.
  4. Remove the bamboo mat and cut the roll into pieces about 2 cm thick and place it on a plate

*tip: prepare a wet cloth or paper towel to wipe the knife while cutting, it will make it slice easier.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

going south african

the other week, JLB had me over for dinner and made bobotie (pronounced ba-bu-ah-tea), a south african dish. i liked it so much that i wanted to make it again. she made it a little different so we could it sooner, but i did get the recipe from her which is from

bobotie is a curried beef casserole with a egg and milk baked topping. yellow rice goes really nicely with it. and i did use some sriracha to give it a little more kick.

i brought some bobotie for my colleague who is south african to get her opinion. she enjoyed it so i have my stamp of approval from a south african.

i've converted the metric units to US measurements. i found this site to be very helpful when i need to convert measurements. for the step of soaking the bread, i soaked it in milk so i could use that milk for the topping, a tip from JLB.

Bobotie recipe
  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 onions , chopped
  • 25g butter(1-3/4 tbsp)
  • 2 garlic cloves , crushed
  • 1kg packet lean minced beef(2 lb ground beef)
  • 2 tbsp madras curry paste
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 2 tbsp peach or mango chutney
  • 3 tbsp sultanas
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 300ml full-cream milk(10oz)
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4/350F. Pour cold water over the bread and set aside to soak.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the onions in the butter, stirring regularly for 10 mins until they are soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and beef and stir well, crushing the mince into fine grains until it changes colour. Stir in the curry paste, herbs, spices, chutney, sultanas and 2 of the bay leaves with 1 tsp salt and plenty of ground black pepper.
  3. Cover and simmer for 10 mins. Squeeze the water from the bread, then beat into the meat mixture until well blended. Tip into an oval ovenproof dish (23 x 33cm and about 5-6cm deep). Press the mixture down well and smooth the top. You can make this and chill 1 day ahead.
  4. For the topping, beat the milk and eggs with seasoning, then pour over the meat. Top with the remaining bay leaves and bake for 35-40 mins until the topping is set and starting to turn golden.

Yellow rice recipe

  • 350g basmati rice (1 - 3/4 cup)
  • 50g butter(3tbsp)
  • 1 heaped tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon or 1⁄2 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamom pods , shelled and seeds crushed
  • just under 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 5 tbsp raisins
Serves 6


  1. Put all the ingredients in a large pan with 1 tsp salt and 500ml water, then heat until boiling and the butter has melted.
  2. Stir, cover and leave to simmer for 10 mins. Take off the heat and leave, still covered, for 5 mins. Fluff up and tip into a warm bowl to serve.

Monday, September 19, 2011

a zucchini? a courgette? a marrow?

my friend has a lovely garden where she grows all kinds of vegetables (or veg as they say in the UK). she gave me this zucchini which measured 14 inches.

so what do you with a courgette this huge? so far, i've made ratatouille, stir-fried zucchini, zucchini lasagne and chocolate zucchini bread which is actually a recipe from my friend.

I wanted to share the bread recipe. I made it for coffee morning at my work, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. (I've attempted to convert to US baking standards.)

Chocolate Courgette Loaf

175g dark chocolate (min. 60% cocoa, broken into pieces) - (or 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate morsels)

225g courgettes (2 small courgettes)

200g plain flour (1 3/5 cups)

1 teasp. baking powder

1 teasp. bicarb of soda

1 teasp. ground cinnamon

110g caster sugar (1/2 cup)

175ml sunflower oil (3/4 cup)

2 medium eggs

1. melt the chocolate in heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, stir

til smooth and keep warm. if you use the morsels, add the chocolate to the batter.

2. finely grate courgettes

3. sift flour, baking powder, bicarb and cinnamon into large bowl - mix in

sugar and grated courgettes

4. in another bowl, beat together oil and eggs and stir into dry

ingredients, then stir in melted chocolate

5. pour into lined or greased loaf 900g tin and bake for 55-65min or until

well risen and skewer comes out clean

Gas mark 4 (350 degrees F)

6. leave to cool for at least 15mins before turning out onto colling rack