Vermicelli Bowls

One of my all time favorite work-day lunches is the Vietnamese vermicelli bowl.  It’s filling but light enough not to put you in an afternoon coma, and it exemplifies all the lovely contrasts that make Vietnamese food so delicious and intriguing – funky fish sauce and cool cucumber, soft vermicelli and crunchy pickled carrots, savory five spice grilled chicken (in this version) and fresh green herbs.

There are a lot of components but it’s a totally manageable weeknight dinner, especially if you can get someone else to do the grilling.  It’s great when it’s too hot out to turn on the stove – which was the case here until a couple of weeks ago.

I made this with grilled chicken but my favorite is grilled pork and imperial rolls.  Grilled shrimp is also classic.  I would imagine you could put just about anything on this and it would be delicious.

I’ve made a few things now from this book, Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan, and they’re all delicious.  I recommend!

vermicelli bowl

Grilled Five Spice Chicken Vermicelli Bowls (Bun)
recipe from Vietnamese Home Cooking

  • Vermicelli rice noodles – fresh or dried (cooked, rinsed in cold water, and drained)
  • Grilled five-spice chicken
  • Pickled carrots
  • Julienned cucumber
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Spearmint sprigs
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Chopped peanuts

First, marinate your chicken

  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • ½ cup light soy sauce
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • ¾ cup minced shallots
  • 2-3 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 lbs boneless chicken parts of your choice

Mix all marinade ingredients well. Add chicken, mix to coat evenly. Marinate at room temp for up to 2 hours or up to overnight in the fridge. If you fridge it, let it come up to room temp before you grill.

Next, pickle your carrots:

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Julienne your carrots into matchsticks – as thin as you can/want to bother with. In a small bowl, combine vinegars, sugar, and salt and stir until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add carrots and let stand at least 20 minutes. Will keep up to a week, covered in the fridge. Drain well before using.

Now, dress up your fish sauce:

  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup white vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Thai chiles, stemmed and minced

In a small bowl, stir the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar or lemon juice, and ½ cup water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic and chiles and stir to combine. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 1 week if made with vinegar and 2 days if made with lemon juice.

Next, grill your chicken, or better yet dispatch someone else to do so. When done, cut into strips.

Assemble! Put a handful of shredded lettuce in the bottom of your bowl, then a handful of vermicelli, and then all the other stuff – however much you want. Top with a generous dose of your fish sauce and dig in.

Memorial Day BBQ

For the Memorial Day weekend, Bjorn and I hosted a backyard get together to kick off the BBQ season and celebrate my birthday.  Happy Birthday Me!  Bjorn did some landscaping to make our yard more hospitable for people to hang out in and Yuan came out to Davis to help us cook.  A year ago, we had some friends who moved away but could not fit their smoker in their moving van.  When they never came back to get it, we started using it.   And by using it, I mean we started smoking something (ribs, pork shoulder, salmon) almost every weekend since it started getting nice out.  We visited my favorite pork man and got some ribs to smoke for our BBQ.  I made some potato salad, shrimp salad, and marinated some teriyaki chicken thighs to grill while Yuan made biscuits, Bjorn made a lovely tomato and cucumber salad, and Yuan and Bjorn spent all afternoon drinking beer, smoking the ribs and grilling.

Little Miss picking at the ribs

The spread

The crowd gets some grub.

The weather was great, the food was good and we had lots of friends from Davis and the bay area come out.  Love BBQ season!

And we are back! With garlic chili oil…

Hello there dear readers ( Hi Mrs.Chen!), I’m back. We took a little summer vacation. Don’t judge, you took vacations too right? Anyway, I was packing, moving, traveling on the East Coast (to be another post)  and some more moving. Don’t worry, I still managed to eat awfully well though.

When I was on the East Coast, it was crazy hot. I loved that kind of weather but I wanted easy things to cook and eat that won’t heat up the kitchen. I stayed with my father for a week and he made some simple but tasty dishes with this chili oil he spooned on everything. Noodles, cucumber salad, celery salad… Perfect for a hot Virginia summer! I asked how he made it and made a batch as soon as I moved into my new place. It’s so simple and delicious, you can spoon it onto just about anything. I’ll always have a jar in the fridge now!

So here it is.

Garlic Chili Oil

4 tablespoon minced garlic, from about half a head of garlic
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (or more if you want it spicier)
1 table spoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil or other neutral tasting oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1) Mix the garlic, chili flakes, sesame  seeds  and salt in a relatively tall heat proof jar
2) Heat up the oil in a small pot until hot but not smoking
3) Carefully pour the oil into the jar a little bit at a time, it will bubble like crazy and then settle down. Pour more oil in after the bubbling dies down in batches until you use up all the oil.
4) After the oil is cool, you can put the lid on and keep it in the fridge or use it immediately.

One of the things my dad made with the oil was a simple cucumber salad. I took the liberty of adding bacon to it cause what’s not better with bacon?

Isn’t that lovely?

Cucumber Salad with Bacon

2 large cucumbers sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of Garlic Chili Oil
1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar
few drops of sesame oil
2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped (optional for a vegetarian version)

1) Mix the cucumbers with salt in a strainer and leave for 30 minutes to drain out some liquid
2) Mix the cucumbers with the rest of the ingredients minus the bacon, then garnish with the bacon
3) Bam, done… Eat.

Bacon-less version


We Moved!

Some of you might have noticed there’s a little re-direct notice when you go to the old site. No worries, we just moved to our own site! If you are subscribed to us using emails, no worries, nothing to change.

Tasty Trio:  Asian Pear & Arugula wrapped in Prosciutto, Roasted Red Pepper & Herb Goat Cheese Toast, Watermelon Tartare with Feta & Mint

Vegetables are Yummy Too

Although I do not condone vegetarianism, vegetables can be prepared in a way where I don’t miss the meat! For a recent party, we visited the farmer’s market where we picked up some delicious early girl tomatoes, cucumbers, squash blossoms, and baby squash. Yuan busted out his immersion blender and made delicious gazpacho and cucumber soup which we served as individual shots.

We also experimented with puff pastry and made these veggie tarts. We used the squash blossoms fresh but roasted the squash and tomatoes before assembling the tarts. Goat cheese was used as a glue and we sprinkled with fresh thyme and parmesan cheese before popping them in the oven for about 15 min.