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Cha ca 9 September 2014

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, food, Happiness, Vietnam.
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Since living in Hanoi, one of the foods I miss is cha ca – or grilled fish. The best grilled fish is to be had in the old quarter in Hanoi, of course. Nothing beats the scenery and the atmosphere of being at Cha Ca La Vong, the most famous (and possibly the most expensive) restaurant. When we first arrived in Hanoi, they were still cooking the fish on coals at the table, and the spluttering heat from the frying pan would invariably end up being a health and safety hazard. This is as close as I have managed to get with my recipe, I am sure it’s still not 100%. I have used and adapted several online versions to get as near to authentic as possible.

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Cha ca

This recipe is for two people, but I suggest you always make too much, as it is so delicious.

Ingredients:

– 500 g of firm, white fish. Ling fish is the best, but cod has worked for me in the past.
– 3-4 spring onions (echalottes will work, too, but are a bit firmer)
– 1 tsp of curry powder
– 1 tbs of tumeric
– 2 tbs fish sauce
– 1 tbs yogurt
– 1 tsp crushed garlic
– 4 tbs vegetable oil
– 1 large bunch of scallion/spring onions, cut on an angle
– 1 large handful of dill, roughly chopped
– Fresh rice noodles (or rice vermicelli, if noodles are not available)

Garnish:

– 1 cup of peanuts, slightly roasted
– 1 cup of bean sprouts
– lime wedges
– fish sauce
– 2-3 cups of Vietnamese mint, basil, coriander and other fresh herbs

Method:

– Cut the fish into cubes of about 2cm/ 1inch and set aside in a bowl.
– Cut the spring onion into very small pieces, as small as you can.
– Mix the cut onion, spices, half of the oil, fish sauce, and yogurt together, and add to the fish – make sure the fish is completely covered.
– Place a non-stick pan over high heat and add the peanuts. Move the nuts around until they start to brown. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside.
– Place the pan back on the heat, add the remaining oil, and fry the fish until just cooked.
– While the fish is cooking, add the noodles to boiling water and cook briefly until tender and warm.
– Add the scallion and dill and cook a little longer, then serve.

To serve, use small bowls. Half-fill a bowl with noodles, add a couple of spoonfulls of fish and greenery on top. Add any combination of the ganishes that you wish/like. Eat with chopsticks.

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Beef risotto 6 January 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, food, Happiness.
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I have been travelling lately, and have found that there is a real craving for risotto in Norway at the moment. Everyone wants to make it, but not everyone dares to give it a shot.

To be fair, risotto is not hard to make. Only time consuming, as you should not leave the pan or stop stirring. But it’s also easy to eat – traditionally there are no spices and overwhelming herbs used in them.

I normally make mine with chicken, but was cooking for someone allergic to fowl, so had to adapt and try with minced meat. So here is a little adaptation of a beef risotto! If, like my dad, you find it needs a bit more kick, you can add some cayenne pepper or chilli, but I like it this way.

Beef risotto

Ingredients

4 persons

1 tbs butter (or oil, but butter tastes better)
500 g minced beef

1 large onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 beef stock cubes
Water

1 glass of white cooking wine (omit if you so choose)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400 g)
2 tbs tomato paste

2 cups arborio rice (other rice is possible, but not as nice)
1/2 cup frozen peas

Handful of shredded basil
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (get a block of cheese and grate it yourself for best results)

Sour cream and basil leaves to serve

Method

– brown the butter or heat the oil in a deep heavy based pan, and cook the minced meat. Remove the meat until further notice.
– add some more butter if necessary to the pan, and brown the onion and garlic.
– add the rice. Make sure you turn the heat down, and completely coat the rice with the remaining fat in the pan. Add the wine, and keep stirring. If not using wine, add the tomato here.
– pour water (about 0.5 litres initially) to a small separate pan to make stock. Add the stock cubes and bring to a simmer.
– when the wine is almost absorbed, add the cooked meat, tinned tomato and tomato paste to the pan. Again, wait to simmer and reduce, constantly stirring.
– every time the liquid reduces in the pan, add another bit of stock. Make sure the stock is warm, otherwise the cooking process of the rice will be halted and thus prolonging the time it takes to cook.
– test the rice by biting on a grain before adding more liquid, but watch out, it will be hot.
– keep adding hot liquid until soft. Note that you may need more than the stock, if so, boil some water to add at the end.
– add the peas.
– the risotto is done when the rice is cooked and a dollop of the risotto placed on a flat plate will sink slightly, without being runny.
– remove from the heat, add the basil and most of the cheese.
– serve with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and a basil leaf. And maybe a glass of wine.

Bon apetit!

Argentine staples 12 May 2012

Posted by uggclogs in Argentina, food, Travelling, Travels.
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Before arriving, I knew Argentina was famous for beef. So my first night here, I was taken to a regular restaurant, where the pride of the country was grilled and served.

And it truly is amazing; succulent and flavorsome. And getting the right cut is (apparently) quite important, with restaurants serving pretty much every part of the cow you might like. Argentina certainly is not the place to be for staunch vegetarians who can’t even stomach other people eating meat!

The next night, we went on a wine tasting adventure at a local wine merchant in Palermo. Absolutely wonderful wine from Mendoza (a region in west Argentina) including the famous Malbec wine, which is expensive, but heavenly. It was absolutely worth it, and a most cordial of evenings.

I also discovered I understand quite a lot more Spanish than I had expected. Bonus!

After wine, we ordered delivery of Empanadas (hot pockets of meat in pastry) which is another Argentina must-have.

I am so far loving the cuisine, and am dying to try more. I think brorsan’s fiancée said it best when describing the local cuisine as an enormous kids’ menu: everything is grilled and fried, delicious and unchallenging (so far)! But perhaps not exactly the healthiest.

But I am sure I will have a chance to find something more challenging soon (like vegetables?) so we’ll see. But good holiday so far.

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Snake on the menu 8 February 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Cooking, Travelling, Vietnam.
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My dearest brother and his lovely girlfriend came to visit recently, and as he has been here once before, I did not end up entertaining him much this time around. Luckily, they are both quite able to entertain themselves!

However, for our last full day together in Hanoi, I decided to take them out to something special, something I meant to do with him last time he came, but which we never did, and which we had not done without him, either.

Namely going to Snake Village to eat Snake.

We found a wonderful restaurant which was perched on stilts above a pond, with lots of locals eating and drinking away. Snake is supposed to increase virility, and thus mainly men tend to go to these restaurants. But they assured us all that it was delicious, and definitely worth a try!

So, we sit down after discussing the cost of the snake.

They bring us a long, skinny one, which we are supposed to inspect like a good bottle of wine, but just like with wine, I just look at it, and nod, without any idea about what it should look like.

They then proceed to cut the snake open while still alive, and cut the heart into a shot glass. Quickly, they drain the blood, and mix it with rice wine which looked more like moon shine than good, upstanding liquor.

They then cut a small slit into another part of the belly of the snake, to remove a small sack of green liquid. Some told me it was the venom, others told me it was gall. Either way, it also went into rice wine, and we were served two shots of delicious looking alcohol with snake blood and venom before lunch had even started!

We made sure that the “Guest of Honour” (my brother) was served the glass with the still-beating heart, out of respect and slight mischief.

We decided to quickly order some beer to wash things down with, as none of us were entirely convinced by the guys on the table next to ours who claimed it was delicious.

We then took the shots, and my brother’s girlfriend’s face was priceless, as it contorted into an expression ranging from apprehension, fear, disgust and dislike. We had a good laugh at ourselves, as the dishes started coming out.

So what they manage to make out of one snake is an amazing range of food: we had a total of nine dishes, some of which I cannot even recall. We had fried snake, baked snake, snake mince on crackling, snake wrapped in vine leaves, snake soup, fried snake skin. None of which was really anywhere near my favourite dishes of all time.

But the setting, and the adventure, made for a very pleasurable afternoon indeed. I am not sure if I would recommend the experience, and certainly not for the food itself, but I had a good time.

Cambodian Food 26 February 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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Part of the enjoyment of travelling is, for us, trying new food. I am not the most adventurous of eaters (no grubs and the like for me), but I do like to try new dishes abroad.

And for me, what was surprising about Khmer food, was that it is not spicy. I had for some reason expected it to be more like Thai food – with a real kick in the guts of chilli. Instead, it is a very subtle cuisine, which allows you to taste the flavours of the dish without the (sometimes) overpowering overtones of chilli.

Amok (or amok trey) is a dish that I was particularily intrigued by – and not just because the name appealed to me – it is a coconut based curry which can be eaten with various types of meat or vegetables. We tried the fish version, which was supposed to be the nicest one. It has a beautiful and smooth texture, and it is served in banana leaf which makes for an aestetic experience as well.

Other Khmer curry dishes that we tried were also very good, however, even though I don’t particularily like spicy food, I kept thinking that a tiny bit more chilli in the pot would have added to the flavours of the dishes. And trust me – that is a first!

I also tried Lok Lak (or Loc Lac), which is supposed to be a delicacy as well. It is a beef dish with lime dipping sauce, and it was very nice. Interestingly, I later found out that this is actually a Vietnamese dish which has been adopted by the Cambodians as their own (although slightly modified). In Vietnamese, it is called bo luc lac, which translates as shaken beef. Although if you were to ask any Cambodian today whether it is a Cambodian or Vietnamese dish, you are sure to get the answer Cambodian.

So if you ever have the chance to go to Cambodia – try the local cuisine (the Cambodian barbecue is also heavenly)!