Vietnamese Fried Flounder “Boat” with Spicy Dipping Sauce [with Full Video]

One of my favorite things about the cooler autumn months is the prevalence of flounder in the Gulf of Mexico. My husband and I will either take our boat out and catch them at our favorite fishing hole, or we will take a canoe out into the grassy marshes in search of them while getting some exercise. Flounder is among the easiest fishes to cook and enjoy, and perhaps the most common preparation is frying. In Vietnam, flounder is commonly prepared fried whole (with the head on) and served as a family centerpiece dish, where each person flakes off some fish with their chopsticks and dips the sweet white flesh into spicy fish sauce.

Perfect fall day for flounder fishing

The Vietnamese are also known to be very resourceful, not wasting any part of the fish if they can help it. In this recipe, I prepare one of my favorite flounder dishes (fried, of course!) that is simple to prepare but looks very sophisticated when presented at the dinner table. An added perk is that none of the fish goes to waste because if you fry up the fish skeleton to a crisp, you can even eat it like chips. But if you’re not into eating crunchy bones, the fried flounder skeleton serves as a creative way to hold the crispy flounder nuggets. And what Vietnamese dish is complete without some spicy dipping sauce? The spicy, sweet, tangy, and salty fish dipping sauce perfectly complements the delicious flounder!

As in my other posts, I always emphasize the use of fresh ingredients. I truly believe the reason why people who are not fans of eating fish because they find the taste and smell too “fishy” is because the fish they are consuming has been dead and transported over many miles for quite some time. By the time the fish reaches them, the smell of ammonia has ruined the fish. Fresh fish should smell like the ocean and not overwhelmingly “fishy”. The flesh should be firm, the eyes should be bulging and shiny, and the inner gills should still be red. If you go to the fish market and see fish that wreaks of rot, the flesh is soft and smooshy, the eyes are sunken and dull, and the gills are brown or rusty red, stay clear away because that is bad fish. Just as fruits and vegetables taste their best during peak season and harvested locally, the same applies for seafood. If you can get freshly caught flounder for this recipe, it will taste amazing! Also, be sure to use new oil to fry the fish.

** Disclaimer: Please note that the highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Vietnamese Fried Flounder “Boat” with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Ingredients: (1 fish makes about 4 servings)

For the Fish:

  1. 1 very fresh flounder, approximately 2 pounds and 14-16″ in length
  2. All-purpose flour for dredging
  3. Salt and pepper to taste, or your choice of seafood seasoning
  4. Peanut oil for frying

For the Spicy Fish Dipping Sauce:

  1. 1/2 cup good quality fish sauce (I use either Red Boat or 3 Crabs Brand)
  2. 1 cup filtered hot water
  3. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (or rice vinegar if no limes available)
  5. 1 teaspoon freshly minced red chili peppers (more or less to desired spiciness)
  6. 1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic (more or less to taste)

Useful Equipment:

Directions:

1. If you are purchasing your flounder from the fish market, ask the fishmonger to descale both sides of the flounder and remove the guts and smaller fins. Cut out 2 large filets, one on each side of the flounder. You can opt to leave the skin on the fish or have it removed. Leave the skeleton intact with head and tail. If you are cleaning your own catch, then follow the same instructions.

Descaled and gutted flounder
Flounder separated into 2 large filets, one from each side. I kept the skin on the filets because I like eating the skin, but you can remove the skin from the filets before cutting into nuggets and frying. Leave the entire skeleton intact.

2. Take the filets and cut into 1 to 2″ chunks. Season the fish nuggets with black pepper and salt or with seafood seasoning. Set aside.

Cut the flounder filets into nuggets. Season with salt and black pepper.

3. Pour wok halfway full of fresh peanut oil and heat up to high.

4. Dredge the fish nuggets with all-purpose flour in a plastic or paper bag. Coat each piece well. There is no need to pre-dip the nuggets into an egg wash, unless you want a thicker coating.

5. Season and dredge the flounder skeleton in the bag of flour. I recycle clean grocery bags for this because they are big enough to hold the entire skeleton. Set aside.

Dredge the entire fish skeleton in flour.

6. Place the floured fish skeleton carefully into the hot oil. If the entire fish doesn’t fit, fry the body first, and then fry the head and the tail sections last. Press the skeleton against the rounded wok bottom while frying to form a bowl shape in the fish. You can use your tongs to bend and shape the fish skeleton while frying. Once the skeleton “bowl” is crispy and golden brown, drain on paper towels and set aside.

7. Add the flounder nuggets to the hot oil and fry until they turn a deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

8. Place the fried flounder skeleton onto a plate and arrange the flounder nuggets into the “boat”.

Place fried flounder nuggets into the fish “boat”
Voila! Finished flounder masterpiece!

9. For the dipping sauce, dissolve the granulated sugar into the hot water. Next add the fish sauce to the sugar water. (If you have never worked with concentrated fish sauce (“nuoc mam”) before, a word of warning is that it smells like stinky butt. LOL! But once mixed with the lime juice and garlic, the smell eases up and the flavor is wonderful!) Once the diluted fish sauce has cooled down, add the lime juice/ vinegar, minced garlic, and chili peppers. Stir well and serve each diner a little bowl of fish sauce, so that they can dip their fried fish into the sauce. **If you absolutely do not like fish sauce, you can substitute your dipping sauce with soy sauce or sweet and sour sauce.

I hope you enjoyed reading this entry on a different way to prepare and present flounder. Thank you for stopping by! I hope all of you have a wonderful week ahead. If you would like to see more, please watch my YouTube video below:

For the video version of my story and recipe, please view my YouTube link. 🙂

How To Make Delicious Vietnamese Coffee and Make Starbucks Cry ‘Uncle’

I may be persecuted or even publicly flogged for saying this, but I dislike Starbucks coffee. I truly do. It’s expensive. It tastes burnt. Heck, it’s overpriced burnt coffee. There. I said it, so bite me. But before you go, please hear me out because I truly would love for you to try some great-tasting Vietnamese coffee if you haven’t already. Then maybe you’ll forgive my strong opinion of Starbucks.

Did you know that Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of coffee and the world’s #1 producer of the “robusta” variety? If you don’t believe me, just Google it. See, I know my coffee because my people are major producers, for crying out loud! Just kidding. But in all seriousness, the Vietnamese love their coffee. They like to enjoy their cup of Joe nice and slow, and making the perfect cup is an art in itself.

Coffee was not always a thing in Vietnam. It was actually first introduced to the Vietnamese in the 1850’s by a French Catholic priest who brought over a single coffee arabica tree. Fast forward decades later, there are now many coffee farms that thrive in the lush highlands of Central Vietnam.

A coffee farm in the highlands of Da Lat, Vietnam
Fresh Robusta coffee beans

In the United States and other parts of the world, coffee is often accompanied by fresh milk or cream and sugar. Vietnamese coffee is distinctive in that it uses canned sweetened condensed milk. This is due mainly to the historical lack of dairy cattle and refrigeration. The sweetened condensed milk gives the coffee a unique sweet caramel flavor and velvety richness, a perfect complement to the strong roasted bitterness of the dark coffee. Perhaps the ultimate difference lies in the method of preparing Vietnamese coffee. Vietnamese coffee is a slow drip coffee using intentionally over-roasted beans. This creates a very thick, delightfully fragrant and strong brew. Instead of brewing the ground coffee beans in an electric machine, the ground beans are placed into a metal cup-like filter called a “phin,” sandwiched securely in a layer between 2 perforated stainless steel surfaces, and screwed into place. Boiling water is then poured into the metal filter cup, which then allows the coffee to drip slowly through the many tiny holes of the metal filter.

I remember my first trip back to Vietnam was in the summer of 1993. My family and I had escaped the Communists by boat in 1978, and we had not dared to dream of a day when we would be granted the opportunity to revisit the country we had fled. It was definitely an experience I will never forget. Unlike today when many Vietnamese Americans go back and forth on holiday to Vietnam (which is now a booming tourist locale), back in the early 1990’s there were fewer visiting ex-countrymen. Not only were the Communist policies still strict, but the cultural norms dictating the roles of men and women were also quite strict. The Vietnam of today is quite modern in both technology and social interactions. Women in Vietnam are striving to become more educated and self-reliant. However, back in 1993, women (especially those in the conservative countryside) were still expected to eat separately from the men, eat after the rest of the family was served, and be seen and not heard.

In 1993 I visited my paternal hometown of Song Cau, an idyllic fishing village in the province of Phu Yen in the central part of South Vietnam. Having lived in the United States since I was 4 years old, everything about Vietnam, and particularly this small coastal village, was quite backwards. My highschool-aged cousin was taught math by word problems that involved subtracting how many American airplanes were shot out of the sky. She honestly thought the Earth was flat. I was appalled. These were only some of the blatant examples of how closed off these people were.

So back to how this story relates to Vietnamese coffee… Men in Vietnam, then and now, customarily go to a coffee shop every morning and lounge around for hours sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette or two with their buddies. Then maybe they go to work. Most women take care of the kids, tend to the housework, and go to work or to the market. They do not lounge around in coffee shops. At least in 1993 they did not have that liberty. My first taste of Vietnamese drip coffee was in a coffee shop. In Vietnam. Surrounded by men. And they stared disapprovingly at me like I had 3 heads and a tail. It was definitely not a place for proper young ladies at the time. Thanks to my unabashedly bold uncles and my father, who broke tradition and allowed me to join their circle, I was able to taste such a delightful concoction! Since then I have never gone back to drinking regular coffee on the weekends. I say “weekends” because Vietnamese drip coffee requires time and patience. It does not produce the quick convenience of a Keurig or Nespresso machine, but Vietnamese drip coffee by far exceeds the taste of these mediocre packaged coffees, and there are no environmentally hazardous plastic containers to discard. I promise the effort is worthwhile!

One of the many roadside cafes in Song Cau, Vietnam where I had my first sip of Vietnamese coffee
Fisherwomen bringing in their morning catch in Vinh Hien, Vietnam. I took this picture on my daily 3-mile walk to the market at 5:30 AM.
A woman peddling her daily wares to sell
Women at the fish market in Vinh Hien, Vietnam
If you look closely behind the lady squeezing fresh sugarcane juice, you can see the guys in the background enjoying their glasses of black Vietnamese coffee. People of all classes love their morning coffee!
Men enjoying their morning meal and camaraderie in Hue, Vietnam…where are all the women? Cooking and working, of course.
Nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. You can see the bright lights coming from the Trung Nguyen Legend coffee shop in the background. Their slogan beneath the shop name literally translates to “Coffee of the wealthy and happy.”

**For a full ASMR-style video tutorial, please watch my YouTube video that I’ve attached at the bottom of this post.

Vietnamese Coffee (“Cà Phê Sữa”), served Hot or Iced

Ingredients: (This recipe is for 1 serving)

– 1 full tablespoon of ground Vietnamese coffee or French roast

I use the following coffee brands and can vouch for their quality:

– 1 to 2 tablespoons Sweetened Condensed Milk. The Vietnamese use the Longevity Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk because it is less sweet, but you can use any store-bought brand.

-Boiled hot water

-Ice cubes for iced coffee (optional)

Useful Equipment/ Tools:

Vietnamese coffee filter phin, Long-spout tea kettle, Tall glass

Making Vietnamese coffee requires simple ingredients but also patience.

** Disclaimer: Please note that the highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Directions:

  1. Fill tea kettle with fresh water and bring to a boil. Set aside.
  2. Take your tall glass or coffee mug (choose one that has an opening that is not too large, so that the metal filter cup can rest on top of the mug) and fill it with 1 to 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. You can add more or less to your taste. I like mine creamy, so I add 2 tablespoons to mine.
I like to watch the milk drip out of the can, but you can also just scoop out the sweetened condensed milk with a spoon. 🙂

3. Take the metal coffee filter (phin), remove the lid, and unscrew the top part from the cup body. Set the screwed part aside.

4. Fill the cup with 1 tablespoon of ground coffee.

5. Screw on the middle part and twist until you can no longer make a full turn of the screw. However, don’t twist the lid on too tightly or the coffee will not be able to drip through the little holes. If you find that the coffee is blocked when you pour in the boiling water, just loosen the screw a bit.

6. Set the filter on top of your glass or cup, and fill the inside of the filter with boiling water. You can add more boiling water to the filter as the coffee drips for a lighter coffee.

7. The coffee will take some time to finish dripping through the filter. When it is completed, stir up the coffee and the sweetened condensed milk together well. You can drink it hot at this point, or you can pour it over ice and drink it cold, like they prefer it in Vietnam.

Slow, steady drips make a delicious rich coffee!
Stir up coffee well and drink hot, or pour over ice to drink cold.
Delicious iced coffee!

See how easy Vietnamese coffee is to make at home? I hope you give it a try. You deserve the best! Enjoy!

For the video tutorial of how to make Vietnamese coffee, please check out my YouTube channel:

Craving some really good coffee? Try making Vietnamese coffee at home! Easy and delicious!

Soothing Asian Chicken Dumpling Soup

I never thought I’d come around to complaining about how cold it’s been recently…in Texas out of all places. Following the sweltering summer months, or rather most months of the year (because there’s really only 2 seasons here in South Texas– hot perdition and ice), the cooler temperatures should be a welcomed change. I’m just glad those half-dollar-sized mosquitoes are mostly dead. Even though the temperature is not as frigid here compared to many of the northern states (God bless y’all!), it’s still lovely to return to a warm cozy home filled with the noisy chatter of kids and the aroma of something delicious cooking on the stove.

One of the kids’ favorite dishes to eat when the temperature drops is homemade chicken wonton dumpling soup. This dish is light but filling at the same time. I feel good serving it because I know exactly what ingredients I put into my dumplings. Store-bought frozen dumplings tend to contain unpronounceable ingredients, MSG, and preservatives. And restaurant dumplings tend to be on the scanty side. Many times, you bite into a so-called dumpling and wonder where the dumpling is…more like eating boiled flour squares with no meat. Making dumplings at home is also important to my husband Kim, who has a phobia of food that is cooked wrapped in something– for example, eggrolls, burritos, and dumplings. His fear stemmed from his highschool years of working in a Chinese restaurant, where the penny-pinching owners would take the old left-over food from the buffet bar at the end of the night and combine it to make the filling of the next day’s eggrolls. I can’t really blame him.

For this soup, rest assured that it’s all fresh ingredients. No leftovers or fillers here. You can use any type of ground meat, but I will be using half dark meat chicken (thigh meat) and half breast meat. The reason for this is because ground breast meat by itself is too dry and coarse due to the lack of fat, but combining dark meat chicken to the breast meat makes a juicier and sweeter filling. You can also opt to use just dark meat chicken, turkey, pork, or beef. The dumpling wrappers can be easily made using 3 parts wheat flour to 1 part water, mixed to form a soft dough, rolled out thinly, and cut into circles. Because we working moms and dads don’t always have time to make scratch-made wrappers, I will be using store-bought wrappers in this recipe. They can be purchased fresh or frozen quite inexpensively at an Asian grocery store. If using frozen wrappers, be sure to thaw out in the fridge before wrapping time.

Asian Chicken Dumpling Soup

Ingredients:

For the Dumplings:

  • 1 pound chicken thigh/leg meat + 1 pound chicken breast– ground (2 pounds of any ground meat of your choice is fine, too.)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot/ cabbage combo (or buy fresh coleslaw mix) –You can also substitute any vegetable, like napa, spinach, bok choy, etc.
  • 1/2 cup black tree ear mushroom– rehydrate in warm water, drain thoroughly, and roughly chop.
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 6 cloves minced garlic (again, I love garlic and hate vampires. Feel free to use more or less to suit your taste.)
  • 1 small white onion, finely diced.
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sherry or Shaoxing wine (optional)
  • homemade or store-bought round dumpling wrappers, about 50
  • 1 egg, cracked and placed in a small bowl, for sealing the dumpling wrappers

For the Soup:

  • 4 quarts (1 gallon) chicken broth (You can make your own or use store-bought, just make sure to use the low-sodium kind).
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt (season to suit your taste. I’m being conservative here, so that you can add more if it is too bland.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder or concentrate
  • 2 cups roughly cut chunks of daikon radish
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, any variety–I’m using king oyster mushrooms here.
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2″ knob fresh ginger, peeled and split in half lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • thinly sliced green onions and finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Useful Equipment:

** Disclaimer: Please note that the highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Directions:

1. Prepare the dumpling filling by adding ground meat to a large mixing bowl. You can opt to buy the meat already ground from the store or butcher, or you can grind your meat using a meat grinder or a food processor. (I like the taste of freshly ground meat, and the Cuisinart food processor has done a great job for this task.) You can also chop and shred all the vegetables for this recipe using a food processor, as well. Add in all the ingredients for the dumpling filling (except the wrappers and egg) and use very clean hands or a large spoon to thoroughly mix all the ingredients together. Let the meat mixture sit and marinate in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

2. To make the dumplings, wash and dry your hands very well. Take a wrapper in one hand, place a teaspoonful of meat filling into the center of the wrapper, spread a thin layer egg white around the outer edges of the wrapper, press the wrapper together to enclose the filling (should look like a half circle), and crimp and pleat the wrapper to seal the dumpling. **Please view the following short video for a demonstration of this step. I’m not the best dumpling crimper, and if my mother-in-law were still alive, she’d probably give me a mild scolding, but you get the idea. Just make sure the dumpling is sealed securely, so that when it comes time to boil, it won’t fall apart! Repeat this for all the wrappers.

**At this point, if you’ve made too many dumplings to consume for the day, you can freeze these raw dumplings for future use. To do so, take the extra raw dumplings, spread them on a cookie tray, freeze them until hard, remove them from the tray, and store them in a freezer-safe container or bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you want to eat dumplings next time, just take the frozen dumplings (do not thaw) and boil or pan fry. This is such a time-saver!

Video Tutorial: How to form dumplings
(Please excuse the action-packed background noise. My kids were watching Men in Black 3.)
Sealed and crimped dumplings. Each dumpling has about 6-7 pleats.

3. To cook the dumplings, bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil. Add in 5 to 7 dumplings at a time. Be careful not to crowd the pot, as this will cause the dumplings to stick together and tear apart. Reduce heat to medium-high, cook the dumplings about 7 minutes or until they rise to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to remove dumplings from the water. Set aside on a clean plate. Repeat cooking until all the dumplings are done.

4. Prepare the soup by bringing the chicken broth to a boil. Add in the half onion, daikon radish chunks, and ginger. The onion and ginger will serve as aromatics for your soup, while the daikon radish will add sweetness and depth of flavor. Reduce heat and let soup simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add in the seasonings: sugar, salt, chicken bouillon.

6. Add in sliced mushrooms.

7. Simmer soup for 15 minutes, so that all ingredients will release their flavors into the soup.

8. Before serving the soup, bring pot to a boil once more for 2 minutes. Then decrease heat to a simmer and add in sesame oil and black pepper. You can discard the ginger, daikon radish, and white onion chunks at this time, or just leave them in the broth for richer flavor.

9. Place as many cooked dumplings you desire into a soup bowl. I like to serve 5 to 6 dumplings per bowl. Ladle hot soup into the bowl to cover the dumplings.

10. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper, chopped green onions, and cilantro for garnish if desired.

This soup is excellent for warming up cold winter days, as well as soothing a sick loved one. Before I conclude, I would like to mention that if you want to forego the soup, you can also prepare the dumplings as a stand-alone dish. Just simply make the dumplings, boil or pan-fry them, and serve them with a dipping sauce (such as mixing Sichuan chili oil with soy sauce and black vinegar). My older daughter enjoys eating them in this fashion. I hope you enjoyed reading my entry today and will try making Asian dumplings instead of buying them for a refreshing change. Wishing everyone a great week filled with lots of health, happiness, and delicious food!

Dumplings can be served simply with sauce or in a soup.

Beetroot Watermelon Juice– How to Stay Young Forever Like a Vampire!

I vant to suck your blood! LOL!!!

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I vant to suck your blood…beet juice blood, that is!  So I know you looked at that title and said, “Wow! I wanna stay young forever like a vampire, too!”  Right?  Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but I tried, photo-shopped picture and all.

However, I must say that the older I get (I’m 44 this year—yikes!), the less I use and depend on face creams, lotions, and potions, and the more I turn to real food to nourish my body from the inside out.  

    In line with the Halloween theme here, I wanted to share one of my bloody favorite drinks to consume before a workout or run.  This juice is refreshing, energizing, and chock full of nutrients and vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Lycopene.  Beet juice itself is rich in nitrates, which the body converts into nitric oxide, and in turn helps with blood flow and blood pressure.  Many runners and athletes are beginning to look at beets differently, attesting to the idea that beets may boost stamina for increased exercise duration.  

    Enough of all the scientific mumbo jumbo.  In my own drinking experience, I find this juice makes me feel energetic and puts color into my cheeks and makes my skin glow.  I hope you enjoy this simple, yet effective recipe!  I do like to drink beet juice straight up, but because a lot of people may not like the earthy flavor of beets, blending together with other sweet fruits and vegetables helps sweeten and conceal the earthy taste.  

The juicer I use is this one by Omega. I’ve had it for 4 years now, and it still runs as smoothly as the day I purchased it. It’s pricey, but I wanted to invest in a good quality masticating juicer that produced the most juice with a dry pulp (which I use as compost in my garden). However, you can use any juicer you feel suits your needs. There are several out there that do a good job. If you don’t have a juicer, you can use a blender and blend all the ingredients with water, then strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth.

** Disclaimer: Please note that the highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Beetroot Watermelon Juice

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 whole small to medium sized raw beets, cut into chunks that will fit your juicer feed
  • 2 cups cut up watermelon, removal of rinds optional (if keeping rinds on for maximum nutrient extraction, watermelon must be scrubbed clean before cutting)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/3 lime, peeled
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • Useful Equipment:
  • Electric juicer (I use the Omega Upright Masticating Juicer)
  • Breville Juice Fountain XL Juicer (another excellent option I have tried)
  • Vitamix 7500 Professional Blender (a good substitute if you don’t have a juicer, but you will need to strain the juice using cheesecloth)
  • NutraBullet Pro Plus Blender (this is a much cheaper option that is still pretty powerful, but you can only blend small quantities and will need to strain juice using cheesecloth or mesh strainer)
  • Fine Mesh Chinois Strainer (only needed if using a blender)
  • cheesecloth (only needed if using a blender)

1.  Wash the produce thoroughly, especially the beets and carrots.  I keep the skin on if they’re organic beets and carrots (lots of nutrients in the peels).


2.  Juice all ingredients.  


3.  Pour into glasses, garnish with extra limes and mint leaves.  Consume immediately to benefit from the fresh nutrients. Cheers to excellent health! Happy Halloween, my lovelies!

Happy Halloween from the Man in Black, Frida Kahlo Day of the Dead, Spicy Sriracha, and Edna Mode!
Looks like these kids would’ve been better off getting their sugar high from Beetroot Watermelon Juice!

Dried Japanese Persimmons (with ASMR Video)

My kids challenged me to do an ASMR video. I had no idea what that was, and obviously it’s a YouTube trend right now. Knowing kids and what unimaginably dreadful things lie lurking for them to watch on the internet, my fear was that this ominous-sounding acronymic genre of video was something shady, along the lines of ADHD, S&M, or MRSA. To my relief, ASMR stands for and is defined as autonomous sensory meridian response, which is a relaxing, often sedative sensation that begins on the scalp and moves down the body. These videos usually involve no music or talking, just organic sounds. This is my first ASMR video to capture the sounds of persimmon harvesting and drying to make Japanese Dried Persimmons. You can watch it toward the end of my post, just promise you won’t snicker, at least not to my face.

My youngest with her basket of freshly picked Fuyu persimmons

The art of making dried persimmons in Asia is very much like the art of raising Kobe beef. The persimmon trees are lovingly fertilized and watered throughout the growing season and harvested at the peak of ripeness. When they are undergoing the drying process, these persimmons are massaged every day to evenly disperse the fruit sugars throughout the fruit and to prevent mold and help break up clumps within the fruit.

Depending on the locale, persimmons take anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks to dry and be ready to consume. Because I live in southwest Texas, the heat and sunshine are plentiful for most months of the year. Persimmon drying can be challenging for those who live in colder climates because persimmons ripen in the autumn, and most of these places have cold and rainy fall weather. If this is the case, setting up a hanging rack indoors next to a sunny window is ideal. You can get excellent results this way, too.

In Japan and Korea, I believe they use the softer, more elongated Hachiya persimmon variety to make dried persimmons, but the tree I grow in my backyard is the crunchier Fuyu variety. Either type will work for this treat.

The hard work put into making dried persimmons pays dividends in taste and texture. They have a candy-like chewiness and a taste reminiscent of caramel, honey, and vanilla. And if you’re thinking why go through the trouble of sun-drying and not using an electric food dehydrator— I have tried that route with unsuccessful results. Dehydrators cannot give the persimmons the same rich consistency and chewiness that natural drying and massaging does. You will end up with hard chunks of fruit that are lackluster in taste and texture. So if you are looking to make persimmon chips or persimmon rocks, I’m not judging you, but don’t expect the same texture or taste as naturally sun-dried persimmons. If you ever have the opportunity to make or try these dried persimmons, they taste heavenly with a steaming cup of jasmine green tea!

Dried Japanese Persimmons with Green Jasmine Tea

Japanese Dried Persimmons

Ingredients:

– Fresh firm and just ripened (not soft or smushy) persimmons, either Hachiya or Fuyu

– kitchen string for tying and hanging

– sturdy clothesline if hanging outdoors, or a hanging rack if drying indoors

Useful Equipment:

** Disclaimer: Please note that the highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

OXO Grip Vegetable Peeler , Shun 4″ Classic Paring Knife , Natural Kitchen Twine , Long Thumb Tacks

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the persimmons.

2. Use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to remove the persimmon skin. Be sure to leave the stem, so that you can tie the string for hanging. If your persimmons are missing the stem, you can insert a clean push pin thumbtack into the top of the persimmon to create a faux stem to attach the string.

3. Use clean natural kitchen twine (see recommendation in equipment links above) to attach the stems securely for hanging. Each piece of twine should hold 1 persimmon at each end, for a total of 2 persimmons per string.

4. When all the persimmons have been tied, it is now time to hang them outside to dry in the sunshine. If you live in a cold, rainy area, then you can hang the persimmons indoors near a sunny window. Depending on where you live, it may take anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks for your persimmons to dry. Be sure to bring your persimmons inside each night or during rainy days, in order to prevent mold and rot. If you spot any green mold beginning to form on your persimmons, you can spray them with a little vodka to get rid of the mold. When daylight arrives once more, bring the persimmons outside again to dry.

5. This is where the pampering of your persimmons comes into play– when the persimmons begin to feel dry to the touch (3 to 5 days), begin “massaging” the persimmons every day. When you massage the fruit, try to squeeze them gently yet firmly in a way that breaks up the clumpiness inside the persimmons but doesn’t tear them from the outside.

6. The persimmons are ready when their exteriors are dry and shriveled. Most times there is a hard white crust present on the outside of the persimmons. This is actually the dried sugars that came to the surface as a result of massaging the persimmons. It looks much like mold, but mold will take on a green color. This sugary crust is actually a desirable trait to have.

7. Now that your dried persimmons are ready to eat, you can enjoy them with hot tea or coffee. They are decadently sweet and chewy with intense flavors of honey and caramel. Dried persimmons need to be stored in an airtight container. They can be stored at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, but if saving them for longer periods of time, you can refrigerate them for a couple months or freeze them for 1 year. I hope you take time out of your busy life to enjoy the fruits of the earth and savor every moment.

My very first ASMR video on how to make Japanese Dried Persimmons! 🙂


Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup– Bikini-Friendly!

At only 183 calories a bowl, this soup is definitely bikini-friendly!

One of my favorite Vietnamese dishes is Crab and Asparagus Soup because I love most anything with crabmeat.  The marriage of delicate crabmeat and silky asparagus truly is a match made in heaven.   If you’ve ever attended a Vietnamese wedding or a birthday party, then you’ve probably encountered and tasted this elegant crab and asparagus soup.  In Vietnam this soup, called “Súp cua măng tây,” is usually reserved for special occasions.  The asparagus was introduced to the Vietnamese when the French colonized Vietnam for over a century (from 1800’s to 1954).  The other ingredients in this dish are truly Vietnamese.  

    One of the blessings in my life is living on a canal near the bay during the weekends.  There is a wealth of seafood to be had, including fresh blue crabs.  Usually when I make this soup, I like to catch, cook, and peel my own crabs.  However, this time I’m using fresh store-bought Dungeness crabs because they were on sale at the market, and they are easier and faster to pick clean due to their large size and softer shells. Even though this soup looks and tastes fancy, it is very easy to make at home.  You can substitute canned crabmeat, asparagus, and quail eggs for the fresh versions if ingredients are not readily available or saving time is a factor, but like most things in life, fresh ingredients make the best tasting soup. 

     Add-ons, such as white fungus (I know, it sounds not so appetizing, right? It’s actually just a white type of mushroom) and quail eggs give the soup extra richness, texture, and nutritional value.  The white fungus, also called snow mushroom, resembles a sponge when dried.  You can buy this mushroom in the Asian grocery store in the dried foods section.  It is valued in Asia for making the skin youthful and bouncy due to its high hyaluronic acid and collagen content.  Snow mushrooms (which I’ll call them from here on out because white fungus just doesn’t sound that appealing) don’t really have a taste, but I like to chop them and add them to this soup because they have a slight crunchy texture…and, if they’re going to make me look younger in the process, then I’m all for it!  Let food be thy medicine, right?  

White Fungus/ Snow Mushroom

  As for the quail eggs, which are these cute little poppers of protein, they taste just like chicken eggs and add extra richness to this soup.  You can also find these eggs at the Asian market, and some of the gourmet grocery stores even carry them now.  They are about 3 to 4 times smaller than a chicken egg and come packaged in small cartons of 18 eggs.  

Quail eggs are so cute! 🙂

So now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to try to make this soup at home, let’s get started!  

**Disclaimer: Please note that the highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup:

Ingredients:

– 2 dungeness crabs, 6 blue crabs (cooked and picked over), or 1 large can of pasteurized crabmeat

– 1 bunch fresh asparagus (white preferred for a monotone soup, but green is great as well)

– 1 dried snow mushroom, soaked overnight until rehydrated.

– 1 carton fresh quail eggs (12-18 eggs), boiled.

– 6 quarts (1.5 gallons) of chicken stock

– 2 tablespoons chicken or mushroom seasoning

– 2 teaspoons fish sauce 

– 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste

– 1/2 cup tapioca starch

– 1 cup cold water

– 2 beaten eggs, placed in separate bowl

– Sesame oil, add in few drops toward the end of cooking

– freshly chopped cilantro and green onions for garnish

– freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Equipment Used:

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven, Zyliss Lobster Cracker, Global 7″ Vegetable Knife

Directions:

1.  If using live crabs, boil and remove the meat from the crabs.  Set aside.

2.  Wash asparagus and break off the hard woody bottom parts of the stalk. Asparagus will easily snap off at the partition of the woody part and the tender part. (See my YouTube video that is attached below this blog post)  Slice the asparagus into 1″ slices in a diagonal fashion.

3.  After soaking the snow mushroom in cold water for a couple hours until softened and expanded, remove from the water, shake off excess water, and chop into small pieces.

4.  If using canned quail eggs, rinse, drain, and set aside.  If using fresh quail eggs, boil the eggs for about 10 minutes and place all the eggs into a bowl of cold water.  Peel each egg while holding it submerged in the water.  This will help the shell to come off much easier and cleaner.

5.  In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of tapioca starch with 1 cup of cold water.  Mix well into a uniform slur.  This mixture will be used to thicken up the soup later.

6.  In another bowl, beat together 2 eggs.  Set aside.

7.  Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large stockpot.  If you want more chicken flavor, you can add more chicken powder (bouillon granules) or mushroom powder.  

8.  Add the lump crabmeat to the stock and cook at a steady simmer. This will draw out the sweetness of the crabmeat into the stock and give it a lot of great crab flavor. Allow the soup to simmer for 2 minutes before adding in 2 teaspoons of sugar.

9. Bring the soup back to a boil and add in the tapioca-water mixture that you prepared earlier. Give the soup a good stir while you add in the tapioca mixture. Keep stirring until the soup gets thicker. You want the consistency of a Chinese restaurant-style egg drop soup. If your soup is too thick, add in a little water to thin out. If you want the soup to be thicker, add more cornstarch to a bowl and mix with cold water, then add mixture to the boiling soup.

Add tapioca starch mixture and continuously stir soup until it becomes thick and viscous.

10. When the soup reaches the desired consistency (thick and viscous but still fluid), add in the beaten eggs in a gradual stream while constantly stirring to form beautiful egg ribbon strands (very much like egg drop soup). You can refer to my attached YouTube video below for a full tutorial.

11. Increase the heat and add in the cut asparagus. Cook until tender. Add in the chopped snow mushroom if using. Remember, the mushroom is optional. Much of Asian cuisine has to do with texture and mouthfeel. The added snow mushroom gives the soup a pleasant crunchy texture to contrast the silkiness of the cooked asparagus and tender crabmeat.

12. As the asparagus is cooking, add a few drops of fish sauce to the soup. This will add umami flavor to your soup. Don’t add too much fish sauce because it will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the soup. Add about 1/2 teaspoon only.

13. Continue simmering the soup until asparagus becomes tender and silky. At this point, bring the soup back up to a gentle boil and add in the peeled quail eggs. Again, this ingredient is also optional. Simmer the soup until all ingredients are well blended and smooth, about another 10 minutes.

14. When the soup is in its last couple minutes of cooking time, add in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to the soup. This will impart a lovely flavor and aroma to the soup.

15. When the soup is done, ladle it out into bowls and sprinkle freshly ground black or white peppercorns, finely minced cilantro and green onions onto the soup.

Add finely minced cilantro and green onions for a delightfully fragrant and delicious soup!

This soup is wonderful for hot summer days as well as cold winter nights. Best of all, this soup is very low in calories and dense in nutrients. I hope you try out this elegant soup and enjoy it with family and friends!

** You can check out my full instructional video on how to make Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup here:


Scratch-Made Spaghetti Sauce with Juicy Meatballs– Buh-bye Olive Garden!

One of the favorite meals served at my house is homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  My kids know I love them on days I make spaghetti from scratch, and that everything in that moment is right with the world. 🙂

    As a child, I had a dislike of spaghetti, mainly because my first introduction to it was a can of reheated Chef Boyardee SpaghettiO’s.  Then came the school cafeteria’s version of mushy spaghetti, and finally, my mom’s rendition of spaghetti using canned tomato paste and a packet of Lawry’s Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix.  My love affair with spaghetti finally began when I received my first cookbook, Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, at the age of 10.  It was then that I learned how to make spaghetti from real tomatoes (albeit, canned tomatoes) and not from a reheated jar from the grocery store.

    The older I get, the more fascinated I become with the miracles of nature and how Mother Nature provides for our needs when we carefully tend to the earth.  I know, I’m sounding like a hippie here, but there’s nothing wrong with peace and love and good tomato sauce!  One of the greatest joys in my life is to tend to my garden: to plant, water, nurture, observe, and harvest the fruits of my labor.  Every summer I look upon the bushels of ripened red fruit with joy and anticipation of wonderful salads, soups, and sauces waiting to be created.  The best thing about growing tomatoes is that I can pack up a bit of this sunshine and freeze it for the gloomy winter months when not much else is in season.  

This past summer our garden had an abundant production of tomatoes, so we were fortunate to be able to freeze a lot for the winter months for marinara sauce making.  I like to also make plump moist meatballs for my spaghetti, as well as made-from-scratch pasta using just wheat flour, eggs, and water.  I realize not everyone wants or has time to make their own meatballs or pasta, but it’s worth a shot if you have nothing else to do and want to experience a culinary explosion in your mouth.  Bottled tomato sauce, processed grocery meatballs, and boxed spaghetti noodles just don’t stand a chance in the taste department when compared to freshly made ingredients. 

Below is my recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce, which tastes best using fresh tomatoes, but even frozen or canned stewed tomatoes will taste great, too!  I also included my recipe for succulent juicy meatballs, as well as what I use to make spaghetti noodles.  All these suggestions are ideas, so feel free to tweak them to fit your tastes.  For my vegetarian friends, you can substitute the meat in my recipe for mushrooms or chopped veggies like zucchini, cauliflower, bell peppers, or carrots.  I hope you give it a try and cook your loved ones a delicious homemade hearty meal!  Buon appetito!

**Disclaimer: Please note that the blue highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I like and trust and genuinely believe would help my audience. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Made From Scratch Spaghetti Sauce with Juicy Meatballs

-about 8 servings


For the Scratch-Made Spaghetti Noodles:

  • Because my family eats quite a bit of pasta, I invested in this wonderful Philips Pasta and Noodle Maker. It is pricey, but worth it if you want to quickly create your own pasta in just 10 minutes. This machine is super simple to use and clean. All you have to do is plug it in, add the simple ingredients, and watch it knead the dough and spit out different shaped pasta (includes several different molds for different pastas). Follow the manufacturer’s recipe.
  • Flour, egg, water
  • Boil noodles until al dente, about 5 minutes for fresh noodles.
  • Be sure to reserve about 1/2 cup cooked pasta water for the marinara sauce!
Machine kneads the dough for you!
My favorite part is watching the machine spit out perfectly formed noodles!
Fresh noodles do not need a long cooking time.  Be sure to check firmness in 4-5 minutes.



For the Marinara Sauce:

  • 12 fresh medium to large garden tomatoes, about 8 pounds, or the equivalent in canned stewed tomatoes.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef (optional– I use a little beef to make the flavor richer)
  • 1 large onion, small diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, minced (you can add more or less, but I really love garlic and hate vampires!)
  • Bunch of fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves), or 2 tsp dried basil if fresh is unavailable.
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken flavor
  • 1-2 tbsp Kosher salt (more or less to your liking)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper (more or less to your liking)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (optional– again, I really love garlic! I find that this gives extra umph to leftover spaghetti sauce.)
  • 1–6 oz can of tomato paste (to thicken sauce)
  • 1/2 cup of cooked pasta water (to thicken sauce)
You can use fresh, canned, or stewed tomatoes. I’m using the stewed home-grown tomatoes I saved in my freezer.

Marinara Instructions:

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and carefully add fresh tomatoes into the water. Boil for 30 seconds and remove.  Place tomatoes into an ice-water bath.  This will allow the skins and stems to be easily removed.  Place stewed tomatoes into a food processor and pulse the tomatoes just until they become smaller chunks, but be careful not to overprocess into a watery sauce.

If you are using canned tomatoes, you can process them as well, or break up the big chunks with a wooden spoon.

2.  Heat oil in a large heavy pot.  I like this Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven because it evenly distributes heat and allows me to simmer my marinara sauce over a long period of time beautifully.  However, any heavy-bottomed pot will work.  

3.  Brown ground beef if using.  Add diced onion and shallot to the pot and saute until tender and translucent. Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant and tender.

4.  If using mushrooms and bell peppers, add those now and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chicken bouillon,tomatoes, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, brown sugar, salt, and pepper, can of tomato paste, cooked pasta water.

When you boil your pasta, don’t throw out all the cooked pasta water!  This is like liquid gold–adds body and helps thicken the marinara sauce.

5.  Bring to a generous simmer for 5 minutes, give the pot an occasional stir.  Then, lower the heat to a steady simmer, stirring the pot occasionally for at least an hour.  If I’m making seriously good marinara, I will simmer for 2 or more hours.  In order to prevent evaporation of the sauce, I tend to cover the pot (leave a small opening between the lid and the pot for steam release) for the first hour, and then remove the lid during the second hour and just allow to gently simmer uncovered.

6.  Prepare meatballs while you are waiting on sauce.

For the Juicy Meatballs:

-makes 15-20 meatballs, depending on the size you want.  Mine are around 2″ in diameter.

  • 2 pounds ground beef –You can also use pork, veal, chicken, or turkey.
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs, or Italian panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (season to your liking)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Red chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried parsley or basil

Meatball Instructions:

1.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Mix gently with your hands, making sure not to overdo the mixing (meatballs will be tough).

2.  Roll into desired size balls.  I make mine about 2″ in diameter.  You can make them smaller, but not too small.

3.  Place meatballs on a foil-lined baking sheet.

4.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, until a little golden brown but not thoroughly cooked.

5.  Remove meatballs from the baking sheet and gently plop them into the simmering marinara sauce to further cook them during the last 20 minutes of simmering the sauce.  The baking allows the meatballs to hold their shape and gives them a nice color, while the simmering in the sauce creates a nice moistness to the meatballs.  

After this detailed labor of love, you can now spoon that lovely marinara sauce over hot spaghetti noodles (even better if homemade), top it with a meatball or two, garnish with freshly torn basil leaves and a sprinkling of ground Parmesan cheese, and send it off with a kiss!  I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I know it requires time and preparation, but it will be worth the effort, especially since leftovers taste even better, and the sauce and meatballs freeze well.  Wishing everyone a happy week!

Even pandas love homemade spaghetti!
My 4 food critics
Spaghetti tastes best when slurped!
Complete delicious meal served with garlic bread and fresh salad

“Baked” Potato Spring Rolls: East Meets Southern Comfort Food

 Back in August, my beautiful friend/colleague Wendy and I got to work the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) convention.  We decided to celebrate a job well done afterwards by going to the Grand Lux Cafe to raise our blood sugar.  Wendy recommended that I try the Double Stuffed Potato Spring Rolls, which taste like a loaded baked potato wrapped in a crispy shell.  Five pounds more “voluptuous-looking” later, I decided to replicate this delectable dish in my own kitchen.  It was kid-tested and kid-approved, so if you have skinny children or an underweight niece who’s trying to get into the army like I do, this is the dish you need to make to fatten them up!  These not only taste great as party appetizers or part of a main dish, they are super simple to make.  With the holidays coming soon, you should give them a try!

Baked” Potato Spring Rolls:

-Makes about 12 spring rolls

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of mashed potatoes made from boiled potatoes, milk, salt. Don’t add any butter. Potatoes will be fried later.  
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, more or less to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Package of spring roll wrappers (don’t use egg roll wrappers, which are thicker)
  • 1 egg, for sealing the spring roll wrappers
  • sour cream, 1-2 tablespoon dollop per 3 spring rolls
  • crispy bacon, chopped for garnish
  • green scallions or fresh chives, chopped for garnish
  • shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, or queso for topping
  • peanut oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Make the mashed potatoes. For roughly a dozen spring rolls, you will need 3 cups of mashed potatoes.  I can’t tell you how many potatoes to boil because it all depends on which variety and size of potato you decide to use.  Idaho or Yukon potatoes work well for this recipe.  When you make the mashed potatoes, just add milk/water and some salt and pepper to taste.  Add the garlic powder.  Make the potatoes fluffy.  Don’t make them too soggy.  You can also add shredded cheese to this mixture, or anything else you might want to add to the filling.  After all, everything tastes good fried, right?  I made it as simply as possible because 2 of my kids don’t like cheese, so I kept it to sprinkle on top of the spring rolls for later.
Make simple plain mashed potatoes, or add other flavorings you may want in your spring rolls.

2.  Cook the bacon to a crisp. You can make as little or as much as you care to sprinkle on top of your potato spring rolls, or you can even incorporate into the filling.  I like to cook mine in the toaster oven until they turn an even golden brown.  Crumble the cooked bacon.

3.  Remove the spring roll wrappers from the packaging.  If they were frozen, thaw them out at room temperature until pliable.  These wrappers are thin, so when you separate the layers, be careful not to tear the sheets.

4.  Crack an egg into a small bowl.  Be sure not to break up the yolk.  We will be using the egg white part only.  In my video that follows, I had to use the yolks because I had used up the whites for macarons earlier in the day.  We want to use egg whites because they are colorless.  Nothing wrong with using the yolks as a wrapper sealer, just that it will make the wrapper have dark yellow splotches.  

5.  Now it’s time to start rolling our potato spring rolls!  Please watch the video below to see how to roll:

6.  While you are rolling your rolls, heat up the peanut oil in your fryer to 350 degrees.  You can also use a deep pan of oil if you don’t have a fryer.  Just be sure to turn the rolls often and don’t let the oil overheat.  When you have finished rolling, place 6 spring rolls into the fryer.  Do not overcrowd.  Fry for about 10 minutes, or until crispy golden light brown color.

7.   Cut the spring rolls into halves, lay them on a plate, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, chives/scallions, crumbled bacon, and add a dollop of sour cream.  The cheddar cheese can also be substituted with melted cheese sauce or queso.  There you have it!  Enjoy!


2 Delicious Ways to Cook Geoduck Clam: Sashimi and Crispy Fritters

Please get your head out of the gutter before we proceed.  Just kidding.  But really, were you thinking, “OMG! What on earth is she holding and why?!”  🙂

Well, for those of you that aren’t familiar with this obscene-looking creature, it is known as a geoduck.  Despite the spelling, which may seem rather counterintuitive, geoduck is actually pronounced “gooey-duck,” a Lushootseed (Native American) word meaning “dig deep.”  This member of the clam family is also known as King Clam because it is the largest burrowing clam in the world.  Geoducks are found only in the American Pacific Northwest and in Western Canada.  They are long-lived (that is, unless I eat them), averaging 146 years.  They are the clams that America actually exports to China and Japan.  

    If you like eating clams and oysters, then you will enjoy the taste of geoduck, which is by far sweeter and richer than any other variety.  The siphon (neck) has a delicate, crunchy texture, while the mantle (body situated in the shell) resembles the taste of oysters when fried.  Asian cuisine not only focuses on the taste of foods, but also the texture.  Thus, when you go to an authentic Chinese restaurant (not Pei Wei), you will see such items as sea cucumber and jellyfish on the menu.  All these seemingly strange things are considered delicacies to be enjoyed for special occasions, such as weddings.

    Speaking of special occasions, my brother-in-law invited my husband and I to go blow his newly deposited bonus check on geoduck at a local Chinese restaurant a few weeks ago.  Looking at the menu, the going rate of geoduck was $42/pound.  He wanted the 4 pounder that day.  I looked at him with beads of sweat forming on my forehead.  Then I politely confirmed he was paying for the meal.  I thought to myself, “why in the world would anyone want to spend $168 on a darn clam?” Then the clam came out, all fancied up in 2 separate dishes– one was geoduck sashimi, and the other was fried geoduck fritters.  Oh heavens!  It was beyond amazing!  And $350 later, we went home.  He spent his bonus check, and we were all happy and full.

    So the moral of that story if there is one is this, try geoduck if you have the opportunity, but get someone else to pay.  I’m kidding again.  But seriously, try geoduck, but there is a way to eat it without having to spend $168 on a clam.  If you live in the bigger cities with a Chinatown, most of these places will carry geoducks live in aquariums.  Although still pricey, its definitely not $42/pound. 

I was able to buy geoduck here in Houston for $14.99/pound.  For a 3-pounder, it only cost me $45–a fraction of what the restaurant would’ve charged.  

    So with this geoduck, I will be showing everyone how to make geoduck sashimi, as well as crispy geoduck fritters.  Ready?  Let’s do this!

Geoduck Sashimi:

  • Pot of water
  • whole geoduck, rinsed clean
  • 3-inch knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ice water bath
  • sharp knife

1.  Fill a pot big enough to fit the geoduck in with enough water to cover.  Clean and cut a 3-inch knob of ginger into slices.  No need to peel the ginger, unless you’re OCD.  The slices can be any size or shape because they will be discarded afterwards.  The ginger serves to take away any fishy smell/ taste from the clam.  Place the ginger slices into the pot of water.

2.  Bring the pot of water with the ginger slices to a rolling boil.  Add kosher salt.  Place the whole geoduck into the boiling water and blanch it for exactly 20 seconds. Any longer than this, and you will find yourself gnawing on what resembles the consistency of rubber bands.  Not appetizing.  Believe me, I’ve eaten rubber bands as a child, but that’s another story for another day.

3.  After 20 seconds, remove the geoduck from the boiling water and place into the ice bath.  This will stop the geoduck from cooking any further.  When geoduck is cool to the touch, remove from the ice bath and place the geoduck onto a cutting board.

4.  Pry open the shell and remove the geoduck in its entirety to reveal the mantle (the body).  With a sharp knife, separate the siphon (long neck) from the mantle.  There should be a demarcation where the firm neck meets the soft body.  Cut at that spot.  Set the mantle aside.  We will use that later to make fritters.  Place the siphon onto the cutting board.

5.  Now with your sharp knife, cut the neck into very thin slices against the grain in a diagonal fashion.  This will allow the sashimi to be crunchy, yet easily chewable.  Place the slices on a plate and sprinkle some fresh lemon juice on top if desired.  You can dip in soy sauce or a combo of soy/minced ginger or soy/wasabi for the best taste experience!

Crispy Geoduck Fritters:

  • Geoduck mantle (soft body inside the shell)
  • 1 beaten egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
  • Japanese panko crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Peanut oil for frying

1.  Before starting, remove the visceral ball from the mantle.  This is the golfball sized mass that sits inside the mantle.  Some chefs like to use it to sweeten up stocks, but I tend to just toss it.  Take the mantle and slice into 1/2″ to 1″ thick slices.  

2.  Pat the mantle slices dry with a paper towel, and proceed to place slices into the egg mixture.  Cover slices well with egg.  Season with salt and pepper.

3.  Place panko crumbs into a ziplock bag or paper bag.  Place mantle slices into the bag of crumbs and coat each slice well.  

4.  Heat oil to 375 degrees in a deep fryer or pot of oil.  Place slices into oil, working in small batches to prevent sticking.  Fry geoduck for about 2-3 minutes, or until panko is a light golden brown.  Drain fritters on paper towels and enjoy dipped in cocktail sauce or any dip of your choice.  These fritters taste very much like fried oysters!

    So now you know how to make both geoduck sashimi, as well as crispy fried geoduck fritters.  Not paying $168 here!  😉

L: Crispy Geoduck Fritters, R: Geoduck Sashimi

Crispy Fried Snapper with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce

Beautiful morning from my home on the canal.

I look forward to days like today, when the coolness of autumn has set in, the sun is bright, the water is as smooth as silken tofu, and the fish are beginning to come closer inshore.  The Gulf of Mexico is abundant with marine life, and finding fresh seafood to prepare for each meal of the day has been a blessing for us.  One of the most abundant types of fish found here are snappers: red, lane, and mangrove, to name a few.  The federal red snapper season is now closed, but thankfully, we can still catch and keep snappers within Texas waters.  With the cooling temperatures, snappers tend to come closer inshore than in the summer months, so we don’t have to go out very far to catch them.

What I like to call a “silken tofu” sea –perfect conditions for offshore fishing!

As beautiful as they are to look at, snappers are not my favorite fish to eat because they tend to be coarse and dry if not prepared properly. Today, I want to add some pep to my snapper.  So we’ll be cooking Crispy Fried Snapper with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce. 

**Disclaimer: Please note that the blue highlighted links in this post are affiliate links, in which I will earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you purchase through those links. I have purchased all the products I recommend with my own funds and have tested and used each product before I post. Please know that I only recommend products that I trust and find valuable. Thank you for your support of my blog in this way!

Crispy Fried Snapper with Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Fish:

  • 1 small to medium snapper of any kind, about 2 to 3 pounds (I am using mangrove snapper here)
  • Vinh Thuan crispy flour mix, or cornstarch for dredging 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • large wok or deep fryer (my wok of choice is this model by Le Creuset)

For the Tamarind Sauce:

  • Tamarind concentrate, mixed with 1 cup water. (If there are seeds, remove seeds.) If using premade liquid tamarin
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (preferably 3 crabs brand or Red Boat)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp crispy fried shallots (optional, to enhance flavor)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper

For the Garnish:

  • chopped green scallions
  • chopped cilantro

1.  If you are buying your fish, you can ask the fish monger to clean the fish for you.  You will need to have your fish descaled, gutted, and beheaded (unless you want the head on, as is normally the case in most other countries).  If you are cleaning your own catch, please do the same.  I like to clean my fish outdoors to keep the mess to a minimum, but when the weather is too hot or rainy, I tend to clean my fish indoors.  One way to keep the scales from flying everywhere when you descale fish inside is to fill your kitchen sink halfway with water, or enough to immerse your fish, and descale the fish keeping it submerged in the water. Be sure to have a screen mesh handy when it’s time to drain the sink, so that the scales don’t clog up your drain.

Add enough water to submerge your fish.
Descaling with fish submerged prevents scales flying everwhere.



2.  Once the fish has been cleaned, lay it on a cutting board, remove the head (optional) if you haven’t already, and make deep slits into the flesh, about 1 inch apart.  This is to help cook the fish quickly and thoroughly, and to help absorb all that delicious sauce we’re going to make later.

The beheading of Mr. Fish

3. Rub Kosher salt into the fish, about 2 teaspoons. Generously sprinkle the fish with frying mix or cornstarch. Don’t put on a heavy layer, but enough to lightly dredge the fish.

4.  Prepare the sweet and sour tamarind sauce.  For those of you who do not know what a tamarind is– it is a fruit that grows in tropical countries and has a tart, raisin-like taste.  Tamarinds are widely used in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines.  Pour a cup of tamarind concentrate into a saucepan.  Add 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons fish sauce.  Mix well and heat the mixture up over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  At this point, you can taste the sauce to see if it needs any more sugar or fish sauce to your desired taste.  Stir in fried shallots (optional).  Set aside.

    In a separate pan, stir-fry the garlic, onions, and bell peppers until fragrant and tender.  Add that to the sauce and stir well.  You can also add in chili peppers if you want your sauce to be spicy, but since I’m cooking for small kids, I made mine mild.  Your sauce is now ready.

Tamarind fruit concentrate
Add in fish sauce and sugar.
Add fried shallots for more flavor (this can be homemade or store-bought at an Asian market).
Stir-fry garlic, onions, and peppers until fragrant and just tender.
Finished Sweet and Sour Tamarind Sauce

 5.  Heat peanut oil in a wok or deep fryer to 375 degrees.  Carefully place fish into the oil, being extremely careful not to splatter scalding oil on yourself. (I have many scars all over my arms from such oil splatters.)  I use long sturdy tongs or wear kitchen mittens.  Fry fish for 5 minutes on each side.  Do not over-cook, because snapper will be dry and coarse.  Drain fish on paper towels.

Fry the fish 5 minutes on each side.

Crispy fish is now ready to dress with tamarind sauce.
Tastes delicious with rice and salad!
My best critics approved of this dish whole-heartedly! 🙂

Hope you get to try out my recipe one day. Wishing everyone a fun and relaxing weekend!

To watch my offshore adventure on the first day of Federal red snapper season 2019, please click on the link below: