Appetizer Recipes

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Banh Gio Recipe (Steamed Meat Rice Cakes) Recipe

In Vietnamese cuisine, just as in many other types of cuisines, the use of banana leaves in cooking dates back centuries. Back when there was no aluminum foil, parchment paper or wax paper, the thick leaves were what cooks used to pack, steam, grill, bake and serve their food. Isn't that a smart, eco-friendly way to make good use of biodegradable, natural materials? Plus, the banana leaves give awondderful additional aroma to the food. If you ever visit Vietnam, you'll notice how commonly food is wrapped in banana leaves. Bánh giò is no exception, and it's one of my favorite Vietnamese street foods.

Bánh giò is a steamed rice cake, often filled with meat. This time, I filled them with ground chicken (a more authentic version would use pork). In any case, the meat is cooked with wood ear mushrooms. It's not the prettiest meal, but it's a flavorful, earthy (thanks to the mushrooms), light, gluten-free dish.

The key to achieving the perfect texture is to add a bit of cornstarch to the rice flour to firm up the dough, then flavor it with warm chicken broth and cook it on the stove before shaping the rice cakes.

Steamed Meat Rice Cakes Recipe with Picture


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Homemade Banh Beo (Steamed Rice Cakes with Shrimp) Recipe

Bánh bèo is a Vietnamese specialty made with individual, thick, steamed rice cakes. The recipe is not that complicated but preparing each rice cake can be time-consuming. The batter is made from combined rice flour, tapioca starch and corn starch. I used tiny, one-ounce porcelain dipping bowls to steam the rice cakes. Once they were cooked, I brushed them with onion-flavored oil to prevent them from sticking to each other. Little Aria helped with brushing the rices cakes with oil while I unmolded them; it made the preparation all the more fun to have her around, getting her hands dirty. 

The second step is the filling, which is traditionally made with dried shrimp flakes, fried shallots and green onions. You could make a vegetarian version using mung beans. Lastly, a drizzle of nước chấm (fish sauce) and chopped Vietnamese mint (rau thơm) complete the festive dish.


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Beef Roll Appetizers (Fusion Recipe) Recipe

Remember last week, when I posted a re-interpreted, fusion appetizer, maki-style? Well, this is the meat version. The dish consisted of blanched zucchini, carrot and enoki mushrooms stuffed in beef rolls, then quickly pan-seared until a crust was formed. You could also wrap the rolls in bacon or phyllo dough to secure them better, but if you're counting calories, these are just as delicious.

The idea was to create something new with ground beef instead of a good old burger. Even though the beef rolls are barely seared, the ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce help season and pre-cook the meat. So as long as you use fresh meat, you're good to go. 


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Tofu Roll Appetizers  Recipe

Tofu Roll Appetizers

03.10.15 by Jackie

Our family recently went to a Japanese sushi bar and enjoyed platters of delicious rolls. When I came home, I was inspired by the sushi and reinterpreted a new fusion appetizer, maki-style.

The appetizer consists of a tofu roll filled with shiitake mushrooms, carrots celery, insanely fragrant onions I grew myself in our garden and garlic. As I created the dish, I realized I wouldn't be able to keep the roll in place by simply rolling a sheet of pan-fried tofu. I improved and wrapped them in phyllo dough. You'll be surprised; it wasn't that complicated. Sometimes, improvisation ends up with beautiful results!


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Meatball Appetizers with Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Since my husband Lulu was out of town last weekend, I had a few girlfriends over to celebrate the Lunar New Year (a week late!). Next week, we're all going to a Vietnamese charity concert and everyone was talking about how they'd fit into their áo dài, the traditional Vietnamese outfit. I've been back to the gym regularly to do squats and get a solid workout and I just made sure the food would please my weight-conscious crowd.

The menu I served wasn't fussy at all and I tried to satisfy everyone's diet: we started with easy, delicious, look-and-feel-your-best meatballs. I also made cháo đồ biển (seafood rice soup with seabass, shrimp, squid and scallops), along with a kale salad. 

What was in the meatballs, you ask? I created a ground mixture of veal, turkey, flax seeds and quinoa and served with spicy sweet potatoes.


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