Vietnamese Dish Recipes

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Cua Rang Muoi (Vietnamese Salted Crab Recipe) Recipe

I love cooking seafood, but I don’t always get the chance because of the number of vegetarians in my house. So when I do prepare seafood, I make a point of getting the freshest ingredients I can, and today that was crab.

Cua rang muối is one of my favorite recipes for preparing crab. The Vietnamese name literally translates to "crab toasted (roasted) in salt crust". The preparation is quite messy but the cooking time is fairly fast. The main ingredients are whole crabs (of course), freshly cracked black pepper, coarse sea salt, garlic, jalapeño chile peppers, green onions and tapioca starch. When cooked properly, the strong smell of seafood shouldn't bother anyone around with a seafood phobia. And for those of you who love seafood as much as I do, you’re in for a treat!

Salted Crab Recipe with Picture
Don't they look like dentist tools?


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Ca Nuc Kho (Traditional Vietnamese Whole Mackerel in Sugarcane Sauce) Recipe

Cá nục kho mía literally translates to "mackerel braised in sugarcane sauce". It's the fish traditionally served in  a Vietnamese claypot. The dark caramel ginger sauce is made from galangal and sugarcane juice (nước mía in Vietnamese).

Mackerel is high in Omega 3 oils but can have a strong fishy flavor. There are several steps that can be taken to ensure this dish is absolutely delicious. First, when you're at the market, make sure the fish is fresh; fresh mackerel shouldn't smell fishy. Look for clear-eyed fish with bright, shiny scales. The second step is to clean the inside of the fish thoroughly in several water baths and let the fish rest in a vinegary solution for a few minutes. The last part is to use a lot of shallots and galangal, which has a sharper, more aromatic flavor than ginger. It's slightly more expensive than ginger but it's well worth it.

I served the fish with steamed jasmine rice and sautéed rau muống (Vietnamese pea shoot tendrils) with fresh chestnuts and wood ear mushrooms.


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Ca Kho (Braised Catfish in Vietnamese Fish Sauce) Recipe

Cá kho tộ ("braised fish" in Vietnamese) is delicious catfish simmered in a caramelized sauce with garlic, ginger, green onions, fish sauce and red chiles. What I love most about the dish is eating steamed jasmine rice with the sauce made with coconut soda.

I love seafood, but the vegetarians in my home aren't always happy with the aroma of fish wafting through the house. Braising fish in nước mắm gives a strong smell to this dish, so I don't make it very often, even though I love it.


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Beef Hot Pot (Bo Nhung Dam, Shabu Shabu) Recipe

If you're a beef and seafood lover, this Vietnamese-style beef hot pot recipe is for you. Bỏ nhúng dấm (literally beef dipped in vinegar) is the Vietnamese equivalent of the Japanese dish called shabu shabu, but with additional seafood ingredients. The broth is made with coconut soda, chopped onions and tomatoes. On a separate platter, gather the raw beef, shrimp, baby squid and octopus, fresh pineapple, cooked rice noodles, bánh tráng (dried rice paper sheets) and various aromatic herbs. The prep work is quite labor-intensive; you have to have a lot of company to make the meal worthwhile. The more, the merrier.

Place an electric hot pot in the middle of the dining table and let everyone dip and cook the beef and seafood in the fragrant broth and assemble their own rolls using the rice paper sheets. Dip the rolls in mắm nêm dipping sauce. It's made of fermented fish paste, which is very strong. If fermented fish paste is too overwhelming, you could ultimately use nước mắm chấm (fish sauce) or soy sauce (nước tương chấm) for a milder flavor.

Vietnamese beef hot pot is a very festive meal because it's fairly expensive and quite time-consuming to prepare. It's what one of my uncles would call "đặc biệt", or "only for special occasions" in English. On my Papa's side of the family in France, all my cousins (including me) married non-Vietnamese spouses but I can guarantee you they all know the meaning of the word "đặc biệt" (which means special). Whenever, we're invited to my uncles' homes, they offer a lot of đặc biệt meals. "Lulu, it's đặc biệt, you should try this, it's delicious!" as one of my uncle always says to my husband. So this recipe is dedicated to my uncle François, whom I call Chu Bay (Uncle #7. He's Papa's 7th brother and that's how you show respect in the Vietnamese tradition).

It's perfect for a winter meal and just in time for the Chinese New Year, which is coming very soon.

Bo Nhunh Giam Recipe with Picture


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Vietnamese Tamarind Sweet Crab (Cua Rang Me) Recipe

Vietnamese-style tamarind crab (cua rang me in Vietnamese) is an incredibly simple, yet absolutely mouth-watering dish. The real key to making this dish successfully is to have the freshest crab you can get. The roughly cracked pieces of crab are stir fried in a sweet and sour tamarind sauce. The sauce is made of tamarind, chili, Thai basil and garlic. The Thai basil imparts an intense fragrance to the sauce, and by extension, to the crab.

We eat this dish family style. No pretense here. Just get a large platter, fill it with the tamarind crab and put it in the middle of your dinner table. We don't have enough meat eaters in my house, so I always call over a couple of family members or friends to share in the bounty. Roll up your sleeves, and dig in!


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