Asian Recipes

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Ginger Lemongrass Drink Recipe

Ginger Lemongrass Drink

08.27.09 by Jackie

Xả gừng literally translates to lemongrass and ginger. I love lemongrass, and the flavor it imparts to the drink is very pleasant and refreshing on a hot day.

Lemongrass (xả) is very common in Vietnamese cuisine. It is considered a mild diuretic, tonic and stimulant. Lemongrass is typically sold in packs of 5 stalks, and can be quite expensive. Last year, I asked Lulu whether we could grow it at home, and in response he planted 4 "bushes".  They are doing quite well, and since it is a perennial, we keep getting fresh stalks. If you're planning on cooking a lot of Asian cuisine, consider investing in some lemongrass.


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Thai Iced Tea (Tra Thai in Vietnamese) Recipe

Thai iced tea (trà Thái in Vietnamese) is my favorite drink whenever I go to a phở house. I really like the contrast of flavors and temperatures between the hot broth and the cold tea.

The procedure for making trà Thái is similar to cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee). The tea is brewed for a long time to achieve a strong flavor, then sweetened with Asian rock sugar and condensed milk. It's served chilled with a lot of ice and a splash of evaporated milk.


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Asian-Style Red Rice with Mixed Vegetables Stir-Fry Recipe

My uncle (the one who likes angel hair pasta) has been trying to convince me and Lulu to switch to red rice. Red rice is unpolished rice. It is short-grained, non-glutinous and has a maroon-red color. I've been giving Lulu brown rice with his meals for health reasons, but apparently red rice has a greater source of vitamin B, fiber and iron. 

Cooked red rice has a nutty aroma and is a lot chewier than regular white rice. Just make sure you cook red rice slightly longer than any other rice, such as brown rice.

I stir-fried the rice with some mixed vegetables to enhance the flavors. I added edamame for extra proteins. It's the perfect side dish for poultry or steamed fish.


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Gajar Halva (Indian Carrot Halwa Dessert) Recipe

Halva means sweet in Arabic. India is home to many varieties of halva, and it can be found at almost all of our family gatherings.

This particular type is made with carrots. Lulu's aunt taught me how to make it. The base is a dense, sweet confection made of flour such as cream of wheat or garbanzo flour, nut butter such as tahini, or lentils like mung beans. My friend Carole, who is by the way the editor of the site, told me she loves this kind. Here's her feedback about carrot halva:

"Your halva was smoother [than the one I get at the restaurant], and at the same time more flavorful but more subtle, too. We loved it. I can't wait to see the recipe and what's involved. I have a sneaky feeling there's going to be more butter than I want to know about!"

I told Carole: "Well, don't be afraid, there are only two tablespoons of ghee". I prefer making it at home because the gajar halva found at restaurants tends to be too thin and cloyingly sweet. I suspect that the extra sweetness is used to conceal the lack of richness that one would expect from real gajar halva.

Gajar halva, like some Vietnamese desserts, is not always the most glamourous-looking sweet, but it is delicious. If you've never had it before, try making some at home. You will love it.


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Bi Cuon Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Spring Rolls) Recipe

The bì cuốn chay is a blend of bì chay, thick rice vermicelli noodles, baby cucumber sticks, Vietnamese mint and Thai basil wrapped in a bánh tráng (rice paper disk). It is served with a simple soy sauce-based dipping sauce called nước chấmnước mắm (fish sauce) or a peanut sauce (recipe follows in the tip section).

We had some bì chay yesterday. I served it with bún (thick rice vermicelli noodles). When served together, it is called Bún chay. In many ways, the dish is basically a deconstructed spring roll. That made deciding what to do with the leftovers really easy.  Without much effort, you'll get two meals out of the same dish. And did I mention that it is absolutely delicious?

If you crave the fried version for your main course, check out the recipe here.


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