9 articles Articles posted in sauces

salt, pepper, and lime dipping sauce (muoi tieu chanh)

This dipping sauce is so simple, I feel silly posting a recipe for it. But I didn’t want to risk it being overlooked for its simplicity, as it is surprisingly tasty, particularly with grilled meats. I especially love it served with bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew) and bo luc lac (“shaking” beef). The fresh tartness of the sauce helps offset the richness of the meat. Vietnam also grows peppercorns (Phu Quoc island is known for its peppercorn farms), and I’d often see people grind the peppercorns themselves in a small mill, which makes for wonderfully fragrant pepper that further enhances this simple dipping sauce.

1 part kosher salt
1 part freshly cracked black pepper (or try it with white pepper as well)
wedge of lime

This dipping sauce is usually served on small condiment plates for each individual, with a wedge of lime sitting next to or over the salt and pepper, so that the diner can squeeze it him/herself.

banh mi essay and homemade mayo

A while back, I wrote a piece on the history and appeal of banh mi, the popular Vietnamese sandwich. It appeared in Sandwich, a supplement to Meatpaper magazine’s Fall 2010 issue, and you can click on the image to the right to read the essay. (Side note: the first sentence of the piece should refer to the first time I had fresh pate… not the first time I had banh mi, which I have eaten for as long as I can remember.)

In the piece, I mention making homemade mayo with my family when I was a kid. Back in the day, we didn’t have a mixer, and so we’d make the mayo by hand, one of us furiously whisking the raw egg yolk with a pair of chopsticks while someone else slowly dripped oil into the bowl. It was really a test of patience as we agonizingly watched the thick yolk slowly grow into a light, creamy spread. But the result was always worth it — fresh mayo that we ate on crusty bread… the bread was really just an excuse for the mayo.

So here I give you my instructions on how to make mayo at home. You’ll want to use a fresh egg, as the yolk will remain raw.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 egg yolk
1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil (something neutral-tasting)
pinch of salt
lemon juice
mustard (optional)

Attach one beater to a hand mixer, and turn the mixer on the lowest setting. (Alternatively, use chopsticks or a whisk — but you’ll have to work fast!) Add the oil slowly, a few drips at a time, letting it gradually emulsify with the egg yolk. After you get a creamy consistency, you can start adding the oil in a thin steady stream.

If the emulsion breaks — that is, if the mayo starts to get clumpy rather than creamy, and the oil begins to separate from the cream — stop and set this broken mixture aside. Start the process again with a new yolk, but instead of adding in oil, add in bits of the broken mixture until all of that mixture is incorporated into the new yolk. Then continue adding oil in a slow, steady stream.

You can really add as much oil as you want to get your desired amount of mayo. Just keep in mind that the more oil you add, the less concentrated your mayo will be, so it is really just a matter of preference (or patience :). I usually run out of patience after about 1/2 a cup of oil, so my mayo is a bit more concentrated.

When you reach the desired amount, add a pinch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice to taste. If you like, you can also add a bit of mustard.

You can spread the mayo onto crusty bread and eat it plain, use it in sandwiches, or serve it as a condiment alongside meat, like roast chicken or steak or grilled pork chops. My family likes to do a simple baguette sandwich with homemade mayo, cha (slices of steamed pork roll), and a dash of Maggi seasoning sauce.

javanese sambal (sambal bajak)

Thought we could all use a break from the travel posts! So here is a recipe for Javanese sambal, which I made for the first time recently. Sambal is a chili paste, and most people are probably familiar with it in the form of the Sriracha or sambal oelek — that ubiquitous condiment at pho restaurants and Chinese hole-in-the-walls, and now even affectionately dabbed on pizza and burgers. There are a great many varieties of sambal, both raw and cooked. The Javanese version is slowly sauteed into a thicker and richer paste than the raw, more liquidy, and slightly sour versions of Malaysia, Singapore, or Vietnam.

My husband isn’t as much of a Southeast Asian food fanatic as I am, so I was surprised when earlier this week, tired of the fish sauce we normally dip wraps into, he reached for this sambal instead. It’s too chunky to really dip into, but I know why he loves it — he’s always been unenthusiastic about my penchant for sour, sour foods, preferring sweet instead. And this sambal definitely has a subtle sweetness to it, not only from the palm sugar but also the slowly caramelized shallots, garlic, and chilies. My current favorite breakfast is poached egg with a dollop of this Javanese sambal.

Javanese Sambal (Sambal Bajak)
Adapted from James Oseland’s Cradle of Flavor
Makes about 1/3 cup

I used the dried shrimp paste (belacan) I got in Malaysia, which is earthier than the wet jarred shrimp paste more readily available at Asian supermarkets here. The texture of dried shrimp paste is a lot like clay — it crumbles easily and can also be molded, as in this recipe, which asks that you press it into a disk. Shrimp paste is pungent in any form, especially when heated, so consider yourself warned!

Palm sugar (gula malacca) is made from the sap of the date or coconut palm and often comes shaped in hard cylinders or disks. It can be shaved or cut, and the taste resembles that of maple syrup or butterscotch. Dark brown sugar can be substituted if palm sugar is not available.

This sambal can be served with virtually any savory dish. It’s a natural accompaniment to noodle soups, rice, or grilled meat. I think it tastes great with eggs in any form and would probably be nice spread on crusty bread served with soup. The original recipe says it will store for 1 week in the fridge, but I’ve heard it can last up to 3 months in the fridge. It is also freezable, which would allow you to make this in larger batches to save for later.

2 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
1/2 tsp dried shrimp paste (belacan), pressed into a disk (or substitute jarred shrimp paste)
3 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 fresh Holland or Thai bird chilies (or other fresh long, red chilies such as Fresno or cayenne), stemmed and coarsely chopped (you can also deseed for less heat)
1/2 tsp palm sugar, thinly sliced, or substitute dark brown sugar (for a slightly sweeter sambal, double the sugar)
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Block of dried shrimp paste or belacan (left) and ingredients for sambal (right).

1. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the dried shrimp paste and saute it, turning it over a few times until both sides have golden brown spots around the edges. If it breaks apart, just continue sauteing until all the pieces are edged with golden brown. Remove the dried shrimp paste from the oil with chopsticks or a slotted spoon. Let it cool for 1 minute. Take the oil off the heat and set aside.

2. Place the sauteed dried shrimp paste, shallots, garlic, chilies, palm sugar, and salt in a small food processor. Pulse until you have a chunky-smooth paste the consistency of cooked oatmeal. (Alternatively, you can make this the traditional way, pounded with a mortar and pestle.)

3. Reheat the oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. When the oil is heated (test to see if it sizzles gently when a bit of paste is added), add all of the paste and saute, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until most of the liquid from the chilies and shallots has evaporated and the paste begins to separate from the oil — about 9–14 minutes. The aroma should be subtly sweet, not harsh and oniony, and the color should be a few shades darker than when the paste was raw. Taste for salt, and add a pinch more if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Fish Sauce on The Splendid Table

This weekend, I’ll be on the radio show The Splendid Table talking about the fish sauce piece I did a little while back for the Washington Post. It’s my first time on the air, and I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience! Lynne and the rest of the staff at The Splendid Table were so warm and welcoming, I felt like I was just sitting down for a chat.

The segment is available online at Splendid Table’s website. Or tune in to your local NPR station to hear the show on the air. In the DC area, it will be on WAMU 88.5 today (Saturday) from 3-4 p.m. In Southern California, it will be on KPCC 89.3 or KPCV 90.3 today from 2-3 p.m.