lime

Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Pho

As Hieu Nguyen from Dalat, Vietnam, taught Lindsay Sterling, in Falmouth, ME July 2013

Note: Hieu gets the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, fish sauce, spices, chilis, limes, rice noodles, packets of pre-mixed pho seasonings, and even Pho serving dishes (super large bowls) at Veranda Asian Market in Portland, Maine, 695 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME, 207-874-8001, (open daily 9am-9pm). Look for an Asian market near you and go - it's a great experience. 

Makes: 8 servings
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours, with a lot of inactive time

Ingredients

 For the marinade:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2" ginger
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2" ginger (okay to leave skin on)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2-4 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (3" inches each)
  • 10 whole cardamon pods
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/3rds
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled
  • 16 oz. chicken broth

For the soup:

  • 24 oz. rice noodles (1/4" wide)
  • 1 bag (about 4 cups) fresh mung bean sprouts*
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 1 bunch culantro
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6-12 red Thai chilis
  • 1 lime
  • 4 scallions
  • Hoisin sauce (if you are gluten free, please check the label or avoid)
  • Sriracha sauce

Equipment:

  • stainless steal spice ball (for infusing herbs in broth) or cheese cloth and string*
  • sharp boning knife
  • large cutting board
  • 2 medium bowls
  • 1 large soup pot or stock pot
  • small handheld mesh strainer and small bowl
  • large colander for noodles
  • 8 larger-than-normal, pho-style bowls with base plates*
  • 8 large, flat-bottomed spoons*
  • 8 pairs chopsticks*

Instructions

1. Marinate the meat.

Rough chop garlic and 2" of the ginger. Put in a medium bowl. Take skin off whole chicken using a boning knife. Carve meat off the bones (breasts, legs, thighs and back muscles), trimming all fat off as you see it, and place meat in the bowl with the ginger and garlic, and the bones in a stock pot. Mix 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 Tbsp salt, and 1 Tbsp fish sauce into chicken meat with hands. Wash hands. Discard all chicken fat and skin. Wash cutting board and anything that touched the raw chicken. Cover chicken and let marinate.

2. Make the stock.

Place bones in a large soup pot or stock pot.  Cover chicken bones with cold water by 2-3 inches and turn on medium. Add 16 oz. chicken stock, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 Tbsp salt, and 4 Tbsp fish sauce. Enclose black pepper, cumin, clove, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon in a cheese cloth or a stainless steel spice ball. Roast whole onion and ginger over bare stove flame until ginger skin is black and onion is steaming and put both broth. Once broth begins to steam, turn heat to low. Don't let the broth boil or simmer at all. Once the broth has been steaming for about 20 minutes, swipe a handheld mesh strainer through the top three inches of broth, removing particulate matter and any oil. Discard the contents of the strainer and run it upside down under water as necessary to clean. The goal in the end is to have a clear broth, which is achieved by getting rid of floating particles and oil, and never boiling the broth. Repeat this process about every ten minutes over the course of an hour and a half to achieve clear broth. If you have oil on the top, skim off with large flat spoon.

3. Prep the fresh toppings.

Wash the bean sprouts, all the fresh herbs, lime and chilis. Dry with paper towels and place each on separate plates. Slice the lime into 8 wedges and then slice the wedges across into half wedges so you have 16 pieces.

4. Cook the chicken.

After the stock has been cooking for about an hour and a half, remove the ginger, onion, carrot, spices and bones. Slowly submerge the marinating chicken into the hot broth. Cook for 13 minutes, remove chicken and place in a clean bowl to drain and cool. Send the hand held strainer through the broth 4 or 5 times to get the ginger and garlic chunks out. Slice the chicken into 1/4 inch slices and put on serving plate(s).

5. Make the noodles. 

Bring a full large pot of water to a boil (for cooking rice noodles). Add rice noodles to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes. Strain and run cold water over them so they don't stick together as much when they're cool.

6. Assemble the bowls. First put rice noodles in the bowl, then 4-5 pieces of chicken, sprinkle on sliced scallions. Ladle on broth so the noodles and chicken are surrounded. Pick leaves off Thai basil and cilantro leaves from stems. Add about 4 of each to each bowl. Break culantro leaf into 1 inch long pieces, and add to soup. Add a mountain of bean sprouts on top. Squeeze lime over top. Serve with fresh whole Thai chili on the side.

7. Finish each bowl at the table. Diners squirt generous squiggles of Sriracha and Hoisin sauces on top of his or her bowl of pho. Before eating, toss the contents of the bowl with the chopsticks in one hand and flat-bottomed spoon in the other as you would a salad. Use chopsticks to help load up the flat-bottomed spoon, and go ahead and slurp the contents of the spoon and juice into your mouth. Take a nibble of the Thai chili (one of the hotter chilis in the world). When all you have is broth left, it's okay to lift your bowl to your mouth to sip the rest.

Nicaraguan Beans and Rice

Gallo Pinto

As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. Photo by Lindsay Sterling.

Note: "Gallo" means "rooster" in Spanish; "pinto" means "spotted." The rice and beans cooked this way look mottled like a rooster's feathers.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 can pinto beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 cup medium or long grain white rice (preferably not parboiled)
  • 1/4 green pepper, medium dice
  • 1/4 red pepper, medium dice
  • ½ small yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
  • about 16 cilantro leaves
  • 4 ripe bananas or plantains (yellow with black spots)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. salsa
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 2 tomatoes, large dice
  • 1 1/3 limes
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, cut in ½ inch cubes (Jenny couldn’t find the Nicaraguan cheese in the States and found that cheddar tastes great here)

Instructions

1. In a small pot with a lid, bring 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

2. While the rice is cooking, in ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan, saute yellow onion, red and green peppers until soft. Mix in beans and let cook for 5 minutes on medium high so beans are sizzling in the oil and beginning to brown. Turn over sections of the beans gently with spatula to brown the other sides of the beans. Once beans are slightly browned, scoot the beans into a ring around the outer edge of the pan so the center of the pan is empty.

3. Pile the cooked rice into the center of the pan. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt onto the beans around the rice. Mix the beans and rice together so that the beans are evenly distributed in the rice. Add cilantro leaves, cover and turn off heat.

4. Peel bananas or plantains and slice each lengthwise, then across so that you have 2.5-inch long segments. In 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large sautee pan (preferably nonstick) on medium-low heat, saute bananas or plantains in a single layer until golden brown. (If not using non-stick pan you may use more oil). You may use two pans at once or fry the plantains batches. Because the fruit is so sweet, the natural sugars can burn easily, so keep an eye on your heat and if they’re getting too dark too fast, turn the heat down. Flip each piece so both sides become golden brown.

5. While the bananas are cooking, shave the cabbage on a large cutting board into lacy thin shavings with a paring knife. Cut limes in half and squeeze lime juice directly onto the cabbage. Sprinkle cabbage with ¼ tsp salt. Toss the cabbage so that the lime and salt are evenly distributed.  Sprinkle the diced tomato on top of the cabbage.

6. Get ready to assemble each person’s plate by putting all the components of the dish next to your stack of serving plates: the rice and beans, sour cream, salsa, fried plantains, and cabbage salad.

7. Now fill a cup-sized small bowl or measuring cup with rice and beans and press down as if packing sand into a mold for a sand castle. Flip over the cup of packed rice and beans onto the center of the first plate, releasing an unusually orderly mound of rice and beans. Now make an “X” out of two banana or plantain segments on one side of the beans and repeat with two more segments on the other side. Decorate the empty parts of the plate surrounding the beans and plantains with a generous dollop of sour cream, a couple spoonfuls of salsa, and the cabbage salad. Sprinkle cubes of cheese on top of the rice and beans. Continue assembling the rest of the plates. Enjoy this fine meal!

Fresh Spring Rolls

512px-Spring_rolls_with_peanut_sauce.jpg

As Panee Muncharoen and Rattana Sherman from Thailand, Quang Nguyen from Vietnam, and Makara Meng from Cambodia, taught Lindsay Sterling in Maine. Photo by T.Tseng through Wikimedia Commons.

Notes: For variety you can change the protein in these - my cooking teachers have used tiny shrimp, large shrimp (sliced across the middle in order to halve the thickness of the shrimp), slices of cooked pork chop, and wedges of hardboiled egg. Dipping sauces vary as well - two favorites are featured here. Thai basil is a different variety of basil than what's typically in supermarkets in the U.S. Thai basil has a purple stem, a distinct flavor (fabulous!), and heartier leaves. It is worth the trip to an Asian market to get this and other ingredients. 

Cooking time: 1-2 hours, depending on how good you get
Makes: 20 springrolls

Ingredients

For the Rolls:

  • 1/2 head lettuce: iceburg cut into 1/4 inch strips or another variety of your choice
  • small bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked from the stems 
  • small bunch Thai basil, leaves picked from the stems
  • 3 oz. thin rice noodles (Rattana likes Wai Wai brand)
  • package rice paper spring roll wrappers (Rattana likes Banh Trang 22cm)
  • optional protein: shrimp, hardboiled egg, slice of cooked pork

For the Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce (not pictured):

  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (Rattana likes Mae Ploy brand “for chicken”)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 cup distilled vinegar (Rattana likes Golden Mountain brand)
  • 2 tsp unsalted peanuts, ground in coffee grinder or chopped
  • 5 cilantro leaves

For the Chili-Garlic Dipping Sauce (not pictured):

  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 red Thai chilis 
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 shallot, finely minced

Equipment

  • mortal and pestle (for the chili-lime sauce)
  • large saute pan
  • trivet (or work surface that can stand a hot pan)
  • clean counter for a work surface
  • serving platter
  • small bowls for dipping sauce for each person - people will want to double dip!

Instructions

1. Put rice noodles into boiling water for two minutes. Drain and let cool. Gather all your roll ingredients into separate dishes or piles at the counter where you will assemble the spring rolls. Also have the platter for serving the finished spring rolls nearby.

2. Heat 2 inches of water in a large saute pan until steaming; turn off heat. Put the pan on a trivet near where all the spring roll fixins' are.

3. Put one piece of rice paper in hot water until it softens like a jellyfish (5 seconds). Use a spatula to remove it, or your fingers if you’re tough. Spread rice paper out directly onto counter.

4. Place an oblong mound of iceberg lettuce just below the center of the wrapper. Put half as much rice noodles on top of lettuce, and 2-3 leaves of Thai basil and whole cilantro leaves. Break apart mint leaf into pieces and sprinkle on top. About half way up the wrapper, make a row out of your protein item (shrimp, chicken, egg, or pork) keeping the edges of the wrapper free of filling items by a couple inches on each side.

5. Pull the bottom of the rice paper tightly over the mound of fillings, and roll up. When you have rolled about two-thirds of the circle, fold the edges into the center like you would close the ends of a burrito, and complete rolling.

6. Put the finished roll on the serving platter, wipe your work surface dry (if it's wet, the wrapper tends to not stick as well to itself when rolling), and continue making more rolls. If the rice paper stops softening, you need to reheat the saute pan of water.

7. Make the dipping sauce of your choice. For the chili-lime sauce, start with the sugar in the mortal and pestle. Mash the garlic into the sugar into a paste. If your mortar and pestle is small, transfer its contents into a larger bowl and then mix in the liquids. Finely sliced rounds of the Thai chilis and add to the sauce. Wash your hands - the spicy oils are on them and will hurt if they get on or near your eyes. Add minced shallots. Ideally guests each have their own for sauce so they can double dip. 

Thai Noodle Stir Fry

Pad Thai

As Panee Muncharoen, from Panomsarakham villiage (3 hours east of Bangkok) in Chacheongsao province, Thailand, taught Lindsay Sterling, in Brunswick, ME. My photo didn't come out. This one is from a street food stall in Thailand taken by Takeaway.

Notes: Pad Thai is stir-fried rice-noodles with various ingredients in a sauce that's equal parts sour, sweet, and salty. There are so many variations of this dish. You can feature tofu, shrimp, or chicken; use Thai basil instead of cilantro, add pea shoots -- or not. Please beware, the mung bean sprouts I see in supermarkets are not the same as the super-fresh, crunchy, bright ones you find in Asian markets. Either get the fresh ones from the Asian market or skip that ingredient. 

Serves: 8-10
Cooking Time: 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 6 scallions, sliced into rounds (keep green and white parts separate)
  • 1 cup sliced cabbage (pieces about 1/4 inch thick)
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 6 raw eggs, scrambled with a fork in a bowl
  • 1 lb. rice sticks (wide, translucent fettucini-sized noodles made out of rice)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce (She used Oyster brand)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity recommended)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or more as you wish
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, crushed to 1/8th inch by rolling over them with a rolling pin
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked from stems
  • large bag fresh mung bean sprouts, washed and drained twice
  • 1 lime, cut into 8-10 wedges

Equipment

  • 7 small prep bowls
  • 5 cereal bowls for prep
  • strainer
  • lettuce spinner (handy but not necessary)
  • medium bowl
  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • rolling pin
  • cooking tongs or stirring utensil
  • 12 inch iron skillet or wok or two smaller saute pans

Instructions

1. Gather and prepare all the ingredients in the list and put them each in individual bowls near your stove. You’ll need these items ready for the stir frying part (you're timing will be off if you're hunting for things). You can do all this prep the day before and store the bowls covered in the fridge for really easy cooking the next day.

2. Boil rice sticks just as you would spaghetti, only cook them for just one minute before straining and running cold water over them. You want the noodles to still have some stiffness at this stage. They will finish cooking in the liquids we add to the dish later.

Panee Muncharoen teaches her favorite dish from Thailand. 

3. Now do the stir fry. Heat ½ c. canola oil in large iron skillet on medium high. When the pan is hot, add garlic, yellow onion, and the whites of the scallion. After a minute, add the cabbage. After another minute, add the chicken and cook and stir until chicken is opaque all the way through the pieces. Then add the eggs and scramble them right in with everything in the pan. When the eggs are cooked (opaque light yellow), add the noodles and stir in one after the next½ c. fish sauce, ½ c. distilled white vinegar, and ½ c. sugar. Sprinkle entire top surface lightly with cayenne, scallion greens, peanuts and fresh mung bean sprouts and stir. When noodles are cooked, but not soggy or mushy, take off heat.

4. Top pad thai with a handful of fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges, and condiment dishes of more crushed peanuts, extra cilantro, and cayenne for individuals to increase heat.