Author Archives: Mai

Eating Silkworms

My friend, Cathy, the adventurous eater behind the Gastronomy Blog and the Vietnam entries on Serious Eats is leaving HCMC for points north (China for the Olympics) and west (Los Angeles). So for her final week of eating, she put together a food tour listing possible meals, so that we, her friends, could join in some of the chosen gastronomic delights. When I looked at the excel spreadsheet, my eyes alighted on the Wednesday entry: silkworms.


So, on a fine HCMC morning, I  arrived a few minutes early to a cơm trưa restaurant. With my rudimentary Vietnamese, I was able to convey that I was meeting friends. And sure enough, within minutes, Cathy and Vernon arrived via motorbike.

A northern Vietnamese dish it is interesting to note that the proprietess of the cơm trưa said that silkworms die after they finish making silk, so what we eat is their dead carcasses. Waste not, want not.


Cathy wisely ordered (only) one serving of fried con nhộng (silkworms) and rice for us to share.

Hmm, to describe the taste? It tastes a little like the dried shrimp used in Vietnamese cooking. Not, offensive, but not pleasurable. The hard part was the after texture that is, ah …unexpected. Like eating the texture of dried glue.

Cathy made me laugh at a comment she said in VN that was something akin to: “I can eat it, but I don’t really want to do it again…”

Exactly.

So, after consuming approximately 4 pieces, I can proudly say I’ve eaten silkworms.

Fast food in Saigon: Wrap & Roll

This is my first time back to Saigon since 2004. Massive construction around district 1 lets me know that the economy is booming.

wrap_roll_sign

Nowhere is this more evident than in the gastronomic sector. Beyond embracing international fast food chains like KFC, Burger King and Jollie Bee; Vietnamese entrepreneurs have taken intrinsically Vietnamese dishes and built up small fast food chains around them. I’ve spotted chains for cơm (rice +), bánh mi (baguette sandwiches) and bánh cuốn (sometimes described as enchilada-esque).

sauce

Bánh cuốn, being one of my favorite VN dishes, I visited Wrap & Roll’s Hai Bà Trưng location in district 1. Described as the Vietnamese enchilada, bánh cuốn is rice gluten, made into sheets and rolled with meat and vegetables, typically with pork and mushrooms.

banh cuon

Because I haven’t eaten bánh cuốn in a long time (2 years), I’m not sure this is best in its class (in fact I doubt it). But as far as fast food goes, it was delicious. Though leeks, soy sauce and chili paste are available accompaniments, I decided that nước mấm was enough. Pork floss and dried onion garnished the dish, adding necessary salt and onion flavor. Served warm with nước mấm accenting the pork and mushrooms and made to order (bánh cuốn has to be made to order, or it would be crunchy, think of pre-made scrambled eggs) it was a deal at just under $2 USD.

seaweed_taro_dessert

For dessert I had the che with taro, seaweed and coconut milk. In the Bay Area, we usually eat our che cold, but it was served warm. No mind, it was just the sweet I need to cap off the savory bánh cuốn.

Unedited Fridge 2

mai's fridge

Mai here. As per C(h)ristine’s directive, here is my unedited fridge as of 2pm today. It has mostly fruit (mangoes, cherries, strawberries, lemons), vegetables (onions, bell peppers), water (still and carbonated), eggs, bacon, smoked salmon, half and half, and cheese (smoked gouda, goat cheese, petit basque and jack).

I put things in “strategic” places, so my boyfriend can see that we have certain items (like the sliced smoked gouda next to the mangoes). If I don’t, he’ll either buy duplicates or it will go bad.

I usually buy items right before I make a meal with the goal of not wasting ingredients or holding too much in the house. This mostly works out. Right now I have everything to make a salmon quiche, but it feels too hot to bake. Maybe tomorrow.

Strawberry Lemonade

strawberry lemonade

I’ve been a huge fan of strawberry lemonade after I tried Odwalla’s version when I visited Santa Cruz in 1991. Ever since then, when I’m at a restaurant that offers strawberry lemonade, I’ll order it. The weekend’s more temperate weather caused a craving. Coupled with the sale on strawberries and lemons at the local market meant it was time for me to make strawberry lemonade.

I knew I wanted a recipe with fresh ingredients only, no concentrates or frozen fruit/ fruit juices – with this parameter in mind, I found the perfect recipe on the internet.

Recipe follows after the jump…
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5 Things (Food) Meme

breakfast2

I’ve been tagged with the 5 things meme from friend of Muffin Top, Tea and Cookies. Since too much info can be found on me here, I thought I’d do the five things meme with a sub-theme about food (and food allergies).

Here it goes:

1. I like to eat creamed textured food when I’m sick. I consume things like liver pate, cream cheese, ice cream, tuna, etc., the other evening I made a traditional chicken liver because it sounded so good.

2. Rice is my comfort food. Unfortunate because I have a generalized type b allergy to rice. (Won’t kill me, but makes me uncomfortable.) When I had my Lasek PRK operation last January and was in incredible pain, all I asked to eat was rice. (Though CW never caved in and gave it to me.) So, if anyone knows a non-starch alternative that is eerily similar to rice…

3. I always prefer to eat red meat. I had a bad experience with Mahi Mahi eight years ago, so now I generally don’t eat cooked fish, but I’ll still eat sushi. I don’t like chicken or turkey meat, but love duck. (This apparently doesn’t extend to chicken liver.)

4. I once went into Anaphylactic Shock. I used to eat loads of starches: pasta, bread, potatoes, carrots, rice, etc… at the same time I had these environmental allergies that I got weekly treatments for. Turns out my food allergies (unknown prior to this incident) are contraindicated with the grass and pollen shots. Apparently allergy shots + scratchy throat you can’t clear + itchiness + heavy pasta diet = Anaphylactic Shock.

My lesson of the day: don’t let your throat close up. A later lesson was that food allergies can more adversely affect the system than environmental allergies, though it really sucks to have both. Now I mostly keep my starch consumption in check and haven’t had another episode.

5. I use half and half. Not actually shocking, but I use it as milk. I pour it over my flax seed and berries in the morning and I mix it with chocolate powder to make chocolate milk. I know, I know, in an era when skim milk is suggested, I’m actually adding more unnecessary fat to my diet. I’d argue that the fat is necessary for the creamy taste that I prefer.

As far as tagging goes, I’ll tag any of the readers who’d like to respond. Put a link in the comments and I’ll check out your five things.

Thank you Tea!

Flourless Cashew Macadamia Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

unbaked cookies

I’ve been baking a lot recently, we’re talking 3-4 times per week. I’m trying to perfect a way to make flourless chocolate chip cookies because I’m allergic to wheat and one of the things I miss is the crunch of cookies.

On epicurious.com I found a recipe for making flourless peanut butter cookies. I started with this recipe, using Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips and Laura Scudder’s Natural Peanut Butter.

After a stressful visit to a facialist, she asked without any prompting if I had been eating more peanut butter than usual. Curious (- how did she know? I thought), I replied in the affirmative. Turns out there is anecdotal evidence that peanuts (no other nuts are implicated) might have androgens and cause your skin to break out.

cashew macadamia butter in bowl

Since I was (am) still in the experimenting mood I decided to use different butters, such as Cashew Macadamia Butter. I started with the Marantha Cashew Macadamia Butter I found at a local health food store. Pouring off any top oil, I tried a batch, chopping up cashew nut pieces to add some body. The cookie tasted wonderful, but the runny texture didn’t allow for an attractive cookie. The next batch I added a little flax and a little more brown sugar. Aha! My almost perfect cookie.

cookie mixture

CW says that the flax enhances the flavor of the cashew and gives it the “crack-like” quality. The thing I noticed was cookie’s texture is virtually indistinguishable from a regular flour-based cookie. Success!

Recipe follows after the jump…

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