Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Vietnamese Seasoned Fish Sauce--makes about 3/4 cup

Every Vietnamese home has this house-made dipping sauce. This sauce should have a balance of saltiness, sweetness and tartness. The saltiness comes from fish sauce, sweetness from sugar, and the tartness from either vinegar, lime or lemon juice. Some people like it spicy. Some like it very sweet. If you are one of these people then load up on the chili peppers or extra sugar. Mine tends to be on the sour side. Typically I make my sauce with the same ingredients as my mother's as it is more versatile and has longer shelf life. She usually makes huge jars of sauce (to give to my siblings and me) and does not add garlic, chilies or water and her sauce can last for months to over a year. She omits chilies so everyone can eat it. When we scoop some from the jar to eat we have a preference to add finely chopped chili and garlic. Most people I know including my mother make this without a recipe and they always come out consistent every time. Feel free to adjust your seasoning according to your preference. If you find this sauce to be too strong then dilute it with a little water or fresh coconut water. 

Vietnamese seasoned fish sauce

Vietnamese Seasoned Fish Sauce--makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

1 small carrot, shredded (about 1/2 cup shredded)
3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, smashed, finely chopped (optional)
1-2 chilies, finely chopped (optional)

Method:

Mix carrot, sugar, vinegar and fish sauce and adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Add garlic and chilies if interested.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Crispy Rolls (Cha Gio)

I posted a few photos (see below) from this post on my Facebook page with a joking caption, "New menu items coming soon to Green Crab Cafe!!". My friend/colleague, Sue commented, "Boy this one is a tough sell!!" What do you think?!

In my family we have a variety of different fillings for these type of crispy rolls known in Vietnamese as chả giò. This one is popular in Vietnam minus the crab roe and the little crabs clinging to the sides! The ratio of crab meat, shrimp and pork is based on the individual preference. You may find the water chestnuts, bean thread noodles and wood ear fungus in any Asian markets. Some people prefer this filling either more salty or sweet; adjust the seasoning according to your taste preference. My filling is mild--not too salty or sweet so these rolls can be dipped in a sauce.

These can be eaten as snacks, appetizers or even with rice or noodles. For a light meal (see below) I add lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables, unsalted roasted peanuts (see recipe below) on cooked rice noodles (bún) with a drizzle of sauce (see recipe below).


noodle bowl with crispy rolls
crispy rolls using spring roll wrappers
crispy rolls made from rice papers

Crispy Rolls (Chả Giò)

Ingredients:

Seafood and Meat Filling (see recipe below)
24 to 48 small green crabs (preferably less than 1 inch; may use soft, semi-soft to hard shell crabs)
4 sheets of rice paper or bánh tráng in Vietnamese (25 cm or about 10 inch diameter)
10 spring roll wrappers (6 1/2 inch x 6 1/2 inch)
1 (chicken) egg yolk, glue for sealing and attaching the whole crabs
Oil (such as vegetable or peanut) for deep frying

Method:

Rub the crabs with about 2 teaspoons of salt and wash them well with cold water.

Divide the 12 ounces of filling into 4 parts. Wet one rice paper on both sides with a little warm water. Wipe off any excess water with your hand. Spread 1 part of the filling across the lower third of the sheet and roll tightly into a thin log (about 1 inch in diameter). Use a serrated or sharp knife to cut the log into 6 smaller pieces. Press (with the flat part of a knife) any overflowing stuffing back into the ends of each piece if needed. Take a small crab, dip the belly with some egg yolk and attach it at the end of each piece. Do the same with the other end if using 2 crabs per piece. Repeat until all the filling is used. Set the pieces on parchment paper without touching. The parchment paper will prevent them from sticking to the bottom.

log roll with rice paper
cut pieces with crabs attached on both ends

Divide the 1 pound of filling into 10 parts. Lie one wrapper with the tip pointing towards you. Brush about 2 inches of the opposite tip with some egg yolk. Spread 1 part of the filling on the lower third of the wrapper. Tightly roll the tip away from you, fold in the sides and continue to roll tightly to seal. Repeat until the all the filling is used.

rolls with spring roll wrappers
Preheat the oil until it reaches about 350-375 degrees F. Drop a few rolls at a time and fry for about 3 minutes for the smaller pieces (those with rice paper) and about 4-5 minutes for the larger rolls (those with spring roll wrappers). Remove the rolls onto clean paper towels or a strainer.

fried rolls with a rice paper
seafood and meat filling

Seafood and Meat Filling (makes about 1 lb and 12 oz)

Ingredients:

8 oz crab meat
6 oz shrimp, chopped
4 oz ground pork (may substitute with chicken, turkey or another meat)
2 oz uncooked green crab roe, rinsed, strained out liquid
5 oz water chestnuts (may substitute with taro or jicama), chopped
1 carrot, peeled, grated and squeezed out liquid
1 scallion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 oz bean thread noodles (cellophane noodles), soaked in warm water about 15-20 minutes or until soft, squeezed out liquid
2 Tbsp dried wood ear fungus, soaked in warm water about 15-20 minutes or until soft, squeezed out liquid
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed, minced
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Sprinkles of onion powder
Sprinkles of garlic powder

Method:

In a large bowl add crab meat, shrimp, pork, crab roe, water chestnuts, carrot, scallion, bean thread noodles, black fungus, onion, garlic (both fresh and powder) and season with fish sauce, chicken stock powder, sugar, salt and black pepper. Mix all ingredients until everything has incorporated evenly. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Vietnamese seasoned fish sauce

Every Vietnamese home has this house-made dipping sauce. This sauce should have a balance of saltiness, sweetness and tartness. The saltiness comes from fish sauce, sweetness from sugar, and the tartness from either vinegar, lime or lemon juice. Some people like it spicy. Some like it very sweet. If you are one of these people then load up on the chili peppers or extra sugar. Mine tends to be on the sour side. Typically I make my sauce with the same ingredients as my mother's as it is more versatile and has longer shelf life. She usually makes huge jars of sauce (to give to my siblings and me) and does not add garlic, chilies or water and her sauce can last for months to over a year. She omits chilies so everyone can eat it. When we scoop some from the jar to eat we have a preference to add finely chopped chili and garlic. Most people I know including my mother make this without a recipe and they always come out consistent every time. Feel free to adjust your seasoning according to your preference. If you find this sauce to be too strong then dilute it with a little water or fresh coconut water.

Vietnamese Seasoned Fish Sauce--makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

1 small carrot, shredded (about 1/2 cup shredded)
3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, smashed, finely chopped (optional)
1-2 chilies, finely chopped (optional)

Method:

Mix carrot, sugar, vinegar and fish sauce and adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Add garlic and chilies if interested.

roasted unsalted peanuts
Roasted Peanuts  

Ingredients:

Raw peanuts (with or without the skin), shells removed
Method:
Preheat a toaster oven to 300 degrees. Place peanuts on a baking sheet. Bake the peanuts for 10 minutes or until golden brown, stir every 2-3 minutes to prevent burning.

OR

Roast the peanuts (in a small frying pan without oil) over medium heat on a stove top. Use a pair of chopsticks or spatula and move the peanuts around until they are golden brown. Once the peanuts are roasted and cooled, lightly crush them with your palms to remove the skin. When you are ready to eat coursely crush them.

Helpful Hints:

*You may substitute water chestnuts for jicama or taro. I actually prefer jicama or taro but the fresh ones are difficult to find in New Hampshire. For this recipe I use canned water chestnuts. You may substitute dried wood ear fungus (also known as cloud ear fungus or tree ear fungus) for another dried mushrooms. I find that the dried mushrooms tend to have more earthy flavor and meaty texture than the fresh ones. You may substitute ground pork for chicken, turkey or another meat
*Cut the rehydrated bean thread noodles into 1/2 inch lengths. If your mushrooms have not been sliced then rehydrate a whole one, slice thinly and cut into 1/2 inch lengths.
*It is best to remove excess liquid by squeezing the shredded carrots, bean thread noodles, and mushrooms. The extra liquid will make the rolls soggy which is not ideal for deep frying. If possible it is best to use fresh ingredients and not canned or frozen.
*Unlike the spring roll wrappers, when deep fried, the rice papers will not turn golden brown.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Happy Lunar New Year!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year)! Năm Kỹ Hợi 2019 (The Year of The Pig 2019)! Luckily for me I get to celebrate New Year twice annually! If I miss January 1st for whatever reason I still have a second chance when the Lunar New Year comes around (cccurs either in January or February)! I made this card using a few photos that I took from one of my visits to Vietnam during the Lunar New Year (Tết). The yellow flowers pictured here are known as "hoa mai". All the homes are decorated with them in the southern part of Vietnam during each Tết. They are a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Green Crab Cafe would like to wish you and your family much happiness, good health, good eats (especially MORE green crabs!) and prosperity for the coming year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Stir-Fried Chicken and Vegetables

Often times when I have limited time (less than 15 minutes) and I want a quick meal I make a stir-fry. When I work 4 long consecutive days (in the clinic) I would cut, wash and dry all of the vegetables, and store them in the refrigerator. The day before I would thaw a few small pieces of meat from my freezer in the refrigerator overnight. Before leaving the clinic I would text my husband to cook rice and when I get home I can quickly cut, wash my meat, cook everything and we eat in 10 minutes. 

You can make it vegetarian, meat, seafood or a combination of meat and seafood. Cook the hardest vegetables first. If I have time I steam the hardest vegetables (such as carrots and broccoli) partially before using. The keys to making a good stir-fry are to keep the heat high and to not overcook the vegetables. They should be just cooked--have a bright color, maintain their crunchiness and retain most of their nutrients. I love fresh cilantro and when I have some in my kitchen I normally chop leaves from a sprig or two and add after everything has been cooked. 

I found this wonderful creative short animation on green crabs called, Attack of the Green Crabs.

stir-fried chicken and vegetables
Stir-Fried Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb chicken thigh, sliced into bite size
1 large garlic clove, smashed, chopped
About 1-2 tsp of grated fresh ginger
1 large carrot, peeled, sliced 1/8th inch thick
1 large broccoli floret, cut into bite size
8 oz sugar snap peas, removed the strings from both sides
12 oz baby bella mushrooms, halved
1 recipe of Green Crab Stir-Fry Sauce (see recipe below)

Method:

Add oil to a heated large pan or wok. Keep the heat to medium to high. Add chicken, garlic, and ginger, saute about 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked. Avoid buring the garlic. Add carrot and broccoli. Saute until the carrot and broccoli are partially cooked. Add snap peas, and mushrooms. Saute until the peas are just cooked. Once all the vegetables and meat are cooked then in the last minute add the sauce. Stir or shuffle the pan or wok a few times until all the ingredients are coated with the sauce.

Green Crab Stir-Fry Sauce

 Ingredients:

1 cup green crab stock (please see Simple Green Crab Stock link)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce

Method:

Mix all ingredients together. May adjust the saesoning according to your taste. Be sure to stir the sauce prior to using.

Helpful Hints:

*This recipe may be too much to fit in one wok or even a large pan. You may divide the ingredients and sauce in half and make 2 batches. I made half a batch one day and the other half the next day.
*I prefer chicken thighs over the breasts since they have more flavors.
*I chose these vegetables because they are the ones that are available fresh at my local market at this time of the year. Be sure to buy the broccoli that is firm to the touch, green in color and the stalk side is smooth without a hallowed out area. If you have a broccoli stalk do not discard, remove the tough outer skin and use the interior stalk for cooking.
*It is best to use unsalted green crab stock for this recipe. If you are using salted stock then decrease your seasoning for the sauce. 
*If you would like to add sesame oil to the stir-fry then drizzle a little at the end of cooking. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Happy Holidays!


Any day is a great day to eat green crabs...however, now is the most wonderful time of the year to start eating more green crabs! If you have never tried them I urge you to start today! If this is a new ingredient for you I recommend making a crab stock and use it alone or combine it with another stock such as chicken, turkey, pork, lobster or clam to make umami-rich (green crab umami) chowders, soups, curries, paella, risotto, gumbo, and an endless list of other exciting dishes. Just allow your imagination to take over your kitchen...you may be surprised at what scrumptious concoction you stew up!

sea scallops from Rimrack Fish & green crab umami sauce

The 2018 hardcover Green Crab Cookbook is out this January! This book is for crab lovers and those who have a curiosity about green crabs. This book will have recipes & in depth tutorials. Please check out the link to order. https://www.greencrab.org/shop/. All the proceeds will go to The Green Crab R & D Project. The Green Crab R & D is a group of scientists and activists committed to developing a fishery and market for the invasive green crab.

Green Crab Cafe would like to wish you and your family a very happy holiday season! May you and your family stay happy, healthy and eat more green crabs!

And thank you for visiting my blog (even if you stumbled on this by accident)! 😀

Warmest regards,

Thanh Thai
Green Crab Cafe

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Seafood and Kimchi Soup

My mother made this soup while she stayed with me during my recovery. She placed the partially thawed prepared green crabs in a few clean plastic bags and crushed them against a cement block using a rock from my garden. She agrees that this method works much better as opposed to crushing them with a blender.


my mother hand crushing the crabs
This soup is made with kimchi that I fermented months ago. They are more sour than the freshly made kind. You may purchase kimchi at your local markets. The mixed seafood package is from my local grocery market and found in the frozen section. Once opened you can rinse them in a strainer and add to the soup. If the mixed seafood has been previously cooked then it does not take long to reheat them. I find that this soup tastes even better the next 1-2 days!

seafood and kimchi soup

Seafood and Kimchi Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb prepared hard shell green crabs (about 20 adult crabs)
7 cups cold water
1 lb seafood mix, rinsed in cold water, strained
About 1 1/2 to 2 cups kimchi (home-made or store bought), cut into bite size
1 container of soft tofu (about 12 oz), cut into bite size
1 scallion, green parts only, chopped or cut into 1/2 or 1 inch lengths
2 Tbsp fish sauce (nước mắm)
1 Tbsp chicken stock powder

Method:

Place the crabs into 2-3 layers of freezer or plastic bags. Pound the crabs until they are crushed. Add a little cold water (about 1/3 of the water), use a spoon to stir the mixture and use a fine strainer to strain the liquid and the fine crab bits into a pot. Repeat 2 more times until all the water has been used up. Please see links below for tutorial assist.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Do not stir. Do not cover the pot. Once the liquid starts to boil the crab bits will float up to the surface in pieces. Let the liquid boils gently for a few minutes (up to about 5 minutes) or until all the pieces are done floating up. Avoid allowing the liquid to boil over. Rinse the seafood mix and add to the pot. Add kimchi, and tofu and stir the pot once. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until everything is heated through. Add scallions and season with fish sauce and chicken stock powder.


Helpful Hints:

*Please see Vietnamese-Style Crab Stock for a tutorial on how to make the stock for this recipe.
*Please see How to Prepare Green Crab for Making Stock for a tutorial on how to prepare the crabs.
*The 7 cups of water will yield about 6 cups of crab liquid.
*If you are to use a blender to crush the crabs then use only the soft crab bodies. Discard the hard carapace, apron, legs, and claws.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Salt-Pepper-Lime Dip

The creamy yellow-orange roe and succulent white flesh from the green crabs are delicacies that you do not want to miss eating. Cook the crabs in boiling water for about 5-7 minutes and remove. Avoid overcooking the crabs as they will become dry and flavorless. You may add fresh guava leaves, fresh kaffir lime leaves, or bruised fresh lemongrass stalks to the water for fragrance if you have access to any of these ingredients. I find that a small thin knife with a pointy tip may be the best tool to scoop out the roe from the interior of the carapace by the spines and on the central part of the body. The meat can easily be removed with a toothpick, skewer or a small knife as these crabs are small. You can do this if you are planning to save the flesh to use for cooking later. However, the ideal way to eat crustaceans such as green crabs, perhaps viewed by some as less formal or even barbaric, is to cut the bodies into 4-6 pieces and simply suck out the sweet juicy meat while everything is still hot. This simple salt-pepper-lime dip, a commonly paired item with some seafood dishes is popular in Vietnam. You may use lemon in exchange for lime. Mix it however you prefer but for simplicity, you can make it 1:1:1 ratio.


salt-pepper-lime dip

Salt-Pepper-Lime Dip

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp salt (any type that you prefer--crushed sea salt or table salt)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh lime juice

Method:

Mix all ingredients and enjoy!


Saturday, November 24, 2018

How to Process Green Crabs Humanely

How to Process Green Crabs Humanely

Many people are concerned about killing a living organism for food such as shellfish more humanely. How do we determine what is humane? Some people may view a quick death as better than a slow drawn out death. Would you slowly freeze a lobster before boiling or steaming it or would you just place a live lobster in a pot of boiling water? For the green crabs it seems that placing them in boiling water will kill them much faster than spearing them with a sharp object through the brain or freezing them. Spearing them may cause you injury and believe me they do not die instantly. Removing the carapace and gills while they are still alive causes them to die nearly as fast as spearing them in the brain. If you believe that freezing them is the most humane way as many seem to think then be sure to freeze them in your home freezer for at least 2 hours before you process or cook them. Of course it all depends on how cold your freezer is. If you are unsure how cold your freezer is then you can start by placing a bag of crabs in your freezer. After 2 hours remove the bag and look inside to check for signs of life =  any hint of movement. If there is none then quickly process or cook the crabs.

One interesting survival instinct of these green crabs (applies to those with hard shells) that I see repeatedly is that they tend to self amputate one or more of their claws and/or legs when they sense stress, threat or danger. Hence, you may notice that when you drop the live green crabs in boiling water they tend to loose part or all their claws and legs. If you freeze them for at least 30 minutes and then drop them in boiling water, their claws and legs tend to remain intact. This indicates the crabs are not stressed and is the most humane way to cook them, and provides you a complete crab for your recipe.

frozen green crab from the freezer
cooked green crab--the most humane way

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Garlicky Crustacean Pasta

I have a lot to be thankful for...

I am extremely grateful that my husband and I survived a major car accident...that we walked out of our crumpled car that day.

Since September 10th I have cooked only a handful of simple dishes...mostly since the beginning of this month. I am still healing...although my body is not 100% yet I am making noticeable progress each week. While on the mend my mother has been staying with us, cooking constantly and before returning to her home she would leave us an abundance of prepared food in the freezer and refrigerator until her next visit. Thank goodness that I have a supportive, loving, and caring supermom. 

This dish is simple and you can make it even if you have only one good hand and a partial use of the other. For this dish I use garlic and shallots grown from my parents' organic garden. My mother already removed the lobster meat and kept them frozen. The roe was previously frozen. I partially thaw them before cooking. This dish makes about 2-3 servings.

garlicky crustacean pasta

Garlicky Crustacean Pasta

Ingredients:

12 oz Squid Ink Spaghetti
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small head of garlic, smashed, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled, finely chopped
3 oz uncooked green crab roe
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Meat from 2 medium to large lobsters, cut into bit size
2 scallions, green parts only, chopped
2 tsp fish sauce (nước mắm)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
A pinch of dried crushed seaweed, garnish

Method:

Cook the Squid Ink Spaghetti according to the package instructions, drain and set it aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and shallots. Saute for about 2 minutes or until the shallot is soft. Add crab roe, and butter, saute about a  minute. Add lobster meat and scallion, saute about 2 minutes or until the meat is heated through. Add spaghetti and season with fish sauce, sugar and pepper. Once the spaghetti is heated through (about 2 minutes) then turn off heat and serve with a sprinkle of seaweed and more white pepper.

Vietnamese Seasoned Fish Sauce--makes about 3/4 cup

Every Vietnamese home has this house-made dipping sauce. This sauce should have a balance of saltiness, sweetness and tartness. The saltines...