Archive for the ‘Yummy Sounds +4’ Category

Vicki’s Cake (Victoria Sponge Cake)

31 July 16

This is a quintessential and favorite British tea time cake. It is called the Victoria Sponge Cake because it was Queen Victoria’s favorite for high tea. When you are the Queen you get what you want. It’s good to be the Queen.

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 cup)
220 gr sugar (1 cup)
2 each eggs
160 gr all-purpose flour (1 cup)
6 gr baking powder (1-1/2 tsp)
125 gr milk (1/2 cup)
4 gr vanilla extract (1 tsp)

Set your oven to 400°F (200°C). Lube an 8 inch spring form pan with unsalted butter.

If you are a masochist and doing things by hand you mix up the dry goods, cream the butter and sugar, add the dry goods, then add the wet goods. Of course, you pre-mix the flour and the baking powder. Then pre-mix the milk and the vanilla. Oh yeah, if doing by hand then you may want to use powdered sugar. It dissolves and creams a little faster.

If you are using a good mixer like a sensible person, then cream the butter and sugar until they are supple and smooth. Then add the dry stuff – flour, baking powder – and mix it in on low. Then add the milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Notice – no pre-mix is necessary. You also want to be extra cautious if you use powdered sugar. It tends to go everywhere when the mixer starts. The flour and the milk sometimes do also. You might want to bump the mixer a time or two as you start. I wish Kitchenaid had a soft start. My Cuisinart hand mixer has soft start and it is wonderful.

Either way, dump the batter into the pan, bake at 400°F (200°C) until a toothpick comes out clean. This will be somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes depending on your oven. Mine tends to run around 30 minutes. Cool down still in the pan for about 10 minutes on top of a wire rack. Pop the outer ring off and, leaving the cake on the pan base, cool down completely. If you are not doing something else with the cake you can just leave it on the bottom of the pan.

You now have a proper Victoria Sponge Cake. Traditionally, you just whack and serve. If you want (and have a very steady hand), you can cut it in half and add some preserves in the middle. Apricot and raspberry are traditional (and good). Of course, you can use any preserves or other stuffing that you like. If you are like me, I think that this cake is a bit thin for cutting in half. I would cook a second cake and layer them together. Of course, you will have to shave the top of the bottom cake so the top layer will sit flat. Oh well, the cook gets the leftover top goodie. It’s good to be the cook. You can also sprinkle some powdered sugar on the outside if you like.

Custard is also used as a stuffer. A dollop of whipped cream has been known to be used for a topping.

As a note: a real purist would not use vanilla extract, but heat the milk and then soak a scored vanilla bean in it.

Five Spice Fish and Garlic Spinach

3 August 15

[HERSELF SEZ: Here I am again – posting for Himself who refuses to learn how to use WordPress and relies upon me to post for him! But this IS his post!]

1 tsp grated lime peel
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
4 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp sugar
salt, pepper to taste
vegetable oil
1 lb salmon steaks
1/2 lb fresh baby spinach leaves
2 large cloves garlic, minced
nước chấm (optional)

The five spice powder is basically Chinese in origin, but this is a kinda fusion version. For me it has a bit of a Vietnamese hint to it. I’m not sure what you’d call the rest of the influences. The Chinese get a bit mystical about the whole thing and talk about five spice powder being the perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty; the five fundamental taste groups of Chinese cuisine. To my simple old Western mind it has cinnamon, clove, star anise, ginger, and fennel. Whether it was some mystical blend to achieve universal harmony, or some genius with taste buds made it, or some dumb assistant cook sneezed ad dumped all the spices together is immaterial and will probably never be known. Who cares, it is good stuff. There are many variations, but when you get it at the store it will probably be something similar to the above.

On to the goodies:

Mix up the marinade: lime peel, juice, five spice powder, sugar, a splash of oil (about a teaspoon), salt and pepper to taste. Put the fish and the marinade in a dish or plastic bag, whichever you like for soaking, and let it soak in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Don’t go too long as citrus will prematurely cook seafood to the detriment of the final taste.

Crush or mince the garlic into one to two teaspoons of oil and dump over the spinach. Mix it up with your hands. What you want to do is wilt the spinach, so it isn’t necessary to stem it before using. If you like the old fashioned way you can wilt the spinach in a skillet or some such. The easy way is to nuke it on high for 2 minutes or so. That works nicely, and it is hard to goof up.

You should have decided ahead whether to grill, use a contact grill, or pan fry. Whatever your choice, it should be ready to go at this point. We like pan fried in a hot skillet with a little olive oil and a little sesame oil for flavor. A nice crust can be had without drying it out if you keep the heat up and the time down to about 3 minutes a side or whatever works for you. If you grill give about 4 minutes a side covered. Toss any leftover marinade. While you cook the fish is really the best time to wilt the spinach if you are using the microwave method.

Serve the fish on a bed of spinach. It doesn’t need anything else, but if you a feeling in a Vietnamese mood serve a little nước chấm (1) (2) on the side.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Poulet au Grand Marnier (or whatever)

12 May 14

[Herself sez: I’m posting this for the Ol’ Curmudgeon]

Yes, this is French in derivation. Yes, there is a reduction sauce involved. Simple and quick – rice takes 30 minutes – 20 cooking and 10 resting. If you start cooking the yard-bird at the same time everything will work out nicely. This is for 2 people – just do the math for more. Don’t faint – there is no butter here (well, not much) – just whipping cream and booze.

2 Tbs orange juice or half an orange – juiced and zested
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut in pieces
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil and/or unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 tsp ginger or 1-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 Tbs Triple sec, Grand Marnier, Cointreau
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs whipping cream

If you’ve got a fresh orange, then juice and zest and set aside. Otherwise use orange juice (necessary) and dried orange peel (optional).

Cut up the chicken breast into 1” or thereabouts cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. In an iron or other good heavy skillet get the oil and/or butter hot and brown the chicken turning so as to get evenly done and browned. Set the chicken pieces aside.

In the same skillet on low heat cook the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir while cooking over low heat until translucent and soft. About 5 minutes or less. Add the orange flavored booze of choice – and pocketbook – and availability. Triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau all will work well. Triple sec is probably the most affordable. Anyway cook on a gentle boil while stirring and reduce volume by half.

When the volume is reduced add the cream and orange zest, or sprinkle some dried orange peel into the pan and boil for a minute, stirring the pan pretty often. Add the chicken and stir everything together – then simmer for a couple of minutes until everything is warmed through.

Serve over the bed of choice. Rice is especially good. Pasta is probably O.K. if that is what grabs your taste buds. Anything else that comes to mind is probably O.K., too.

Almond Fish

30 September 13
    Fish
2 fillets delicate white fish
2 Tbs soft butter
2 Tbs finely minced onion
2 Tbs finely minced celery
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 grinds fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp sweet paprika
    Almond Sauce
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs slivered blanched almonds
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs parsley flakes

You’ve heard of Trout Amandine – well – this is not it – exactly. The old amandine is a breaded and fried sort of deal. This is broiled and much more delicate. The dredged in flour or whatever and fried is called meunière by the French. It means miller’s wife and is both the way of cooking and a sauce. The cooking is à la meunière. The sauce is just browned butter, chopped parsley, and lemon juice. In other words – Southern fried with lemon butter and parsley. See – it just sounds fancy and elegant in French. Trout Amandine is just trout à la meunière with an almond crusting. Other things that work wonderfully amandine are potatoes, green beans, and asparagus – I’ll write them up one of these days.

Back on topic (maybe) – this will work nicely for just about any delicately flavored fish, either fresh or salt water type. If the fish is frozen just let it thaw about halfway or so. If it is fresh just make sure things are nicely filleted.

Mince the onion and celery. The easy way is to throw it into a small food processor and hit high speed for a minute. Then add the butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika to the onion and celery and blend together well. Spread the mix over the fillets and run under a hot broiler, about 4 to 6 inches from the heat. Broil for 10 minutes or until the fish is flaky but do not overcook. You don’t want brown, just done through (barely).

While the oven magic is happening melt the rest of the butter in your small skillet, then brown the almonds. When the butter and almonds are brown but not burned remove from the heat and add the lemon.

Plate the fish, pour the almonds and liquid over them, and garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

{HERSELF SEZ: I really do prefer a fish that is crispy on the edge – or, in this case, leave mine in a few more minutes – until it is at least just a little browned!}

Five-Spice Chicken

13 April 13

OK. I confess. I haven’t been much of a cackle fan over the years. I finally figured it out. 90% of the Americans who cook chickens just don’t take the time to do it right, and the majority of American chicken does not taste like chicken (funny, everything else is supposed to). Mostly American chickens don’t taste at all. Anyway, get free range birds that are not force grown when you can. The taste difference is rather dramatic. Even better – if you are somewhere that you can – raise your own and slaughter them when they are the proper age. We shall serve no bird before its time. (Does anyone else remember Orson Welles doing the wine commercials?) Anyway, Herself is a cackle connoisseur – or a yard-bird yokel, if you prefer, and has convinced me that all cackles are not bad. So now we cackle every now and then.

This is one of those things that can be done several different ways. The marinade can be muchly varied, but this is a very good basic. I’ll do some more elaborate marinades over the next couple of months.

1 Roasting hen – 5 or 6 pounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1-1/2
Tbs
 Nước Mắm – Vietnamese fish sauce (1)
1-1/2 Tbs soy sauce (low sodium is good here)
1-1/2 Tbs dry sherry
Nước Chấm (1)
Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Horizontal Rotisserie Chicken

Mince the garlic, shallots, and sugar together. The best way to do this is a mortar and pestle, but you could use a food processor. Get the mix rather fine and add in the salt, pepper, and 5 spice powder and mix together well. Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sherry. A comment about soy sauce: if you use full sodium soy sauce cut the added salt by half or leave it out altogether – that stuff is salty. Gently slide your fingers between the skin and the meat as best you can without tearing the skin. Slip a good bit of the mix in and then rub the rest over the surface of the bird, working it in well. Let things soak at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can use most any wine you like but the dry sherry is rather traditional Vietnamese.

You can do this three ways that are rather good:

  1. Rotisserie – on the spit for about 1-1/2 hours (my favorite)
  2. Vertical roaster in the oven at 450°F for about 15 minutes and then 350°F for about 1-1/4 hours
  3. Split the bird in half and cook on a grill over medium hot coals skin side down for about 15 minutes, flip and roast another 15 minutes.

No matter which method you use you are trying for done chicken – about 160°F with crisp skin. You will have blackish looking skin, BUT – it should be blackened from the Maillard reaction, not from burning. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. If you are using an indoor rotisserie then you can keep the spit turning with no heat. That keeps the juices in while they are being re-absorbed.

This goes nicely with a Nước Chấm (1) (2) dipping sauce. Rice is also handy, as is a side salad. The only disadvantage to this method is that the carcass shouldn’t be used for making soup or stock.

(1) Discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

(2) Another discussion of Nước Chấm and Nước Mắm is found HERE.

Banana Bread

27 September 12
300 g bananas – large and ripe, mashed (1cup) – (about 2 large bananas)
450 g all-purpose flour (2 cups)
5 g baking soda (1 tsp)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)
1 stick unsalted butter
220 g sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
100 g milk (1/3 cup)
4 g lemon juice (1 tsp)
75 g chopped nuts (1/4 cup)

The simple way is to put the bananas in the mixer bowl first, then the rest except the nuts. Mix with a paddle on low speed until smooth. This only takes a minute or two with a good mixer.

Now the old (and harder) way is to cream the wet ingredients together, then sift and mix all the dry ingredients together, and add about a cup at a time to the wet mix, blending well, until all the dry stuff has been added and blended. You can use a mixer or go by hand for this method.

bananas

bananas (Photo credit: Fernando Stankuns)

Add the nuts and blend them in. Herself is a big fan of pecans, but suit yourself. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 standard pan.

Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes to an hour or until center springs back when pressed lightly.

I think everyone knows that this is what you can do with over-ripe (blackened) bananas. Fortunately, this is also pretty good dessert. Goes well heated with some butter, or room temp with whipped cream.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

15 October 11

1/4 cup onions, minced
3 Tbs Unsalted butter
3 Tbs a/p flour
6 cups unsalted chicken broth, seasoned with 2 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf and 1/8 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
1 lb fresh mushrooms – save the caps, rough-chop the stems
2 Tbs unsalted butter
thinly sliced mushroom caps – from the above pound of mushrooms
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs unsalted softened butter

cream mushroom soup

Image via Wikipedia

This is Julia’s recipe for the real French cream of mushroom soup. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps. Rough chop the stems. Fine slice the caps. Set them both aside.

Start the stock heating up to the boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. If you make your own stock what you want is a traditional white stock. I can’t find it in my local store, so I use chicken stock. If you are using chicken stock you will need to remove the bay leaf and parsley after boiling a minute of two.

Sauté the onions in 3 Tbs of unsalted butter. Do not let them brown, what you want is just nice and softened. Probably about 5 to 8 minutes depending on your stove’s low setting. Once again: DON’T BROWN.

Make a pale roux: add the flour and stir or whisk over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Don’t get it brown.

Remove the pan from the heat and add boiling stock a cup at a time, stirring continuously. When the roux has been completely liquefied and absorbed add all back into the liquid.

Add in the rough chopped mushroom stems and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. If there is any scum on the surface skim it off.

Strain the mixture through a sieve. Squeeze the juice out of the mushroom stem pieces. The easiest way is just prop a sieve over a pan, pour the juice through and let it sit for a few minutes. Dispose of the remains of the mushroom stems and onions that are left in the sieve.

Slowly sauté the sliced mushroom caps, lemon juice, and salt in the 2 Tsp of butter for about 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and their juices to the strained soup base and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Beat two egg yolks and 3/4 cup heavy cream together. Temper by adding hot soup about ½ to 1 cup at a time while whisking constantly and vigorously. When the mix has been tempered add it back into the soup. Stir over very low heat. Do not let it come to a simmer. All you want to do is let it thicken a bit – about 2 minutes.

Taste and correct seasoning. Off the heat stir in 1 to 3 Tbs of butter to taste.

If you want to impress your dinner guests reserve some of the prettier mushroom caps, flute and sauté in lemon and butter. What is fluting you say? It is just carving a pretty curved pattern with a small, very sharp knife. If you don’t want to flute – or don’t know how, you can use a zester to make a pretty pattern, or skip the pretty pattern bit and just serve the caps undecorated. Anyway – float the sautéed caps in the bowls or cups just before serving.

This stuff is easier than it sounds, and doesn’t take all that long.

This lot will feed 4 to 6 depending on whether you just want a small soup course or more of the main meal. Really outstanding with a crusty French bread for dunking.

Oh yeah – for those who are used to the canned cream of mushroom that is kind of stiff this will seem a bit liquid. You can stiffen/thicken it up by adding a small amount of arrowroot or cornstarch before serving. On the other hand – if what you are after is the taste of the canned junk then just serve it and don’t go to this trouble. But – my taste buds claim that this well worth the minor effort.

Final note: You could probably use any mushroom that tickles your fancy, but for the best results the plain old button mushroom just can’t be beat. This is a rather balanced and delicate taste and the stouter mushrooms just overpower everything in my opinion.

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

30 July 11

Garlic Parmesan Dressing

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup apple vinegar
1/4 tsp whole peppercorns
pinch cayenne pepper
3-6 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


The amount of garlic depends on the size and strength of the garlic at hand and how stout you like your garlic dressing. Of course, if you don’t like garlic you won’t want this dressing anyway.

Put everything except the oil into a blender and puree pretty fine. Drizzle the oil in and

blend thoroughly.

This is outstanding with avocado. Just take a nice Haas avocado cut in half lengthwise and the seed removed and fill up the hole with the dressing. Then scoop it up with a spoon, very tasty.

This stuff benefits from sitting and mellowing awhile.

If you want to make this sort of Frenchified just add a blop of Dijon mustard to the mix.

Black pepper

Image via Wikipedia

Herself Sez:  Himself uses Madagascar Tellicherry peppercorns which he orders from Fantes’ Kitchen Wares. They have many excellent items that we use. He orders our usual sea salt for grinding from Salt Works. We also use some of the different sea salts found at Whole Foods. (Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Sea Salt) While Whole Foods is pretty much overpriced and thinks much of itself, it does carry many necessary items.

Fruitcake Cookies

5 April 11

Fruitcake goes way back – probably almost as far as breads and cakes. Certainly the Romans were dumping stuff into their barley mash. By the Middle Ages sweet cakes were called fruitcakes for the first recorded time. They used honey, since sugar, the wonder sweetener, didn’t come available until the discovery of America. Middle Age European cooks also used whichever appropriate spices they could get and whatever fruits were available. The Roman Church even got into the act – weakening the fasting regulations in the case of the North German fruitcakes. This was Innocent VIII in 1490. Considering the cost of spices and sweets and fruits in Western Europe at that time fruitcakes were very special indeed.

There is no one way to make fruitcake – and certainly no one way to make fruitcake cookies. It will vary from place to place and cook to cook. This is just one of many ways.

This amount will make about 8 dozen. Vary to suit your need.

2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)
300 g sugar (1-1/2 cups)
3 eggs, separated
430 g flour (3 cups)
210 g candied cherries, finely chopped (1/2 lb)
210 g candied pineapples, finely chopped (1/2 lb)
210 g golden raisins (1/2 lb)
500 g shelled pecans, finely chopped (1 quart)
3 g cinnamon (1 tsp)
1 g nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
3 g salt (1/2 tsp)
22 g dark rum (2 Tbs)
5 g baking soda dissolved in (1 tsp)
10 g hot water (1 Tbs)

The night before chop up the fruits if you didn’t buy them  already chopped. The easy way is just shove it through a food processor. Pour the rum over the fruit and let it sit at least one night in a tightly covered container. More time doesn’t hurt anything.

Cream the butter and sugar together completely. Add in the egg yolks.

Mix in the flour and the spices. When it is pretty completely mixed add in the fruit, nuts, and anything else that is going in except the egg whites. It may be kind of like biscuits – pea sized and crumbly – but that is fine.

Whip the egg whites until they are very stiff and blend into the batter.

Grease up cookie sheets with Crisco and drop teaspoon sized onto the sheets. Bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.

Chả Giò (Vietnamese Spring Rolls) and Nước chấm (Southeast Asian Fish Sauce)

25 February 11
Chả giò

Image via Wikipedia

Chả Giò (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)

This is one of the most magical tastes in the world. Chả giò translates as minced pork roll. What we have here a basic kitchen sink recipe. You can put in whatever you have on hand that appeals to your taste buds. This is just the basic, jazz up or down as you like. You can make ‘em strictly vegan if you like. We like protein. Well, I suppose you could use some hard tofu for protein, but it is not quite the same.

2 oz cellophane noodles OR rice vermicelli
vegetable oil (peanut works well)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (your taste rules)
4 oz shrimp, raw, peeled, deveined and chopped
4 oz pork, minced OR fine chopped chicken
1 carrot, grated
3 green onions, sliced
1 oz mung bean sprouts OR 3-4 Napa cabbage leaves
2 tsp nước chấm (fish sauce)


2 Tbs Vietnamese chile sauce
2 tsp cornstarch (optional)
2 tsp water, cold (optional)
~32 spring roll wrappers

Boil the cellophane noodles for about 5 minutes. You can also use rice vermicelli if you can’t find the noodles. Drain and cool a bit and then cut into 1 inch pieces. You don’t need to get fancy, just dump them out of the strainer onto your cutting board and chop them up in 1 inch strips, then cut another path of 1 inch strips at right angles. Set aside on a plate.

You should use a wok if you’ve got one, if not, a large skillet will do. Put a little oil in the wok and when it is hot add the chopped garlic. You do know how to tell if the oil is hot enough, don’t you? OK, simple: shove the end of a chopstick into the oil, vertically, to rest on the bottom of the wok. If you see bubbles coming up the oil is hot enough, if no bubbles, it is not hot yet. When the garlic aroma starts to diffuse (about 45 seconds) add in the meat. Pork is traditional, but chicken is also good. When it is just about halfway done add in the shrimp. When they are done take them out and chop fine. Add everything to the pan – meat, veggies, fish sauce, chile sauce, and noodles. If you don’t have bean sprouts you can use 3 to 4 leaves of fine shredded Napa cabbage. Cook until the veggies, particularly the carrots, are softened. Immediately transfer to a plate and let it cool down.

Wrappers: What you want is the Chinese wrappers which are wheat based and need refrigeration; they are not rice paper. Rice paper is mostly for the uncooked party rolls and can be a whole lot of fun to handle. If you have trouble getting the flap to stick down mix up the cornstarch and water so you can glue it down. Keep a damp (almost wet) towel over your skin stack as you work, otherwise they will get dry and unworkable. (You could do something radical like follow the directions on the skin package.) If you can’t find them at the local grocery try to find an Asian store. They will have them. Our local Publix does not carry them, but they do stock egg roll skins. Not quite the same, but they could be used in a pinch.

If you’ve got square skins set with a corner pointing directly at yourself. If they are round, it doesn’t matter. Put a tablespoon full of cooled filling in the skin off center near yourself. Fold the bottom up and around the filling, fold in the sides, and roll from the bottom into a tight cylinder. For Vietnamese style they should be rather long and thin. The Chinese style rolls are shorter and fatter. Brush the edge with the cornstarch water mixture if you need it to seal. Chinese skins don’t always need the extra since they are wheat based. Square skins tend to seal a little better also. If you have trouble there are beau-coup videos on the web showing how to roll them.

You can fry them up with the same wok you used earlier. You will need enough oil to float the rolls about 4 at a time. I use a deep fryer, specifically a Cool Daddy, or an electric skillet because it is much easier. Anyway, get the oil between 325°F and 350°F. Cook them between 1 minute and 5 minutes, depending on the inside goodies and your individual taste. Let them drain and cool for a little while and then serve with nước chấm (dipping sauce).

Just for info: most of the stuff is actually made in Thailand or Taiwan and is quite satisfactory. Vietnam is still not exactly a favored trading partner.

Nước chấm (Southeast Asian Dipping Sauce)

This is the basic Vietnamese fish sauce the secondhand smell of which every GI shipped to Southeast Asia in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s learned to identify. The Vietnamese would curl up and die without their fish sauce. The smell gave away many an ambush in the jungle. You can get the basic ingredients on the internet or at a local Asian grocery. If your grocery has much of an international selection you may find it there. If there is a Whole Foods near you, you probably can find much (or all) of what you need there. Good luck.

You can’t say that there is any one way to make the dipping sauce that goes so beautifully with spring rolls and egg rolls and the like. I’ll give you the basic basic, but the variations are endless and are totally up to you. And when you get it to your liking it is now the dipping sauce known as nước chấm.

The basic ingredients:

2 parts water
1 part sugar
1 part lime/lemon juice. Fresh is best, but bottled juice will work in a pinch.
1 part fish sauce (nước mắm)
Optional additions:
garlic, minced
minced Serrano peppers or
minced small chili peppers or
chili paste
rice vinegar

It best to heat the water and stir in the sugar while the water is hot, then set aside to cool. You get much better combination this way. After things cool down add the citrus juice and the fish sauce and stir together. That’s it. You now have the basic dunking sauce. However, I do not regard the garlic or the rice vinegar as optional. I think the sauce is incomplete without it. My normal would be 1/4 cup water, 1/8 cup sugar, 1/8 cup fish sauce, 1 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 cloves garlic, minced. I’m not a big fan of peppers so mostly I don’t.

Also however – big time. There is no cast in stone way to make this stuff, the proportions and ingredients vary all over the map. If you want more or less of any given ingredient – fine. If you want to add something else or subtract something – also fine. The only constant is that there is fish sauce in there somewhere. And even so there are a million and one different kinds of fish sauce. Mostly the stuff I’m used to is fermented anchovy based, but there are many other variations. Experiment. Enjoy.


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