RECIPES FOR LUNAR NEW YEAR 2014 – PICKLES WEEK

It’s getting close to Lunar New Year (January 31, 2014), I am extremely over-excited at preparing foods, cleaning up and decorating the house. Lunar New Year festival is the biggest holiday in Vietnam; in fact, it is as big as Chinese New Year and many Southeast Asia countries celebrate their New Year on the same day such as China, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Japan.
 
Vietnamese people call Lunar New Year is Tet Nguyen Dan, and we celebrate this festival at least three days up to two weeks (depend on family’s financial). Plenty of foods will be cooked and served for families and guests within fun atmosphere and respectful attitude. People bring gifts to visit each other’s house; adults never forget to bless and give out red pocket stuffed with cash to children.
 
Popular Tet dishes include banh chung, a square-shape, sweet rice cake stuffed with mung beans and pork & banh day, a white round shaped, sticky rice with pork. It’s usually eaten with dua mon, a mixture of pickled radishes, peppers, carrots and other vegetables. Favoured snacks are dried watermelon seeds and candied ginger, coconut, pineapple, kumquat, orange and tamarind… I usually prepare different types of pickles firsts since they take longer time to fermented. Pickles are important side dishes to eat along with other Vietnamese dishes, just like burger cannot be without pickles. So let’s make it together!

Vietnamese Pickled Bean Sprout (Dua Gia)

Vietnamese Pickled Bean Sprout (Dua Gia)

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces fresh Asian bean sprouts
  • 2 ounces sliced thin carrots, 3 inches lengthwise
  • 3 ounces sliced chives, trimmed and cut into 3 inches lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Wash and prepare all vegetable ingredients (carrot, chives and Asian bean sprouts)
  2. In a separate large bowl, pour water then add salt, sugar and vinegar. Mix well
  3. Add all vegetables into the bowl. Leave it for 20 minutes.
  4. After 20 minutes, the part that soak in liquid mixture will get softer. Now, you need to use chopsticks or hands to mix the vegetables up side down, leave it for 20 more minutes.
  5. Transfer everything into a clear jar or container. For fermented vegetable, cover tightly and let stand at room temperature for about 24 hours before put in a fridge.

Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens (Dua Chua)

Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens (Dua Chua)

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb large head of Asian mustard greens
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. sugar

*Do not add vinegar, let it has natural sweet and sour taste.

Directions:

  1. Break the mustard greens leaves apart and clean thoroughly under running water.
  2. Cut the leaves to desired size, about 1-2 inches pieces. Make sure wash carefully before drain them.
  3. Combine water, salt, and sugar in a pot and bring almost to a boil. Turn off heat and wait until water completely cools. 
  4. Add all the vegetables into an empty jar or container, making sure everything is submerged. Leave your container at room temperature so it can pickle. Taste a piece every 24 hours until it gets sour enough for your taste, then transfer to the fridge.

Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi

Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi

Ingredients:

  • 3 large cucumbers (or 6 in small size)
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 6 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. Korean red chilies flakes
  • 2 ounces sliced chives, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces thin slices carrot, use mandolin to slice carrot evenly
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Wash and cut cucumber into 3 inches long, then cut quarter it lengthwise (not all the way of cucumber, leave about 1 inch at the bottom)
  2. Soak cucumber with 3 cup hot water and 1 cup of sea salt. Leave it in hot water for 45 minutes. After that, take cucumbers out and soak in cold water to help keeping the crispness (20 minutes) then drain them.
  3. In separate bowl mix minced garlic, minced ginger, salt, sugar, sesame oil, red chillies flakes, fish sauce, carrot sliced and chives all together.Stuff carefully each cucumber with the filling, and try not to break them.
  4. Put all cucumbers in a jar, cover lid and leave in room temperature for at least one day before store in a fridge.

I really hope you enjoy those pickles recipes. Next time I will post banana flower salad recipe, please keep checking my blog for new easy-to-make recipes every week.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

ZERO TO HERO: 30 DAYS TO A BETTER BLOG – DAY 6 & 7

I usually have two posts every week but since I join the  Zero to Hero: 30-Days blog challenge, I have blogged everyday (that is good to refresh myself and keep me actively on WordPress community).

DAY 6: PUBLISH A POST THAT INCLUDES A NEW ELEMENT

Today is still very cold in Toronto, Canada, around -20 degree but feel like -32 Celsius with wind chill; however, it is sunny outside – so it is a positive point to enjoy Winter. Since day 6 challenge request bloggers post something new, I decide to post a song that I just accidentally listen and fall in love with the lyrics while sipping my lotus tea. I find French accents is so soft, smooth and easy-listening and the song is called “Sophie Roux” by Lady Danville.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUxz4fSwyWc

Lyrics (in French/English):

Sometimes I wanna run and hide
I can’t even explain what I’m feeling inside
You say my name and let me go
Gonna have to work with what I already know

Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)

J’ai fais un voyage à Marseille
(I traveled to Marseille)
L’amour pour moi en France c’était comme une merveille
(For me the love in France was like wonder)
Elle fais un tour dans ma tête
(It makes a round in my head)
La vie à Marseille n’est plus juste un arrêt
(Life in Marseille is only a station)

Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)

Amour perdu à Marseille,
(A lost love in Marseille)
Histoire triste… ça je sais
(Sad story… I know that)
Histoire triste… ça je sais
(Sad story… I know that)
Histoire triste… ça je sais
(Sad story… I know that)
Histoire triste… ça je sais
(Sad story… I know that)

Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)
Je m’appelle Sophie Roux, comment allez-vous?
(My name is Sophie Roux, how are you?)

Sophie Roux
Sophie Roux
Je suis là…
(I’m here…)

"Chicken noodle soup"- Taken by Dylan + Jeni
“Chicken noodle soup”- Taken by Dylan + Jeni

DAY 7: DO SOME MORE PERSONALIZING

By any change, do you see my new background? Yes, it is a picture of Pink Chopstickspoon, taken by Dylan + Jeni when they visit Singapore.

I am always a big fan of their website – they take beautiful pictures wherever they go, edit and post on their site. Just by looking at their photos, especially foods images, make me feel like I am in the journey to those countries and have eaten those delicious foods too. One of the Southeast Asia countries they had traveled to is Vietnam, my lovely-sweety hometown :D; I could see my childhood in their picture captures and then try to remember the taste of real foods I used to eat in Vietnam.

Taken by Dylan + Jeni [ also on Eat, Drink + Be Merry website]
Taken by Dylan + Jeni [ also on Eat, Drink + Be Merry website]

 

Zero to Hero 30-Day Blog Challenge: DAY 4 & 5

DAY 4: EXPLORE THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Thank you for this challenge. There are so many great food blogs out there and today I have found and followed these new amazing blogs:

Can I have little Tastearoo

Morning stories 

Warmhotchocolate

Whistle and Blaster 

Foodie Spy

zero-to-hero-badge

DAY 5: LOVE YOUR THEME

Hmm…challenge of day 5 is quiet interesting. It really makes me thinking hard about other themes I would try to blog out (although I am happy with my Chopstickspoon food blog).

The first theme I would try is “Do It Yourself – DIY” – I love, love, and love craft. I could spend hundreds of hours to fold Origami & Kirigami, make scrap books, decorate furnitures in-house, play around with washi tapes, create cute little greeting cards, and design old materials to become household tools. Yes, I admit that I am obsessed with doing everything by myself, even my wedding was DIY theme as well…haha

I don’t think I will ever create a blog about “Politic” since I am so bad with it. Although I read newspapers and watch news on TV plus online but blogging about politic requires a thoughtful mind and a sharp look to describe issues…

Finally “Fashion & Beauty” could be another theme I would love to write about too. Just like other young female adults, I love to dress nice like a lady, put make up on and wear different accessories. But I won’t choose to blog about it because shopping is not my strength since I don’t like to wait in a long line or spend hours to look around. I usually walk quickly into the stores, scan a quick look and pay for what I really like then walk out. Also, My favourite beauty make-up Gugu is Michelle Phan. She is also Vietnamese and so artistic about what she is doing. If I ever create a blog about beauty, for sure I will end up write too many posts about her 😀

I had to asked my friend in New irk to order and ship to Canada to me since Em Cosmetic don't ship to international.
I had to asked my friend in New York to order and ship to Canada to me since Em Cosmetic don’t do international shipping.

**Counting down: 25 more days to overcome the 30-Day Blog challenge**

Happy Blogging!!

Zero to Hero 30-Day Blog Challenge: DAY 1, 2 & 3

To start a new year, I decided to challenge myself in Zero to Hero 30-Day Blog Challenge although I just joined the WordPress community in October 2013. This would be a fun experience, so here it is….!

zero-to-hero-badge

Day One: introduce yourself! Publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post.

Day Two: What’s your name?

Day Three: What’s on your mind?

Who I Am & What’s My Blog:

Hi everyone, my name is Ann. I create a blog, chopstickspoon – stories of foods and life. I post different recipes that I’ve learned from my grandmother, mother, cook books, online as well as self-taught.

Why I Am Here & What’s On My Mind?:

To be honest, for many years I hadn’t had any thought about blogging before, but one thing for sure is that I love to eat, cook, go to different restaurants, and take tons of food pictures. Whenever I make something, I always bring to my families, friends and even neighbours to get their feedbacks.

I have a habit of watching cooking video clips on YouTube and browsing recipes from other websites everyday. (It is the reason I always end up to go to sleep so late at night). One day, my husband suggested me to do my website or blog to post the foods I make, restaurants/ gourmet shops I visit and photos I take. “Making a website or blog?? Are you kidding me?? It is not an easy job; in fact, I really don’t know how to blog!!” He showed me couple free websites and blogs and I decided to go with WordPress since it has clean and sleek appearance. I started to type something…added pictures…delete what I wrote…then re-wrote…posted…waited…and then got A VERY FIRST LIKE!! I was jumping up and down like a little kid and start blogging since then.

Being in the community is like having more friends, who share same interests, support and cheer up with my posts. Thank you everyone to like and follow my blog. You are awesome new friends I’ve made through WordPress!!

Happy Blogging!!

Month of December, 2013 – “I AM GRATEFUL” Jar

 
Time fly so fast! It comes to the end of the year 2013, and hopefully new year 2014 will open with more promises, luck, opportunities and happiness in life for everyone.
 
1. First I am thankful for being born as a girl, so that I could experience the roles of daughter and wife (Hopefully I could become a mom in a near future too)
 
2. I am grateful for getting older every year. I’ve learned a lot through mistake – it is not easy to overcome all challenges, but there are always ways to solve those problems.
 
3. I am also thankful for having a roof over my head. (I know I say this many times, but I’ve never understood as deeply as I do now – I just experienced with power outage for 4 days in the Greater of Toronto, Canada, after a massive ice storm hit us. The worst was that it happened in winter time, people had to stay in dark and cold places, in fact, some people died because of  breathing carbon monoxide poisoning. Fortunately we got power back after couples days, imagine other people have to live on street from month to month. Only 4 days without hydro power but enough for me to realized how lucky I am to have a home, family and friends)
 
4. Finally I am grateful for all different recipes out there. Some recipes are easy to follow, some are not, but I am still thank you for everyone, who post and share their recipes online for others. I’ve learned and made many dishes, desserts, as well as drinks. (Poor my family have to taste all of those foods, doesn’t matter how good or bad they are). I am proud to say that my future children will enjoy their mama’s foods just as much as I love my grandma’s and mommy’s foods.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What are you grateful for? (Write quick notes about something you are grateful for and put in a jar. At the end of the month, read each note and appreciate all the blessing in your life, either big or small)

Good luck!

OH, HOW SWEET TO RECEIVE THE “WORDPRESS FAMILY” & “INNER PEACE” AWARDS”!!

WOW! I JUST GOT MY FIRST AWARDS!

When I checked notifications, I just realized that British Blokes Cooking nominated Chopstickspoon for the WordPress Family” Award and the “Inner Peace” Award This is my very first time to receive two awards at the same time and I am so thankful to both awesome BBC1 & BBC2 for nominating me for this award! (You should see the way I jumped up and down because of joy and happiness. I admit that getting this award is like receiving one of wonderful presents on the Holidays!)

However, the best part of receiving an award in the blogging community is not the receiving itself but the opportunity to pass it to others. I love everyone’s blog – they are all unique in their own ways and absolutely deserve this award for doing great on posting yummy recipes, cool DIY ideas, personal stories/thoughts and food porn photographs.

For the ‘WordPress Family Award’ & ‘Inner Peace Award’, here are my  nominations ( in alphabetical order), please check them out and hope you like their blogs as much as I do.

Bite by Michelle

British Blokes Cooking

city julep

Delicious Daydreams

Eul Culinar

Fae’s Twist & Tango

fudgingahead

kabcphotography

Kitchen Bound

Lattes and Leggings

Making it with Danielle

Miss Spicy Hat n’ Sugar Socks

Patrons of the Pit

The Craving Project

The Hungry Artist

Victoria Bakes

We Call Him Yes!Chef!

Wordpress Family award

The rules for I’m a part of the WordPress Family Award are:

  1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and a link back.
  3. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for I’m a part of the WordPress Family Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
  4. Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.
Inner Peace Award

SALTED CARAMEL TOFFEE

PhotoGrid_1386623053204[1]

It starts to look like a white Christmas in Canada with snow although there are still 14 more days to go. People go crazy with shopping, decorating and making special plans for the holidays. This year I have decided to make some homemade foods such as Salted Caramel Toffee for giving away to family and friends – nothing can beat homemade comfort foods.

Salted Caramel Toffee ingredients

Caramel ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whipping cream (you can use condensed milk to cut cooking time)

1 cup granulated white sugar

2/3 cup natural Coconut sweetener (I try to keep somewhat healthy but you can use brown sugar)

1/3 cup pure honey (Corn syrup or Maple syrup is fine to use too)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (or kosher salt)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Other ingredients: parchment paper (I have never seen anything that stick on parchment paper), square or triangle mold, spatula, an ice water bowl, and a cooking pot (in large size)

 PhotoGrid_1386621069908[1]

Directions:

Over medium heat, put whipping cream, granulated white sugar, coconut sweetener and honey in the cooking pot. Stir gently and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes. During the cooking time do not stir the sugar mixture.

 

Now this is an interesting but important step – Use a teaspoon to get some caramel sugar liquid and drop into an ice water bowl.  The ice water will make the caramel sugar drops cool down quickly; feel its texture. If caramel is firm but still somewhat soft and chewy, that’s the right texture you should get (we don’t want it too hard like rock or too runny)

 

Add unsalted butter, sea salt and vanilla extract, and then stir to blend all ingredients well together. Cook for 5 more minutes, the caramel should have an amber dark brown color.

 

Turn off heat. Carefully pour on to a mold that was covered with parchment papers. Leave it cool down in room temperature (usually it takes about 3 hours).

 

When the caramel completely cool down and has a firm, smooth and soft texture, cut it into bite sizes and wrap carefully in parchment papers.

 

Store in cool place, but if you want to keep for couple months, I recommend you to store in a fridge.

 

 

It has a sweet taste with a little twist of salt, which make Salted Caramel Toffee become tastier and balance in flavors. You can win anyone’s heart who has a serious sweet tooth (Trust me! It works all the time)

Salted Caramel Toffee #chopstickspoon

If the Salted Caramel Toffee doesn’t turn out the way you want, just don’t give up. It takes me couple times to meet the right texture, and I find candy thermometer won’t help much, it may even make you more confused. It is funny that I have to go back to the basic of how to cook with caramel I had learned from my grandma. In fact, she can use chopsticks to dip in caramel liquid, tries to rub the tip of chopsticks together, and then she knows if it ready or not. However, I have to use the ice water method; I guess I am not that professional in cooking like my grandma yet.

Having yourself joyful, lovely and happy Holidays with your love ones!!

“I AM GRATEFUL” Jar

At the end of November, I AM GRATEFUL for:

1. Passing the G driver license

2. Having two places I could call homes – Toronto & Montreal

3. My parents and parents-in-law, that they are still alive and be healthy

4. Never being hungry or without a roof over my head.

5. My soul mate husband, who understands something I am going through and always be there for me when needed

6. Being able to cook and prepare meals everyday

7. Traveling on our new car

8. Being myself and alive

9. Starting my own new blog (http://chopstickspoon.wordpress.com/)

10. Opening my mind to Buddha – learn to satisfy with what I have and appreciate little things in life

11. All the opportunities I’ve had so far in my life.

12. A one time delicious home-cooked dinner ready by my husband

13. Seeing a family close friend, who came from New York

14. Discovering new places in the city I am living

15. A smile

16. Meeting and making new friends

Image
One of my wedding photos – Props are made by me & Family tree is a gift from our cousin from the States

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What are you grateful for? (Write quick notes about something you are grateful for and put in a jar. At the end of the month, read each note and appreciate all the blessing in your life, either big or small)

Good luck!

Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life.Joel Osteen

One red bean fish cake for me , please!

 

Red bean fish cake
chopstickspoon.wordpress.com

Weather in Toronto, Canada is slowly changing from Autumn to Winter with a bit of sunlight, but I still feel colder than ever. Wrapped myself in a thick jacket, scarf, and a warm hat; I decided to go get some red bean fish cake.

Everything in Toronto is far; you have to drive at least half an hour if you want to buy something. In my case I had to drive about 1 hour to get to a Korean store that sells my favorite red bean fish cake. Sometimes I hate my random foods carvings!

After almost one hour drive long in the chilly weather, I got to Pat Oriental Foods (333 Dundas Street East, Mississauga, ON L5A 1X1). The smell of hot fresh red bean paste and flour on a waffle iron made me drool. “Can I have four fish cakes please?” -gave the vendor owner $5 dollar bill, I couldn’t wait to take a big bite….”MmmMmm, Yummmmyyy!”- It was so worth it!