Tương Ớt - Chilli Sauce

Jalepeno is a mild pepper for some. It's too hot for me. I'm weak sauce. I know. I've been told. But the heat and flavors from peppers add dimensions to many dishes that I would be remiss if it was omitted. Naturally, I planted a few pepper plants in the garden each year. The sweets peppers frequently end up in a stir fry or eaten raw dipped in hummus. The mild ones like shishito peppers are blistered on a hot cast iron pan, sprinkled with sea salt and served. The hot ones. Oh the hot ones, we make our own version of sriracha! 

Tương Ớt - Chilli Sauce

Ingredients - May also be a good idea to do this in a really well ventilated area. I move this operation outside!

~12 oz red chili peppers or peppers of your choice

~5 oz tomatoes

1 head garlic, peeled and make into paste

1/2 cup water

4 tbsp vegetable oil

5-6 shallots, sliced thin

1/2 tsp salt

4 tbsp sugar


Using a paring knife, make an X at the bottom of tomatoes. Halved peppers lengthwise. In a large pot, bring water (separate from the 1/2 cup water in list) to a boil and blanch tomatoes and peppers. Peel tomatoes, remove seeds and dice. Wear gloves (I was really sorry I didn't the first time I handle hot peppers!) to remove pepper seeds and cut into small chunks. Pulse tomatoes, peppers and 1/2 cup water in a blender.

In a large pan over medium high heat, fry shallots and garlic in oil until lightly brown. Then add the pepper mix along with salt and sugar into the pan. Stir and let the mixture simmer until sauce reduces and thickens.  Remember to stir occasionally. Allow the sauce to cool completely before transferring for storage. Add a layer of oil on top to avoid discoloration and mold. 



Tien Hung
Phở Gà - Chicken Pho Noodle Soup

Growing up, I did not like beef phở. Blasphemy I know! When you're a little kid, the strong spices married with charred ginger and onions used to balance the beefiness in the broth were overwhelming to me. Every time my mom made beef pho, our house reeked pho for days. I smelled like pho. It was in our clothes, hair... just everywhere. I always ask my mom to make Hủ Tiếu (Phnom Penh Noodle Soup) or chicken phở. Both soups are milder in that less fragrant spices are used but equally tasty and flavorful. As an adult, I love to make chicken pho since it requires less time to make than the beef version. Hands down a win for busy mommies! If you like, see the following for how we make our version.

Phở Gà - Chicken Pho Noodle Soup


1 whole chicken

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2-3 scalions (or 1 small leek); additional to be sliced for garnishing

2 thumb size knobs of ginger, peeled (one sliced to be stuffed in chicken and one for charring to add to broth)

4 qt water

1 medium sweet onion, peeled

3-4 shallots, peeled

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 bunch of basil

1 bunch cilantro/culantro, sliced thin


Start by rubbing salt on chicken skin to clean. Rinse well under cold water and drain. Stuff sliced ginger and scallion/leeks into the chicken cavity. In a stockpot, add chicken, water, salt, sugar, sweet onion and bring to a boil. Skim scum as it floats to the top. Reduce heat to low when water boiled and cook chicken (30-45 min depending on size chicken) with pot uncovered until tender. Try to keep the same volume of water. If you noticed volume reduced, add only hot water to keep broth clear. Continue skimming the broth. 

While chicken is cooking, broil shallots and ginger. If you prefer, char it over stovetop. Scrape off any charred bits and rinse under warm water.  Toast coriander seeds over medium low heat until fragrant. Toss everything into a spice bag or tie in cheesecloth. Add to broth ~30 min before serving.

After 30-45 min, remove chicken from broth and pierce with thermometer to make sure internal temperature of the thickest part reads 165 or the juice runs clear and is not pink. Rinse it under cold water and set aside to cool. Once cooled, debone and slice into bite-size pieces. Adjust the taste of the broth with salt and sugar as needed.

To make your pho bowls, follow the direction on noodle package to prepare the noodles. In the meantime, bring the broth back to a boil.  Fill the serving bowls 1/3 of the way with noodles. Top with chicken pieces, sliced cilantro/culantro and scallions. Add the broth. Serve with basil, lime wedges, chili (if you like it spicy) along with condiments like sriracha, hoisin, or fish sauce are optional.


Rey + Vi Favorite Pancakes

Today is the royal wedding day. We celebrate Prince Harry and Meghan by eating our favorite yogurt pancakes in our pajamas and watching the live broadcast of the ceremony.



3/4 cup of all purpose flour

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

2 eggs

1 cup keffir 

Canola oil for cooking


In a large bowl, combine well the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt.  In another bowl, whisk egg and keffir until smooth. Pour flour mixture into keffir mixture and mix everything together. It's ok if it's still lumpy. 

Set nonstick pan over low medium heat. Make sure pan is evenly heated before drizzling in canola oil. Using tablespoon to form pancakes that are about 2 -3 inches in diameter. Flip when bubbles form surface and cook until lightly browned. Serve with maple syrup and/or favorite fruits.

One Carrot Goal

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother growing carrots when a bag of organically grown carrots is 99 cents at the supermarket! There are a few reasons why we choose to grown our own. Homegrown carrots have not traveled X thousands of miles. No one else handle them other than the gardener from start to finish. But the reason above all is I live for the smiles radiating from our daughters' faces as the bright colorful roots come out of the ground. Alas, we live in Miami, FL where tropical monsoon is our climate and growing sweet carrots can be a challenge.

The sweet or bitter taste of carrots depends on both the environment and genetics. I am not a carrot expert by any stretch of the imagination although it would be pretty neat to be an expert at something. But here goes a couple things I consider when growing carrots in our growing zone. 

Choosing the right variety for our zone. The genetic bit to consider. Miami is hot. It's a must to go with cultivars that have high heat tolerance and disease resistance. New Kuroda is a Chantenay type favored for its heat tolerance and was bred for subtropical climate. Sunrise Red is another that was specifically bred for TROPICAL and subtropical climate. Mokum is a variety from Johnny Seeds I would like to try because they're supposed to be sweet even in warm weather. 

Cultivating methods. When nights are warmer, carrots spend the sugars as part of respiration rather than storing it. Mulch and mulch to keep soil nice and cool. 

Time of day to harvest. Carrots undergo photosynthesis during the day to make sugars. From my readings, the best time to harvest is at the end of the day when the sugar content is high. When the sugar content is high, it masks the unpleasant bitter taste. This is especially true when night time temperature is above the desirable of 50s and the sugars are spent on respiration.

So what to do if you end up with a bumper harvest of ahem... bitter carrots? Definitely don't throw it out! It's perfectly safe to eat. Question though what to do to make it palatable and dare I ask delicious. The best suggestion I learned is to cook them for a long time to draw out the sugar therefore sweetness. Also nothing tempers bitter better than salt. Season well without oversalting! Here’s a recipe to try carrots bitter or not. 



2 lbs carrots, sliced at an angle 1/4 inches thick

4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tbsp miso paste

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tbsp canola oil

1/2 cup scallion, sliced

Sesame for garnishing


Bring a pot of water to a boil, blanched carrots 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Beat butter, miso, sugar, vinegar and sugar in a medium bowl. Heat canola oil over high heat in a flat bottomed skillet. Add carrots and allow to char (at high heat it happens fairly quick). Add miso butter and sliced scallions reserving some garnishing at the end. Toss carrots until butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat. Serve on large plate garnish with remaining scallions and sesame seeds.








Chè Chuối - Vietnamese Banana Tapioca Pudding

Che Chuoi is one of my favorite desert. Manzano bananas have the best texture to use for this dessert. The chiquita type bananas get mushy and doesn’t hold together. 

Chè Chuối - Vietnamese Banana Tapioca Pudding


~10 manzano banana

1/4 cup peanuts, toasted and crushed

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup tapioca pearls, small size not the boba tea ones

A pinch of salt

1 tbsp vanilla if you don’t have access to panda leaves. 

1 cup coconut cream

2 cups water


Make sure bananas are really ripe. Peel. Leave whole or cut into chunks. Marinate bananas with salt and sugar. Set aside for about 20 minutes. 


Bring water to a boil (with pandan leaves tied in knots if using). Add tapioca pearls. When the tapioca pearls are cooked (translucent), add bananas and let it simmer for a little. Stir in coconut cream. Turn off heat, remove pot from the stove and add vanilla (omit if using pandan). Served warm or room temperature. (I like it cold straight from the fridge too.) Add the crushed peanuts on top when serving.