Friday, October 8, 2010

Country VI: Vietnam

So today we visited Vietnam. As I searched for recipes all I kept coming up with was Beef Pho. I didn't want Beef Pho. So I searched some more. And searched, and finally came up with a recipe for Caramel Shrimp Banh Mi. It got bonus points for being a sandwich, because my husband loves almost everything that comes in sandwich form.
The recipe called for pickled carrots and daikon. These are super cool because they pickle in 1 hour. Which is quite speedy for pickling. Overall, these were both easy recipes, and everybody loves easy, right? Well, I like complicated and long recipes, but I'm kind of weird.
Anyway, started off with the pickled daikon and carrots. Daikon is pretty easy to find, most large super markets carry it. But I've found that it's usually cheaper if you buy it from Asian markets. The only other ingredients you will need are water, vinegar, salt and sugar. And containers in which to facilitate the pickling process. I wanted to buy just a couple canning jars for this, but since you apparently can't buy those in quantities of less than 500 million, I settled for some weird plastic containers.
 For those of you who don't know, Daikon is Asian radish. It tastes a lot like small, red radishes, but it is slightly milder.
That being said, peel the carrots and daikon and cut them into matchsticks. Yes, doing this is a bit of a pain in the neck (literally if you're like me), but it's kind of fun at the same time. (And yes, before you ask, I need to get myself a larger cutting board, haha.)

Pack them into separate containers and mix together the warm water, vinegar, salt and sugar until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Pour this over the carrots and daikon until it covers them. Refrigerate for an hour before eating. They will keep in the fridge for about 1 week.
Now when I tasted these, I thought that they were much, much to salty. DH thought they were amazing in every way. To each his own. If I made them again, I might use just a touch less salt.

On to the shrimp! First, you have to make the caramel. The thought of making caramel scares a lot of people. And it should, a lot of things can go wrong. I'm not going to say 'don't worry, it's easy, just try it.' Cause that's dumb. The sugar can burn easily, you can burn easily, smoke alarms can be set off, and a lot of sugar can be wasted. That being said, homemade caramel is delicious. So to start, take 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 2 Tbsp. of water and heat them over medium high heat until the caramel starts to turn dark brown. Not burnt, dark brown, but nice, yummy, caramel dark brown. It will get very bubbly:

DO NOT turn your back on this stuff. The instant you do it will burn and you'll have to start over. So, once it gets dark brown, carefully add 2 more Tbsp. of water. I say carefully, because once you start adding that water, the lava-hot molten sugar is going to start popping. Which means it could land on you if you're not careful, and you will burn and it will hurt. But if you add the water slowly and carefully enough, this shouldn't happen. Cook that until the sticky caramel dissolves. Then remove it from the heat and let it sit for a bit. This is what you should end up with.
Now, here are the ingredients for the shrimp:
In a skillet, saute the shallot and garlic in oil until they start to brown. Dump in the shrimp, fish sauce and caramel sauce. Cook until the shrimp turn pink.
Now all that's left is to assemble your sammich. In addition to the pickled daikon, carrot and shrimp, I used mayo and sliced cucumber. I put a chopped up red chili on DHs. I liked the shrimp, but didn't really care for the rest for the rest of the sandwich. So I gave mine to Erich and ate the rest of the pumpkin pie from yesterday :). Erich loved them. It's probably one of his favorites so far this month.
On a humorous side note: my cat just loves being helpful  in all sorts of different, imaginative ways. This is what she decided to do while I was glued to the stove cooking hot molten sugar:
                                                                        Good Kitty

Caramel Shrimp Banh Mi
For Shrimp:
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. water, divided
1 Tbsp. oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbs. fish sauce

Heat sugar and 2 Tbsp. water in a pa on medium high heat until it caramelizes ad turns a dark brow. Carefully add the remaining water and heat until caramel dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat oil in a pan and saute garlic and shallot for 3 to 5 minutes. Add shrimp, caramel, fish sauce and pepper to taste and cook until shrimp is pink
For Sandwiches:
1 baguette, cut into 4 sandwich lengths
4 Tbsp. mayo
Caramelized shrimp
1/4 cup each pickled carrot and daikon
1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
2 birds eye chilies, sliced, optional

Pickled Carrots and Daikon

2 cups warm water
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
4 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. salt (I would less if you want a less salty flavor)
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 lb daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Mix the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until sugar and salt dissolve. Place carrots and daikon into jars and cover with liquid.
Let pickls for at least an hour and store in the fridge for up to a week.

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