Shrimp in Achioto Oil

Calamansi and Annato
Butter Meets Peanut Oil

Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce

Besides the Caribbean region and parts of Latin America, the Philippines is one place where Achiote (or Annato) seeds are used iin cooking. It occurs in dishes like Kare-Kare Continue reading

Beef and Shrimp Balls in Lettuce Cups / Cha Gio

A Vietnamese Fusion Dish
Memories of Old Saigon

Cooking with Vietnamese Nuoc Mam Fish Sauce

Fish Sauce

Beef and Shrimp Balls, or Cha Cio, are a classic of Vietnamese cuisine, with a variety of recipes and versions.

The Beef may be a part of the Northern heritage in Vietnamese cuisine, as Beef appears rather frequently as an ingredient in the country’s cooking.

Beef and Shrimp Balls in Lettuce Cups
Cha Gio

Vietnamese Fusion


Shaoxing Wine2 ounces Mung Bean Noodles (Cellophane Noodles)
½ pound Ground Beef
¼ pound raw Shrimp, ground
2 teaspoons Ginger, freshly grated
1 tablespoon Chinese Shao Xing Wine or Dry Sherry
2 teaspoons minced Garlic
1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
½ teaspoon Sugar

For the Sauce:

3 tablespoons Nam Pla, Fish Sauce
3 tablespoons Water
Juice  of half a Lime
1 tablespoons Sugar
1 clove Garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon dried hot Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

For the Garnish:

12 Boston Lettuce leaves
12 Coriander leaves
12 fresh Mint leaves
12 Green Onion pieces, each 2 inches long




First, soak the Mung Bean Noodles in warm Water for 30 seconds and then drain them thoroughly.  Chop them into small pieces and put them in a large bowl.  Add the Pork, Shrimp, Ginger, Wine, Garlic, Vegetable Oil, Salt and Pepper.  Mix well to combine.

Divide this mixture into 12 portions and shape them into oval sausage-like pieces about an inch thick and set aside.

To make the Sauce, mix all the ingredients.  Ladle into four small serving dishes to ber used for dipping.

To prepare the dish, cook the Beef/Shrimp Balls in a hot broiler or over white-hot charcoal grill.  If you use charcoal, they should be 6 inches from the charcoal, and turn them until they are thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes.

To serve, use one Lettuce leaf for each ball.  Top with Coriander leaf, a Mint leaf and Green Onion piece in the center of the Lettuce Leaf. Add one meat ball, wrap the Lettuce leaf to enclose the fillings.  Dip the end of the fitted leaf into the dipping sauce and enjoy them.  You may dip as often as you like in the sauce.

The recipe makes appetizers for four to six persons. Soaking time is about half an hour, and preparation would take about 20 minutes. The dish cooks rather quickly, say another 10 minutes once everything is ready.


Viet Nam - Saigon 1966 - Cyclopousses

Singapore Peanut Sauce

For Satay or Gado Gado
Galangal Mees Kemerie Meets Tamarind

Galangal, an important Southeast Asian spice


Peanut Sauces are popular in Southeast Asian cuisines.  So, we have a Thai Peanut Sauce, and Indonesian Peanut Sauce, both of which might go with foods like Satay and salads like Gado Gado.

Singapore Cuisine has its own version of Peanut Sauce.  This is good with Satay and also can be used as a dressing for a Gado Gado salad.

This sauce takes about 10 minutes to prepare and about 15 minutes to cook. It makes about a cup and a half

Special ingredients include Galangal, Tamarind and Kemerie or Candlenuts, as well as Lemongrass.  The Candlenuts are sometimes difficult to find; Almonds can be substituted.

Peanut Sauce



Tamarind Juice, Thailand origin

Tamarind Juice

2 ounces Tamarind Pulp (may substitute Lime juice in a pinch)
2 cups Water
3 Kemerie (Candlenuts) — or could substitute Macadamia nuts or Almonds
½ ounce Galangal or 1½ teaspoons powdered Galangal
15 small dried Red Chilies
1 stalk Lemongrass
3 cloves Garlic
1 teaspoon Shrimp Paste
1 Shallot or 2 tablespoons minced Onions
½ cup Vegetable Oil

1 cup toasted unsalted Peanuts
¼ cup Sugar
½ teaspoon Rice Vinegar or Malt Vinegar
¾ teaspoon Salt


First, mix the Tamarind Pulp with Water and strain it through a fine sieve.  You can also use the more refined Tamarind Juice from Thailand.

Prepare the Peanuts, by shelling them, and powdering them finely.   Originally this would be done in a mortar and pestle.  A blender or food processor works fine.

You want to do the other minor preparation — crush the Candlenuts or Macadamia Nuts coarsely, blanch and skin the Almonds if that is what you are using.,

Soak the Red Chilies in warm water and drain off the excess water.  This could be done while preparing the Peanuts.

The Garlic or Shallots need to be peeled and then minced.

The Lemongrass should be smashed lightly; the side of a heavy cleaver works well for this.

When all the preliminary preparation is ready, put the Candlenuts or whatever nuts are used, the Galangal, Chilies, Lemongrass, Garlic, Shrimp Paste and Shallots into a grinder or blender.  Process until very fine.

Then heat the Oil in a large hot saucepan or wok until the Oil is also hot.  Then add the Nut mixture, dry, stirring constantly, until it is fragrant.  Stir in the Peanuts, strained Tamarind liquid, the Sugar, Vinegar and Salt.

Boil these gently, uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring well while cooking.

Cool the sauce and allow the spices to infuse their fragrance into the Peanuts.

The sauce is served at room temperature, with Satay or Gado Gado salad. Recipe adapted from Violet Ooon.

Singapore - Skyline


Thai Cuisine

Hot, Sweet, Salty, Sour and Bitter
Variety in Flavor, Ingredients, Color

“Food is eaten not just for nourishment. For a Thai, it is an art, a topic of conversation, a source of pleasure.” — Kreesnee Ruangkritya [1]

Deva sculpture, Thailand 15th century

Deva, Thailand, 15th cent.

The core concepts of Thai cooking are hot, sweet, salty, sour and bitter.  A well-designed meal offers a variety in flavors, preparation methods, ingredients, and color.

So if a Red Curry is the main dish, the cook woul Continue reading