I'm reporting in for my first month of my Vietnamese Cook-a-long using Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors cookbook by Andrea Nguyen. For January I might have been too ambitious by making two dishes from Chapter 1 "Gifts of the Mouth." I chose the pork and shrimp stuffed wontons and the stuffed squid.
I thought they were similar enough that I could make them both at the same time. Both the wontons and the stuffed squid had a base of ground pork, but that's pretty much where the similarities ended. The wontons' stuffing was pretty straightforward: just ground pork and shrimp. The squid reminded me of the Vietnamese pork stuffing I eat often: ground pork, mushrooms, clear bean noodles and seasoning. The squid stuffing also had chopped up tentacles. I love no waste recipes.
Let's start with the squid. I remember as child how I devoured rings of squid filled with a classic Vietnamese stuffing. I also have a vague memory of my mother standing at the counter stuffing them. My mom never allowed me to help her cook when I was younger, except for cutting wax paper sheets for her steamed buns. She'd shoo my sister and I out of the kitchen when she cooked. It wasn't until I was in college and begged to learn the recipes of the Vietnamese dishes I craved away at college that she taught me.
My mom didn't make the stuffed squid often. After stuffing these little suckers, now I know why. I didn't even have to clean the squid, which I know she did with hers. I could only find these little small frozen squid at my H-mart. The largest ones in the pack are about 3 inches long. Stuffing these tiny things were a pain in the rear. If I make the stuffed squid again, I will look for larger ones.
Even with all the work it took to stuff and fry them, they were delicious. The ginger lime sauce in Andrea's book is sublime. Its combination of sweet, sour, salty with gingery spiciness was classic Vietnamese flavors. This sauce totally made the dish. I have no idea if my mom served hers with any sauce though as a a kid I might have just skipped that option. I keep thinking about what else I can serve the ginger lime sauce with. Pan seared fish? I'm salivating thinking about it.
The wontons on the other hand were so easy to make. I made the filling the night before then the kids and I sat down to stuff them. Jaxson need a little help with his but Sophia folded and pressed the half moon shapes perfectly. Frying them was super simple. Andrea's recipe called for a homemade sweet and sour sauce. Usually the red orange sticky stuff from the Chinese buffet comes to mind. This version of the sauce was so good I saved the extra. It's super easy to make and takes less than 10 minutes.
I also had a ton of stuffing left from the squid recipe so I made wontons out of them too. I ended up freezing about 20 or so wontons for a future meal.
I served both small plates for dinner with steamed brown rice. The wontons were a hit with the kids. They loved its crunchiness (me too!). I don't like to do a lot of deep frying at home because it's not healthy and it's messy with the hot oil popping everywhere. I'm thinking these wontons will be a regular part of our repertoire.
Did you make something for the Vietnamese cook-a-long? Share your dish in the comments or link to your blog. I'll add your blog link to this post!
It's not too late to join in!All you have to do is pick up a copy of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors. For February, we are diving into Chapter 2 "Essential Soups." I'm not sure what I'm making yet, but right now it's between asparagus and crab soup or creamy corn and shiitake mushroom soup. Strangely enough, I've only had these soups at Vietnamese weddings. I'll report back to you on the last Wednesday of February.
This cook-a-long is not compensated by anyone or endorsed by the cookbook author Andrea Nguyen (I hope she'll share this with her followers though!) This post contains affiliate links.