Walter’s Caesar Bún Riêu

As some of you may know th3hungrykitty is going to be the new series on my blog devoted to my family’s recipes.  My grandmother who is my inspiration and the reason why I love food so much, was also an amazing cook.  She died earlier last year and one of my biggest regrets is that I never learned her craft.  However, my mom (Kitty) did.

My nana and I
My nana and I

My grandmother and her family left China when she was 3 years old and settled in Vietnam where she met my grandfather, who owned and operated a hotel and restaurant.  As a result, our family repertoire includes many Vietnamese recipes as well.

So here we go with the inaugural post in th3hungrykitty series featuring bún riêu which is a soup noodle made primarily with crab paste, tomatoes and tamarind.  It is perhaps less mainstream than phở but not any less delicious!

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Walter’s Caesar, is an all-natural craft caesar mix containing all-natural ingredients.  Tomato paste, anchovies and tamarind extract are just a few to name and would therefore, be perfect for my bún riêu recipe.  I have never been a real fan of Caesars and the worldwide web really doesn’t need another uninspired cocktail recipe.

WALTER MEETS MEKONG

Recipe: Yields 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Walter’s Caesar Mix – Mildly Spiced, strained
  • 2 pork neck bones (if making soup broth from scratch)
  • 900mL chicken broth
  • 2 tbspns dried shrimp
  • Rock sugar
  • 1 package rice vermicelli
  • Salt
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced, divided into 2
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb ground pork, medium
  • 1 jar crab paste
  • 1-1/2 tbspns Cornstarch
  • 1 Egg, large
  • Nước mắm (fish sauce)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 package of fish balls (we like Tasty Brand)
  • 1 lb. shrimp (shell on, head on is preferred)
  • 1 tspn red chili paste (optional)
  • Daishiya (clam soup mix)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Fried shallots
  • Fresh mint
  • Scallions (optional)
  • Lime, cut into wedges

The first thing we did was defrost the fish balls and shrimp.  Then you make the soup.  My mom likes to make her own broth with pork neck bones but you can choose to skip that step and do the entire recipe with chicken broth (in which case you’ll need another 900mL carton).  I just like the milkiness and richness that the pork broth adds to the overall end result.

You will need to buy two pieces of pork neck bones; get the butcher to cut them into smaller pieces for you.  You will need to boil the bones twice; the first time to get rid of all the “dirty stuff” so that your broth comes out clear and not murky.  On the first boil, you just need to boil the pork until the blood stops running, then run it under some cold water.

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Bring another large stockpot of water to a boil, enough to cover the pork neck bones.  To it, add 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp (in a cheesecloth), and a lump of rock sugar.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a low heat and simmer for about 2 hours.

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In the meantime, cook the rice vermicelli until al dente (about 6-10 minutes).  Strain in a colander and add 1 tablespoon of salt, mix well into the noodles.  Then run the vermicelli through cold water until the water runs clear. Shake to remove excess water as you rinse.  Set aside.

Next, we make the pork meatballs.  Dice the tomatoes, squeezing out all the seeds and juices.  We use Roma tomatoes because they are firmer and will still hold its shape after the cooking process.  Dice the tomatoes, and divide in half.  Set aside.

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Combine the ground pork with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Mix until it has a “sticky” texture.  Add 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1-1/2 tablespoons of crab paste, 1-1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce.  Mix until combined.  Set aside.

meatball sauce

To make the tomato mixture, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in cast iron pan, to it add the minced garlic, half of the diced tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of crab paste, a piece of rock sugar and cook, until the mixture becomes pulp-like.  (See above, bottom right for guidance). Set aside.

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When 2 hours has passed, you will want to put the pork broth through a strainer so that you end up with only a clear liquid (as pictured above).  Discard the bones. Bring the soup back to a boil.  Add the strained Walter’s Caesar mix.  You will only want the clear liquid.  You can reserve the solids and use it in something like a spaghetti sauce, that’s what I did!

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Add the tomato mixture to the pork broth.  Add fish balls.  Once they bob back to the surface, remove them in a bowl. Set aside.

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Form meatballs with a spoon and drop into soup.  You will want to test the meatballs for firmness; if they break apart you’ll want to add another teaspoon of cornstarch to bind them.  Once they bob to the surface, remove and set aside in the same bowl with the fish balls.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add the shrimp until pink and cooked.  Remove from the soup and set aside (with the fish balls + meatballs).

Bring the soup back to a boil.  Add 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 2 pieces of rock sugar and daishiya.  Add 1 teaspoon of red chili paste if you want to add a bit of heat.

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To assemble, simply portion out the noodles.  I usually give it a nuke in the microwave with bean sprouts with about 1 ladle of broth.  Then add fish balls, meatballs and shrimp.  Ladle in some more soup and garnish with a sprig of mint, scallions and some fried shallots.  You may wish to skip the lime, but I personally like the extra tang it gives to the dish.

I had a lot of fun cooking with Walter’s Caesar mix.  It eliminates the cooking  time (e.g. having to make my own tamarind mixture).  Usually when my mom uses her own tamarind mixture I find the dish to be a little overly tart and using the Walter mix actually let the pureness of the pork broth come through more without it getting lost in a sea of tartness.

Thanks to Walter’s Caesar for giving me a chance to test out their artisan product in a family favorite.  Our household definitely gives it the seal of approval as you can taste the difference that natural, pure ingredients make.  The mix comes in 750mL bottles and currently retail for approximately $8.99.  You can either find them in these stores, or order online through these retailers.

Make sure you follow the hashtag #th3hungrykitty on Instagram and Twitter for more of my family’s recipes.  I expect the series will be featured on a monthly basis.  I can’t wait to share my family’s recipes with you and hope that you will get to enjoy some of the delicious foods that come out of our kitchen!