Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Big Kids Slip 'N Slide Party

I have a very visible scar on my left leg from my childhood. I was approximately eight or nine years old at the time, living my Cali life in good ol' San Jose. My older cousin, Phung, was visiting from Vancouver, B.C.

Since it was summer, we decided to get one of those cheapo slip and slides and make a go of it in our backyard. We were cautious though; we made sure we picked up all the nails in the backyard (why did we even have nails in the backyard is beyond me!). Can you see where this is headed? Well, the first slide I did, SLICE! I guess we missed a nail, because that sucker cut my knee open. Probably should've gotten stitches, but we're Viet, so we don't do that.

My lovely cousin managed to bandage me up and we ended up scrapping the whole slip and slide idea... UNTIL NOW!

Even before Micah and I bought the house we're currently in, I had already envisioned an awesome slip-n-slide on the steep hill in the backyard! What else would you do with that? Roll down it? Pfft.

After working on our lawn the past few months, we finally had the grass and time to make the slip-n-slide party happen. After scouring the internet, we settled on the 50 foot Wahii slide. It fit the backyard perfectly -- just enough space where our guests wouldn't smack their head against the fence.

{50 feet of pure fun!}

Micah -- the engineer -- rigged the system to withstand our fat adult asses and we were ready for a party.
{fixing things}

I kept the menu simple: nacho bar (queso dip, fresh guac, pico de gallo, lettuce, turkey taco meat, and jalapenos), Mexican corn, watermelon aquas frescas, sangria and water with fruit floating in it. Oh, of course, there was homebrew on tap (Witty Calily and Z'Hefe were the new ones).
  • Recipes for the turkey taco meat, corn, watermelon aquas frescas, and sangria after the video
{nacho bar}
Shout out to my sister for being an awesome sous chef! Thankfully, Micah was able to persuade me to NOT make quesadillas -- he's right (I don't say that often) -- that would have been a lot of work.  And I didn't want to spend the whole time working, I wanted to play.

Grown Ass Adults + Delicious Drinks + 50ft Slippery Slide = This Video:

Turkey Taco Meat
A few years ago, I stopped buying the packaged taco seasoning and decided to make my own. It's easy and better for you!

  • 1 lb. ground turkey (or whatever meat you like)
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic power
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
1. Heat pan on high and add turkey meat.
2. Add all the seasonings into the pan and make sure you break up any big chunks of meat.
3. Season and adjust to your liking. I usually tend to like it a little bit spicier.

Grilled Mexican Corn
from America's Test Kitchen

  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 oz. queso fresco
  • 1/3 cup Mexican crema
  • 3 tbsp. cilantro minced
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 ears of corn, husks and silk removed 
1. Heat the grill until very hot.
2. Meanwhile, combine the queso fresco, crema, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl. Toss the cleaned corn with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and a pinch of cayenne. 
3. Grill the corn until lightly charred on all sides, 7 to 12 minutes total. Place the corn into the cheese mixture and toss. Serve and enjoy!

Sangria!: I like to use this one from, but I do omit the maraschino cherries and sugar. Instead I top the drink off with a splash of lemon/lime soda.

Watermelon aquas frescas: I had a 9lb. watermelon which made about 1.5 gallons.

{got these containers from Sam's Club for $20 a piece!}

Friday, July 20, 2012

Catfish: More than just a bottom dweller

While I love me some fried catfish (I am from Southeast TX, y'all), there are other ways of preparing catfish that doesn't involve battering and frying those suckers. 

[Courtesy: Wikipedia]

Catfish is extremely prevalent in Vietnamese cuisine and you know damn well that we use the WHOLE FISH, yep, that includes the HEAD! Squeamish people beware. 

 I think it is safe to say that most Viet people love canh chua ca (sour fish soup). It's a soup that excites your taste buds but is also fairly healthy.

When I make this, I usually buy the whole catfish at the Asian market and ask the fish monger to chop the body into 1in. steaks. The steaks will be turned into ca kho (caramel braised catfish - recipe for another time). I keep the head and the tail for this soup. In a normal meal, you would make the braised fish dish + the soup and have a full catfish meal with rice. YUM!

          • 1 bag of bean sprouts
          • 2 tomatoes
          • package of okra
          • 1-2 stalks of bac ha (taro stem and elephant ear)
          • 2 shallots (minced) 
          • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
          • 1 cup canned pineapple (cut into bite-sized chunks)
          • catfish head and tail + 1 catfish steak 
          • Sarap tamarind soup base + fish sauce to taste


1. Saute the garlic and shallots in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When it's fragrant and slightly browned add the catfish head and tail. Cook the fish for two minutes on each side. Then add the catfish steak.

{Is he looking at you?}

2. Add enough water to cover the fish but leave enough room for all the veggies (this pot is close to 6 quarts, so on average about 4-6 quarts of water will do). Add half of the tamarind soup base and one tablespoon of fish sauce. Let the broth simmer while you prep the veggies.

3. Clean the bac ha: You just take off the green tough skin. What's left is just the spongy stalk. Cut on a bias into 1/4 inch pieces.

{L: take the tough layer off the bac ha. R: cut on the bias into 1/4 inch pieces}

4. Trim the ends off the okra and slide the tomatoes into wedges.

{Micah asked me one time, "Viet people eat okra?!" The answer is yes.}

5. Skim off any foamy particles off the soup. Add all the hard veggies and pineapple into the pot! Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes before adding the bean sprouts, these go in at the last minute. Taste the soup to see if you need more fish sauce, I usually end up adding another tablespoon or two. If it's not sour enough, add a touch more of the tamarind base. The dominant flavor should be sour, then salty, then sweet. Adjust to your liking.

{everyone into the pot!}

Fill up a bowl with some jasmine rice, ladle on some soup and you've got Vietnamese comfort food.

Now you ask, what do I do with the head and tail? Take those babies out and ladle on the high-end fish sauce. Just pick at it with your chopsticks. That is good eating right there!

{Are you brave enough to eat the eyeball?!}