Vietnamese Pork Pho Soup ~ Delicious, Healthy Love for Your Tummy!


When the Mr. and I used to frequent Montreal for our weekend “adult” getaways, our favorite go~to hangover remedy, as with most other cultures was some sort of big, fresh vegetable, noodle and protein soup.

Thanks to many great reviews online from Montreal natives, we were lucky to find a lot of great restaurants that are “off the beaten path” of tourists, that have phenomenal cuisine at low prices!

So where is the best place to get pho?  A tiny hole-in-the-wall place in Chinatown, Cristal No. 1.

It was absolutely AMAZING!

The whole late night, post partying, healthy soup practice, seems to not have taken hold here in the U.S. as it has pretty much everywhere else.   That is, it’s probably unlikely that it will become popular, unless the Golden Arches start carrying it, anyway!

I’ve been making this soup at home for years in the chicken form.  Chicken stock and meat.   This past week I made pho with a lovely, tender pork loin and it was absolutely amazing.

Here is the recipe I used.  Feel free to add any variety of veggies on top that you have, the key is to add them AFTER the noodles, meat and broth.  The idea is to keep them fresh, vibrant and crispy.  The nice thing about this soup is it’s easily made ahead of time.  If you chop the veggies first and refrigerate till you’re ready, it’s only a matter of heating up the broth.  This means, healthy, quick dinner!

Here are some fresh / raw veggies I’ve seen on Pho:

Julienne carrots

Julienne cucumbers



Sliced thin red peppers

Jalapeno thin sliced

Bean sprouts

Sliced thin read onion

Chopped mint

Chopped basil

Lime wedges

And if you’re ever in Montreal, definitely check out Cristal No. 1.  It’s the best pho in Montreal!


Chinese Steamed Chicken Buns ~Bread Machine


When I was in Jr. High School my mom worked with a gal Keng, from Singapore.  Occasionally Keng would bring in food that she had prepared.  Sometimes it was noodles and once in a while it was these deliciously savory, fragrant and chewy steamed buns.  They were like nothing I had ever tried at any Chinese restaurant.

I was recollecting Keng and her amazing steamed buns and decided to make them.  I had just bought an industrial size pack of boneless, skinless chicken breast and was tired of oven fried chicken, I needed something more complex and savory. Sadly, I cannot honestly recall what the meat was in Keng’s buns.  I believe it was ground pork.  That would be amazing too.

I found a recipe or two online and one in my bread machine cookbook and combined them all to create my own recipe.  My girls and husband were crazy about them and The Mr. promptly said “You can make these anytime you want!”  I laughed and assured him, it was going to be a while before I did these again.  Not because I did not enjoy them, but they are a lengthy project to undertake.  But, yes… they are mighty tasty!

Dough Ingredients:

5/8 cup lukewarm milk

2 cups unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon room temp butter

1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast

Pour the milk into the bread machine and add the butter.  Sprinkle the flour to cover the milk.  Add the salt and sugar into separate corners and put the yeast directly in the center.  Use your dough cycle on your machine.  Allow the dough to rest after the cycle ends.  I allowed mine to hang out for about three hours after the cycle ended.

Filling Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

2 inch piece of ginger root finely minced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1/8 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (*this seems like a small amount but the flavor is needed)

8 ounces chicken breast, thinly sliced and cut into 1″ pieces

3 scallions chopped

1 tablespoon cilantro chopped

Salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients and marinate for at least 1/2 hour.  Heat a non stick skillet and add 1 tablespoon of oil.  When the skillet is hot add 1/2 of the chicken and stir fry for approximately 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and add the second batch of chicken.  Cook for 3 minutes and add the the first batch.  Let rest for 1/2 hour to cool the ingredients.

Vegetables For Filling:

1 small can sliced water chestnuts ~ Drained

2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped

1 small onion roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped

Add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the vegetables are well chopped.  Add the chopped vegetables to the chicken, once the chicken is cooled and easy to handle.

Dough Preparation:

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll the dough into a log shape.  Cut the dough into eight uniform segments and cover with a tea towel.

Take the first piece of dough and roll it into a 5″ round.  Recover and roll out the remaining dough balls into 5″ rounds, covering the dough as you work to keep it from drying out.

Heat approximately 6″ of water in a large stockpot and place your bamboo steamer on the pan.  Heat the water to a boil.

Take one round of dough and add about 2 tablespoons of filling and pull the dough out a bit.  Run a small amount of water around the edge of the dough.  Bring the sides of the dough to cover the filling and pinch the edges together to seal.  Place the bun on a small square of wax paper or parchment.  This is used to keep it from sticking in the steamer.

Cover the completed bun with a tea towel as you create the remaining seven.

Load the buns into the steamer, being careful not to allow them to touch the sides of the steamer or each other.  Keep in mind that the buns will expand as they cook.  It’s quite surprising how much larger they get while steaming.

steamed bun

Steam the buns for ten minutes and serve immediately.

Red Thai Duck Curry ~ The Pioneer Woman



Last year the Mr. and I went to an amazing Thai restaurant in D.C.  Generally, when we get Thai food, I either get chicken curry or Pad Thai.  I don’t usually travel too far outside of that zone, primarily because it’s not often when we get Thai and when we do I am craving those so much, I can’t bring myself to deviate from them.

This particular night I decided to splurge and go for the curry duck and well there missy… lemme tell you.  It was OUTSTANDING.  It had the most amazingly complex flavors.  It’s been in my dreams since.

Hopefully this recipe will stand up to the curry duck from D.C.  If I can ever locate some duck breasts, I’ll try it!

Pad Fry ~ Thai Sweet Potato Fries


I have a weakness for sweet potato fries.  I’ve managed to have gotten one of our daughters totally hooked on my sweet potato fries with curry mayonnaise, an old fav of mine from the British pub days back in New England, that I’ve recreated.

Looking around today on Food Network I found this recipe for Thai sweet potato fries!  A warm and spicy combination of sweet potatoes, cilantro, lime, fried onions Sriracha and yes, BACON!



1 16-to-20-ounce bag frozen sweet potato fries
3 strips bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons Asian chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Prepared fried onions or fried shallots, for topping


Bake the sweet potato fries as the label directs.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the brown sugar, fish sauce, chile sauce, lime juice and lime zest to the drippings. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Transfer the fries to a serving dish. Drizzle with the chile sauce mixture, then sprinkle with the bacon, cilantro and fried onions.

Photograph by Charles Masters

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Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce and Thai Cucumber Salad

I am crazy about Thai food!  I love the blend of sweet, salty and spicy that they are so well known for.

One of my favorite things to order when we go out for Thai, is chicken satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad.

When we moved to the remote mountains of Maine we lost all possible hope to get Thai take out and I set out to find a great recipe to make my own satay.

Thai Chicken Satay


Soak wooden skewers first


3 boneless skinless chicken breasts / butterflied and pounded thin (scaloppini style)


Grated zest of 1 lemon ~ I find using a microplane works well or 1/4 cup lemongrass

3 cloves garlic minced

1 small onion sliced

1 tsp. Thai chili sauce or Thai chili garlic sauce (see photo below)

1 thumb sized piece of ginger sliced thin

1/2 tsp. dried turmeric

5 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. ground coriander

2 tsp cumin

Put all of the marinade ingredients into a food processor and process till smooth.  I took a taste of this marinade and it is absolutely divine on it’s own, so I imagine it would be good over plain grilled chicken or if you want to make satay, put your uncooked chicken into the marinade for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours to develop the flavor. Thread uncooked marinated chicken on skewers before cooking.


Grill your chicken about 1 minute per side and it will be quite tender. Cover lightly till ready to serve.

Serve with Thai peanut sauce, a fresh Thai cucumber salad and steamed jasmine rice.

Thai Peanut Sauce

1 – 10 oz. can coconut milk

1/2 cup crunch peanut butter (I only use natural unsweetened)

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 small onion finely chopped

Combine all ingredients over low heat till the milk and peanut butter have melted together well.  This can be made days in advance and reheated.

Thai Cucumber Salad



  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 medium cucumbers  peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 carrot peeled and julienned into 1/2″ slices
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Mix all of the ingredients and let marinate at least 1 hour before serving with satay.

Gorgeous Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup

One of the dishes I crave the most is a good hot and sour soup.  For some reason I thought it would be too difficult to make.  So wrong!

That is not to say that it’s not time consuming.  It kind of is.  However, so worth every bit of chopping and prep.  Once it’s done, it’s a breeze.

Hot and Sour soup is healthy, low calorie and great if you have a cold.  It’s filled with great fungi, tofu and lean meat.  What’s not to love about that?

After perusing the internet and finding a few recipes I put a few together and made my own with the ingredients I most love in the soups that I’ve had over the years.  Since we live in a pretty rural area and do not have a decent Asian market sadly, finding the mushrooms that most of the recipes require was impossible.  So I opted to just use the fresh that I did have at my local grocery store.  For authenticity I’ve included in the ones that I see in most recipes and have given instructions as to how to prepare it… that being said, I found that following the general directions for the broth and using fresh mushrooms was just as tasty.

I even went so far as to fry up a batch of crab rangoon (recipe to follow later) and made some extra fried wonton strips to top the soup off with.  Yes, it was a good night at our house! I’m pretty sure I ate myself silly that night, between my favorite soup and those cheesy, crab pockets of love!


  • 1 ounce dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 12 dried tiger lily buds
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin – sliced into thin strips
  • 1 sm. can bamboo shoots- sliced into thin strips
  • 2 cups hot water (omit if using fresh mushrooms)
  • 1/3 ounce bamboo fungus
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (reduce to 1 tablespoon if using fresh mushrooms and not dried)
  • 1 (8 ounce) container firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 quart vegetable broth (I’ve used chicken broth too, it will come out more of a creamy golden color instead of light brown)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili oil (extra if you like your soup HOT, HOT)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 green onion, sliced


  1. In a small bowl, place wood mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and lily buds in 1 1/2 cups hot water. Soak 20 minutes, until re-hydrated. Drain, reserving liquid. Trim stems from the mushrooms, and cut into thin strips. Cut the lily buds in half.
  2. In a separate small bowl, soak bamboo fungus in 1/4 cup lightly salted hot water. Soak about 20 minutes, until re-hydrated. Drain, and mince. Or if these are unavailable to you, try to find some exotic mushrooms at your grocer.  I used shiitake and some other Asian mushrooms (fresh) and they tasted lovely.  Remember when using mushrooms how much they shrink after cooking.  Buy extra, you won’t regret it!
  3. In a third small bowl, blend soy sauce, rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
  4. In a medium saucepan, mix the reserved mushroom and lily bud liquid with the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, and stir in the wood mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms,  lily buds and bamboo shoots. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 to 5 minutes. Season with red pepper, black pepper, and white pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, mix remaining cornstarch and remaining water (again, this is only used if you have used dried mushrooms and not fresh). Stir into the broth mixture until thickened.  Add more cornstarch blended with water if you want your soup to be thicker.
  6. Mix soy sauce mixture and  tofu cubes into the saucepan. Return to boil, and stir in the bamboo fungus, add pork and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the broth comes to a boil again.   Add chili oil, and sesame oil.  Just before serving, turn off the heat. Stir the egg in gradually.  Garnish with green onion to serve.

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