In the Oriental perspective, the ambience of the kitchen represents the prosperity of a house, not just a place for cooking. Since time immemorial, the kitchen is a fireplace of the whole family despite its small size. It is where the warmth is sustained, and provides an essential bonding in the Vietnamese tradition. Over time, the Vietnamese kitchen has gradually changed, from the simple, rustic earth walls with thatched roof to the one of sophisticated, well-equipped, flashy or ancient features. At present, there are even kitchens without fire! Yet how could a kitchen with no fire produce the delicate memories of the old-time rainy days: a piece of golden brown scorched rice dunked in condensed-stewed fish sauce topped with scallions in sizzling oil? Kitchens not using wood fire could in no way create different layers of baked cake due to uneven heating, especially that nearly burnt surface which is so flavorful. If there is no charcoal or wood burning stove, let’s try using the electric oven to cook scorched glutinous rice, which still retains a hot, browned, soft crunch to subdue the nostalgia for the old-time kitchen.
PIGEON SERVED WITH SCORCHED GLUTINOUS RICEPrint This
- 800g squabs (2 pigeons)
- 400g glutinous rice (of the North)
- 100g flat green-rice flakes
- (of the North)
- 200g finely grated coconut flesh
- 200ml lukewarm water
- 50g pork floss
- 50ml cooking oil
- 2g ground black pepper
- 5g sugar
- 2g salt
- 5ml soy sauce
- 100g shallots
- 10g garlic
Preparation: Rinse the glutinous rice well and soak in lukewarm water for four to five hours. Cleanse the squab then set to drain off all water. Mince 20g shallots. Slice thinly 80g of the remaining shallots, fry till browned. Finely mince the garlic. Pour 200ml lukewarm water onto the grated coconut, then squeeze to obtain the pure coconut milk.
Steam the rice: Take out and drain the soaked glutinous rice, mix in 1g salt and put in a steamer to steam for about 15 minutes until the rice grains look clear. Gradually spoon over the coconut milk, stir evenly for the rice to absorb the coconut milk, cover the steamer and continue to steam for 30 more minutes. Check to see if the glutinous rice has been soft and well cooked. Add the flat green-rice flakes, which has been rinsed well, stir thoroughly then steam for five more minutes. Turn off the oven and take the glutinous rice out of the steamer.
Process the pigeon: Remove and discard the firm leg bone of one pigeon, mince the remaining parts including meat, bone and skin together with 10g minced shallot. Marinate this with 1g pepper, 1g salt, 2g sugar; mix well and let it soak in spices for 15 minutes. Cut the other pigeon in half, or keep as a whole one if preferred. Marinate it with 3g sugar, 1g pepper, 5ml soy sauce, 10g minced garlic, 10g minced shallot, and set it for absorption of spices in 15 minutes. Heat 10ml cooking oil in a pan, stir fry the minced pigeon meat until cooked, taste to favor then put it in a bowl. Continue to add the remaining 40ml cooking oil into the pan, put the whole pigeon in and fry till cooked and browned. Take it out, chop it into of bite-size morsels; or shred the flesh from the bones.
Scorch the glutinous rice: Put a part of the steamed glutinous rice into a cast-iron baking pan, press till thin, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes to obtain the slightly scorched glutinous rice with a crunchy brown layer.
Mix the glutinous rice: Mix the remaining rice with the stir-fried pigeon meat and half of the crispy-fried shallots.
Arrange the scorched glutinous rice on a serving dish, spread the rice and pigeon mixture on, top this with pork floss and the remaining half of the crispy-fried shallots. Serve together with the fried pigeon and soy sauce sprinkled with chili slices.
The scorched glutinous rice should be brown and softly crunchy. The glutinous rice mixed with pigeon meat is slightly fluffy and not mushy. The pigeon meat is fragrant, not smelly; serve hot.
Choose the young pigeons with more meat and fat. Select the newly harvested flat young rice with a distinctive aroma.
If a cast-iron pan is not available, an earth pan can be replaced to grill the rice on a charcoal fire.
The glutinous rice of Northern region can be replaced by sapped glutinous rice or big-grain sticky rice. The flat green-rice flackes can be omitted if not preferred.
The drizzling of coconut milk into the steaming rice should be in a gradual way, not all at once, in order to avoid the rice being mushy.
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
This dish helps strengthen the blood Qi, tonify the kidney, benefit spleen and Qi, increase the body resistance, decrease bad cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis. This in turn helps prevent heart disease and a number of cancers. It is very useful for persons with weakened body strength, for those who are skinny, feeble, and mal-nourished; persons with tuberculosis, decreased brain function, insomnia, absentmindedness; poorly-nourished children; and weakened elderly people. It is also good for women with menstruation disorders, or with stomach ache during periods; for patients with impaired kidney function, lumbago, tired knees, headache, dizziness, and various forms of impotency.
TRAN VAN HANH Top Chef Restaurant (Hanoi) Runner-up in the Northern regional primary round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013