On the fifth day, when we docked at Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, my brother-in-law was able to hook us up with some instant ramen noodle "Hecho en Mexico". Let me tell you how happy I was to finally get a taste of "Asian food".... I was in heaven!!!
The Mexican food that we tried at Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta was mostly delicious and authentic. I especially adore the little al pastor taco, where the meat was carved off the big giant skewer onto the cute little corn tortilla to be served. The guacamole, the salsa and the ceviche were pretty delicious and satisfying as well. Seafood was ocean fresh and cooked to perfection. Food and food everywhere I go, on boat, off shore... but nothing could curve my rising craving appetite for the traditional Vietnamese food.
Luckily, I have another day off before back to work and back to reality. So, of course, the first dish I make must be something very authentic and very traditional. While having dinner today, I told my hubby that I wish I could have this kind of meal when we were still on board. He laughed and asked me if I had to pay a hundred bucks for a piece of steak and a hundred bucks for a "ca kho to and rau muong xao" meal, which one would I pick? I was like "Don't you know the answer already? Of course the ca kho to and rau muong! He said he would pay that much too, not for himself but for me to enjoy.... That's why I married him!
Ca and thit kho to (Fish and pork belly in clay pot):
1. 2 catfish filets (cut into 3 inch pieces)
2. 1/2 lb of pork belly (thinly sliced)
3. 1/3 cup of crispy pork belly (top mo)
4. 2 shallots, 3 cloves of garlic (finely minced)
5. 6 tsp of sugar, 5 tsp of fish sauce, garlic powder, mushroom seasoning, black pepper, chopped green onion, red chili pepper, and cooking oil
Combine catfish filets, pork belly, 2 tsp of sugar, 3 tsp of fish sauce, garlic powder, mushroom seasoning, black pepper and 1 tsp of oil in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours to marinate.
In a clay pot, add 2 tsp of sugar and let it melts into caramel color (be careful not to let it burns). Immediately add in the marinated fish and pork mixture and mix gently. Cover the pot and simmer at medium heat for about 5 minutes, then uncover the pot and turn the heat to medium-high to let some liquid evaporate.
Cook for another 5 minutes and mix 2 tsp of sugar with 2 tsp of fish sauce, add it in the pot and mix gently to combine the flavor. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste. Turn the heat to high for 1 minute, add in chopped green onion and a couples of red chili (if desire). Remove from heat, sprinkle with more black pepper, and add in the crispy pork belly (top mo). Serve hot with steamed rice.
Rau muong xao toi (stir fried garlic ong choy)
1. 1 bunch of ong choy (washed and cut into 5 inch long )
2. 3 cloves of garlic (finely minced)
3. 1/2 tsp of mushroom seasoning, 1 tsp of fish sauce and 2 tsp of cooking oil
In a large wok, add cooking oil and minced garlic. Stir for 15 seconds until fragrant and add in the ong choy. Stir quickly and season with mushroom seasoning and fish sauce. Continue to stir the ong choy to combine with the seasoning for 1-2 minutes and transfer to a plate. Pay attention not to cook the ong choy too long or you will risk to lose the vibrant green color and the crunchiness of the vegetable.