Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vietnamese rice paper wraps with porkbelly, shrimps, and veggie

This weekend has been quite productive for me. Saturday we got to spend the evening taking the dogs out to dinner with us in Alhambra, and then walked them a few rounds after dinner. It was great, not only did we give them the much needed exercise (that we often lack during the week due to both of us working and coming home tired), but we ourselves got to walk off our dinner as well.

The pooches could sense that they get to go out with Mom and Dad,
they jumped on the car as soon as we got in

Then today, Sunday, I drove down to my parents in OC and carpooled with them to sister in law's baby shower. It was a great shower, her coworkers did a great job planning it. The decorations were nice (they even had fresh flower centerpieces!), the cookie flavors were very cute and nicely wrapped in little cellophane bags, the catered foods were good, and the games seemed fun. Too bad, I didn't have time to stay for the games and gift openning. I had to leave for a meeting with these two brothers who are going to help me setup with my social networking website project (yoohoo!), and I will switch to use their hosting service as well. So I'm excited about the upcoming project. I've been a bit down spirited lately, staying busy with this upcoming web project will sure keep me busy and give me something to feel accomplished I hope :-)

On my way back home after the meeting, I spontaneously popped an idea that I'd stop by the market and pick up some fresh ingredients to make Vietnamese ricepaper wraps with pork belly and shrimp. This is one of hubbie's favorites, well anything with pork belly is his favorite. I usually try to limit him from pork fats and pork/beef organs (I'm a nag sometimes to get him to listen), but once in a while I gotta treat the guy nicely because after all he takes care of my oil changes and keeps me current with my DMV registration. So here it is, his reward, pork belly.

This Vietnamese course looks sophisticated but it actually is very easy to make. Provided you've got all the ingredients ready, it takes only 30min or so to prepare. Here's the ingredient list.
Note: there's no recipe because amounts depend on how you like to make your wraps, some may like more rice noodles, some like more herbs and lettuce, etc.

+ 1/2 bags of dried rice noodles (or whatever amount you want)
+ 1 package of ricepaper
+ 1-2 lbs pork belly, washed and cut into big pieces about 2-inch wide for faster cooking (see picture)
+ 20-30 shrimps, peels and deveined
+ 1/2 red-leave lettuce
+ 1 cucumber, peeled, and cut into thin slices
+ 1 small bunch of Vietnamese mixed herbs, you can use whichever kinds you like and however much you like. Ideas are: mint (rau hung lui), spicy mint (rau hung cay), Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), Korean perilla leaves (rau tia to), etc.
+ Dipping sauce: Vietnamese Mam Nem. My Mom made it for me and gave me a jar when I came visit her last weekend, I never have to make my own dipping sauce because hers are the best :-) But for those of you who'd like to know how to make it, WanderingChopsticks posts her recipe for it here.

+ Get 2 pots of boiling water going
+ In 1 pot, boil the rice noodle, per instruction. Typically, boil for 3-6 minutes, check the texture of the cooked noodles, then drain with cold water.
+ In another pot, boil pork belly until cooked, you can use a chopstick or knife to poke through the meat to check how cooked it is, there should be no sign of blood or pink from the poke. Iit took me 1/2 hour, but I let it boil while doing other things like washing the vegetables, etc.

+ While the pork is being cooked, you can wash and drain all vegetables, arranged in a large plate, along with sliced cucumbers.
+ Pour Mam Nem into 1 small bowl for each person to use as their dipping sauce.

+ When the pork belly is about done, add the shrimps to the same boiling water pot, and let it cook for 3-5 minutes along with the pork. Hint: this saves time and effort, you really don't have to boil another pot of water just for the shrimps, and this makes an excellent tasty fatty broth base if you want to have your rice noodle in broth.

+ Take pork belly out and let it cool down at room temperature. Then you can cut it into slices.
+ If you want to, you can cut the shrimps into halves, along its length.
+ Arrange the sliced pork and shrimp into a large plate.

Here's what you have for a healthy yummy dinner:

*** EDIT 11/17/2009 ***

I made this course again last night, using the rest half of the pork belly I bought. This time, I added 2 more side dishes: Vietnamese sweet pickled mud fish with papaya (mam thai) and Vietnamese sour pickled shrimps with papaya (mam tom chua). A common Vietnamese way of eat this is to mix the pickled side dishes and fresh vegetables and herbs to a bowl of vermicelli, then add some Vietnamese fermented anchovy dipping sauce (mam nem) or sweeten fish sauce (nuoc mam) to taste. And again, you can freely add whichever ingredients you like, we added the boiled sliced pork belly and the boiled shrimps.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

pan fry porkchop with sauteed onion

Warning: this recipe is totally made up by me :)
Measurements provided are not axact, you may want to adjust a little bit to fit your taste.

+ 2 pork chops
+ 1/2 white onions, cut into strips of ~1cm width
+ 2 tbs oil for pan frying
+ 1 tbs light soysauce
+ dab of salt
+ 2 tbs white wine
+ 1-2 tbs sweet wine depends on how sweet your wine is.
+ sprinkle of ground black pepper

+ At room temperature, either wet brine porkchops for a few hours, or dry brine with a little salt, soysauce. Or you can brine and store in the refrigerator overnight, but let the meat go to room temperature.

Cooking instructions:
+ Heat up oil in a wok or pan
+ Add pork chop to wok and sear both sides
+ You may add a little bit of water at a time, and let the porkchop cook slowly without burn.
+ Add soysauce (tip: pour soysauce around the side of the wok, and not directly onto the pork chops. Use the same technique when adding water, and the wines. This infuses the flavor to the meat better.
+ When the pork is cooked half way or a little more than half way, add onions.
You don't want to add the onion too early b/c it'll get burned if cooked too long.

+ Add white wine
+ Add sweet wine.
+ The soysauce and sweet wine is going to give it the caramelized color, so we want to watch our time after this point.
+ Flipping the porkchops frequently so that both sides can soak in the sauce.
+ Optional: taste the sauce on the meat, if need to then add a sprinkle of salt, or add more sweet wine if not enough sweet.

+ Note: you can get the onions out first if the onions have browned enough and the porkchops aren't as done as you'd like, don't let onions get burnt.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hotpot: healthy living and home cooking made easy

Is it dinner time yet?

Hotpot is common in most Asian cultures. For Chinese it is hou-gou, Japanese calls it shabu-shabu, or known as lau to the Vietnamese. Koreans have their version of hotpot too, i'm not sure what it's called (is it shin sul ro?). However they all share a common theme of a shared pot of boiling broth on a burner, fresh uncooked ingredients, This cook-at-the-table recipe is not only easy to make, it is also alot of fun to have a group of family and/or friends gathering around the table over dinner. Hotpot is one of my favorite dinner choice for colder evenings, since it is easy to prepare, hot and slurpy, healthy as I want it to be, and we can take our time eating while chitchating.

Hot pots come in many shapes and size. More popular for home use is the kind we have (see picture above), electrical pot with dial setting for on/off and temperature control. This pot can also be used as a deep fryer.


The broth is an important aspect of hotpots. Many hotpot restaurants make their own broth and guard the recipe as it can be the secret to their success, people do come to a certain restaurant for their flavorful broth. A good hotpot restaurant in Monterey Park that we love to take families there when they visit is called Little Fat Lamb (literal translation from its Chinese name). They use a flavorful and super spicy broth that's made from 60 different herbs, the kind of broth that makes your stomach warm.

At home, I make a simple broth: water, add a can of chicken broth, also add 1 daikon (cut into big chunks about 1-2 inch length). Let the broth boil. During the course of dinner, you may need to add more broth (I usually boil water seperately, and add to the hotpot as needed)

Whatever your favorites are. Really, anything goes! that's what great about hot pots.

Typical main dishes are:

+ Thinly sliced beef and/or lamb
+ Fresh seafoods:
- shrimps (usually unpeeled, heads on)
- oysters
- clams
- live fish filet (it is really worth it to get a live fish like tilapia, then filet it. A couple times we got the already-filet fish from the market it turned out not so fresh and it was a waste).
+ Fish/shrimp/squid/pork balls
+ Japanese fried tempura (fish or shrimp paste cake)

Typical vegetables are:

+ Tofu - the white kind, non-fried, is better
+ Assorted mushrooms
+ Spinach, lettuce
+ Other seasonal greens
+ Napa cabbage
+ Corn
+ Taro
+ This vegie is our favorite for hotpot - it's called Tan O in Vietnamese, what's its English name?

This is our simple version of hotpots for the two of us - and some special little friends :-)

It only took me about 30 min to wash/clean and setup the hotpot table.

Dipping Sauce:

The most popular dipping sauce for hotpot (at least the chinese style hotpot) is sacha. For home use, I buy the Lee Kum Kee sacha sauce in a jar, or else just use a good light soysauce.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Stir fried green bean

For the past few months I was a bit overwhelmed with what's going on at work and everything else outside of work. But fortunately (or is it unfortunately? boy didn't I wish I have a fulltime maid who cooks and cleans, better yet works and brings money home for me) that doesn't mean I didn't cook, I was just behind in blogging.

Here's a simple recipe of green bean stirfried, another comfort food I cook pretty often. It's also easy to pack with rice for lunch the next day.

+ 1 lb of green beans
+ As much dried shrimps as you like, I used about 1/2 tbsp (subtract dried shrimps if you want the vegan version)
+ 1 to 2 stalks of green onions
+ Dab of salt (about 1/2 to 1 tsp)
+ Dab of sugar (just a sprinkle should be enough)
+ 1tbsp oil
+ Optional: 1 tsp soy sauce. Note that soy sauce can add, hence alter, favor to your stirfries depends on what type of soy sauce you use. I only used salt, didn't use soysauce b/c I didn't want the dark soy sauce to over powering the fresh bean's flavor.

+ Wash green onions, coursely chop into chunks about 1/4 inch long.

+ Wash green beans, remove the veins on the 2 sides (as much as possible, if not don't worry)
+ Cut greenbeans into wedges (see picture).

+ In a wok or pot, heat up oil.
+ Add the dried shrimps and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add chopped green onions, and stir for another 30 seconds.

+ Then add green beans and cook for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally for even cooking of the bean.
+ You may want to add 1 tbsp water while the green bean is cooked so that it doesn't burn. Add more water if needed (only a little bit, like 1 tbsp, each time).

+ About 10 minutes in, you can sprinkle the salt and sugar over the bean, and mix it well.
+ Turn off the heat once the green beans are as cooked as desired.
I usually turn off the heat a couple minutes early, stir once more, and then let it sit in the heated pot for another few minutes. I like the bean's texture to be still a tiny bit firm, not too well cooked.
The day is already short enough that after a full-day at work I just don't really have time (or want to spend time) for a lengthy cooking episode in the kitchen; I think alot of you can relate. I hope this recipe is simple enough for you working wives/girlfriends/moms out there. And the nice thing that I like about this kind of simple home cooking dishes I make is that it doesn't trade convenience for healthy nutrition and quality.
Enjoy. And don't forget to pack the left over with rice for lunch the next day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

sweetened tea eggs

This is my deviated version of the traditional salty tea eggs. I wanted to experiment making it a sweet dessert since I figured tea can go very well with palm sugar and would make a nice blend of flavor to the eggs.
I used black tea leaves, but you can use any type of tea. In fact, next time I probably would use either red tea or green tea since I wanted a golden or slightly red color. The palm sugar naturally adds some tint to the end result already, especially after simmering it for some time. This time around the color of my eggs is a bit too dark, IMO.

+ 1 tsp tea, keet in a pouch (or +/- to your taste -if you want more tea flavor)
Alternatively, you can use the ready-made tea bags
+ 6-10 eggs
+ 3 whole bar of palm sugar (or +/- to your taste)
+ a dab of salt
+ (Optional) 1 star anise

Here's the palm sugar bar I'm refering to

+ Boil the eggs in a separate pot. Once done, drain, crack (but not remove) the shells of the eggs. This will give your eggs the effect of dragon-eye once finish.
+ In another pot, boil 4 cups of water.
+ Add to dissolve the palm sugar. Add the tea. Also add the star anise if you want. This should now give you a slightly browned base.
+ Add a dab of salt to deepen the sweetness.
+ Test taste your broth, add more sugar/tea, etc. if needed, to your taste. Be free and creative, add more tea if you want deeper flavor, add sugar if you want it sweet - it is YOUR dessert :-)
+ Add the eggs and simmer for at least 1/2 hr. Once the broth reduce, you can add more water and other ingredients - goal is to maintain the water level such that it about to cover all your eggs, we don't want the broth to become syrup-like.

Serving hot, this makes a healthy and nutritious dessert.

My sweet tea-egg dessert (um...i forgot to crack the egg shell so no dragon eye effect)

Here's the dragon eye I'm talking about

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Steamed Fish with soysauce, scallion and ginger

I didn't take a very good picture of this dish. But it is a very healthy yummy dish which is amazingly quick and easy to make. It's best to use live fish, not frozen. I love to use talipias for this dish because they have delish lean white meat, categorized as lowest in mercury risk (for those of you who's concerned about mercury level in fish and other seashelled seafood), and their sizes are about 1-2 lbs just perfect for a meal for the 2 of us.

+ 1 live fish ~1.5lbs
+ 1 small stalk of green onion
+ 1 piece of ginger, about 2 in. piece
+ 5-6 tbsp Lee Kum Kee seafood soysauce (this can be home made easily by mixing soysauce with sugar, a dab of salt, and diluted a little bit with water)

+ Wash and drain the fish (ofcourse de-scale and clean out the guts and all that). Head on or not, s'up to you ! :-) it's a culture preference...hehe...I know some of my Caucasian friends were surprised seeing fish served with heads on at Chinese restaurants. you see that fish winking at ya?
+ Cut/shred ginger into thin long strips (see picture).
+ Cut/shred green onion into thin long strips (see picture).

Cooking instructions:
+ Steam for 10-15 minutes depends on size of fish (I usually do 10 minutes for a 1.5 lbs fish)
+ Drain the water from steaming (some people keep this broth as part of the sauce - I drain it and only use soysauce mix as the sauce)
+ Place shredded green onions and ginger on top of the fish. And add the soysauce mix.
+ In a small pot/wok, heat up 2 tbsp oil. Once you see a little smoke that means the oil is heated.
+ Pour hot oil all over the fish and onion/ginger, this will help fragrance the onions and brown the fish a little bit.

Serve hot with white rice.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quick movie night snack - fudgy chocolate chip cookie

I can be a pretty cheap date...LOL... We were staying in for a Sunday night movie, and then I remembered that I've had a couple of the Betty Crocker instant desserts. I made the fudgy chocolate chip cookie, not the best cookie but its something to satisfy my sweet craving at the moment, without me having to interrupt our moving watching. These instant desserts can be bought at any Target. I'm not going to post the instructions here because it is very straight forward and you can find the instruction on the back of the package.

I enjoy browsing the Target's grocery section, by the way. I usually don't end up buying much from there, typically just pick up a pack of Activia yogurt, but its just fun browsing the different ailses. The frozen lunches look so tempting too (especially with the unpredictable work schedule, skipping lunch or late lunches seem like the norm for my project group nowadays). But so far, I still cook for both of us, and eat dinner left-overs for next day's lunch. We live close enough to work that I am able to go home at lunch time, eat and let my 2 dogs out and sometimes able to squeeze in some simple house chore like dropping the laundry into the washer so that it'll be ready for drying after I get home from work, etc. My 2009's resolution is to strive for work life balance, that means to maintain a work schedule that is non-interfering with my regular everyday life and activities. In even simpler words that means "screw work" ...LOL...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Vegetarian five-spice duck egg noodle soup (Mi Vit Tiem chay)

I've been wanting to try out WanderingChopstick's recipe for Mi Vit Tiem Chay (vegetarian five-spice duck and bamboo shoot soup with egg noodles) for a while now. A few weeks ago I asked the hubby to especially take me to the San Gabriel's market to buy the mock duck :-) hehhe the cans come in smaller than I thought, so I bought two. I also picked up the dried bamboo shoots. These have been sitting in my kitchen cabinet for a couple weeks, but I just haven't had a chance to make them.
Last week with the cold raining weather and all, it just seemed like a perfect time to make noodles for slurping dinner.

I didn't follow W.C.'s recipe axactly (well, you can read my post on my cooking philosophy, you'll see that I'm quite informal when it comes to cooking measurements). Anyways, I used
+ 2 cans of mock duck meats.
+ 1 package of dried bamboo.
+ 10 fresh shitake mushrooms.
Turned out it was a bit too much bamboo and mushrooms for our pots....but we both liked lots of mock ducks the way it was. So for next time, i'll scale down my bamboo and mushroom, other than that everything else seemed perfectly good. For vegetable and garnishes, I had beansprouts, watercrest, cilantro and green onion, and a little bit of siracha chili sauce gave it that spicy touch which helped bring out the spiciness of fivespice and ginger in the broth.

The hubbie asked why didn't I use real duck ? Um....I answered, well...b/c it's a vegetarian version! But I guess the truth is I never realy care for real duck that much, a mock duck version is perfectly fine for me. Hubbie liked the Chinese crispy duck for the greasy crispy skin, but other than that I guess he doesn't care much for a simmered duck in a noodle broth that much either. So yeah, this recipe is good for us, satisfied, I say two thumbs up !! Thanks W.C. !

Chayotte stirfry (su su xa`o) - and a little bit on my cooking philosophy

Chayotte has its natural sweet taste and provides for a light, refreshing vegetable. Vietnamese uses chayotte (chouchou, or "su su") in alot of our vegetarian dishes and soups. Chayotte wasn't cheap in Vietnam since only certain region with cooler climate (like Da Lat) can grow it. I remember the couple times our family got to go to Da Lat, you could tell who the tourists were because they were stocking up chayottes, potatoes, beets, strawberries, etc. L.O.L. The excitement was like when one goes to Hawaii and finds the heaps of fresh locally grown tropical fruits.....well, perhaps not so much for Californians since we do have many tropical fruits available locally, but say for an Asian who's been living in the midwest for a long time for example, anyways you get the idea. I remember growing up as a kid in Vietnam, we didn't get to eat such "cool-climate" vegetables very often, since it is rather expensive at the local market in Saigon, due to the transportation I supposed. So when we did, I enjoyed it immensely. Here in the US, chayotte is widely available in grocery stores, American and Asian markets alike. My family always likes it, my Mom often incorporated chayotte into her home cookings. And because of its refreshing sweet taste, chayotte stir fry has always had its place in my list of favorite home-cooked foods.
I didn't "learn" this dish from my Mom, but watching her cook it plenty of times was enough for me to pick up on the recipe, which is very simple and isn't much of a recipe at all. Hahah...but that's perfect, didn't I admit that most of my home cookings are simple recipes and easy to make? and mostly healthy, just what home foods are supposed to be :-) For me, it doesn't take a chef and everything doesn't have to be made from scratch, as long as I put some time, some care, and some consideration into the loved persons that I feed, it'll be all good :-) Though I try to put some measurable quantities in my recipes, in reality I don't usally measure my recipes axactly to the tsp, alot of times it is taste-and-feel, if I like it more salty, sprinkle on some salt, or if I like it a little sweeter then add a dab of get the ideas. Cooking is about feeling the foods and create it to each person's taste, a recipe is a guideline but in no meaning should it be a formula.

Back to the stir fry dish, here's the simple cooking instruction for it. Enjoy!

+ 3 large chayotte, peeled.
+ 2 tbsp of dried shrimps
+ 3 stalks of green onions
+ 2-3 tbsp water, depends
+ 1tsp salt or less
+ 1tsp soysauce
+ 1 tbsp oil
+ Sprinkles of ground pepper
+ 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced OR 1/2 tsp garlic powder.

+ Cut the chayotte into halves, scoop out the seeds. Then cut into thin strips (sized around the diameter of a chopstick, length about 2-3 in)
+ Cut green onions into 1/2 inch lengths, seperate the green and the white.

Cooking Instructions:
+ Heat up the oil in a big wok. If you use fresh garlic, add it now.
+ Add dried shrimps and the white parts of onions, stir occasionally for 1 minute to let the shrimp, onion and garlic brown a little bit.

+ Keep high heat, add chayotte strips. Then add soysauce, a little bit of water, sprinkle salt (and garlic powder if use powder) evenly onto the mix.
+ Stir occasionally for 5-7 minutes so that the strips can cook evenly.
+ Add more water and salt if needed. The chayotte itself yields some juice, you don't want it too dry it'll burn the chayotte, but don't want too watery either. About 3 tbsp of "juicy sauce" left at the end is about what we want.
+ Lastly, stir in the green parts of onions and sprinkle some ground pepers. Let it cook for another 1 minute.
+ Turn off heat, keep it covered for another few minutes.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mon An Chay - Vegetarian Stirfry

Happy Chinese NewYear !!! Gong Hey Fat Choy !! Chuc Mung Nam Moi !!

This year I took the Monday (1st day of the lunar year) off to spend with my family. We visited a few temples to offer incents, and it was really nice feeling the New Year spirit all around. On the first, we followed our Mom to eat "chay" (vegetarian). I actually like to eat "chay" every now and then, I'm not too much of a meat person to start with, so I can easily afford to go vegetarian a day or two. Healthy, easy to cook, I like to share with you this simple vegetarian stirfry.

+ 1 pack of cubed fried tofu
+ 1 can whole straw mushroom, washed
+ 1 can bamboo shoot, washed and cut into thinner slices (see picture)
+ 1 cup baby carrots (or 1 medium carrot, cut into small finger-size pieces)
+ 1/2 cup soysauce
+ 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar , or to taste
+ 3 cups water
+ 3-5 cloves garlic, chopped.
+ 2 tbsp oil

Cooking Instructions:
+ Wash all ingredients, cut bamboo shoots into thinner slices, drain and put away in a container
+ Heat up the oil in a big wok, add garlic.
+ Add carrots, bamboo, and mushroom, tofu. Stir a few times to heat them evenly.
(I use baby carrots so I cook them at the same time as bamboo, mushroom, and tofu. If you use regular carrots and cut into smaller pieces, they will need to be cooked a little longer, therefore you should cook the carrots in the wok first for 2-3 minutes before adding other ingredients)
+ Add soysauce, water, salt, sugar. Mix up well and stir occasionally so that all the vegetable can soak up the sauce.
+ Let it cook for 20 minutes, stir and mix occasionally
+ Additional water, soysauce, salt, sugar to taste if needed. You do want to keep some sauce, the sauce is sooo good poured over rice :-)
+ Let it cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat and keep covered.

Served with hot white rice.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

water crest soup

This isn't a Vietnamese soup since I never had it growing up, at least not being cooked this way. My Mom has made salads and other main dishes using water crest, even water crest soup cooked with ground pork, but the taste of the soup broth is remotely different. This is a Chinese (Cantonese?) version that was introduced to me by the hubbie back when we were still dating. The soup broth is a bit "sweet". I've very soon picked up this one of his favorite soups as my fav also. Come to think about it, the hubbie is pretty easy going at eating since he has a...lot... of favorites.

This soup is earthy, healthy, yummy, and easy to make.

+ 2 bundles of water crest, washed.
+ 1 lb of pork ribs, cut into smaller pieces (remove the fat if you like)
+ (Optional) 20-30 dried almond seeds
+ 1 dried sweeten fig (see picture). This is usually sold in a plastic package at Asian grocery or herbal store like Wing Hop Fung
+ My "secret ingredient" :-) is a few small pieces of "tran bi`" (dried citrus peel). Some type of citrus peel is already sweeten, so you'll need to adjust the sweet-salty balance of your broth (for example: choose a smaller sized dried fig, add more water and salt to proportion out the extra sugar, etc.)
+ 2-3 tsp salt. Or to taste.

Cooking instruction:
+ Boil a pot of water
+ (Optional) if you have dried almond seeds, add them to the pot and cook from the beginning. These seeds are hard so it'll take a long time to cook them. By adding at the beginning, we give it more cooking time.
+ When boiled, add the pork ribs, 1 dried sweeten fig, and dried citrus peel into the pot
+ Let it cook in the broth for 1/2 hour. Scoop off the foam if any.

  • *Note* The dried fig should be pretty sweet (sometimes I scoop it out after I think I've got enough sweet taste to my soup - and let the soup continue to cook without it)
+ Add the water crest, and lower the heat to medium. Let cook for another 1/2 hour (the vegetable appears all soft) or longer if you want.
+ Add salt and sugar to taste at the end, before turning off heat.

I used to ask the hubbie why they cook until the vegies all soft, presentation wise, it doesn't look as nice, taste wise you can't "eat" the vegetable it pretty much melt in your mouth. This is alot different from the Vietnamese way of cooking, because in Vietnamese cooking at least you want to be able to bite on or chew on the vegetable to savoy its taste and texture. So according to the hubbie, chinese "loo fo" soups (literally translated to "old fire") emphasize only on the broth. That's why they usually cook for a very long time (hence, loo fo) so that all the nutrition and flavor can yield into the broth. All the ingredients that go in a soup (meat, vegetables, etc.) are meant to give nutrition and flavor up the broth and people would mainly drink the broth, sometimes don't even bother about the rest. Interesting concept. But then again, I thought its a little bit wasteful.