I apologize for being away from my blog in a while. Although it might have been a week, but sure felt like forever. My body lost a fight to the unpredictable hot and cold weather, which put me in bed for a couple of days with pounding and pulsing headaches.
While not able to cook much, I had been doing a lot of sleeping, and thinking about my childhood in Vietnam. A lot. A wave of nostalgia swept over me out of nowhere. I have not been back to my hometown since my family left the country twenty-three years ago (but it seems just like yesterday).
if the streets are still recognizable;
if the neighbors are still the same;
if our houses are still standing.
what about the kids I used to play with.
We, the kids and I, played games outdoor most of the time. Jump rope made with thousand of rubber bands. Hide and seeks in a neighbor’s house with stacks and stacks of rice sacks. Hopscotch drawn with chalk on the street. Marbles in the dirt. Bowling with tin cans. The worst game we ever played was dare each other to steal little chicks and fresh eggs from one of our neighbors who raised chickens in her home. We would run into our homes if we ever get caught or yelled at. But we never learned to stop doing it.
We would be all sweaty and thirsty by the afternoon after our plays. An old lady, who carried coconut drinks and jelly in two baskets with a wooden paddle on her shoulder, would come by around this time. There was nothing better than refreshing coconut drinks and jelly for us. As we sipped, we looked at each other and laughed at how dirty our face, hands and feet were.
These memories unconsciously bring smiles to my face. Being happy as a kid is as simple and pure as a coconut. Nothing more nostalgic than that.
Honey Orange Peel Ginger Syrup
1 large California orange, juiced with pulp
1/4 orange peel, thinly sliced
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp honey
In a pot, bring orange juice, ginger, and orange peel to a boil. Stir. Add honey. Continue to stir until melted. Bring the heat to a simmer, for about 15 – 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Fresh Coconut Panna Cotta in a Shell
Serving: 2 coconuts
1 can (400ml, about 1 1/2 cup) coconut milk
5 – 6 tbsp brown sugar
1 large young coconut, yields about 1 1/2-cup fresh coconut water
2 tsp agar-agar
With a knife, make a circular rim around the top of the coconut. Shave off the husk of the circle, if any, until the shell shows. Use the end of a knife to poke till you get a hole and lift to crack open the top. Pour coconut water into a cup and set aside. Scrap the flesh of the coconut from the shell using a spoon. Chop and set aside. Get rid of any brown fiber attached to the flesh. Scrap the brown fifer in the coconut and clean. Set aside.
In the cup with coconut water, add agar-agar. Stir and combine. Set aside.
In a pot on medium heat, stir and bring coconut milk to a boil. Add sugar. Stir, until melted. Then, while stirring, slowly pour in the coconut water mixture. Bring it to a boil. Stir, for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
Scoop into coconut shells, or ramekins if prefer. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Serve cold with Honey Orange Peel Ginger syrup.
A Few Notes:
- agar-agar is vegetarian and gluten-free
- the recipe is dairy free
- add more agar-agar if you prefer denser texture