Archive for the 'Equipment' Category


Making Banh Cuon in Can Tho, Vietnam

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

For you food wonks, here’s a video of banh cuon. After all the interest in the rice paper video, I thought it’d be fun to show a totally different set-up. Here, two guys are working together in a very closely synchronized switch-off. Watch how they pass off the bamboo stick!

Banh cuon is a popular dish for breakfast in Vietnam, and all the best places will sell out by 8:00 am. The dish is related to banh trang, or rice paper, but it’s spread a little thicker and served as a fresh noodle. Some restaurants will grind glutinous rice in with their batter to add body and bite, or perhaps use tapioca or potato starch. Of course, the exact ratio will be a closely guarded secret.

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Making Traditional Banh Trang

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Before machine-made banh trang (rice paper) became popular, my aunt, Di Yen, and cousin, Trinh, produced rice paper in Viet Nam by hand and sold it locally in their town just north of Saigon. On my last visit back, I asked them to show me how they used to make it. They prepared a special batch from stone-ground, whole-grain red rice. Rice bran, stored in that big metal drum, drops down to fuel an earthen stove. Gently steaming water rises through tightly stretched cloth and cooks the very thin, smooth rice batter in seconds. My cousin, who hasn’t done this for a year, still remembers the rhythmic choreography of stirring, ladling, spreading, rolling and unrolling. Of course, she makes it all look so easy!

Each mat, as it’s covered by still warm and wet banh trang, is arranged in the sun so that the rice paper can dry completely into the delicate, translucent rounds that we love so much. Look closely and you might notice that the roller is covered with the leg fabric from an old pair of jeans.

(The voices you hear are my mom and me.)

Continue reading for more details… (more…)


Wok Rings and Electric Stoves

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

S. writes:

…how [does] one uses a wok in the contemporary kitchen (its called the science of the wok). I’m wondering, do you use a wok or a ring for your burner? I read a review on cooks illustrated that basically concluded that the wok doesn’t make sense on a standard (flat) kitchen burner. The shape seems more to me about the distribution of fats and the ability to have different zones of heat.

Any thoughts are much appreciated!

S

Hi S,

Oh goodness, I’m not sure I want to take on the folks over at Cooks Illustrated! For all his curmudgeonly geekiness, Christopher Kimball is very thorough in his obsessive testing and retesting.

But since you asked… (more…)


Rules of Thumb

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

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There was a time, before Pyrex and Oxo, calculators and even cookbooks, when rules of thumb ruled the kitchen. My mother taught me my first one when I was six and still standing on a barstool to reach the kitchen faucet, the infamous and eerily accurate “one-knuckle” rule for cooking rice. Like all good R.O.T., the measures were flexible. It didn’t matter how much rice or what size pot or what kind of stove. It worked.

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Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

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With spring just a few weeks away, it’s a busy day at the Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies. In between ringing up jars of local honey, three generations of the Stewart family answer a stream of questions with both patience and passion. If you’re curious about how bees make honey, which size wick to use in your candle-making, the science of animal communications or the health benefits of bee pollen, there’s no better place to spend an afternoon. If you’re already a dedicated beekeeper, well, then, you’ve probably already met Nancy and Fred, the proprietor and the talker, respectively, who run this gem of a shop.

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