No- knead OVEN DRIED TOMATOES WITH ROSEMARY BREAD– BANH MI CA CHUA HUONG ROSEMARY

Hello people, this is ultimate healthy bread. As you know by now my husband is serious about healthy eating. Finally I can drop all purpose flour and use all wheat flour instead. The result is he has very nutty brown bread, powered with flavorful dried tomato and rosemary.
.Ingredients:
Ingredients:
3 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3½ cup warm water of 100oF
4 Roma tomatoes (about 1lb), halved
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
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Instructions:
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Place tomato halves on a sheet pan. Sprinkle rosemary, garlic powder and olive oil. Bake in the oven of 300oF for 1½ hours. Remove and let cool. Can make ahead of time and store in the fridge for 3 days. Alternately, place tomatoes halves on rack of “Super Wave Oven” like in the picture, bake at 300oF for 40′, if you have one like I do.
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Heat 1 cup of water with honey to 100oF, sprinkle the yeast over and stir. It will be foamy in about 5’.
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In a large bowl, mix all flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture, stir to combine, adding more 2½ cup lukewarm water (100oF). The consistency is loose. Cover with plastic wrap, let rise to double in size for 12-18 hours. I always do this the day before.
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Turn the dough out on a floured Silpat, mixed the dried tomatoes, fold in the dough, incorporating more flour as needed to be easy to work with, to make a ball. There was time when my dough is too wet, I needed 2 more cups of flour to work in.
Put the ball seams side down on the floured Silpat for the second rise for 1-2 hours.
Alternately, you can mix tomatoes when mixing the dough. You won’t see much the big pieces of tomatoes as they dissolved when fermentation.
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Preheat a Dutch oven with lid in the oven of 450oF. Drop the dough into the Dutch oven. The Silpat helps to lift and drop the dough easier. Cover and bake for 20’. Uncover and bake for 20’ more until brown crispy and crusty.
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slice tomatoes in halves

slice tomatoes in halves

olive oil

olive oil

prinkle with rosemary and garlic powder

prinkle with rosemary and garlic powder

dry tomatoes halves in the oven

dry tomatoes halves in the oven

oven-dried tomatoes

oven-dried tomatoes

 

start the yeast mixture for tomato bread

start the yeast mixture for tomato bread

mix flour, yeast mixture, salt with oven-dried tomatoes

mix flour, yeast mixture, salt with oven-dried tomatoes

prepare flour surface on a Silpat

prepare flour surface on a Silpat

 

the dough after 12-18 hours proofing

the dough after 12-18 hours proofing

shape the dough for 2nd rise

shape the dough for 2nd rise

shape the dough to go in the oven

shape the dough to go in the oven

bread is baking in the Dutch oven

bread is baking in the Dutch oven

 

 

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WE BUILT OUR HOME ENTERTAINMENT CENTER

entertainment center overall
We moved into a brand new house after my husband retired. The house is beautiful and spacious, but it is still builder’s grade.  So we started to improve the house one space at a time.
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Our family room is great with a 20-feet ceiling. We have many windows on one side to let the light in. We needed something on the focal wall, where we put the TV. So I designed a home entertainment center and my husband built it. The result; we have a beautiful 8-foot wide and 7-foot high entertainment center to hold our 55-inch TV, home sound entertainment system, and many spaces for decorative things. My blue china is finally out of the cupboard and shows off in the entertainment center.
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We did it. So can you. Believe me. My husband was sitting in a government chair for more than 35 years. His hands were softer than mine. I am self-taught designer. We must say we got big help from Lowes for cutting the boards that we bought from their lumber department.
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The entertainment center has a base that we divided into 6 compartments, which holds DirectTV box and Sony Home Sound system and decorative nick-nacks.
The upper part is thinner than the base by 4 inches and consists of 3 bookcases connected together. The 2 side bookcases have 4 compartments and hold our blue china. The wide center bookcase has a large bottom part for our Sony big screen TV and a top part for again holding our blue china.
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The factor that makes our entertainment center beautiful is all the trim we bought. We trimmed all the edges and attached dental crown mouldings on top. We used two tones: fluted white trim for vertical lines and red maple trim for horizontal lines.
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You can see the below pictures. If you like to have exact measurements please let me know.
Thank you for looking.
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WHAT IS PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHO ARE PHOTOGRAPHERS? – NGHE THUAT CHUP HINH VA NHIEP ANH VIEN

WHAT IS PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHO ARE PHOTOGRAPHERS?NGHE THUAT CHUP HINH VA NHIEP ANH VIEN

 

For us, who are normal (I exaggerate here, I mean amateur), as opposed to supernatural (I mean professional) the first thing we need to learn is to understand photography.

When you read my above opening sentence you might not see why I use these words.

Guess what I found out?

Photography is the art and science of capturing us or things around us and expressing them in pictures. I say “art” because photography does need the artist’s eyes.

To achieve great images, first we need to see things differently. Sounds familiar? I think I read that in some book or I’ve just watched the movie “Into the West” by Steven Spielberg: Clara taught her students: “the power to see things differently”.

Bryan Peterson wrote in his book “Understanding Close-Up Photography” that we see so much potential, so many possible intimate encounters, in a world that most people are too busy to notice or simply never thought was worth the look.

To break through from taking normal to breathtaking photographs, to move a little closer from amateur to professional, we need to look at even normal object with different angles and views.

Bryan Peterson did impress me with the picture of the downspout he took in Burano, Italy. Like many of us, who could pass by a typical downspout day after day, who could have thought it could be conveyed into an unusual amazing image that could be framed on the wall. Now you may ask, are professional (celebrity) photographers supernatural?

By the way you do not need to go to Italy to photograph the downspout, you can find it everywhere.

Now you know, what I got myself into.

People say we learn something new every day. Like you, I have learned a lot of things in my life. Do not count the fact I spent 12 years before finish high schools and 6 and a half for university. I learned 5 languages: Vietnamese, English, French, Russian and a little German. When it came to my previous job, I had to force myself to learn Spanish. After just a few hours of my life, I gave up. No more learning.  Je suis tres fatigue.

Life is not as easy as some say. I next found myself swimming in the ocean of knowledge about blogging. And while I am still barely afloat, I need to face another learning challenge: Photography. I do seriously need to take better pictures of my food.

Nowadays my life is divided among my husband Donald, Nicole Young, Teri Campbell, Derek Pell, Bryan Peterson, Tom Ang and Scott Kelby.

But instead of simply drifting, I find myself swimming again. In the early years, I did not learn how to swim although I dipped myself in the pool of our university for a whole year. I later mastered swimming, though, at least freestyle category, thanks to an Olympic-trained tutor.

I am an optimistic person so I continue to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you are curious about what I am learning about photography and the improvements of my photography skill, sign up to receive my newsletter at the top right of my blog to read more.

Until then, bye-bye and be happy.

 

 

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MY FIRST CAMERAS – NHUNG MAY CHUP HINH DAU TIEN CUA TOI

MY FIRST CAMERASNHUNG MAY CHUP HINH DAU TIEN CUA TOI
Many students at my school liked to take photographs.   They even made dark room to develop the films to print out the pictures. They were black and white era pictures, just so you know.
I often had my picture taken by those amateur “photographers”. My pictures captured all my six college years from Erevan, Armenia to Odessa, Kiev, Ukraine to Moscow, St. Petersburg (called Leningrad at that time), to Siberia, to Budapest, to Czech Slovakia to list a few. I cannot tell the whole list because it is too long.
The technical requirements of creating a dark room intimidated me, so I never bothered.
But I absolutely got to buy one camera to bring home before leaving the Soviet Union. It was a Zenite and was praised pretty high. At home my brother liked it more than me. So he used it for a while then it went into storage.  Over time it became outdated and became a good candidate for the museum. As I write this today, sad to say my family has lost track of that old Zenite camera.    
As the years went by, my passion for photography continued on. I built up a number of albums. The result of every business trip I made to America. I did buy a very good camera by recommendation of a friend, whose brother owned a camera shop. But did I really use it? Not so much.
When I married my husband, I suddenly lived without taking pictures. My husband is a very handsome man but he is not vain. Like in our native language: “he does not eat the picture” so he does not live to see pictures of himself. However, his life was about to change because upon my begging he broke down and bought me the best available Sony Handycam.
We brought it with us on our trips and made some videos and took some pictures. I brought it to my country when visiting and made some videos.
It was a show off piece for an equipment. People recognized and valued it and I was proud.
I now have an HTC android phone with 8 megapixel camera and camcorder. It is light and easy to carry around. It takes great pictures. It became an easy choice to leave the big and bulky handycam at home.
Then my husband bought me a Samsung Galaxy tablet. It was so wonderful with the camera and video function. I use it almost every time, especially when I started to take pictures for my saigoncook.com blog.
I thought my tablet camera was great until one day I visited Smitten Kitchen blog while I was reading the book “Food blogging for Dummies”. The pictures there were stunning. For the first time I realized I took very average pictures.
I retrieved my handycam from the closet and intended to use it for taking pictures. My husband was a big boss at his job and he supervised two professional photographers. I asked him for me to ask them some questions about how to use my handycam. My husband did not let me. First, he was a very straight boss, he did not want me to bother his employee for my personal things. Second, he assured me that my handycam was not the good candidate for the job I wanted to do.
It was hard for me to accept that our expensive Sony Handycam could not be my camera. However, when I tried to take a close-up photograph, I could not.
My husband referred me to his niece Shanna, who uses a high-tech digital SLR camera.  She also does some professional photo work. When it came to Shanna, I must agree the girl is an extremely competent individual, and always thoroughly researches products before she buys.
So stay tuned. You want to find out what camera I will buy?  And more? Don’t you?
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MY FIRST PICTURES – NHUNG TAM HINH DAU TIEN CUA TOI

MY FIRST PICTURES – NHUNG TAM HINH DAU TIEN CUA TOI
My love of photography is natural. I have loved to see myself in photographs ever since I was small.
It might be an obvious desire. Remember I was born in a remote village. There was no electricity. Although electricity was nothing related to photography, I introduce it here to let your mind play some imagination about the kind of life, dark, remote, and primitive.  Rarely someone had a camera, and a primitive one it was.  Still, it was a fancy thing.
I had my first picture taken in 1968 at the only studio in the closest district town. It was a 4x6mm and a 3x4mm. I did not ask the money from my parents for fancy pictures. They were needed to attach to the application for taking the entry exam for the 6th grade, the entry level for my elementary school.
With the eyes of a 6-year-old person I believed I looked beautiful.
Now, after adding years of life, I see in the picture a little creature, shy and timid, exposing her inner self to the photographer, wearing her white school dress. I was puzzled to find myself in a strange and dark studio. I trembled when the strobe light was turned on. Yet, I was burnt with desire to be beautiful in the picture.
I took a few more pictures when I was in the 6th grade.
My school organized a tour for students to the sea. That was my first trip away from home. That event was big. My mother was excited as much as I was. From our village to Saigon, the old capital of the South of Vietnam, was the farthest  she had ever gone from home. She had never had the opportunity to see the sea, so she was happy for me. She went out buying me a stainless steel fork and spoon that were so big that I felt embarrassed. Her effort was to get me something fancy to have to eat my meals with other students, instead of using ordinary bamboo chopsticks that we used every day.
My youngest aunt lent me her new beautiful blouse. I even had a pair of black glasses.
So I was there, me and the ocean for the first time. I played with the waves. I rented a float (it was actually a huge tire) and rode on it. I was not afraid of the ocean at all.  So young and so brave!
I was curious and patient to wait for the light beams that casted over the school yard of some school that our teachers could arrange for us to stay.
I believed all the overwhelming excitement from discoveries of new things and new places were captured there in my pictures. Thanks to the photographer who had the camera and cared enough to take my pictures.
Now it is your turn. I can’t wait to read about your first picture taking experiences.
Please come back for more about photography.
 
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12 DAYS TO CHRISTMAS: THE FOOD: stuffed mushrooms – 12 ngay cho den giang sinh: mon nam nhoi

STUFFED MUSHROOM – NAM NHOI
A plate of stuffed mushrooms

A plate of stuffed mushrooms

This is a popular appetizer. These mushrooms are very flavorful and healthy at the same time. Do not wait until you have a party to make them. My husband loves to add them to his lunch or dinner.
Ingredients:
1 lb white button mushrooms, cleaned
6 dried shitake mushroom, soaked in hot water
1 medium onions, peeled and minced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 slices of ginger, minced
3 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoon breadcrumb
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
A pinch of parsley salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
A teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oil
Instructions:
Preheat the oven 375oF.
Use the point of a small knife, making an incision into the base of the stem, turning the mushroom around to remove the stem. Remove more to make bigger cavities.
Chop the stems coarsely.
Discard the tough stems from shitake mushrooms, chop coarsely.
Heat a skillet or pan over medium heat until hot. Add oil and wait until hot, add ginger, garlic and stir for 30’ until fragrant. Add onion and both mushrooms and cook for 5’, then season with salt, soy sauce and black pepper. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and let cool.
Mix in parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
Spoon the mixture into the mushroom cavities.
Bake for 15’. Remove from the oven and they are ready to serve.
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sauté CHILI – OT SA TE

sauté CHILI – OT SA TE
Sate chili

Sate chili

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This is the ultimate cooked chili for heat lovers. When you open the jar the aroma allures you to take a spoon (or less) for your Hue beef noodles soup (bun bo Hue). There are so many dishes like sauté chili squid (muc xao sa te), sauté beef hot pot (lau bo sa te) call for this condiment.
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I use ginger in this recipe. If you can get galangal it would be a nice component. In some cases not strictly for vegetarian people, dried shrimps or fermented fish or shrimp sauce can be added. They are sure to make distinstive flavors.
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It is worth the effort to make at home; clean, fresh, and safe because of no preservative chemical addition. The only caution to take is wearing gloves to protect hands and masks to protect nose and glasses to protect eyes from hot smell.
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Ingredients:
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10 medium red chilis, minced
¼ cup dry red chili flakes, soaked in water for 10’
10 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger root, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer leaves discarded, minced
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 small glass jar
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Instructions:
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Heat a pan or skillet over medium heat until hot. Add oil, ginger, garlic and lemongrass, stir until fragrant. Add dried chili and fresh chili. Add sugar, salt and fish sauce and cook until dry. Remove from heat and let cool.
Spoon the sate chili into a jar. It can keep in the fridge for about 10 days. The first time I made and left on the counter and forgot about it. When I opened the jar it was full of fungus. Better to put in the fridge.
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12 DAYS TO CHRISTMAS – 12 NGAY CHO DEN GIANG SINH

12 DAYS TO CHRISTMAS – 12 NGAY CHO DEN GIANG SINH

Christmas wreath 1

Christmas wreath 1

 

Christmas wreath 2

Christmas wreath 2

 

Hi everyone! The countdown is on. Are you ready? I am.
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The decorations:
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After Thanksgiving day, I removed the pumpkins and fall decorations in front of the house. I put up multi-color lights all over our balcony and the holly bushes. For the entrance the red lights garland took place. A wreath with green pine and red and yellow bows is hung on the door. A bunch of fresh pine and red bow is tied to the tree on the street near the driveway, another one for the mail box post and one more for the light post. From the street the house looks festive and brings the holiday spirit up. My husband and I love to see our house lit up when we drive home. He often takes me on a tour around the neighborhood to see who has the best decorations.
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How about inside?
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The chandelier in the dining room is hung with all green ornaments and a silver and gold Morroccan ball. The other chandelier at the breakfast nook is hung with blue ornaments and a red Morrocan ball. The opening from the breakfast nook to the family room is lit with multi-color motion lights. I love it. Sometime it is green, then blue, then red, then orange and then all together colors flashing. Another string is dragged over the staircase bannister going up to the second floor. At each post I attached a bouquet of fresh pine with a red bow.
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Over the mantel is the fresh pine wreath with red bow and pine cones. I made another wreath and hung over the window in the living room. I am happy it is there because it balances the chandelier in the dining room as our living room and dining room are open great room.
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I made the wreaths and bouquets myself. I will try to find time to show you how I made them.
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We have two kids to give presents. I already wrapped Tyler’s (2nd grade) present. Riley’s (6th grade) gift is pending to the last day because I do not want to fold her beautiful burgundy gown and let it sit in a box too long.
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We also purchased fresh poinsettias. They will go into fresh flower decorations when I set the tables.
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Come back to see how I do with the tables; promise!
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You do not want to miss my food, either. This week I am going to make the cookies.
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My husband has been busy building the entertainment center. Today we assembled the bottom unit. It was too big and I was not happy. I am to blame because I designed it. We decided to make another smaller version. Poor my husband!
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So you do not want to miss our entertainment center either.
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Keep your spirit up! Bye for now!
Christmas wreath 1

 

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A VIETNAMESE COOK TAKES ON HANUKKAH LATKES – BANH TOM HO TAY

A VIETNAMESE COOK TAKES ON HANUKKAH LATKES – BANH TOM HO TAY
vegetarian sweet potato cake

vegetarian sweet potato cake

shrimp sweet potato cake

shrimp sweet potato cake

sweet potato cakes

sweet potato cakes

I saw the latkes picture in the Bon Appetit magazine volume 57 number 12. It looked exactly like my shrimp sweet potato pancakes. So I have posted this recipe for all of you who want something new for their holiday. There is no better time: the sweet potato season is here. The cold weather allows us to eat some fried food.
This cake was created and loved by Hanoi people and put Ho Tay (West lake), a beautiful lake in Hanoi on the map of food culture. Hanoi people bring along this dish with them whenever they go resettling. Now the whole country is able to devour this dish.
There were two versions of this cake: one soft and pluffy and the other crispy with sweet potato. Both are savory. They have shrimp on top and served with varieties of vegetables and dipped in a little sweet and sour fish sauce with green papaya and carrot pickles.
To eat, break up a piece of pancake, put on top of a lettuce leaf with some herbs like mint, Thai basil, chives, roll into a roll, dip in fish sauce. One bite can give you an amazing experience: soft dough, crispy sweet potato and shrimp, a little spicy herbs and sweet and sour dipping sauce.
The best part of it is you have fun making them. Watching the cake releases itself from the mold when it is cooked is fun. You have the accomplishment feeling of making the food that people are craving.
So do not wait any longer. Follow my recipe and let me know how your cakes turn out.
Ingredients:
For this recipe it yields 7 vegetarian cakes (no shrimps and they look like latkes) and 7 shrimp cakes
For the batter:
1 cup rice flour
½ cup tempura four (sold in Asian markets)
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoon AP flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon tumeric
½ cup milk
½ cup water
the batter

the batter

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
7 medium shrimps
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Canola oil for deep frying
the cake is about to release from the mold

the cake is about to release from the mold

Accompanied vegetables: Lettuce, Thai basil, mint, chives…
Sweet and sour fish sauce dip (Hanoi style) recipe follows
Carrot and papaya pickles (Hanoi style), recipe follows
Special equipment:
The mold to make banh Gia (Bean sprout cake mold) or strainer or flat ladle.
Instructions:
Mix all ingredients for the batter 30’ in advance so that the batter has time to rest. It can be made and kept in the fridge for a day.
Shred potatoes into matchsticks. Soak in ice water to remove some starch and keep them crispy.
Marinate shrimps with garlic, salt and pepper. I use shrimps with heads and tails on, they crispier this way. You can trim if you prefer. I use the white shrimps (tep bac) as their shells are tender. I use one shrimp for one cake. You can use 2 shrimps if they are small.
Bring a deep fryer or a pan with at least 2 ½ inches oil to 350oF. That is the ideal temperature for making this cake. Too hot will burn the cake before cooked. Too low will make the cake soggy (not healthy eating). Leave the mold in the oil to heat. Lift up the mold from the oil (no oil in the mold). Mix some potatoes into the batter and place on the mold. You will hear sizzle. It is preferable the potatoes sit on different directions. Dip one shrimp in the batter and place on top of the potatoes. Lower the mold into hot oil. Let it cook for 1 minute or so, the cake will release itself from the mold. Leave the mold in the oil for the next cake. Cook the cake for 1 minute longer. Remove the cake to paper towel.
Now you are ready for the next cake. Repeat until all batter and sweet potatoes and shrimps used up.
You can make a lot of cakes and keep in 200oF oven until ready to serve. It is also good to eat them at room temperature. I put in the fridge they are still crispy the next day.
Carrot and papaya pickles:
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced across
¼ green papaya, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced across
1 cup vinegar
2 cups water
Soak carrot and papaya in vinegar and water mixture for 30’ or until they are slightly sour.
Sweet and sour fish sauce dip:
¼ cup fish sauce
3 tablespoon sugar
½ cup vinegar
2 cup water
1 red chili, sliced (optional)
Mix all ingredients.
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