Recipe: Passion Fruit Curd Pavlova

In September, Patrick and I grabbed a storage bin and harvested 18 gallons of passion fruits from my dad's yard. I've been experimenting with passion fruits with success by incorporating the pulp in different desserts like my passion fruit mochi cupcakes and adaptation of Serious Eat's olive oil cake

Every year when we get a new harvest of fruits, Patrick makes this dreamy passion fruit curd using a Martha Stewart recipe. We usually toss the egg whites in the trash, but this year the thought of a pavlova immediately came to mind as both a perfect complement to the curd and a great way to use leftover egg whites. 

This passion fruit curd pavlova is full of fun textures that are extremely pleasing to the mouth. Hand-whipped cream layered on top of silky smooth, sweet and tart curd layered on top of a crackly meringue cake with an irresistible marshmallow belly. It's an incredibly easy dessert to make that's guaranteed to impress.  

 

Passion Fruit Curd Pavlova

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Lemon Pavlova

Serves 8 to 12

Ingredients: 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
  2. Sprinkle the cornflour over the meringue, then add in grated zest of 1 lemon and add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
  3. Gently fold until everything is thoroughly mixed in. Mound onto the lined baking tray in a fat circle approximately 23cm/10inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and the top with a knife or spatula.
  4. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/300°F, and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, but don’t leave it anywhere cold as this will make it crack too quickly. If you think your kitchen is too cool, then leave the pavlova inside the oven with the door completely open. 
  6. Whisk the heavy cream until thick and airy but still with a soft voluptuousness about it, and set it aside for a moment.
  7. Put the passion fruit curd into a bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen it a little.
  8. Using a spatula, lightly spread the passion fruit curd on top of the meringue base. Top with the whipped cream. If desired, garnish with passion fruit seeds.

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Recipe: Banh Hoi and Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese Steamed Woven Rice Vermicelli and Crispy Roasted Pork Belly)

Banh hoi is a traditional Vietnamese dish that's comprised of woven fine rice vermicelli noodles topped with chopped scallions in oil. It's never eaten alone, but instead as a lettuce wrap with a complementary meat dish and a variety of vegetables and herbs. My family is from southern Vietnam, so I grew up eating banh hoi with thit heo quay (crispy roasted pork), vit quay (roasted duck) and thit bo xao (stir-fry beef). 

A couple of years ago, my talented mom taught us how to make banh hoi from scratch using dry packaged noodles and an easy technique using a splatter screen. Thanks to my mom, Patrick and I had a fabulous Vietnamese dinner at home. 

I'm so happy to finally share this recipe with all of you. The banh hoi you're about to make has such a satisfying firm texture, unlike the stale and dry versions sold at Asian grocery stores. The roasted pork belly is super tender, fatty and flavorful with cracklin' skin. And the sweet, sour and zesty nuoc mam cham dipping sauce makes everything come together as one. 

Note: If you plan to make the roasted pork belly, you'll need to start prepping the night before.


Banh Hoi (Woven Rice Vermicelli)

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish // Makes 4 to 5 banh hoi (~10") 

Things You'll Need: 

  • 10.5" inch splatter screen
  • Pot or pan with lid, width of pot needs to be slightly smaller than splatter screen
  • Brush for oiling the splatter screen
  • Kitchen scissors

Ingredients:

  • 250 g (half a package) of fine rice vermicelli - I use Wai Wai brand
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch) - I use Bob's Red Mill Finely Ground Tapioca Flour
  • 1/4 cup of neutral oil - canola or unscented basic olive oil for brushing the splatter screen 
  • Mo hanh (scallion oil), as needed, recipe below
  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced lengthwise into 1.5" inches
  • 6 sprigs of each Vietnamese herb: mint, perilla, cilantro (up to preference) 

Directions: 

  1. Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes. Stir it around with your fingers to loosen them up then drain out the water using a colander. Shake out all excess water then spread the noodles out on a counter or in a large bowl to dry out for 20 minutes.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour to the noodles and mix it well with your hands to coat, this will help bond the noodles together. You want to use enough tapioca flour to coat the noodles, feel free to use more if necessary. 
  3. Fill your pot or pan 1/3 full with water. The pot should be slightly smaller than your splatter screen in order for your splatter screen to sit on top of it. Get the water to a medium rolling boil.
  4. Brush the splatter screen with neutral oil and spread the noodles in a thin layer over the splatter screen. Cover noodles completely with a lid and allow it to steam over the pot. 
  5. The noodles should be cooked in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. You can tell it is cooked when the noodles turn white and are no longer translucent. 
  6. Turn over the banh hoi onto a serving plate. The noodles should all stick together as one flat unit like they are woven. Use a spoon to spread the scallion oil evenly all over the banh hoi. Use your scissors to cut them into small individual pieces for wrapping. I cut mine into 3 by 3 (9 total pieces for each banh hoi). 
  7. Continue repeating this process until you have no more noodles left.
  8. You can layer on the banh hoi on top of each other, but be sure to spread scallion oil in between. I would recommend splitting the banh hoi between two serving plates. The noodles are served at room-temperature.  

Note: I hope the video above helps demonstrate the process. My apologies for the poor quality of shooting - it's hard to cook and film at the same time! 


MO HANH (SCALLION OIL)

Ingredients: 

  • 2 bunch scallions, chopped with ends and tips discarded
  • 1/2 cup of neutral oil - canola or unscented basic olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Directions: 

  1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot, about a minute. Test the oil by dropping in a chopped scallion to see if the oil sizzles. Remove the pan away from the heat, immediately add in a pinch of salt and all the chopped scallions, and then stir immediately with a wooden spoon. Keep in pan and set aside.

Thit Heo Quay (Crispy Roasted Pork Belly)

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 lbs pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per lb
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of sugar per lb
  • 1/2 teaspoon of five spice powder, optional/use as much as desired 
  • Fresh black pepper, as needed

Directions: 

  1. Mix the salt, sugar, and five spice powder and use your hands to rub the mix on the meaty side of the pork, avoiding the skin. You will likely have some rub leftover, discard it. It is important to not rub the skin because we need it dry of moisture in order for the skin to properly crisp. Take a paper towel and wipe any excess moisture off of the skin. Place the pork skin side up in an uncovered container then chill in the fridge overnight
  2. When ready to cook, remove the pork from the fridge and wipe off any skin moisture with a paper towel. Leave the pork out and preheat the oven to 275 F.
  3. Place the pork belly in an aluminum lined roasting or baking pan skin side up, positioned in the middle rack.
  4. Roast for about 2 hours, checking the tenderness of the pork belly by piercing the meaty part of the pork. You want the meat to be tender to pierce through without much resistance, but you do not want it to be soft to the point where it's falling apart or too easy to piece through. 
  5. Turn your oven on to a broil to crisp up the skin, keeping a very close eye so the skin doesn't burn. Be prepared to quickly rotate the pan to different areas of the skin for even crisping.
  6. Remove the pork from the oven and leave it to rest for 15 minutes, then cut into bite sized pieces and serve on a platter. 

Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 5 peeled garlic cloves, pounded or minced
  • 40 grams sugar
  • 20 ml of lime juice
  • 50 ml of fish sauce - I use Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • 100 ml water, warm enough to dissolve sugar
  • 100 ml water, room temp
  • Sambal (chili garlic sauce), optional 

Directions:

  1. Stir 100 ml of warm water with 40 grams of sugar to dissolve. Stir all the ingredients together and adjust to taste. Add in chili garlic sauce, if using. 

How to Serve and Eat Banh Hoi

Banh hoi is enjoyed family-style with multiple platters within reaching distance. Each person should have their own little bowl of nuoc mam cham for dipping their own wraps.

To eat, take a palm-sized lettuce leaf (rip the lettuce if it's too large), layer on a piece of banh hoi, a piece of pork belly, a cucumber and a few leaves picked from the fresh herbs. Roll it up and wrap it up as tightly as you can in a bundle without the lettuce breaking. Dip it into the nuoc cham and take a bite, repeating the dipping process as needed. You'll notice in the photo above that I got a bit too greedy for my first roll, so it didn't roll up very nicely. 

I'd love to see how your banh hoi turned out. Leave a comment below to share your results, and please also tag @nerb #bitesandbourbon on Instagram. Let me know if you have any questions! 

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Exploring Italy: The 5 Worst Things We Ate in Florence

I recently wrote about all my favorite places to eat in Florence. In this post, I'm doing the exact opposite and sharing the five worst things we ate. Of the three cities we visited, Florence was the only city where we had less than stellar food experiences. There were some things we took a bite of and threw away, and others we simply felt wasn't worth the money. Encountering food that doesn't match up to our tastes or expectations is inevitable, but it's all a part of the fun when traveling to a new place! 

Trippa alla Fiorentina at Il Ristorante

Inside of the Mercato Centrale (Via dell'Ariento, 50123 Firenze, Italy) on the second floor is Il Ristorante, a counter known for their Tuscan specialties. Together we shared the Trippa alla Fiorentina (Tripe Florentine-style), a "poor-man's dish" that consists of braised tripe in a hearty tomato stew. I'm a fan of offal, but this was too much offal for my taste buds. The meat was tender and jiggy texture-wise, overpowered by an intense barn-like fragrance that made me want to vomit a bit. I took a tiny bite and that was all I could handle. No, thank you. 

Panino con il Lampredotto at Panini e Vini di Nante

The most popular street food in Florence is the Panino con il Lampredotto, a sandwich filled with stomach meat (abomasum) from a cow, topped with its own broth. Patrick and I decided to stop by Panini e Vini di Nante (Piazza Duomo 52 Rosso, 51025, Florence, Italy) to try out this very popular local dish, but we both couldn't stomach it after taking one bite. The stomach meat has a pleasant texture of tender pastrami, but then you quickly realize that you are eating a cow's stomach from that unpleasant funky taste of offal.

I've come to realized that as much as I love offal, I don't like how it's prepared in Italy. 

Truffles at Il Tartufo Luciano Savini

Also inside the Mercato Centrale (Via dell'Ariento, 50123 Firenze, Italy) on the second floor is Il Tartufo Luciano Savini, a small counter that offers dishes with fresh black or white truffles. Priced at ‎16€ to 20€ for a dish, I expected the white truffles to be of amazing quality, but sadly it wasn't. Together we shared the fried eggs and steak tartare and enjoyed both, but the truffles were mediocre. In comparison to all the truffles we had on our trip, these truffles were underwhelming, lacking freshness and that pleasant musky aroma. There are plenty of other options to choose from to get your truffle fix, this place is overpriced and the quality just isn't up to par. 

Chestnut Street Vendors

It's chestnut season in Italy and I was lured by the sweet fragrance of chestnuts roasting on the streets. It may have been our bad luck in choice of vendor, but these chestnuts sucked. Tough and hard to chew on, nearly inedible, and many burnt.

Custom Magnum Bar at Magnum Pleasure Store Firenze

I'm a sucker for Magnum ice cream bars, so I couldn't resist designing my own custom bar at their Magnum Pleasure Store (Piazza del Duomo 47/R, 50122, Florence, Italy). It just sounded so cool. Unfortunately, the experience was pretty pathetic. You walk in and choose three toppings and what you want your ice cream dipped in from dark, milk, or white chocolate. The person behind the counter dips your bar and shakes the toppings over, drizzling it with melted chocolate to finish. I choose a white chocolate bar with pistachio, popcorn, and popping candy (the candy did not pop).  The toppings bar was messy and they tasted stale. I only ate half the bar and threw away the rest. At a cost of 4.5‎€ a bar, it was pretty pricey for what it was. Skip this place and go grab yourself some fresh gelato instead.

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