Vietnamese Steamed Clams with Lemongrass and Basil (Nghêu Hấp)

Since falling in love with Nghêu Hấp (Vietnamese steamed clams with lemongrass and basil) in Da Nang, I’ve been eager to replicate that delicious memory at home.

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“Nghêu” means shellfish and “Hấp” means steamed. I had my first taste of this delightful dish at Tucana Restaurant and it was sooooo delicious, we went back for a pot every day throughout our 4D3N stay in Da Nang.

So here’s my first attempt at Nghêu Hấp and I’m posting my recipe here because, not to toot my own horn, it turned out really well. I fell off my chair at how good it tasted!

INGREDIENTS

500g Fresh Clams (also known as “lala” in Singapore)

50g Ginger (sliced)

3 Stalks of Lemongrass

150ml Coconut Water

150ml Water

2 Green Chillies

2 Cloves of Garlic

1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce

Dash of Pepper

Basil and Mint (amount according to preference)

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Fresh clams, lemongrass, small green chilli, garlic and ginger surrounded by a profusion of sweet basil and mint leaves.

PREPARATION & COOKING

1. Wash clams in clean water and soak them in the water for about 30 minutes.

2. Rinse the lemongrass, peel the garlic, slice and de-seed the green chillies, and peel and slice a small nose of ginger.

3. Split / crush the lemongrass, garlic and chilli by smashing them with the flat side of a cleaver. I don’t have a cleaver so I split them with a knife sharpening block.

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Lemongrass, garlic, and green chilli all smashed up with slices of ginger placed at the bottom of a medium-sized ceramic pot. Ceramic or otherwise, the pot must be suitable for cooking with direct fire. Add coconut water and water (about 300ml) to just cover all the base ingredients and bring to a boil.

4. Line the crushed items (lemongrass, garlic and chillies) and ginger at the base of a pot.

5. Pour in the coconut water and water (total of 300ml) into the pot, cover it and bring to a boil for 15 minutes.

6. Add in the tablespoon of fish sauce and dash of pepper.

7. Add in the clams and turn to low fire. Cover the lid and simmer. Although the dish says “steamed clams”, it is actually boiled clams.

8. Boil the clams for about eight minutes and turn off the fire. Then open the lid of the pot and add the basil and mint leaves. Cover the pot with the lid again and wait for about 3 minutes.

9. The clams would absorb the aroma of the base ingredients while getting infused with the fragrance of the herbs.

10. Now, open the lid and serve.

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My home-cooked version of the Vietnamese Steamed Clams (Nghêu Hấp). Total preparation and cooking time is about 30 minutes. The outcome may not be Instagram perfect, but it is super yums nonetheless. Success! 🙂

Nghêu Hấp has a delicate flavor where the steamed clams hint lightly of a fresh sea’s harvest with a refreshing note of earthy herbs. The light broth steeped with the essence of all the ingredients is where the magic is embodied in this dish.

Leave no drop un-savoured!

Reading Between the Light

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Knowledge illuminates the dark of ignorance.

In between the intermittent blackouts in the small township of Nyaungshwe at Inle Lake (Myanmar, Nov 2014), I came across this ‘bunny’ by the candlelight, squinting her eyes over what looked like a math workbook. My Myanmar trip was almost 2 years ago but this image stuck with me all this time.

Her burning desire to learn was admirable. It made me think about how easily I would give up when the conditions weren’t right or conducive to pursue a dream. I succumb to the environment and do what was natural in that circumstance. If there was a blackout, it was time to sleep, not read. If blackouts happened every night, I would’ve slept those hours away, dreaming about my dreams. Dreaming is easier than doing.

So I was struck by this little girl before me who let what she wanted to accomplish light up the situation… and let not reality smother her plight.

Being a Puppet Ain’t So Bad

Pinocchio-Syndrome

Sometimes, we need someone to pull our strings to get us moving.

Don’t we all want to be the masters of our own destiny? Disgruntled at being nothing more than mere pawns of our bosses and puppets of manipulative colleagues, friends, family and lovers?

But before learning how to cut the strings, learn to be used. When we are used so often that the person using us could no longer do without us, that’s when the puppet becomes the master. Being a puppet ain’t so bad even if it means we only come to life through others. It beats being a puppet that never get to live at all.

Until one day, we are enlightened and are no longer controlled by the strings of fate.

Tracing Traditions at Luang Prabang

Luang-Prabang-Monks-Alms

Follow the flow to grow.

成长基于尊长。

An Encounter with Serenity on Luang Prabang’s Bamboo Bridge

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Without worry, there’s no hurry.

放下杂念,脚步轻便。

And So We Are

Pig-Tiger

Do we mind what is different, or focus on pursuing what is common?

You know that I am weird

And so are you

But there’s nothing to be feared.

You know I am not perfect

And so are you

But that doesn’t mean there’s a defect.

You know I’ve given my all

But would you?

And so we head for the fall.

Let Romance Pop-Up with a Handmade Card

It was my first time making a birthday card, a pop-up one. I wanted to make it really special because love has the power to make you do things like that. And when the relationship is over, it’s the crazy things you have done or done together that will become a warm memory of this person you were once in love with.

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The recipient of the card has an artistic streak and has created several pieces of abstract and sometimes profound digital artworks. Since it is for a birthday, I picked this piece that was inspired by the recipient’s trip to Sydney and was enthralled by the fireworks at Darling Harbour, resembling angels of light bringing something good with them.

I spent a couple of sleepless nights thinking about how to make the birthday special and a few more getting excited about the idea of making a pop-up card, but more on thinking about how to do it. Thankfully, there are Youtube tutorials around.

So after an online crash course and picking the image, I set about conceptualising a pop-up card using elements in the image to form the layered effect and it’s off to Bras Basah to buy materials. Although it is a simple card, quite a bit of brain cells died to anticipate the number of cards and the combination of different types needed to provide a nice finish.

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I settled on 2 pieces of black construction paper, one to for the pop-up structure to hold the pieces of graphics, and another to form a backing so that when you look through the holes cut out from the top piece, you don’t see through them. I also got a thicker gold card to form the outer skin of the card.

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Side view of the pop-up card with 2 layers of black construction paper. The first layer if for cutting folded strips to hold the graphics and the back layer is complete the illusion of a night sky for the fireworks, else you will see through the cut strips.

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I’ve thought through and done the measurements but unfortunately, I didn’t take into account the fact that the full height of the centre graphic is taller than the height of the card when folded close, resulting in it jutting out of the card. *Panic!* To rectify the problem, I went back to the stationery shop to buy a bigger piece of gold outer skin as the first one I got was the same size as the black construction papers and extended the size of the card to fit everything in.

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Ta-da! The completed card. Not something exceptionally beautiful but it came from the heart. The envelope says “Celebrate”, the front of the card states the recipient’s name, and inside says “Happy Birthday” so they form sort of a 3-part greeting before the message. I know, the message I wrote is lame. LOL.

So that’s my little adventure into arts and crafts. I think there’s nothing more romantic than a handmade something because it says that that person is thinking about you through the conceptualisation, planning, and execution stages. It’s time consuming and a lot of work.

But when you see the person’s eyes really light up, it’s all worth it.

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