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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Macha Iced Latte with Grass Jelly

It's officially Summer! What better way to enjoy the Summer heat than a refreshing cold beverage in hand. Macha iced latte, anyone? I usually order a Macha drink from a boba shop but I recently came across a large package of premium organic Macha at my local Costco. It went into my grocery cart so quick, I think I got whiplash.

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What is Macha?

Macha is finely ground green tea leaves from Japan. These specialty green tea leaves are grown in the shade so that the leaves are greener than other green tea leaves. Also, shade growth produces more caffeine and a bunch of other health benefits that I'm not qualified to list. Once in production, the stems and veins of the leaves are removed then pulverized into a fine powder. The powder dissolves quickly in liquid so not only can you have them in tea, but you probably seen them in various desserts such as cake and ice cream.

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One thing I realized while making my own iced Macha latte, was how little macha powder and how much sugar I needed. I thought since I can make my own drink, I'd go full-on gangsta macha. I added 2-3 teaspoons of macha powder per serving. Macha gets bitter in higher concentration so needless to say I was not able to finish my drink. I even thought I contaminated my drink as I was having it while working in the garden. Maybe I dropped some dirt into the drink? Nope, I didn't. It was simply too much macha. Lesson learned, for one serving, stick to 3/4 to 1 teaspoon macha powder. There is a fine, almost invisible line, between perfectly tasting macha ice latte to Good God what in the Sam Hill am I drinking?!

I also realized, I had to add quite a bit of sugar syrup to balance out the flavor of macha. I kept adding and adding sugar syrup until I was satisfied with the taste of 4 tablespoons of simple syrup. So much for being a healthy drink. I did add some grass jelly. That would negate the unhealthiness, right?

My favorite thing about this drink is the striation of colors. You have the dark grass jelly color with the syrup at the bottom. Next is the white layer of milk and then the green macha on top. The matcha beautifully sits on top of the milk because it's so light and frothy. The presentation of this drink is oh so pretty but make sure to stir everything up before drinking to balance out the different flavors.

Macha Iced Latte with Grass Jelly

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon macha powder
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup cubed grass jelly
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar simple syrup (equal part sugar and water, bring to a boil then cool)
  • 3/4 - 1 cup ice
  • 1/2 cup milk

Instructions

  1. In a small cup or bowl, whisk together macha powder with hot water until it is completely dissolved and frothy. Set aside the mixture in a freezer or fridge to cool quickly.
  2. In the meantime, add the following to your cup in this order: grass jelly, brown sugar syrup, ice and milk.
  3. Retrieve the macha mixture from the fridge/freezer, give it a quick stir and pour gently on top of the milk.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops (Thit Heo Nuong Xa)

The first thing I usually notice when I step into a Vietnamese restaurant is the smell of grilled lemongrass that escapes the kitchen. In fact, it's my criteria for a good Vietnamese restaurant. No grilled lemongrass aroma? No go. In Vietnam, it's the grilled lemongrass pork aroma that they use to lure in customers. You will often find someone wafting the aroma of grilled lemongrass pork that they strategically placed on a small charcoal grill near the street onto the gazillion of passing motorbikes. It's really marketing at its finest. Nothing makes you want to patron a business more than being coated in a fragrance of lemongrass and pork. 

 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chop with Lemongrass (Suon Nuong Xa)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chop with Lemongrass (Suon Nuong Xa)

I love having grilled lemongrass pork at home. It's also my go-to item when I pack lunch for my husband to take to work. I usually marinate a bunch of pork chops the night before and grill or pan fry them the next day. I pack the pork chops with steamed white rice and fresh vegetables such as lettuce or sliced cucumbers. Sometimes, I add kimchi and a fried egg if I'm feeling nice. When he reheats the pork chop in the microwave at work, I've been told that he's the envy of his coworkers ;-)

I have found pork chops to be very tricky to cook. Pork chops are lean so it dries out quickly. Here are a few tips on how to keep pork chops moist and tender:

  • Buy bone-in pork chops. The bone provides not only moisture but also tons of flavor.
  • Use thin cuts. I normally use pork chops no more than 1/3 inch thick. For thicker pork chops, I either cut in half or, my method of choice, take out my aggression and flatten it with a mallet.
  • If frying, use flour or cornstarch. This will prevent the outside from burning and drying out. It also provides a nice crust when fried.
  • Do not overcook. Thin cuts of pork chops cook up quickly — 4 to 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Walking away to watch How I Met Your Mother is not recommended.
  • Brush pork chop with scallion oil when ready to serve. Not only will this keep the pork chops from drying out, but it also produces a wonderful aroma.
 Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chop with Lemongrass (Suon Nuong Sa)

Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chop with Lemongrass (Suon Nuong Sa)

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops
(Thit Heo Suon Nuong Xa)

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 5 small bone-in pork chops no more than 1/3 inch thick (1-3/4 to 2 lbs)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil + more if frying
  • 4 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced lemongrass
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch (if frying)

Instructions

  1. Combine oyster sauce, vegetable oil (1 teaspoon), oyster sauce, black pepper, sugar, and lemongrass in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Add pork chops to the mixture and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in fridge for best results.
  3. You can either grill (no need for cornstarch) or pan fry. To pan-fry, dread each pork chop through cornstarch and dust off excess. Heat up frying pan with enough vegetable oil to generously coat the bottom of pan. Fry for about 4-6 minutes each side until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain off excess oil.