Steamed Vietnamese Quiche (Video Version)


This video is outside the purview of my OMNIVOROUS video series produced by my friends at The Other House, but I think you’ll enjoy it. Regina and I shot it on a lark in three chunks, with only one take per segment. The lighting is bad, the editing is choppy (I did my best on my iPad with the limited footage we shot.), but luckily my kids save the day, adding a dose of humor and spontaneity to the proceedings.

It’s not perfect, but it’s kinda fun! Check it out.


And get the full recipe here!

Vietnamese Steamed Quiche with Pork & Glass Noodles

Seductive omelety-quichey sorta thing, of the Vietnamese ilk.

For those of the Asian persuasion this kind of steamed egg dish is probably a familiar, homey, comfort-foody sort of sight. Cha Trung Hap is a pleasant peasant dish from Vietnam that uses everyday ingredients to excellent effect — eggs, ground pork, glass noodles, and dried mushrooms are mixed and cooked to create a hearty, filling, and utterly delicious dish that’s cheap and easy to make. The Chinese have versions of this dish, the Japanese have a steamed egg thing called chawan mushi, and the Koreans have gyeran jjim. But this dish is certainly related to Italian frittata and Spanish tortilla and French quiche and all manner of Western-style baked eggs. So if you’re not of the Asian ilk and this dish looks strange or foreign to you, keep in mind that nearly every culture worldwide has something similar. For me, Cha Trung Hap is most recognizable to Western palates as a sort of crustless quiche, with the springy, tender, cooked eggs suspending a bounty of savory ingredients. With the mushrooms and the pork and the eggs, it’s also comparable to a meatloaf of sorts, although it’s nowhere near as dense or meaty as the American classic.

And for me this dish reminds me of my childhood; I recall my mother making it with some regularity, probably on days when she wanted something quick and easy (and cheap and filling) to make. I absolutely loved this as a kid and I love it now. It’s Vietnamese comfort food at it’s best — earthy and robust, flavorful and savory, filling and yet almost light. It might be served with steamed rice and a little stir-fried veggies. A small chunk might be on the same plate as crispy fried pork chops and rice. Personally I like it as an afternoon snack — just a thin slice with a drop or two of soy sauce makes a pretty healthy mini-meal.

The last time my mother was in town (to herald the arrival of baby Vivian) I asked her to demonstrate for me this classic dish. This recipe is hers, although I added a teaspoon of fish sauce when I replicated it, which I don’t recall her adding but I thought was necessary.

My mom recommends trying this with shrimp in place of or in addition to the pork. I haven’t yet tried this, but I’m sure it’s totally fantastic. You might also try it fully vegetarian, with water chestnuts and some greens.

Admittedly it doesn’t look like much now.

You will need:

  • one 4-ounce package mien (glass noodles)
  • 1/2 cup woodear mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shiitakes, stemmed & chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 2/3 cup of diced white onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 eggs, divided
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG* (optional)
  • cooking spray
Equipment needed:
  • A stainless steel bowl with a capacity of 8 cups or more.
  • A steamer set-up that can accommodate the bowl.
  • Aluminum foil.

Adhoc steamer, start your steaming!

Now do this:

First, prep the glass noodles by soaking them, fully immersed, in very hot water for about twenty minutes. Drain them and cut them into two-inch long pieces. Don’t be two concerned about length, though. This ain’t rocket science.

Regarding the mushrooms, you can use fresh or dried woodear and shiitakes. If you can’t find woodear mushrooms you can use just shiitakes, although woodears are very authentically Vietnamese. If you use dried mushrooms, rehydrate them much the same way you would soften the noodles — pour boiling water over them and let them soak until soft. Dried woodears will be soft within ten minutes, but dried shiitakes might take twenty minutes or more. Drain them well and then chop them when dry.

In a sauté pan heat the veggie oil over medium-high and add the pork. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook the pork, breaking it up into bits and stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through but not well-browned. In fact, the pork can be a bit pink in some areas; remember, you’ll be steaming the whole thing so you can keep the meat a trifle undercooked, which will actually help keep it moist. Add the onions and stir into the meat. Turn off the heat and allow the meat and onions to cool down five or ten minutes in the pan, off the stove.

In the meantime line a stainless steel mixing bowl with aluminum foil and coat the foil with a generous amount of cooking oil spray. Now you can set up your steamer, putting a couple inches of water in the pot. Put the lid on the steamer and bring the water to a boil. When it begins steaming reduce the heat to low and finish putting together the dish.

Now, into a big bowl put the mushrooms, cut noodles, pork & onions, and garlic. Crack six whole eggs and add it to the bowl. Crack remaining eggs but separate the whites and the yolks. Reserve the yolks for later and add the whites the bowl. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce, peppers, and MSG (if using). Mix everything very well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Pour mixture into the foil-lined bowl and set it gently into your steamer. Cover the steamer again with the lid.

Turn the heat up to high again until the water boils rapidly. When it returns to a vigorous boil reduce heat to medium high and steam eggs for 30 minutes. Open the steamer and pour the reserved egg yolks evenly all over the top surface of your Cha Trung Hap. Cover and steam another ten minutes.

Pouring a final layer of bright yellow yolks.

Remove the lid and check the steamed eggs for doneness by inserting a paring knife into it and removing. If it comes out clean, it’s finished. If not, steam another ten minutes on medium. Remove the bowl from the steamer and allow it to come to room temperature for five or ten minutes. Invert bowl egg-yolk side down and remove bowl. Carefully peel off the foil and voila! You got your Cha Trung Hap, ready to serve. Cut it into wedges or blocks and enjoy!

Vietnamese quiche — unmolded and unrivaled.

A cross-section of the Cha Trung Hap reveals a lovely strata of mushrooms, noodles, and pork!

Check out these other posts featuring (mostly) authentic Vietnamese grub:

Rau Muong:

Mien Ga Tom:

Fried Tofu:

Bun Thit Nuong:

Crab Fried Rice:

Goi Cuon:

Cha Gio:

Garlicky Crab Noodles:

Cari Ga:

Mien Ga Tom: Vietnamese Chicken & Glass Noodle Soup (add Shrimp)

A very healthy, classic Vietnamese noodle soup!

Just after my daughter Vivian was born, my mother visited for a week, which naturally meant we ate a fair amount of Vietnamese food. When she does come to town my sister Laura (who lives a few miles east) and I usually request old favorites that we haven’t been able to get our hands on for some time, usually dishes that speak to us of our heritage or remind us fondly of childhood memories. And my mother happily complies, cooking up a storm of Vietnamese dishes from her vast repertoire, steaming up the kitchen and filling the house with aromas of ginger, garlic, fish sauce, heady broths, and pungent herbs. I have a pretty good understanding of Vietnamese cuisine, but even dishes like Mien Ga, which I know how to make, are different when made by her — they are naturally more authentic, simpler, and very straight-forward. As a half-Vietnamese American chef with a modern bent and a proclivity toward experimentation, I can’t resist tweaking the comfort classics or throwing in extra ingredients that my mother might look askance at.

But for the real deal, the authentic Viet flavor, my mother’s cooking is the best I’ve ever tasted (although perhaps I’m biased). My sister’s favorite noodle soup (at least the one she always begs Mom to make) is this dish of glass noodles with poached chicken in chicken broth. And it’s no wonder that Laura craves it, as Mom’s Mien Ga is fantastic! The broth is clear, clean, and flavorful; it tastes just like chicken with the barest whisper of ginger. The chicken meat is perfectly poached and moist. The dried glass noodles are soaked for fifteen minutes in hot water until just al dente. The soup is garnished with a simple tart slaw of shredded cabbage and carrots that’s dressed with the classic nuoc cham dressing of Vietnamese fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and loads of garlic. Mom likes to poach a few pieces of scallion whites in the broth until softened; she’ll toss that in the soup with some shaved white onions, minced scallions greens, and some cilantro. Maybe a little mint leaf.

Traditionally the noodle soup features only chicken, but occasionally Mom will toss in a few poached shrimp, making the dish Mien Ga Tom (glass noodles + chicken + shrimp). The Vietnamese method of naming their foods is strikingly prosaic, unlike the Chinese who are prone to dramatic flourishes when it comes to dish-naming. You won’t find fancifully-monikered dishes like Jade Chicken Sea Cucumber or Longevity Noodles or Bird’s Nest anything or Buddha’s Delight. With Vietnamese menus you almost always get exactly what you order — noodles, chicken, shrimp. In this case, you ordered Mien Ga Tom.