Beverly Hills hotspot Crustacean has been a favorite among the celebrity set for years, so when the upscale Vietnamese restaurant announced it would be releasing a cookbook of its celebrated dishes, we were all ears.
Ăn: To Eat: Recipes and Stories from a Vietnamese Family Kitchen ($23; amazon.com) showcases more than just a collection of how-to recipes, however. The story of the An family is just as, if not more, rich than the restaurant’s tantalizing food, laced with enough drama and political upheaval to read like an epic saga.
Matriarch Helene An, whose family name also delightfully means "to eat," along with the help of one of her five daughters, Jacqueline, introduces readers to her riches-to-rags-back-to-riches journey, starting with her noble roots in Vietnam to her humble beginnings as refugees in the U.S. after the fall of Saigon, to her current-day success overseeing a food empire that includes five restaurants and a catering business. The book combines all of their family tales, along with gorgeous photography by Evan Sung, as well as the culture-specific techniques, customs, and flavor profiles (French versus Chinese, for example) that have all left an indelible mark on chef An’s signature cooking style.
Have a taste of the An family legacy with one of Crustacean’s newest menu additions below: a spicy, umami-rich sauce gets tossed into springy ramen, sure to satisfy the noodle lover in your life. Alas, the recipe for the restaurant’s storied garlic noodles did not emerge from the fiercely guarded “secret kitchen” this time around, but that just gives us another excuse to visit L.A. again.
Spicy Chicken & Shrimp Ramen in Cognac XO Sauce
Makes: 4 servings
5 dried bird’s eye or Thai chiles (or 2 chiles for a milder taste)
1 1/2 ounces (just less than ¼ cup) dried shrimp
1 1/2 ounces (just less than ¼ cup) dried scallops
3 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
2 tablespoons chopped coriander root
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup chili or hot chili oil
4 ounces ground chicken
2 1/2 ounces fresh small shrimp, peeled and deveined, then minced (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon cognac
6 ounces fresh ramen noodles
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1) Submerge the chiles in a small bowl of hot water and soak until they are soft and dark red, about 20 minutes. Drain the chiles and pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems, cut the chiles open, then scrape out and discard the seeds and mince the flesh. Set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, soak the dried shrimp and scallops in hot water until they plump up and are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and dry the shrimp and scallops, and then mince them. Set aside.
3) Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, process the chiles, 2 tablespoons of the shallots, the coriander root, and the garlic into a paste.
4) Heat the chili oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spicy paste mixture to the skillet, stirring until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the ground chicken and stir to combine. Cook for 5 minutes to brown the chicken. Stir in the dried shrimp and scallops and cook for 5-7 minutes and add sugar, salt, and fish sauce and simmer for 10 minutes to meld the flavors. Increase the heat to medium. Add the fresh shrimp and cook for 5 minutes until fresh shrimp becomes opaque. Stir in the cognac and remove the skillet from the heat.
5) Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the noodles according the package directions until al dente. Strain the noodles, rinse them in cold water, and then shake well to remove any excess water.
6) Add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil to a clean large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of shallots and cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the noodles and toss a couple of times, then add the spicy meat sauce. Toss well and cook for 5 minutes to heat the noodles and meld flavors into the noodles. Serve hot.
Reprinted with permission from AN: TO EAT © 2016 by HELENE AN and JACQUELINE AN, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.