Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cafaux TH: Appetizer- Bánh Bột Chiên the Trey Way

The Cafaux TH experience began the same way every Thursday night does with an appetizer unlike anything else you have ever had- The Trey Way (whoever makes it to the restaurant first is required by friend law to put in the order). Bánh Bột Chiên was already absurdly good on its own, but one fateful day, our friend Trey (who sadly was out of town for a wedding and could not partake in the gloriousness), in his infinite wisdom, decided it would be even better topped with the single greatest creation in Minh's house of awesome- char-grilled pork. One reprinted menu later, an unstoppable force of deliciousness was officially born. If the night had any chance of being a success we had to nail this dish.

The Trey Way
Servings: 2-4
Time: 25-30 minutes (active)
Proper batter consistency

Rice Flour Cake
10-12 tbsp rice flour
3 tbsp tapioca startch
Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
Red chili flakes to taste
Sriracha to taste
Soda water

Char-grilled Pork
Baked just right
Soy sauce substitute or Soy sauce
Brown sugar
1 lb Pork belly

The Rest
1-2 tbsp Olive oil
1 small red or yellow potato, diced
Pickled radish, sliced thin
2 eggs, yolks broken and lightly mixed in
Sriracha to taste
White pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Garlic powder
Pickled carrots
Scallions, chopped

  1. Marinade the pork belly in a mix of soy sauce substitute and brown sugar in the fridge for at least an hour (but we'd recommend 2-4).
  2. Grill the pork belly for about 3-4 minutes per side (you want it a little charred).
  3. Now make the rice flour cake. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  4. Whisk the rice flour, tapioca starch, salt, white pepper, chili flakes and sriracha together. Add in soda water until you have a slightly thick batter (you don't want too runny, but you don't want solid either). 
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just solidified. Let cool then cut into ~1inch pieces.
  6. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. 
  7. Fry the rice flour cakes (use ~6 per batch), diced potatoes, and pickled radish. Flip once they start to brown. 
  8. Lightly mix the sriracha, white pepper, salt and garlic powder with the eggs (you don't want to scramble the eggs).
  9. When both sides of the rice flour and potatoes are crispy, pour in the egg mixture, making sure to distribute it all around the contents of the pan, and let cook for 1-2 minutes until it is mostly done.
  10. Flip like a boss and let the other side finish cooking for 30-60 seconds.
  11. Transfer to a plate and top with pickled carrots, scallions, and char-grilled pork to serve.
Looking good, but could it (and Kevin's floor) survive the upcoming flip?!!?
At first, I was extremely intimidated by the prospect of replicating the Trey Way (and super nervous about the night in general), and our trial attempts with food guru Michaela the night before left much to be desired. The authentic version requires preserved turnips, and, given all the other dishes we were planning, we did not have a chance to make or find such mythical creatures. Instead we'd have to settle for pickled radishes (which you may recall gave us earlier heartbreak with these Fail Fries). Many online recipes also involved complicated, lengthy procedures with the rice flour, which only added to the worry. But then I realized that it was just batter that I could bake and then fry (because nothing is better than fried dough). By combining the fried rice flour cakes, thinly sliced radishes (so if they failed they'd at least barely be there!), and last minute potatoes (because fried potatoes are pretty much a given to win), we were able to pretty closely approximate the unmistakable taste and texture.

The naked, perfectly flipped Trey Way
As soon as I somehow managed to flip the first order perfectly, I knew we were in for a special night. When the second helping was flipped just as effortlessly, I knew far greater forces were at work here. Everything came together beautifully. The fried/lightly scrambled egg hybrid created the perfect fluffy flavor blanket to go with the crunchy fried goodness and sweet pickled carrots, while Kevin's expertly char-grilled pork belly made us feel like we were sitting at our favorite table at TH. We did have to skip out on the ridiculous, practically maple-y sauce that accompanies the Trey Way, but it was so delectable that people were too busy devouring it like human vacuum cleaners to notice.

Here's a picture of Trey dressed as a ninja turtle. He's married and has a kid!
Early reviews were in, and the appetizer was a success. "The Bánh Bột Chiên was equally as good as the original at nonfaux TH. Chunkier, and with a sweeter taste to the char-grilled pork--stellar," declared Scotty, namesake of the amazing Gluttonous Ellis bánh mì.

The night was just beginning, but we were off to an even better start than we could have imagined. Up next Round 1 of my entree dance off with Kevin- Ground Pork with String Beans.

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