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Weeknight recipes for Vietnamese-inspired home cooking

An overhead view of a variety of food on plates.
Recipe developer Susan Vu brings her bold flavors to a new slate of “Week of Meals” recipes.
(Lindsay Kreighbaum / For The Times)

During the holidays, I can get lost in cooking way too much roasted meats and rich cakes and cookies (’tis the season after all, no?). So I always like to be reminded that lighter, spicier foods exist and try to get those in my diet as well to break up the monotony of hearty holiday fare.

Cue Susan Vu’s intensely flavorful, fresh and aromatic weeknight recipes for our latest “Week of Meals” series. Susan is a friend of mine, and I’m always overjoyed when she texts telling me she’s made dinner and to walk down the street if I’d like some. Susan is a savant at creating lots of flavor in a short amount of time, digging into her Vietnamese heritage to make flavorful sauces and spicy pastes that are wielded expertly, whether for a special-occasion meal or a simple bowl of rice with veggies for lunch.

Case in point, her dish of baked tofu bathed in a spicy peanut butter and chili crisp sauce that the tofu soaks to the core. She serves them on rice with cold, crunchy veggies. But instead of stopping there, she wraps all those ingredients up in roasted seaweed sheets for a hands-on affair that adds texture and more seasoning.

In another dish, she roasts Japanese eggplant while making a quick Sichuan-style pork sauce seasoned deeply with mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce, scallions and ginger. For a sheet pan version of a Viet-Cajun shrimp boil, she uses dried kimchi seasoning instead of Cajun seasoning to add heat and brightness to the buttery peel-and-eat shrimp.

She puts an electric pressure cooker to good use for spare rib ends braised in a fragrant broth flavored with fish sauce and Vietnamese caramel sauce, which adds an incredible bitter-sweet flavor to the meat. Then, leftover rib meat is sautéed with cabbage and mushrooms for a bowl version of Vietnamese fried spring rolls where, instead of wrapping everything in rice paper, Vu fries pieces of rice paper until crisp and crunchy to eat alongside the hearty bowls.

Roasted Eggplant With Cheater Sichuan-Style Pork

Chili crisp and mushroom-flavored soy sauce quickly add umami and depth to ground pork for the sauce, which helps curb cravings for great Sichuan food when you don’t feel like leaving your house.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

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Roasted Eggplant with Cheater Sichuan-Style Pork
(Lindsay Kreighbaum/For The Times)

Sheet Pan Shrimp Broil

This dish is a Viet-Cajun version of a shrimp boil but using dried kimchi seasoning instead of Cajun seasoning. If you can’t find dried kimchi seasoning, you can use the flavor packets from instant kimchi ramen, which can be found nearly everywhere nowadays.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Broil
(Lindsay Kreighbaum/For The Times)

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Pressure Cooker Suon Ram Man (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs)

The secret to not making the sauce too cloying is in the nước màu (Vietnamese caramel sauce), which is cooked to the point that it is dark and smoky with a touch of bitterness.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Pressure Cooker Suon Ram Man (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Spare Ribs) photographed at Proplink
(Lindsay Kreighbaum/For The Times)

Nori Wraps With Baked Spicy Peanut Tofu

Chili crisp combines with a bit of peanut butter to make a quick sauce that thickly coats tofu and flavors it throughout as it bakes. Use the sauce on any protein you like, but always serve it with rice, veggies and roasted seaweed snacks to make your own wraps.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Nori Wraps with Baked Spicy Peanut Tofu photographed at Proplink in Los Angeles
(Lindsay Kreighbaum/For The Times)

Bun Bowls With Sautéed Cabbage, Mushrooms And Spare Ribs

To get the same satisfying crunch you get from chả giò (Vietnamese fried spring rolls), but with about a quarter of the effort, shallow-fry raw rice paper until it is puffed and über crispy, then serve it with a vegetable-heavy filling of cabbage and mini king oyster mushrooms. If you don’t have leftover spare ribs, you can use two cups of any leftover cooked pork in their place.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 40 minutes.

Bun Bowls with Sauteed Cabbage, Mushrooms, and Leftover Spare Ribs photographed at Proplink
(Lindsay Kreighbaum/For The Times)

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