These little "pillows" got the name due to their shapes, which look like a pillow, though nowadays I do not see the pillows of this shape. Only when I visited a mom who just gave birth to a baby then sometimes I came across this cute pillow shape.
This is a very popular street food in Vietnam, especially in Ha Noi. If you happen to visit Ha Noi some time, remember to visit one of the most recommended stalls along Ly Quoc Su street, which is just within the zone of the Hoan Kiem Lake. The street for long has been attached its name with the pillow puffs. Pillow puff is favored by almost all school students. Pillow puff stores are among their favorite destinations when hanging out or having inexpensive parties. Pillow puffs are especially favorable when Ha Noi enters its winter. Cold weather is the best friend of this street food since it is a deep-fried food which is more pleasant to eat while the weather is benign.
When I was small, my mom sometimes bought home several pillow puffs sold at the neighborhood market for her daughters. We didn’t make the puffs at home since my mom didn’t know how to make the pastry skins, and that time, cookbooks were still something luxurious. And in order to buy that pastry skins, we would have to travel quite far to the central Hanoi (the Hoan Kiem zone), which seemed very very far to a little girl like me then. Until one day, my mom decided to try making the skins at home for the first time so that her children could enjoy puffs until they got full of them. She made the pastry skins out of her imagination from what she bought home. I alwasy remembered that days when three of us mother and daughters made the pillow puffs together, and our family had a great treat that day when we had so many puffs enough for both meals.
I always prefer self-making the pastry skins to buying the convenient one from supermarkets. It does take longer time, however, the quality is guaranteered and I can make it very thin. The puffs will be stuffed with more filling and so they are more delicious. I had some friends gathering at my flat for the weekend, so I made these pillow puffs. My friends welcomed them wholeheartedly since they haven’t eaten these cute puffs for quite a long time when living away from their hometown. All of us did enjoyed the special taste of home, right here, at my little house.
Ingredients and Methods:
(the amount of ingredients for the pastry skins and the fillings are provided independently. The skins are not necessarily enough to wrap all the fillings and vice versa, depending on how big a person is going to make the puffs).
* Pastry skin:
- 200g all purpose flour
There is no exact proportion of the flour and water here. I started with 200g flour firste, then I added the water a little by little and mix with the flour. I continued to add just enough water until a smooth, non-sticky dough formed. At first the dough turned out very heavy, but after continuing with the kneading, the dough would become softer and moist. Let the dough stand for about 20 minutes, then divide them into small portions and roll each small dough into 1-2 mm thin. Cut the thin pastry into 8-10cm diameter rounds.
- 300g minced pork
- 100g glass noodle, soak in water until tender, finely chopped
- 5, 6 dried wood-ears, soak in water until tender, finely chopped
- 10 shiitake mushrooms, soak in water until tender, finely chopped
- 1 medium turnip, grated or finely chopped (you may substitute the turnip with kohlrabi.
- 2 medium carrots, grated
- Fish sauce, ground black pepper, to taste
=> mix all the above ingredients until well combined.
*Making the puffs:
Place a pastry skin on your palm, add a tablespoonful of the filling in the center, fold the skin into a half-circle. Press the edges to stick together (you may need to use a little water). Then fold the edge to make the ‘pillow’ pattern.
* Frying the puffs:
Heat the oil in a wok until hot enough, over medium heat, deep-fry the puffs until the skins become golden and crispy. Remove from oil and place on kitchen papers.
* Dipping sauce:
This is a popular Vietnamese "nuoc cham". Below is the proportion of ingredients for making this dipping sauce:
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2-4 fresh small red chiles, seeded and chopped
- 3 tbs sugar
- 125ml lime juice
- 125ml fish sauce
- 125ml water
- 30g carrot, cut fine julienne (optional)
- Chili paste (optional)
Pound the garlic, chiles, sugar in a mortar to make a paste.
Place the garlic paste in a bowl and mix in the lime juice, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
(you may alter the above ingredients according to your taste. For example, you like it hotter, then add more chiles or chili paste. You like it sourer, then use more lime juice, etc.)
* Serve when the puffs are still hot.