Vietnamese chicken liver pâté

I love, love, love pâté!

I can easily close my eyes and think of many moons ago, when I was still in elementary school. In the morning, my sisters and I occasionally got to eat rice and pâté for breakfast (yes, we Asians can and often eat rice three times a day). My parents thought of a special way to store the pâté: They put it in a plastic bag, kind of like a Ziploc without the zip, then spread it to about a third of an inch thick. Then they use the back of a knife, or a ruler, to mark perpendicular lines just almost all the way through, before throwing the bag in the freezer. In the morning, they would give each of us a few “squares” in our bowls. The hot rice is plenty hot enough to soften the pâté. Some of my sisters like to keep the rice and the pâté separated: one chunk of rice, one chunk of pâté, yum! But I prefer the mixing method: I always buried the pate “squares” under the rice, then got the soy sauce, or drink my water… basically just gave a few minutes for the pâté to be softened. Then I mixed them up thoroughly and devoured the bowl in no time! It’s kind of a silly memory, but it’s also very sweet and always the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of pâté.

There are other ways you can eat pate with: in bánh mì, the famous Vietnamese street-style sandwich, or with xôi (sticky rice), spread on toast… I’ve seen canned chicken liver spread in supermarkets here, but honestly it’s very different from the pâté I’m familiar with. This version of mine is also slightly different from the traditional Vietnamese pate though. The traditional Vietnamese pate:

  • cooks the liver by steaming (Here we use a stove top)
  • Line the bottom of the container with a layer of caul fat – mỡ chài (I skip this part).
  • Top the pate with a layer of melted butter (I skip this part)

The changes I made didn’t seem to alter the flavor vastly. I try not to make this too often, since I know I have very little self-control over this… This recipe was adapted from Savoury Days.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 – 2/3 lbs chicken liver (half a Purdue chicken liver container)
  • 1/3 lb ground pork
  • 2-3 slices of plain white sandwich
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of milk.
  • Black pepper, salt
  • Thai chili (optional)
  • a dab of butter
  • a few shiitake mushrooms (optional), sliced, stem removed.

TOOLS: Food processor.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Rinse the chicken liver under running water, pat dry with paper towels, then soak in milk for 30-45 mins. Rinse one more time, pat dry, and cut into small chunks (or I just use a pair of scissors and cut randomly into the bowl of liver). You can remove the stringy, chewy, tendon-ny part if you want, I don’t really notice it so I always leave it there. Add the ground pork to the chicken liver, don your disposable gloves on and thoroughly break the ground pork apart. Add 1/3 – 1/2 tbs of salt, some black pepper, and mix.
  2. Preheat a saute pan on the stove. Melt the butter, then add the garlic and onion, stir around for about 2 minutes until slightly softened and fragrant.
  3. Keep the stove at medium heat. Add ground pork- liver mixture, keep stirring to cook the mixture evenly. Add more salt & pepper to taste. Add the chopped chili if you like some heat. Add the shiitake mushroom if you use them. Only cook until ~ 80% done.
  4. Remove the outer ring (the rind?) of the sandwiches, and tear the rest into small chunks – no need to be tiny chunks. Pour milk enough to cover the bread. Let it soak for about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Spoon the soaked bread into the saute pan. If there’s too much milk left (as in, if the bread pieces were swimming around), discard. Stir the mixture, keep cooking on medium heat until thoroughly cooked. You will notice the bread being broken apart and kind of bind into the liver mixture. Remove from stove, let cool for 5-10 mins.
  6. Put the slightly cooled mixture into a food processor and grind/ chop until you get the texture you like. I usually like it slightly chunky, so I don’t go too crazy on the food processor. Scoop into container with tight lid, store in the fridge.

NOTES:

  1. Soaking the liver in milk: people say it help remove impurities and the bitter, irony taste of liver. I honestly haven’t had a blind test to see whether there’s a difference, but hey, it’s a pass-down trick from several generations, and it isn’t any hassle, so I keep doing it. If you do a blind test, let me know!
  2. Ground pork substitute: You can go for leaner cuts and ask the butcher to grind it for you, but honestly I think a cut with some fat in there works the best. You can also substitute with ground turkey, but I didn’t like it as much – it was somewhat dry.
  3. Shiitake mushroom wasn’t in any traditional pâté I had, but I like the aroma, the taste, and it makes me feel less guilty for eating so much chicken liver.

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