Khiem, 41

Khiem, 41

Meet Khiem..

Food is the most important tool to connect me to my feelings and memories and to help me with my loneliness.”

Khiem, 41

Incarcerated: 11 years

Housed: San Quentin

Today I made something which I call an egg ball, a version of the traditional food which I really love to eat, especially when it is raining outside. I would stay in the house enjoying a steamed rice bowl with this egg ball. The original version is called “Mắm chưng” in Vietnamese. It is made with dried fish, egg, black mushroom, and pork. In prison I don’t have those, so I modified it with egg powder and called it egg ball. This is good for two people with steam rice and soy sauce or sriracha hot sauce. To the cooks, please go to a Vietnamese restaurant and ask for “Mắm chưng” and try it at least once 🙂



5 strips black fungus (dried wood ear mushroom)

7 oz. bean vermicelli

4 eggs

1 chili flavor instant ramen seasoning packet

1 tsp fish sauce

1 3.5-oz. tin mackerel or sardines packed in oil

2 Tbsp prepared bacon bits

2 Tbsp fried shallot

1-2 Tbsp dried shrimp (dragonfly brand 3.5 oz preferred)

1 ¼”-thick slice of hard cheese, crumbled

Steamed rice, soy sauce and sriracha, for serving



Place the black fungus and bean vermicelli in separate bowls and cover each with warm water. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.Rinse the black fungus with clean water, pat dry and mince. 

Place the vermicelli in a strainer.

Set a heat-proof bowl inside a large saucepan or stockpot. Add at least two inches of water to the pan, but don’t fill it to more than ½ inch below the lip of the bowl. Remove the bowl, cover the pan, and bring the water to a boil over high heat.

In the meantime, place the strained vermicelli in a heatproof bowl. Crack the eggs into the bowl, add the ramen seasoning and fish sauce, and lightly beat with a fork to break up the eggs. Add the mackerel or sardines and mix well – the mixture should appear muddy.

Add the black fungus, bacon bits, fried shallot, dried shrimp and cheese into the egg mixture and stir to combine. 

Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and carefully set the bowl in the pan. Cover the pan and let steam for 30 to 45 minutes. The longer the eggs steam, the harder they get. Serve over steamed rice and seasoned with soy sauce and sriracha.

Stuffed Pepper Variations: No eggs are needed – instead, cut the tops off of two large bell peppers and remove the seeds and membrane. Save the tops of the peppers. Follow the recipe as above up until straining the vermicelli. In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients (minus the eggs) together. Divide the mixture evenly between the two peppers and place the tops back on. Proceed with steaming the peppers by placing them in the bowl set inside the pan and cook, covered, for 30 to 45 minutes.


Michael, 71

Michael, 71

Meet Michael..

“I believe children should learn how to cook: bake bread, cookies, and simple cakes using a humble kitchen stove. Both boys and girls should learn it. Learning to cook and bake gives children a sense of self-esteem and pride in their accomplishments: I’m so smart, I can learn anything!”

Michael, 71

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: San Quentin

Fatty Meat in a Sour Sauce


3 lbs Fatty meat

1 cup Sour fruit like cranberry  juice 

1 tsp Cumin powder

1 tsp Masala spice

Salt, peppers, garlic to taste.



Cut sour fruit like plums. Cook them for a few minutes in a stainless pot adding some water or cranberry juice.

Add cumin, spices, salt, pepper, garlic (minced), and stir.

The sour sauce is ready. Add fatty meat, bring to boil, and cook on low heat, hardly boiling, until well done.

You can use pork chops, shoulders, ribs, belly – any part of a pig.

You can use brisket, which is a cow belly, shoulder, ribs, but no rump which is hind legs. 

Chicken legs or quarters can be cooked in cranberry-mix juice. Ducks are really delicious when cooked completely submerged in juice.

Cranberry jam mixed with water makes a good sour sauce.

For a very quick dinner you can use store-bought ground meat. It has enough fat to qualify as fatty meat.

Just add a couple of eggs, mix, form meatballs, and cook in a sour sauce for 15-20 minutes. 

Eggs, or its protein, keep the meat balls together, prevent from falling apart, and keeps meat juice inside.

If meat is too fat, cook it in sour sauce for about 30 minutes.

Separately, cook lean meat like beef rump in a small amount of water for about 30 minutes.

Grind both meats, mix them, add eggs, form meat balls, and cook in the sour sauce another 10-15 minutes.
You will discover that good meat is fat meat, and a sour sauce is sent from heaven. 

Serve with rice on a side, or bread.

Meat cooked in a sour sauce has even a better taste the next day because the flavor goes inside the meat.


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