March 2014 archive

So much Vietnamese food in Hanoi!

Grilled eggplant with ginger peanut sauce.

 

Sweet and sour pork soup. I urge you to start adding pineapple in your soup, amazing flavor explosion.

 

Deep fried tofu with mint and green onion. You can find this everywhere, ladies with Vietnamese hats fry tofu right in the middle of the sidewalk.

 

Honey glazed chicken.

 

Bun ca? Sour soup with fresh dill, not my favorite but very different from other soups.

Having fun eating in Hanoi.

The fluffiest tomato omelet in the world with warm baguette.

 

I’ve order this soup twice now, it’s freaking delicious. White asparagus and crab soup, it tastes like Asia’s version of chowder.

 

 

Japanese Takoyaki balls!

 

 

Octopus, green onions, pickled ginger, dough, Japanese mayo, BBQ sauce, seaweed and benito flakes. Yummy searing hot treats, good with cold beers.

How to eat in Hanoi

First, grab yourself a “fresh beer“, it’s locally made light beer (not particularly delicious yet certainly non-offensive) served in glass mugs on the side of the road or at local eateries. This weak beer only costs $0.16 a cup, everyone loves it, even the kids.

 

 

Eat one bowl of sticky rice with fried garlic and mung beans a day to help stiffen up “toilet-time”.

 

 

Treat yourself to a steaming bowl of Pho every few hours, very refreshing.

 

 

Find a busy local restaurant and order a bowl of Sup Ga (chicken soup).

 

 

Find the most festive table at the restaurant and take a picture of them.

 

 

Next, get invited to said table and start drinking Vietnamese vodka with your new friends.

 

 

Eat lots of food, laugh non-stop, exchange Facebooks and PLEASE, don’t forget to drink more vodka!

Side note: ALWAYS take your hotel’s business card with you, you never know if you’ll find your way home after so many cheers!

Cau Lau Hoi An, Vietnam

Before arriving in a new city most would research the town’s attractions or points of interest, not me, I inquire about the local delicacies. On the top of Hoi An’s must-eats list is Cau Lau , a special noodle dish made with “magical” water from the town’s well.

 

Main market with fancy well out front.

 

Bowl #1 at the market:

Broth: Porky but weak.

Bits: Fried tofu and pork skin with lettuce and sprouts.

Noodles: Harder than rice noodles, very similar to udon noodles. I would have like to eat a massive bowl.

 

 

Bowl # 2 at Café 43:

So much better, the broth was deep and rich like Pho Bo and we actually got pieces of pork.

Hoi An snacks

Another treat from Café 43, fried wontons with mango and pineapple salsa. YUMMY!!! IT reminded me of Mexico.

 

Fried tofu with pineapple, tomato and onion.

 

Voulez-vous café; baguette, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, peppers and grilled shrimp.

Café 43 in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I found this restaurant online and was curious to check it out because it has killer reviews and now I understand why. The food is local, extremely inexpensive, friendly staff and the local draft beer costs $0.16 a glass.

These are White Rose dumplings, a Hoi An specialty. Homemade rice wrapper filled with sprouts, ginger, pork and onion with a chili vinegar dipping sauce.

 

Fried tofu with carrots, onions, tomatoes, pineapples and black pepper.

 

Banh Xeo, another Hoi An specialty. You roll these as you eat right at your table: fresh rice paper, crepes made from rice flour and turmeric, shrimp, sprouts, egg and lots of fresh herbs and then you dip them in a sweet garlic fish sauce. I thought it was absolutely fantastic!

 

 

My first real Vietnamese Pho.

As soon as we settled into our hotel and showered, Matt and I headed to the local market downtown Ho Chi Minh City and ordered one steaming bowl of Pho with beef and intestines. The broth was weak, the beef tender and the intestines surprizingly clean with a shitake mushroom texture. Overall not a bad soup, the best Pho in town was to be discovered a few hours later by the river (see “Lunch Lady vs. Pho Lady” post).

 

 

 

Real Vietnamese coffee sans condensed milk.

The Lunch Lady vs. the Pho Lady.

We’re huge Anthony Bourdain fans. I mean, anyone with an adventurous palate and a love for travel probably is. When Anthony and his TV crew visited Saigon last they ate at a particular food stall run by a bossy lady who is locally known as “The Lunch Lady”. Everyday she creates one new dish, take it or leave it that’s what she is serving, just make sure to come and get it before it runs out.

We arrived at the Lunch Lady at 3:30pm, a little late I worried I really didn’t want to miss her. There she was under her bright yellow and green awning waiting for us, not one other customer insight. We sat at a plastic table and immediately women started bringing us eggrolls, spring rolls and dipping sauces, items we certainly did not order nor want. ‘Soup’ we said over and over, trying to convey our order with hand gestures. The “Lunch Lady” comes over to greet us and shakes her head, ‘no soup’. I clue in and remember Bourdain mentioning that it was only one dish a day and that’s it. I motion “1 please” and she goes into action.

 

One huge handful of rice noodles topped with 2 deep fried spring rolls cut into bit sized piece with scissors. She grabs the bowl then shuffles to the next station and adds lovely pieces of BBQ pork, deep fried pork skin, green stuff, sweet stuff, peanut stuff and voila!

 

 

 

The meal was great, perfect balance of sweet, sour, savory, spicy, hot, cold, soft and crunchy. The whole experience was a little bizarre because the entire time we were there we never certain if she was closing down or just opening up, no one spoke English, a cab driver converted our American money to Vietnamese Dong and tried to rip us off $0.50, but the oddest thing of all was when the ladies brought us a bunch of food before we even ordered, it reeked of a tourist scam and we wanted no part of it.

 

The Lunch Lady to the right preparing our food.

 

40 meters down the alley from the Lunch Lady we found our next stop, a wonderful Pho making station. Again no one spoke a word of English but this time we were received with warm smiles. Before even sitting down I spotted the ingredient I was after, beef tendon. I first became addicted to the stuff a few years back when Matt and I lived downtown Victoria, only steps away from a delicious Pho restaurant. Albeit tendon might not be for everyone those addicted to the crunchy yet marrow like properties surely understand my excitement when I saw a huge pile of it on a tray, right beside my second favorite ingredient, razor thin sliced quality raw steak. We went all out and ordered 2 extra sides of meat and tendon and had ourselves a wonderful Pho party on the side of the road looking out on the river.

 

Her magical broth bubbles all day turning it into a sweet rich meaty piece of art. Lunch Lady vs. Pho Lady? Today Pho Lady wins by a landslide.

Unhappiness.

I’m feeling energetic, my stomach is happy and usually full but unfortunately I have to report that “toilet-time” has increased considerably. Maybe I should eat a whole wheel of cheese to equalize everything. These are the joys of travel.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.

Our adventure started at 5 am this morning when we met our tuk-tuk driver outside our hotel. Pitch black outside and a cool 27 degrees, we had no idea what to expect from our mini temple tour. First you stop at the ticket station, $20 in cash, quick photo, ticket printed then you jump back into your tuk-tuk taxi. Our driver Thom delivered us at the entrance of our first temple Angkor Wat and showed us where to meet him once we were done. In complete darkness thousands of tourists with flashlights and cellphones funnel their way on an uneven path, over a bridge, up old stone steps and across a field all while getting harassed by vendors jumping out of nowhere begging you to buy useless nic nacs. At the end of the field lays…who knows what the heck is there, it’s completely dark and you can’t see a thing yet everyone clumps together facing East!

Once daybreaks it all comes together, in front of you sits a 12th century stone Wat as big as your eyes can see, a still pond separates you and the Wat reflecting the temple like a mirror and finally the moment everyone has been waiting for, the sun. Huge, red, golden, warm and stunning, the sun bring with it a new day full of happiness and adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great eats in Siem Reap Cambodia.

Vietnamese Pho soup sold from a busy cart in front of a corner store, one flavor, one price ($2).

 

Fast food type lunch. Korean BBQ boneless chicken leg burger with perfectly crispy fries and light and crispy chicken wings (almost like a tempura batter).

 

Fried rice, BBQ beef with pepper lime sauce and greens.

 

Lemongrass beef curry with eggplant.

 

Dry cured crocodile. It tastes like a cross between beef jerky and fish.

 

Cambodian style noodle soup. Simple salty broth, your choice of 2 different noodles, carrot and turnip, random bits of beef or pork and some greens and fried garlic.

 

Thai suki hot pot. I didn’t even know that Thailand eats hot pot!

Phnom Penh, Cambodia fun.

I’m saving most of our travel pictures for when I come home and have a proper computer. I just wanted to let you know that we are head over heels in love with Cambodia. The food is great, it’s wild and chaotic and the people are the nicest, warmest, most happy people on the planet.

We are on the top floor of a clean hotel with a rooftop pool. Check out our view, we can see the Royal Palace from here.

 

Rooftop pool with view of the Mekong River.

 

The loveliest lady on the planet (with the exception of Kathleen Bordas).

 

 

 

Hungover?

 

 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia fun.

I’m saving most of our travel pictures for when I come home and have a proper computer. I just wanted to let you know that we are head over heels in love with Cambodia. The food is great, it’s wild and chaotic and the people are the nicest, warmest, most happy people on the planet. The only sad thing we’ve noticed so far is that the sex trade, especially child sex, is so readily available. I see so many single men roaming the streets often coupled with girls or boys a quarter their age. Many bad things happen here.

We are on the top floor of a clean hotel with a rooftop pool. Check out our view, we can see the Royal Palace from here.

 

Rooftop pool with view of the Mekong River.

 

The loveliest lady on the planet (with the exception of Kathleen Bordas).

 

 

 

Hungover?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The markets are a bit much…even for me.

 

Matt’s worst nightmare.

 

 

Beef noodle soup (the weakest one yet) and shrimp, squid and abalone. I have a small checklist of ingredients that I want to try before I die, a culinary bucket-list if you will, and abalone was at the top (maybe because it starts with an A?). Considered a luxury item in most parts of the world, abalone is often served at special events. I was absolutely surprised at how tender and delicious it was, the flavor and texture is almost identical to king oyster mushrooms.

 

BBQ’d chicken butts (SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOD!), chicken wings and steak with those crazy sweet greens.

 

Setting up the night market.

 

Fried noodles with fried egg.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia is amazing!

BBQ Snake. It tastes like chicken beef jerky with a little more crunch.

 

Pork noodle soup with sprouts. The broth is simple, clear and salty.

 

Steak marinated in a sweet BBQ sauce with lots of hoisin. It came with a huge plate of greens I had never eaten before, very unique and herbal.

 

 

 

Thick udon like noodles fried with sprouts, bok choy and beef.

 

Deer steak with the most amazing pepper, garlic, chili and lime sauce.

 

Beef, chicken and shrimp Pho with sprouts and greens. One of the greens tastes like a mild sweet basil, it’s out of this world.

Eating in Malaysia and hanging out at Alisa’s house.

Banana leaf, eat with your right hand and high five with your left, this food is extra yummy. For only $4 you get a huge portion of chicken rice, cucumber Dahl, green beans, bright red coated zucchinis and as many chutneys and sauces as you want.

 

Alisa lives beside a fancy supermarket with all kinds of delicious foods to choose from. Matt and I had a sushi party this afternoon.

 

Jalan Alor is the famous Chinese eatery street in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve eaten there twice already.

Pig ears.

 

Steamed “cockles”, which I found out are actually ark clams also known as blood clams. I’ve never had them before and will probably never order them again. Think clams but dirty bottom feeding muddy clams with a strange “bloody” discharge. No thank you.

 

Chicken, pork and lamb satays with peanut sauce. Tiny and delightful.

 

Gail an with garlic.

 

Steamed chicken with sprouts.

 

Snails in the same sink you wash your hands in.

 

Party time with Alisa and friends!

 

Dumpling soup. I could have eaten 6 bowls.

 

 

BBQ chicken feet with spicy sauce.

 

Street burger with unrefrigerated beef paddy, not bad for a $0.90 burger.

Ko Samui snacks and food.

Ko Samui is the southernmost island that we visited in Thailand (and most expensive), being so close to Malaysia the food was either Thai or Indian.

Spicy lemon Thai soup.

 

Indian cornmeal and vegetable patties with basil dip, chutney and turmeric sauce.

 

Spiced chicken skins. Think pork rinds but chicken.

 

The best spring rolls in the world. They were huge, the size of a TV remote. Inside had glass noodles, sprouts, carrots and chicken. Did you know that a REAL spring rolls use slowly boiled (in incredible broth), tender pieces of chicken, not dry rubbery chicken breast?

 

Bangkok Boutique Airlines food. Fresh fruit, Tuna pastry, carrot coconut muffin, yogurt with kiwi goo, tangerine juice and water.

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