Vietnam


I started sorting through some pictures from the past year and a half a while ago to do a pretty photo entry, my last in Asia for a long time. Then time started really flying and work got in the way and on and on and in the end I just mashed a couple of shots together. It will have to do for now.

Apart from 18 months in South Africa and the US, Asia has been my home for the past 9 years. First Taiwan and then Thailand. Since we came to Thailand last year we traveled all over the country and visited Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I became even more deeply attached to this part of the world and would gladly stay longer, but the time has come for us to move on to new adventures.

We are flying back to the States later today to spend Christmas and New Years’ with Alexander’s family, something we’ve been looking forward to now for months. We will finally get to meet his niece and enjoy having a kitchen again and the company of his family.

And then it’s off to South Africa to start a new life in my home country. I’m scared of leaving this part of the world, but excited about what is lying ahead. And of course, this is not my last time here. So to Asia I say Tot weersiens for now. Untill I see you again.

The Ho Chi Minh alleys proved just as fascinating and colorful a place to wander around in than the ones I so love in Hsinchu.

And being slightly wider, they provide the ideal spot for setting up an informal cafe, or passageway-market.

I was a bit thrown off finding out that I was to host the next round of Hay Hay its Donna Day!, what with me not having access to a kitchen and traveling at the moment.

Suzana was darling enough to offer hosting on behalf of me, something I was considering as I really had no idea how I was going to manage. Still, I thought it would be fun if I could host from Vietnam and searched for a recipe that did not require a fully equipped kitchen (our friendly hotel management said it would be fine to use theirs).

The recipe I found, mint yogurt from the book Flavors, seemed perfect. It required only a stove top and a few ingredients, including the ubiquitous mint found in so many Vietnamese salads. So I set out to a local grocer and then the market to collect the ingredients and proceeded to make the yogurt.

To make Donna Hay‘s mint yogurt you need to gather:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup shredded mint leaves

1/2 cup water

1 cup chilled plain yogurt

1 cup chilled cream

And to make it:

Prepare a syrup by placing the water, sugar and mint leaves in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let it simmer for another 4 minutes and then let it stand for another 5. When the syrup has cooled, add it together with the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until light and creamy.

Serve on its own or with some fresh fruit or muesli for a refreshing breakfast or snack.

Of course the process was not without its hiccups. The kitchen was lacking a little in measuring cups and of course there was no beater, so I had to estimate a little with the amounts and ended up whisking the ingredients together with chopsticks instead of beating it with a mixer. But it came out very well in the end and I served some to Alexander and my friend Christel, who traveled with us for a few days, with that very tropical of tropical fruits, mango. Delicious!

For the challenge you can either make the same mint yogurt, or create a different yogurt using any other ingredients. I know the recipe is really simple, but in that lies the challenge to create something really exciting. Have fun!

RULES FOR HAY HAY ITS DONNA DAY:

Hay Hay Its Donna Day is open to all food and wine bloggers.

Entries submitted for HHDD must be made specifically for this event, although photos may be submitted to Does My Blog Look Good In This.

The host will select, make and post the original Donna Hay recipe without any changes. Participants may make the same recipe as is, or put their own spin on the recipe by altering the ingredients whilst remaining with the theme or if they prefer to share a well loved recipe within the theme. Entrants must include a link to the host in their post.

Entries can be made at any time once the event has been announced but must be posted and emailed to the host by the closing date.

Deadline for all posts to be up and submitted is October 27, 2008. I will be posting the round-up a week later (November 4) and voting will then begin!

Please email all your entries to bordeaux76@gmail.com. In your email, please include the following information: your blog name, your name, your location, your recipe name, and the permalink to your entry.

Hay Hay Its Donna Day is a food event created by Barbara from Winos and Foodies and now under the wing of Bron Marshall.

Can’t wait to see your entries!

We spent about a week in characterful Hoi An, a former port city dating back to the 17th Century, visited by merchants from Japan, China and Europe. Some traders settled here and the architecture of the town is a unique blend of building styles. The old town is basically a living museum. Many families still live in the same homes as their ancestors and many of of the ancient buildings are now home to tailors, lantern stores and cafes.

In order to preserve the buildings there are strict traffic regulations in the old town. Only motorcycles and bicycles are allowed in the area, and during most part of the day motorcycles have to be pushed around the streets with the engines turned off.

The most famous site in Hoi An, and the town’s symbol, is the Japanese Bridge, a lovely old bridge still in use by pedestrians to move from one side of the town to the other.

We’re back in Vietnam, enjoying the syrupy local drip coffee with sweet milk daily. It’s something I’ve become so addicted to on our trip to Hanoi that we bought some drips and took them home to Bangkok to make our own. It was good fun making it at home, but it’s much more satisfying when you sit on a low stool at a street side cafe, enjoying a warm cup, watching fruit hawkers cycling by.

We spent our first two nights in Danang. It was not on the top of our list of places to visit, but as we’re partially on a working trip, Alexander being busy doing some travel research, we had to pass through. We mainly spent our time along the banks of the Han River, which is peaceful and attractive enough, so much so that at times you were not even aware of the fact that this is the country’s fourth largest city. On our last afternoon we crossed the river with the help of a local fisherman who offered to paddle us across for a small fee.

One of the highlights for me of Danang were the coloured awnings outside many of the shop fronts, shading the them from the tropical midday sun.

I will update you soon about our next destination, Hoi An, where we wandered among quaint antique shopping streets and had some clothes tailored.

Today we are leaving our Bangkok apartment for the last time. Everything has been packed up and sold or shipped, leaving behind bare walls and empty spaces. The last couple of days our apartment resembled the same apartment we moved into in August of last year; just a lot of empty space.

As we are saying goodbye to one home…

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… we say hello to some new temporary ones.

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We will be on the road again for a couple of months, traveling to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and potentially Singapore. We have decided it was time to make a move again, and what better way to start a move than by going traveling?

I’m sad about the fact that I won’t be able to bake or sew again. But excited about the new places we’ll be going to and the much bigger journey lying ahead. I will also try to catch up on some old writing during this time and of course update you on our journey.

Goodbye then Bangkok, home for a year, and hello new adventures!

I know, I suck. I have not written anything in weeks. I think I have valid excuses, but maybe I don’t. And now that I am finally beginning to feel ready to write again and update and so forth, I discover that WordPress has a new layout and now I am all confused again. But I’ll try.

Last time I was here was before we left for a trip to the Andaman and I promised that I will post some more about that awesome capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. So here are some highlights and reasons why I get all misty eyed when I think off Hanoi.

We stayed in the Old Quarter for our first two nights, and even though we opted to stay around the Cathedral area near Hoan Kiem Lake after our return from Halong Bay, I found myself drawn back here a couple of times again. Walking through the old merchant’s neighborhood is kind of like walking through a really big, crazy market with people, bikes and merchandise everywhere you look. It is a frenetic and antique-feeling part of town and although I can never see myself living in such a mad quarter I can see myself wandering around the area for hours on end and just taking in the lively atmosphere.

We spent a lot of time around Hoan Kiem Lake, it’s centrally located and surrounded by a park, cafes and some lovely architecture. In the middle of the lake is Turtle Island (pictured above) with it’s lone pagoda. In the mornings and evenings the residents of Hanoi can be seen exercising and relaxing around the lake and at night the surrounding lights are beautifully reflected on the water. On our last night in the city we even saw a little owl flying around the lake.

I loved this image of Ho Chi Min holding a little girl and the dove in the background.

And speaking of HCM, on a very drizzly Sunday morning we set out to his mausoleum and museum. I was not too keen on going into the mausoleum and a few minutes standing in a terribly long line convinced Alexander too that maybe we should put it on hold for another time. Entry into the lotus-shaped museum next door was much easier and I bet the display was a lot more fascinating than an embalmed body. Intriguing and rather bizarre, I’d visit it again any time.

As can be seen from almost all the pictures, the weather was mostly overcast and gray. Which is exactly what I was hoping for when we planned our trip. I was craving a couple of days of little sun and gloomy skies. The balloon sellers that we often saw around the city made for a fun burst of color in our gray dome.

Cafes. Plentiful and all serving excellent drip coffee, Vietnamese style as well as other varieties. From top left- drip coffee on the street, Alexander enjoying an iced-Vietnamese coffee at Highlands next to the Opera House, Alexander working at a street-side coffee shop, patrons enjoying coffee and board games at Cafe Lam. This time in Vietnam we were smart and stocked up on Vietnamese drips and some excellent coffee for the house.

On our travels through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam last year we decided to do a cooking course in each country we visited. We got to do this in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and Luang Phabang in Laos, but unfortunately not in the other two countries. This time Alexander did some research before we left for Hanoi and booked a course for us at Hidden Hanoi. We picked to make the street food menu, the delicious and new firm-favorite of mine, bun cha. There were three students and our very informative and fascinating teacher, An.

Rather than start the course with a market visit she gave us an introduction to and discussion about the food culture of Vietnam. Afterwards we got to prepare a splendid bun cha lunch with rice noodles, barbecued pork patties, spring rolls, dipping sauce and greens.

Possibly my favorite aspect of Hanoi is the street food. Mouth-watering dishes can be enjoyed at tiny tables and plastic stools just about anywhere you turn all over the city. From left-to-right are bun cha, breakfast banh cuon and a different kind of binh my pate. Of course there was much more, for more detailed descriptions and pictures of the street food delights of Hanoi, go check out Alexander’s entry on Hanoi Street Food.

I miss Hanoi, I really do, and I hope we can return there soon for more sights, food, and atmosphere.

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