Mushroom & Tofu Braised in Caramelized Shallots & Soy Sauce

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Last week we flew to Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon) to run some errands and had lunch at Cuc Gach Quan (meaning A Piece of Brick Restaurant) – one of my favorite restaurants in Vietnam. If you ever visit Vietnam, I can’t recommend enough that you try it. The restaurant cooks authentic Vietnamese meals in an utterly serene Vietnamese rural style. It reminds me of my grandparents’ place in the countryside when I was growing up, except for the addition of the very nice music playing and relaxing smell of lemongrass oil essence.

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Hội An Mornings (Photos)

I had never been a morning person until we moved to Hoi An. During our first week here, because of jet lag, I got up early and went into town for coffee, and that has been my morning ritual ever since. Morning is the most beautiful time of the day here, when the whole town is calm but cheerful, quiet but up-lifting. Early risers drink tea, read newspapers, play chess on the street. (Craig mentioned some interesting observations of morning activities here.) I love sitting in the corner of an old coffee house, sipping my coffee, watching people and occasionally snapping a photo or two. This morning I came across these pictures of friends and strangers that I took in the morning hours that I’ve been accumulating over the past few months.

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A dreamy / sleepy boy sitting on the sidewalk when his parents were having breakfast in our favorite coffee shop. Behind him was a street vendor carrying heavy baskets, selling noodles for breakfast.

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Vietnamese Sesame Rice Donuts

*Scroll down to the end of this blog post for a video tutorial of this recipe. 

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Call me childish, but I’m a little more excited about this Christmas season because I took a calligraphy workshop last month. For the first time in my life, I can make pretty Christmas cards by myself. That really means a lot to me as I always find it so rewarding to hand make something from scratch for my loved ones. For almost two weeks now, I wake up really early, make myself some tea, put a candle under some essential oil, and practice drawing and writing. My dining table is piled up with papers, water colors and ink. It’s messy, but I think it’s a joyful, festive looking mess. (I think my husband thinks so too.)
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A trip to Hội An Market & a seafood feast

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There’s a wide variety of exotic fish in Hội An Market, a lot of which I’d never seen before. I don’t even know their names.
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She was really proud of her giant king prawn and told me to feel free to photograph it!

For such a small town, Hoi An never ceases to surprise us. Almost every week, we discover a new cozy restaurant or a charming art gallery. We came across The Little Menu restaurant a month ago and immediately it became one of our go-to places for comfort food. Chef Sơn Trần (pronounced sʌn chʌn), founder of the restaurant and Herbs and Spices Cooking Classes, is as passionate about cooking as sharing his knowledge and expertise. His love for cooking and passion for Vietnamese food is very contagious. I couldn’t help but ask him to teach me some of his signature recipes, and luckily Craig and I also got to follow him to the local market, where vendors greeted him like a family member.
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