*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.
I was silent last week on the blog because we went to Bangkok for a mini vacation. We had a lot of fun there just strolling around the city, shopping for cute, inexpensive hand-made T shirts, and eating mango sticky rice, a popular Thai dessert, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and after dinner snack. Read more
Finally we decided to get an oven last week. Ovens aren’t typically something found in Vietnamese homes because electricity can be expensive for the average Vietnamese family and the addition of a heat source in the house during hot months is a pretty foreign idea! However things are changing and Vietnamese are falling in love with baking. After baking our first loaf of bread (and eating it all down it soon after that), we wondered why we hadn’t bought it earlier. I’ve tried so many delicious recipes with it and my husband has been baking bread (and cookies!) nonstop. I’m wondering if I should photograph and write a blog post of him baking banana bread. Well, why not. He’s a super cute baker and the bread is super delicious!
The one thing that I haven’t tried with an oven is baking cakes. It’s because, being a Vietnamese I didn’t grow up with cakes and so I haven’t fallen in love with them yet. Usually in Vietnam we just eat fruit for dessert or the traditional dessert chè. Read more
For some reason I’ve always enjoyed doing repetitive, mundane tasks. They provide a sense of peacefulness and contentment in seeing the results of my efforts. My mind quiets down and I get to enjoy a sense of oneness with my task.
When I was in tenth grade, my summer job was to put bra sliders into bra straps. My mother worked for a garment factory, and every day she would bring home huge bags of bra straps and bra sliders. Like a machine, I spent every single day of that summer putting sliders into straps. I didn’t get bored at all. In fact, I even found great joy in doing that. I didn’t have to think much, and I was content with the accomplishment, which was piles and piles of nice and neat straps in front of my eyes. Read more
This past week the heat was so brutal that both of us got a cold from switching back and forth too often between a cool air-conditioned room to the burning heat. But we’re ok now, and I’m back to the sauna/kitchen creating and documenting recipes with great enthusiasm! Read more
It’s lychee season now, and next month it’ll be longans. LONGANS!
My hometown is a small Northern province that has a few specialties, a kind of soy sauce that some really love and my favorites, amazing longan and lychee fruits. There are several other Northern provinces that also grow lychees, and longan trees grow in many places from the North to the South, but the fruits from my hometown are claimed to be the best. They’re fragrant, sweet but not too watery; the meat is thick and the seeds tiny. When I was 10, my mother and I took a Southbound train to visit my grandparents, whom we hadn’t seen for years. Transportation was difficult then. It took us two days and one night, and we both shared one seat, me sitting in my mom’s lap. The space was tiny but my mom still managed to bring some bags of lychee fruits as presents. Fruits were precious to us, and it was no brainer that our hometown’s lychees had to be onboard traveling with us. Read more
*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this blog post.
In the winter time our favorite part of going to the hotel gym where we work out is to use a very nice sauna there after swimming. About two weeks ago, as we walked out of the swimming pool, I asked my husband if he was going to the sauna. “I did. All day”, he said. “I was soaking wet just being in our living room.”
The heat and humidity in May here is in fact quite brutal, at least it is for us. Locals don’t seem to mind though. Yesterday I met up with a Hoi-An native friend and when my arm was about to fall off from fanning myself so hard with a paper fan, she told me that she was longing for summer to come. I almost cried.
I hope you’re not yet tired of me talking about the weather here. I’m not complaining – just trying to give some context. It’s the weather and seasonal food that determines what I cook and eat.
Weather update: I haven’t seen blue sky here for the past few weeks. It’s the burning season, when people burn newly harvested rice stalks to prepare for the next crop. So the rice paddies behind my house have been all smoky and fiery. It looks like part of a battlefield, or my grandmother’s countryside kitchen back in the 1980s when she cooked with leaves, straw and rice husks in humid and rainy weather… Read more
Before starting this blog, I had never used cooking measurements. I measured with my eyes and intuition, or as my friend put it, “all ingredients are to taste”. The “everything to taste” rule worked well for me, except for when I had parties or guests over. Cooking for extra people without a recipe rarely came out as well. My guests might not have noticed (thankfully), but I just knew that the food didn’t taste the same as when I cooked just for my family. Read more
*The Vietnamese word for mangoes is xoài, pronounced soai.
If you happen to be in Vietnam in xoài season, you have to try them. Seriously!
The mangos here are one-of-a-kind. I remember that sentiment being expressed in an endearing scene from the movie “Indochina” where the main character, a French colonist, handed her adopted daughter a plate of mangos that looked so juicy and delicious. I don’t remember much else about the movie but that scene has stayed in my mind for years. Read more