Pineapple Fried Rice

*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this blog post.

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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.

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Vietnamese Banana Pudding

There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.

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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…
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Braised Baby Ribs & a Summer Meal

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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.
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Vietnamese Mango Tapioca Pudding

*The Vietnamese word for mangoes is xoài, pronounced soai.

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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.
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A Vietnamese vegan meal

Goodbye European castles and cobblestoned streets!

Goodbye budding tulips and daffodils in chilly wind!

Goodbye giant plates of steak and potatoes, beer and sausages!

We’re back home to sunshine and beach, to mangoes and watermelons, and to vegetables and herbs!

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Butternut Squash & Salmon Cháo

*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.

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The weather in Hoi An has been so beyond perfect lately. It’s the kind of sunshine and breezes that are so delightful that it brings me instant joy just by looking out the window. Craig says this weather reminds him of beautiful early summer days when he was in high school in Kentucky. He remembers the soft sunshine on his front porch, the irresistible smell of barbecue in warm breezes that his father was grilling on a lovely Sunday evening. It’s interesting how similarities in temperature and humidity can bring back vivid memories from years and years ago.
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Tết – Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Vietnamese Tet takes place at the same time as Chinese New Year and Korean New Year because we use the same lunar calendar. However, we celebrate with food and customs which are unique to Vietnamese culture. 

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I also carried bunches of flowers on a scooter like her, but nobody took pictures for me.
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Buddha’s fist fruits. I’m not sure if they’re edible but many people place them on the altar because, well, I guess they do look like Buddha’s fists.
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Lanterns, vases and ornaments for Tet in Hoi An. In the North we don’t use lanterns.
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Cages of best cage-free chicken for Tet
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6 am in the market
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Dried fruits in the market

Tet has always been my favorite time of the year. When I was small, Tet meant a week off from school, which was the biggest fun followed by new clothes and lucky money. Read more

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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Vietnamese Mochi in Sweet Ginger

*There’s a video tutorial at the end of this blog post.

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Craig adding some sesame to his mochi

I made this dessert about two weeks ago when we invited our friend Peter, a retired Australian chef living in Hoi An, over for dinner. Most restaurants in Hoi An serve Western cakes for dessert, and you wouldn’t discover the Vietnamese traditional desserts without a local “connection”. Plus it was raining cats and dogs that week, so I decided to make a Vietnamese traditional warm dessert, chè trôi nước, for that dinner.
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Vegan Vietnamese Eggplant & Tofu Stew

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

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I grew up eating this stew, often twice in late autumn when eggplant was in season. The stew was one of the few recipes that my cooking-challenged father mastered. Read more