Thank you!

These were lunch I made a few days ago using a Vietnamese grilled pork recipe in my “Lemongrass, Ginger and Mint” cookbook.
I’m so excited my book has become an Amazon “Best Seller” in its first day! Thank you to everyone who bought a copy!
For Amazon America I know they are offering it at $1.99 on Kindle downloads as a promotional price for the next five days so if it interests you, it is a small investment! Thank you for all of your support my friends!!!!

Just another day in Hội An

Last week my best friend from college was in town for a vacation. We hadn’t seen each other for more than two years, so it was so much fun to hang out with her in Hoi An. Actually the first time I visited Hoi An was with her back in summer 2008. We had just graduated from college and took a South-bound trip across Vietnam together. Hoi An has changed so much since then, and so have we. That summer night in 2008 we went out and ate Hoi An chicken rice and drank their bitter rice-based alcohol. Afterwards we walked back to our hotel at 10 pm, and along the way we got a bit scared and lost among the many dark, quiet, narrow back alleys of the old town. But of course nothing happened other than in our imaginations.

And we helped take a million pictures for each other. It seems like nowadays we don’t like being in front of the camera anymore. We’re a lot more interested in photographing other people and scenes. So this time we just walked the old streets that are so much more bustling than they were eight years ago, talked and took pictures along the way, stopped for a coffee here and there, and then walked some more. It was so relaxing to just do simple things with her. After all, it doesn’t matter where you are and what you do; it’s really the company that matters.

Here are some photos I snapped during the walk with my friend that day. I hope you like them.

Hoi An ancient town wedding
Hoi An is a popular destination for pre-wedding photo shoots. It’s not unusual to see brides and grooms here in the early morning, late afternoon, and even in the evening. It always makes me happy to see them looking so young and in love.

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Portrait | Hà in Hội An

Catching up with old friends is always so rewarding to me! It’s as fun to make silly bad jokes as it is to sit quietly and enjoy their company. It’s comforting to know that I can repeat the same stories that were told last year, knowing that I’m never judged. And in the sense of seeing old friends, this Vietnamese Independence Day long weekend was comforting! Three of my old friends whom I met at different times in my life were on vacation in town. I had coffee with each of them separately on Sunday, feeling like I relived three different lives.

Hà was my college classmate in Hanoi and then she went to school in the U.S. around the same time with me. We traveled together several times to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It was fun this time to hang out with her in this little town of Hoi An. I took her to a friend’s place to buy a bag, got some clothes made, had lunch with grilled squid at a local restaurant, and then bought some more bags. (They were just Hoi An’s local straw bags, not Paris’ or Milan’s leather ones!)

I think Hà has a distinctive and beautiful look so I snapped a few photos and shared them here!

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Craig’s banana bread (photos)

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Living in Vietnam has shown me different impressive sides of my husband. Last month, he mixed an environment-friendly ant and roach killer from syrup and borax, and last week, he baked amazing banana bread. (I’m grateful he can do both because now that we have delicious sweet banana bread on our dining table all the time, the big ants really have to drink their special syrup.)
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Portrait| Katya in Hội An

I came across Katya’s cute and lively drawings on Instagram and fell in love with them instantly. I didn’t hesitate a second to ask her if she would be interested in trading a drawing for a photoshoot. The results are the lotus drawing you see in the blog header above and the photos below.

We took these on the streets of the Ancient Town of Hoi An one morning. Katya sketched out some ideas of how she wanted to be pictured, which made it easier for me as well. I like how the photos show different aspects of her that I feel in person: fun, calm, and mysterious. Thank you, Katya, for being such a beautiful model!

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“Greening” our tropical home

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We’ve been pretty busy for the past week “renovating” our house!

My feeling is that people here in Hoi An are very big on plants and bonsai. No matter how shabby a house might look, in its front yard there’re always frangipani, or some exotic, colorful tropical blossoms, or different kinds of palm trees and cactus. I spot people’s lovely plants and flowers every single day. I admire their beauty, and I get jealous! After one year of jealousy, I decided to add more green to our house and have been loving it so far!
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Vietnamese Fusion Glaze Salmon

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

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Vietnamese fusion glaze salmon_Indiechine

This morning I had a phone call with my old landladies in the Bronx, New York City. It was more than a year since we last talked. They’re among the kindest, sweetest people that I’ve been lucky enough to have met in my life. Actually, I’ve been very lucky when it comes to genuine friendship.
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Beautiful Hội An | Early morning coffee

This morning I got up really early and took a walk in the old town of Hoi An. My new friend, Trang, a Hoi An local, took me to a street coffee place that was crowded at 6:30 am. 6:30! Yes, you heard it right!

Below are some snapshots I took during my leisure walk!

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Avocado and strings of steam rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves. The latter became my breakfast soon after that.
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Trang showed me how to get to some nice local tailor shops and a beautiful hidden beach this morning. Can’t wait to check them out. It’s never too late to have the real local hook-up.

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Lychee Panna Cotta

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Lychee_ Panna Cotta_Dessert_Vietnamese Cuisine_Indiechine

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.
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a trip to a Vietnamese traditional mat-weaving village

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Vietnamese traditional craft_Indiechine

A reed mat (chiếu) used to be a must-have item in Vietnamese households when I was small. My family ate around a big round tray on a mat on the floor. One of my chores was to roll out the mat before meals and to neatly roll it back again after. In addition to using these mats as places to eat, we slept on mats instead of sleeping on a mattress. On hot summer nights when there was no power, my grandmother would put a mat on our roof top so we could lie there in the cool(er) air and I would fall asleep listening to her telling folk tales.

I found out about Cam Ne mat village last month when researching traditional handicraft villages in Hoi An bigger area. The village has been around since the 15th century and they used to weave mats for kings of the Nguyen Dynasty in Hue, which is about 100km from there. Obviously if the kings were sending for mats from so far away, they had some pretty good skills. I have always wanted to buy a couple of mats for our house because of my childhood nostalgia about them, and I was curious about seeing them made in the traditional method. So off we drove on our blue scooter to Cam Ne on a burning hot day.

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