Monthly Archives: November 2011

His/Hers: Week 7

Standard

Photobucket

< His/Hers >

About this diptych project >>>

Advertisements

Virtual tour: The Independence Palace (aka Reunification Palace)

Standard

Photobucket

Never having done so, I took one day to play tourist in Saigon. My first stop was the Independence Palace in central Saigon (District 1).

Afterwards I went over to the Fine Arts Museum, however, just as I pulled up in front of the gates I got a phone call asking if I wanted to join the family for a round of massage and mani/pedis at a nearby salon. I looked longingly at the posters of art and history—it looked so beautiful and I love art museums so much—but then I turned around and made a beeline for 118 Foot & Body Massage on Pasteur Street.

I am so shallow.

Therefore, my entire tourist experience is this one: the Independence Palace … Come on, let’s take a gander.

Read the rest of this entry

Two tips for foodies in Saigon

Standard

Photobucket

Tip No. 1:

There’s this hole in the wall (I mean this literally) in downtown Saigon called Pho Ha, where the kitchen is actually a tiny hallway and all of the seating is street side at these teeny tables surrounded by what could be considered plastic kiddie chairs.

Do not be afraid.

Just sit down and prepare for a happy tummy.

Photobucket

They have two specialties: a boiled chicken dish …

Photobucket

… and burnt rice. They’re really known for the burnt rice. Now, what the heck is burnt rice? It doesn’t sound at all appetizing, does it?

Photobucket

Well, it’s not really burnt. It’s more like twice cooked. We kept debating exactly HOW this rice is made because we each want to make it a home, it’s so good. The best we can come up with is that a thin layer of cooked rice is fried in a hot wok until the bottom is crispy, but the top stays soft and becomes almost chewy. Then it is sprinkled lightly with a dried, savory shredded pork. Holy cow, it is so simple and yet incredibly addictive!!!

Here’s what it looks like … like a flat pancake of rice. Sorry my pictures are so blurry, but it was dark and I refuse to use flash. Plus, I was really busy eating.

Photobucket

Tip No. 2:

Pho Ha is conveniently located across the street from Nhu Lan, known to be the best sandwich deli (banh mi) in town. Seriously, it’s famous. Everyone know it. If you ask locals where to go for the best banh mi they’ll point you here.

Photobucket

Before we even finished eating our burnt rice Joe was already talking about running over to Nhu Lan to pick up some sandwiches to take home for a midnight snack.

I’m telling you, this food obsession is genetic.

Anyway, that’s what we did.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Here’s the typical BBQ pork carved off a rotisserie … holy yum!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Minh, Joe and I also came back the next day and picked up some banh mi for a mid-morning snack before we hit the town for some marathon DVD shopping.

According to our triumverate consensus, I’m sorry to report that they were NOT the best banh mi that we’ve ever had. We were so disappointed. In fact, there’s a little kiosk near our house where a little old lady dishes up better sandwiches. However, we did try several kinds of banh mi and determined that the best banh mi are the ones that have a little pâté in them. So, there’s our advice … don’t assume this joint’s got the best banh mi in town, but do go for the ones that include pâté, you won’t be sorry. They are still quite delicious!

But don’t forget Tip No. 1, go to Pho Ha!! It’s a little hidden secret.

His/Hers: Week 5

Standard

Photobucket

< His/Hers >

By the way, Jack and I do not confer with each other about our photos. He takes two or three throughout the week and I do the same. We do not coordinate. We do not even discuss it in passing. By the time he sends me his photos at the end of the week I have already chosen mine. When I open his up they’re a complete surprise.

It’s ironic that despite being separated by thousands of miles the past few weeks our photos show a similar train of thought. Funny! And just a little woowoo wierd, don’t ya think?

About this diptych project >>>

Milu

Standard

Photobucket

This is my mom’s dog, Milu (pronounced Mee-Loooo).We have no idea what kind of dog he is, but he reminds me a little of a King Charles spaniel, maybe mixed with some Asian spaniel-type.

He’s the absolute sweetest little dude.

He’s so laid back and easy going; nothing much bothers him. He loves affection. And for sure he’s a family dog, happiest in the midst of his pack.

At the smallest invitation he’ll come lay his head against your leg or curl up next to your foot.

And he’s got the most adorable chocolately brown eyes that look at you with such love. He’s so cute!

Read the rest of this entry

One, two, three, YO!

Standard

Photobucket

This is what it looks like across the street from our house in Saigon. And when I say across the street, I mean 15 feet away. The streets in Vietnam are quite narrow.

This … is a cafe that runs alongside the river in front of our house.

Every day starting at lunchtime it’s full of young people, kids in their twenties. Kids who apparently don’t have jobs or school or places to be and things to do.

They come at lunch and stay until the wee hours of the night. At least it seems that way.

When the monsoon rains come they just keep laughing and drinking and eating and laughing …

Photobucket

… and every ten minutes the air is punctuated with the chant, “One, two, three, YO!”

It’s the Vietnamese youth’s equivalent of “cheers” or “bottom’s up” or “down the hatch” or … you get my drift.

Photobucket

If you have the misfortune of sleeping in the front of our house your dreams are guaranteed to be punctuated with the chant, “One, two, three, YO! One, two, three, YO!” and you will have the overwhelming urge to take a swig of beer.

Photobucket

Now, any time I take a swig of anything—juice, water, tea—I hear in my head, “One, two, three, YO!”

 

Bánh mì: offal anyone?

Standard

Photobucket

“Bánh mì” is the Vietnamese term for “sandwich”. Most typically it is served in a foot-long french baguette and is filled with pâté, any kind of meat (most popular is BBQ pork), pickled daikon and carrots, and fresh, sliced chiles and cucumbers, then drizzled with soy sauce and chili paste. It is a VERY popular snack that you can buy in any number of sandwich shops (like a deli) or most commonly from one of a zillion street vendors who sell nothing but a particular kind of bánh mì.

One day when Minh, Joe and I were downtown we ran across this little vendor who sold offal (organ meat) bánh mì, which is much harder to find.

I have only had an offal bánh mì once before and couldn’t recall whether I liked it or not. I have to say … I was dubious at first (I don’t really enjoy liver often), but my culinary curiosity got the best of me and I had to try it again, after all I do so love a good bánh mì.

My brother, Joe, thought I was crazy. Minh just rolled his eyes at me. There was an Australian fella in line ahead of me and he looked quite happy as he watched his sandwich being made, so I thought, “What the hayballs! Why not?”

If I don’t like it I’ll throw up on Joe and then toss the rest of the sandwich.

The verdict?

Read the rest of this entry

A little family luxe

Standard

Photobucket

This trip to Vietnam is kind of special. It’s rare (like maybe once a decade) that my brothers and I can simultaneously be in the same room with my mom, let alone travel together. We all have hectic, busy lives with our own families and live spread out all over the world.

Given the rarity of the occasion, and since we were going to be in the area doing charity work, my mom decided to treat us all to a day at the beach in Phan Thiet, a popular resort town that attracts visitors worldwide. We’d never been there before. Holy cow! I can now see why it’s so popular. It’s beautiful!
Read the rest of this entry

Project: Open Arms scholarships

Standard

Photobucket

While we were up in the Phan Thiet area we stopped at another small town to distribute scholarships to a dozen children. Along with the scholarship funds each got a backpack filled with goodies.

Photobucket

I ran into the younger ones in the alley adjacent the school’s main courtyard. I asked if I could take their picture and they eagerly scrambled into a line along the wall—some excited, some shy. They were adorable. When reviewing the photos much later I realized what it says on the wall behind them: “Please do not urinate here.”

I wanted to weep. The metaphor strikes hard.

Read the rest of this entry