Friday, February 15, 2013


I don't know what it is about Vietnamese food, but it tastes different from anything else.  The main thing I think of is freshness, like nothing came out of a box but straight trom the farm or sea.  And it always tastes good.
Tools to get started.  Chop, chop.

I took a cooking class at Hoa Tuc restaurant in Saigon.  Instead of just watching the cook prepare food, the 12 of us each got our own cutting board, knife, etc and repeated everything he did.  We used some vegetables I was not familiar with, like mustard leaves, lotus stems, bon bon, tine vua, kumquats, and mung beans. We stir fried, deep fried, barbecued, mashed, cut, diced, etc.  In the end, we made three dishes:  mustard leave rolls with crunchy vegetables and prawns, fried sticky rice fritters with pork and carrot, and rice noodle with BBQ pork and vegetable salad.  I will give you the salad dressing recipe:

8 tablespoons kumquat juice (we used the fresh fruit and squeezed)
2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
4 teaspoons minced red chili (medium spicy)

Mix all ingredients, stirring well until sugar is dissolved.

Mustard leaf rolls with prawns and vegetables.  Yummy!

I learned that fish sauce comes in different strengths, and a higher number is less water and more fish sauce.  He used number 60, which I think is the highest strength.

If you are really lucky, I will make some of these dishes for you when I get back to the US.

Teacher/chef shows us how to deep fry rice balls
Enjoying the barbecued pork salad

The next day my roommate Susan and I took the shuttle to town and wandered around the Ben Tranh market for about three hours.  This is an indoor market about the size of two Walmarts.  On one side is food, from fresh fruits and vegetables to fish, meat, snails (the French influence), etc.  The meat is butchered and hangs on hooks, but the chickens are alive and the fish and shrimp are still wriggling.  This is fresh!  We also went down the narrow aisles looking at clothes, art, hats, shoes, etc.  Whatever else you can think of, it was probably there.

I bought a shirt from these girls in the market

Fresh prawns, still wiggling

We stopped at a few tailoring places to see about getting some clothes made.  I love the aio dais, those sleek calf length, long sleeved tops slit up to the waist over long pants.  Unfortunately, I don't think they were meant for me.  I settled for buying a new silk shirt.

We went back to the ship for lunch, but I returned to town later to get a manicure/pedicure for $12.  My friend said she got both for $8.  One thing I noticed is that they don't use lotion when they do the hand and leg massage, which I didn't like.

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