Hanoi

October 14, 2011

We arrived in Hanoi pre warned about unscrupulous airport taxi drivers and their many scams. So when we found ours, I was expecting the worst. It’s always a little unnerving when someone speaks in a different language in front of you, as you’re paranoid they’re calling you horsedick to your face. So when our driver made a phonecall as soon as we got in the car, I was pretty sure he was calling his mafia boss to inform him that fresh, Western meat was in the car and that we’d be delivered to his whorehouse in 20 minutes. During the drive from the airport to the hotel, I flitted between worrying about us being kidney-less sex slaves and looking out of the window, completely mesmerised by the utter chaos on the streets. The Vietnamese practically live most of their life on the street as this is where they cook, eat, socialise, sell and do their crazy-ass driving. Their traffic system is pretty much non existent. As we drove down the main freeway, people were randomly walking on the road as the traffic whizzed by them. No one believes in lanes, stopping or indicating. In fact, our driver indicated at the most random, unnecessary times, leading me to believe he was just doing it because he thought Western people liked the ticking noise. Cars drive on the line that separates the two sides of oncoming traffic and motorbikes weave like drunkards between cars, trucks, people and buses, carrying everything from the village’s supply of toilet paper, multiple family members and trees. People were burning rubbish by the side of the road, eating and walking around with their bamboo shoulder baskets trying to make the last sell of the day. All these sights while listening to Savage Garden’s Truly, Madly, Deeply. Surreal, right?

Our first day was spent at a cooking school which was one of the best things we’ve done on our trip. We started with a local student taking us around the neighborhood markets. These markets are called frog markets, as the ‘vendors’ are illegally selling things they’ve bought at a wholesale market and are just selling it on trying to make a buck. So when the police come, they have to jump up and bring all of their wares indoors, hence the name, frog market. Everyone at these markets sell something different. There’s fruit, meat, vegetables, shoes, noodles, rice and herbs. Oh yeah, and there’s also dog, which is probably the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Wholly roasted and weirdly crispy, this is one sight I will never forget. Although having said that, I don’t think it’s right for Westerners to judge what other cultures eat and have been eating for hundreds of years. At the cooking class, which ended up being a private lesson for Luke and I, we learnt about how Vietnamese food is all about balancing the flavours, like ying and yang and how Vietnamese people love eating close to the ground and actually, just eating in general. They eat and spend much of their time outdoors to maintain relations with their neighbors and to spend time with their families and one meal a day should always be eaten at home. After we’d finished preparing our bun cha soup (BBQ pork noodles) we had the best meal of our whole trip.

But it wasn’t just food and culture we learnt about. We also learnt that Luke has the most vomit inducing man smell when put in humid, sweating, non deodorant wearing conditions. He was fascinated with this new smell, kind of like when babies discover poo in their nappies and smear it all over themselves. He found ‘intriguing’. Upon smelling it, I, on the other hand, wondered if this was going to be the moment in our relationship when I was going to projectile vomit over his feet. After letting him reveal in this new smell for half a day, I made him shower and soap twice. Yes, it was that powerful.

Hanoi is one of those places you enjoy for a couple of days and then get the hell out. While fearing for your life when crossing the road is fun for a while, it’s just not sustainable. Nor are the tiny baby stools that street food vendors put out when you’re Luke and extremely unflexible when faced with having to basically squat while eating. And it’s not sustainable for someone like me who pretty much gets the shits just looking at bug infected chicken that’s been sitting on the street all day. So we stayed, we enjoyed and then we got the hell out.

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BOOM. Plum cake.

June 18, 2011

The triple cooked chip

June 15, 2011

It is the ultimate chip, the Lionel Messi of the chip world – the triple cooked chip.

I’m not sure how this technique passed us by for so long, maybe it was because we didn’t own a DeLonghi deep fryer, or maybe it was because we were just so utterly naive in the craft of chip making. Anyhow, if you want to make the best ever portion of chips like we did today, follow this recipe and you will not be disappointed:

1. Peel your potatoes and slice into your chip shape of choice
2. Wash them for around 5 minutes under cold water to remove starch
3. Parboil for around 7mins making sure they are still firm
4. Drain and rest on a tray. Once cool, put into the refrigerator for 30mins
5. Deep fry at a low heat for 5mins
4. Drain and rest on a tray. Once cool, put them back into the refrigerator for another 30mins
5. Deep fry at a high heat for around 3-4mins
6. Drain and rest on a tray
7. Season and serve

Et violà.

N.B. Please don’t do the same mistake as me and forget to close the draining tap on the deep fryer when filling it up with cooking oil. I foolishly let almost a litre of it leak all over the work surface and floor in the kitchen which took about 30mins to clean. Very embarrassing.

Rennes

June 14, 2011




BOOM. Carrot cake.

June 12, 2011

BOOM. Chocolate cake

June 10, 2011