Tag Archives: food

Saigon, they hate us here…

It is the early 1970’s, a young Richard sits on the living room floor watching a live broadcast on TV, it’s the American Draft Board pulling birth dates which will determine who goes to war, his mother sobs quietly behind on the couch. All birthdays assigned to a number 200 or less have to go to war, Richard’s birth date is assigned to the number 195. Richard has one week to report to the recruitment center, eight weeks later he is fighting and killing communists in Vietnam.

Fast-forward forty-five years later and I am traveling with that same Richard back to Vietnam on business, this is my first trip to Saigon and this is Richard’s second trip to what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

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We duck into a small bar, Richard still remembers some of his Vietnamese and orders us a beer. The Waitress asks where are we from. Richard holds up his hand to me and replies, “We are from Canada.” I didn’t say anything at first and just waited. The beers will do the talking.

“They hate us here.” Richard finally said. “They hate all Americans.”

After a few more beers we walk outside, Richard points out some of the sites and places he remembers when this city use to be called Saigon. Richard told me how he use to count his verified kills, he stopped after 22, said it was a stupid insane way of trying to maintain his sanity.

“That park over there.” Richard points. “Spent my last days protecting helicopters as they came flying in like dragonflies air lifting American solders to safety, we left thousands of women and children behind.” Richard pauses for a second. “I’m embarrassed and ashamed to tell these people I’m an American.”

I had to think about that for a while.

The Vietnamese called it the American War, the US called it the Vietnam War and in 1975 the US abandoned the South Vietnamese to end the US involvement in the war that lasted nearly 10 years. North Vietnam troops quickly over took the south and killed and tortured millions.

Today Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is a beautiful place, the people are friendly and a visit here is well worth the effort.

For the next several days and on several occasions people did ask where I was from, I didn’t experience any resentment when I told them I was from the US but at times I continued to keep up the pretense that I was from Canada. Most people just smiled and nodded and nothing more.

Am I ashamed or embarrassed of being an American? I have to think about that for a while…

Ho Chi Minh City is a modern city and although a Communist country it has poised itself ready and able for the 21st century.

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But i like the old, the local and the gritty….

The Food

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Mango salad

Vietnamese Crepes Quảng Hoa (Bánh Xèo Quảng Hòa)

Vietnamese Crepes Quảng Hoa (Bánh Xèo Quảng Hòa)

Fresh spring rolls stacked high

Fresh spring rolls stacked high

Pho soup

Pho soup

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Curbside meal

Curbside meal

Curbside meal

Curbside meal

Market stuff

Market stuff

The Place

One of the oldest hotels, the Grand Hotel

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City Hall

Opera House

Opera House

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Post Office

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Notre Dame Cathedral at night

The People I meet

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Motor Bike vendors

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Waitress

Young girl peddling key-chains
Young girl peddling key-chains, of course i bought one.

Prayer time at the Cathedral

Late night prayer at the Cathedral

Young woman waiting for a taxi.

Young woman waiting for a taxi.

Next a Vietnam wedding…

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Stingray, it’s whats for dinner…

One of the local delicacies in Malaysia and SE Asia for that matter is Stingray. Local groceries have them stacked high packed in ice next to the shrimp and fish, but you can get them at any local food court. Stingray-7

I”ll take that one …

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Here we are, this guy cooks a good one. He wraps the stingray pieces in foil with some cabbage and onion, adds his special sauce and bakes it for a few minutes.

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Put a wing piece over rice, oh so good. The meat is white, delicate, and similar to flounder, a little bony so be careful.

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So good …

Southern Food in NC

People with refined or discriminating taste may not realize or even enjoy the thought of eating what one may consider as “Southern Food”, they are missing out. In many fine restaurants, excessive refinement and deconstruction of well-known dishes leave’s you wondering what you just consumed.

Undeniably enjoying a meal with an elaborate presentation of balanced flavors and contrasting elements, rare ingredients harvested from remote locations melded together with obscure parts of an animal’s anatomy have proved quite unforgettable, even though the equivalent to a house payment exchanged hands, I enjoyed ever minute.

Fine meals come in all forms and recently several were enjoyed visiting Donna and her husband Brooks, some dear friends in NC. There is no elaborate presentation here however some of the finest meals come out of Chef Brook’s kitchen.

We start with breakfast of soft fried eggs, grits, non-nitrate bacon, homemade jelly, and strong coffee. Grits, for those who are not familiar with the item is ground up corn, simmered with some added butter salt, and pepper. The creamy texture of the grits mingled with the yellow yolk and the sweet, saltines of the bacon just complements each other, add a side of Donna’s organic homemade jelly, yum!!!!!

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For dinner, pork chops, collard greens, and lima beans. The pork chop is marinade with a secret BBQ sauces and charcoal over a hickory wood fire. Until this day my friend Brooks will not let go of the recipe for this wonderful BBQ sauce, it is a tomato-vinegar base (NC style), sweet, sour, and tangy. The hickory smoke from the fire and sweetness of the sauce make the chop one to remember for some time.

Brooks-5However, the star of the show, and always has been for myself, are the collard greens. Collards are a large deep green leafy vegetable with a texture similar to cabbage and a nutritional value equal to none. Chef Brooks simmer them with a little sugar (I think), salt, pepper, and a smoked ham hock. The ham flavor permeates the green and no words can describe how good this is.Brooks-8

Brooks

Combine this meal with a fine California Zinfandel and the companionship of good company and it is just an extraordinary Southern Meal! Oh, of course every NC home has a bottle of Texas Pete on the table, the local hot sauce.

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Back to Malaysia, i’m craving some curry fish head soup ;)

Most Expensive City in the World

Recently Singapore has been bestowed upon itself as the most expensive city in the world taking the number one spot from Tokyo. This bequeathness (yeah i know this is not a word) is false and determined by the cost of housing and owning an automobile in this wonderful city. For the average traveler, like you and I, Singapore is as cheap as they come, you just need to know where to look.

Along with my friend Ms. E. we are here again in Singapore by chance, and any chance to get to Singapore I’m going to take it.

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Chopstick Store

Chopstick Store

Buda Tooth Temple

Buda Tooth Temple

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Buda Tooth temple

Buda Tooth temple

Marina Bay Gardens at night

Marina Bay Gardens at night

Some of the cleanest hostels in Asia will be found here in Singapore like the Backpackers Inn in China town, $25 a night. A wide range of  hotels can be found for any budget like our room at the Bliss Hotel $70 a night, next to it is the Hotel 81 for $85 a night. Of course if you want to see what a $300 dollar room is like in Singapore see this post here.

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 Gondola ride to Sentosa Island…

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A passenger in our Gondola...

A passenger in our Gondola…

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Therefore, except for the hotel and gondola ride, everything you have seen thus far is free for the traveler and there is so much more. See the other posts on Singapore if you are so inclined.

The food is so good and so cheap like this place the Osaka Ohsho. You order off an iPad and your Gyoza is prepared fresh and delivered ASAP. At $8 this is the best Ramen and Gyoza outside of Tokyo, hands down, take my word for it, it is so good, go here…Singapore022014-116-1Singapore022014-121Heading back to the US for a short visit… Dave

 

Yut Kee

Its Sunday morning ugh… 10am, a SHOUTING MAN hands me a cup of coal-black coffee, a welcomed relief after one too many cocktails last night. The SHOUTING MAN points us to a table, seated we share a board with four other unknowns after a long wait in the queue, a queue I have driven by many times at many different hours of the day, it is always present.

At first appearance the Yut Kee restaurant in downtown Kuala Lumpur looks a little, well, scary. My thought, why not move to a better location and the answer is this, you don’t change something that’s been working since 1928.

You smile and nod to your unknown table guests and then enjoy Roast Pork roll served with homemade applesauce and maybe some soft-boiled eggs, or you might try something called a Chicken Chop. The food is comfort and well prepared, for two of us, $7 US.

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Address:
35 Jalan Dang Wangi, Kuala Lumpur.  GPS: 3°09’22.2″N 101°42’00.1″E

Worth the visit but come early. Next we are going to burn a car to send to the afterlife…

 

Phuket, Thailand for Christmas Part 2

Rawai Beach on the South end of the island has a local fishing village called Gypsy ThailandPhuket2013-107Village. One side of the street are the fisher-women selling the days catch, the other side are the restaurants, souvenirs and local crafts.

No telling what you might see here. Families live out their lives along the shore, vendors sell just about anything and as we were eating our lunch a guy came through selling honey comb from a bucket he just harvested from somewhere…ThailandPhuket2013-80ThailandPhuket2013-181ThailandPhuket2013-93 ThailandPhuket2013-96HoneyThailandPhuket2013-116ThailandPhuket2013-105Oh yes, sauteed basil shrimp fresh from across the street and tom yum soup with stalks of lemon grass so big you could hit a baseball out of the park, So good.Peace

Back in town renovation on the old colonial buildings is an ongoing effort, some beautiful some not so much. Circa 1800’s to early 1900’s.ThailandPhuket2013-183 ThailandPhuket2013-189 ThailandPhuket2013-190 ThailandPhuket2013-192 ThailandPhuket2013-193Phuket 2

Next, one last post on Phuket, Patong Beach …

Phuket for Christmas

When you can’t go home for the holidays to visit with family and friends, only one thing to do. Go to Thailand, Phuket Thailand that is. The next few posts will cover some wonderful restaurants, one of the most beautiful beach’s I have ever seen, see some elephants, visit Big Buddha, and of course chat with some lady boys…ThailandPhuket2013-131Phuket 1ThailandPhuket2013-344

It’s a chilly 90 degrees outside and something surreal about lying under a palm tree and hearing Bing Crosby sing White Christmas, just not right but we will make the best of it. We stayed at the Avista Resort, quite nice with a great view and just south of the infamous Patong Beach. More on that place later.

From Kata viewpoint you can see the West side of the island, from top-down are Patong, Karon, and Kata beaches. Although somewhat crowded but still nice I wanted to see something pristine.ThailandPhuket2013-123ThailandPhuketBB2013-64ThailandPhuketBB-2ThailandPhuket2013-43

Talking with the hotel director she told me of a beautiful private beach not far from our hotel but it is only accessible by boat. Seeing my disappointment she smiled and said, “You could hike down the mountain, through the jungle and across private property but that’s not safe.”

“Hmm…” I pondered.

“If you go,” Miss hotel director pointing at the front desk,  “leave your name at the desk just in case.”

The next day I went off on my own, ignoring the no trespassing sign I squeezed through the fence to what is known as one of two entries down to Freedom Beach. There were maybe five people swimming and walking around, It proved well worth the effort…ThailandPhuket2013-331ThailandPhuket2013-281ThailandPhuket2013-291ThailandPhuket2013-320ThailandPhuket2013-315ThailandPhuket2013-322ThailandPhuket2013-326

Now in contrast to the above beach, later that night we went to the Boathouse for dinner in Kata Beach. Not bad for a French restaurant on the beach. Stuffed crab and lobster ravioli. ThailandPhuket2013-338 ThailandPhuket2013-339 ThailandPhuket2013-341 ThailandPhuket2013-343Phuket 2

Next, not so fancy. We get local with the locals at the Gypse boat village …