And what did I discover from all my blog surfing?
Dude! That I mentally aged about 50 years.
Seriously, all I could think about was getting a little cottage where I'd plant fuchsia cosmos to spill over the white picket fence. And a brick-lined path in the back where I'd section off squared plots where I'd plant more flowers and vegetables. And then at night, I'd curl up and work on making quilts.
And when I told my little sister this, she laughed out loud and said, "Oh my god, when did you turn 81?"
So I decided this blog would be dedicated to things that give me comfort -- food, gardening, quilting. One of my friends said I'm a one-trick pony. But it's a good trick. I introduced her to good eats. Before we became friends she had never tried...well, pretty much everything. And another long-time friend was so giddy to visit me a few months ago because she knew I'd feed her and feed her well. And while I like my food, and like taking friends to good restaurants, and like sending people my extensive list of restaurant recommendations, I didn't want to take something I like and turn it into a chore.
So the end result is this hodgepodge blog. No mouthwatering food descriptions. My mind doesn't think that way. If I say it's good, trust me, it's good. No obsessive chronicle of where and what to eat. I don't have the budget or energy for that. I tried keeping a separate gardening blog but I don't compartmentalize my life, so I didn't feel like sectioning off my blog. And because I'm Vietnamese-Chinese, I think all roads lead back to food and family anyway.
Which takes me to last summer in Vietnam. Now, being a South-Central Coast Vietnamese-Chinese I've got inherent biases in my food.
- No com ga Hai Nam (Hainanese chicken rice) will ever taste as good as what I can get at home. Seriously. It's pretty much the only thing we Hainanese are known for. And while I know the technicalities of making the dish, it still doesn't taste like my mom's or my aunties'.
- Banh xeo. Forget that wok-sized yellow crepe that comes by way of Saigon. In my neck of the woods, banh xeo is about six inches in diameter, crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and a whole lot more flavorful.
- While eggrolls are known as cha gio to Southerners and nem ran to Northerners, we call it cha ram and we only stuff it with shrimp and scallions. Anyway you called it or stuffed it, I was all over it.
- Nem nuong. That grilled ground pork patty wrapped in rice paper that everyone clamors to Brodard for? Easy peasy. The secret is using honey instead of sugar. I've been at the restaurant when they get buckets of it delivered. The owners are from an hour south of my hometown in Vietnam. I've been making nem nuong since I was a child. That crunchy eggroll wrapper they put in the middle? That's just how we South-Central folks eat it. We toast our rice paper too. I can't figure out how to make their dipping sauce though.
- And like a lot of Southerners, I think the food tastes a lot better down South. For example, every morning I ate pho for breakfast. (Pronounce pho as if it were a question because that's precisely what this ? accent makes it sound like.) In Saigon, pho comes with a plate of basil, sawtooth herb, bean sprouts, lime, chili paste, hoisin sauce. The only greens in a Hanoi bowl of pho would be some scallions. While pho originated in Hanoi, the pho that's served in America is heavily Saigon-influenced. That's because historically, the South has milder weather and a better growing season so herbs were more plentiful. These days many Hanoi pho restaurants will offer the condiments and herbs too. But many others feature traditional Hanoi-style pho, no herbs and a much, much lighter broth. So light that if I spilled droplets on my T-shirt, it left absolutely no grease stains.
And buying the fruit in a sterile market here is simply not the same.
The picture below is Ha Long Bay, in north Vietnam. You may recognize it from the film Indochine. Or in the more recent Amazing Race. Majestic limestone cliffs. Floating village. World Heritage Site. Pretty. Pretty.
The villagers are so at home on the water that if you look closely, you can see this woman row with one arm and one leg while eating a bowl of noodles with the other arm. Man, all that effort just to get to my junk to sell her wares. So, of course, I had to buy some fruit from her.
Below is the Can Tho floating market in the Mekong Delta in south Vietnam. If you look closely at the poles, you can see which fruits or vegetables the sellers are featuring that day. Man, if I could figure out how to upload my video of this it would be awesome.
If you want to see what it looks like inside, I also grew dragonfruit in my garden this year but it sure wasn't a crop like that.
Anyway, while the fun part of traveling is the people I meet and the sites I saw, eating good food and seeing good food, enhances the experience greatly. So expect a smattering of food/travel-related posts as well.
Seems like I get the most hits from people searching for Vietnamese recipes, San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurants, and doughnut bread pudding. Is this because, so far, that seems to be all I blog about? Or do I not have anything else to say?
And now that I've said a little more about me, please delurk and tell me a little about you. I'll make it easy and simple.
How did you find me? Why do you come back (ie. what do you like)?