Friday, November 30, 2012

Vietnam: Unique Snacks

During my stay in Vietnam, I had a lot of snacks here and there. They're not sufficiently meals, though they could've been, but they are something to pass the time with when you have nothing to do...

Some may seem different and strange while others are just regular snacks that you've seen and ate before. Each one made the trip that much more memorable.

I wish I took a photo of how it looks inside because the Banh Chuoi Dua Nuong which is basically grilled coconut banana sandwich. The inside was a whole banana being wrapped with sticky rice that was cooked in an aromatic coconut milk, grill the sucker up and there you have a great sweet snack.

I have no name for this because I just took it from the living room and went into another room and silently ate it in happiness. Another sweet type of snack, this one had a mochi exterior with an ultra sweet filling. I tasted a lot of sugar, along with shredded coconut, red bean and more sugar. I would be happy with just the chewy mochi on the outside.

Whenever I think/see/taste Cha Lua, it brings me back to Vietnam. One of the first official food I associate with my country was this. Cha lua aka Vietnamese ham or sausage is essentially pounded pork with spices and then steamed in banana leaves. Pretty much has the consistency of your bologna.

On a late hot night, my cousin-in-law took me for some dessert. They also have savory desserts (if you know what I mean). She ordered the Xoi Thap Cam (top) which has sticky rice, pork, cha lua, fried shrimp, and a side of pickled daikon and carrots. I had a sweeter dessert of Che Thai (bottom), it included jelly, beans, corn, durian in coconut milk. As for the drink, it was a simple red and mung bean in coconut milk. See what I mean when I say this can be a meal!

This was one of my favorite snacks in Vietnam. I've had Dau Fu Fa in the states before but for some reason it just taste extra great here. The tofu was really soft and silky, the person added some mochi balls and slices of jackfruit, the best part was the gingerly syrup. Usually I eat this cold, but this warm version is absolutely unforgettable.

Got these mini cakes in the streets while walking in the market with my mom and aunt. It looked so welcoming and fresh that I just had to get it. It's on the sweeter side than I'm use to but it was insanely fluffy and airy.

All the 3 goodies where bought from the same vendor. They fried the dough on the spot which yield ultra freshness. The round one (my all-time favorite) is Banh Tieu, hollow center with a slight sweetness and covered in sesame seeds. The long looking one is Yau Ja Gwai or as we Americans call it Fried Cruller, no taste to it, so you're just eating a long oily fried dough.
The white looking cake is Banh Bo, it has a bouncy texture to it and it's either already sweetened or you can eat it with thickened coconut milk. It's similar to a sponge cake but has these honeycomb-like holes in it, so it's great have it with the coconut milk since it can soak up all the goodness.

Last but certainly not least, this might be the most bizarre yet. Hot Vit Lon, fertilized duck embryo aka Balut in Cambodia, tasted just like chicken! I've had this before but not fried and it's certainly something new to me since I usually eat it hard-boiled. It might be mind-boggling and disturbing but hey, you only live once so why not?

And you thought duck eggs were weird, what about quail eggs? This was definitely new to me and even my parents. What I did like about it was how easy it was to eat, and small so I can just pop it in my mouth. I know I probably sound really evil, but it was gooood.

A lot of these snacks were really cheap, probably less than $1USD and they're assessible also.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vietnam: Pho Le

I never considered going to get Pho for breakfast because it's usually a lunch or dinner meal for me in the states. Pho Le, a quite spacious restaurant was packed in the morning around 8am. My family ended up coming here another time because it was that good.

The first time, we sat on the ground floor with just fans blowing at us. The second time around we venture up the stairs where the air conditioners were - heaven.

Pho Le specializes in pho and just pho. I find that a lot of restaurants/shops in Vietnam specializes in one particular item rather than your typical Vietnamese restaurants in the states where they sell a heck of different items.

I had the Pho Thap Cam aka combination bowl with everything, your equivalent to a #1 or Pho Xe Lua in the states. It was the best pho I've had in my life.

I can't get over the fact that there's a big plate of bean sprouts and herbs on the table. I absolutely love adding those veggies to my bowl.

The soup was a lot clearer in taste (if you know what I mean), it doesn't have that msg taste. Instead it has a fresh and heavy beef flavor which felt so pure to the taste buds. The noodles were a bit on the soft side but I can drink the soup all day long. Pho will never taste the same again after Vietnam...

And if you're curious as to where this shop is, I did take a photo of the wet-nap with the address at the bottom. These wet-naps cost 1,000VND, even though it doesn't cost much, roughly 5 cents in the states, I learned to just bring my own tissues/napkins (it's a lot more convenient since most places don't even have wet-naps).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vietnam: Fruits

The one thing that stood out most was the different kinds of fruits I saw in Vietnam. Some I've never seen in my life and when I asked how do I eat it, I get teased for it. All the fruits were fresh and picked on the day of, there's no refrigeration therefore you don't have to worry about it being rotten or a even a day old.

These are Langsat, Bon Bon for Vietnamese speakers. The name is funny and it looks just like Logan from the outside.

And the inside looks like it also, but it sort of "precut" for whatever reason I have no clue. The smaller the fruit, the better because then you won't have to deal with the bitter seed in the center. This is one of the fruits where bigger isn't better unless you like spitting seeds out.

The taste is quite similar to logan and lychee but with a softer texture.

One of my cousins went out and got us fresh Jackfruit, Mit. Usually the person in the street that sells the jackfruit would peel the fruit out of the vines that intertwines it but my cousin was impatient and he wanted it fresh fresh and also wanted me to see how it looks as is.

Jackfruit is one of those strong aromatic fruits, usually on the sweet side. You can find these in a can in your supermarket swimming in sugared juices. The real thing is definitely a lot better, so clean-teasting!

Another crazy looking fruit. A cross between a pear and an apple. Known as Waterapple, Man. My least favorite of them all, also has a lot of other different names like rose apple, mountain apple, cloud apple and the list goes on. It's actually a berry which is even weirder than I thought. The waterapple gives you a tangy, pucker-up kind of taste which I don't like. For a fruit that's called waterapple, there isn't much water in it.

We have Mangosteen, Mang Cut in the states but it's always so expensive. I can have tons of this without feeling the guilt in my wallet. The outer shell, as you can see, is pretty thick so you gotta somehow push and crush the fruit gently so you can get to the center without a knife. If you do have a knife on hand, then go ahead and cut the sucker up. The white flesh is soft and silky.

Last but not least, the Sweet Sop, Mang Cau was ridiculously ugly. I had this when I went to Canada because they carried some of Vietnam fruits. It was a lot smaller in Canada so when I saw this, it took my by surprise. The exterior shell needed to be peeled off one by one, hideous! The inside, as shown above, looks pillowy soft. The taste - creamy and rich in flavor. Each bite yields about 2-3 seeds which is annoying but not as annoying as watermelons! Because the flavor is so rich, one fruit is good enough for me until I need to reach for some water.

Some of the fruits were a revisit while others I've tried for the first time. I'm sure there was a lot more other fruits but that's all I can digest for now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vietnam: Hu Tieu Sate

The hardest thing I find going on a trip is to literally pinpoint where I ate at. I was a lot less prepare since it was with family and I get carried away with conversations and just enjoying my time there. So a lot of Vietnam's post will have no address...

My cousin took my parents and I out for dinner, a place where my parents use to ate at when they were dating...haha

The signs were utterly bright!
I regret not sitting inside because that night I got bitten my mosquitoes pretty badly.

They're known for their Hu Tieu Sate, with a thick and rich sauce with tender pieces of beef along with tons of herbs. A lot different that what we have here in the states, definitely a lot more authentic. It's hard to say what's in the delicious sauce because each area makes it differently. Usually you have that peanut taste in it (that's what they do here in the states) but not at this specific restaurant in Vietnam.

The bowl was a bit on the sweet side and if only they dilute it a bit then it would've been perfect.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brunchin' @ Brooklyn Farmacy

J took me here around noon on a Saturday. Surprisingly there was no wait or line and the place wasn't even packed. Brooklyn Farmacy reminded me of a place we went to in the city a couple of years back but it closed down because of management purposes.

Brooklyn Farmacy is like a soda/ice cream shop, it's great for kids and even better for adults. Now you can indulge in sweets without having to go to those kiddies ice cream shops. We sat by the counter and ordered brunch since we haven't eaten yet. Although everyone else around us was ordering sundaes and coffee...

They say to have the best egg cream and I was skeptical about it. I mean, I don't really like egg cream much until now...dammit. The Vanilla Egg Cream which came with my brunch combo was so good. Vanilla-y with a hint of carbonated soda, I think I might be addicted now. J ordered a Coffee Soda ($3) which I thought tasted like liquor.

Pumpkin Soup which also came with my brunch. It was a bit on the sweet side which I didn't really enjoy.

My delicious Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($11 - combo) came with some marinara dip. So good! This meal makes me feel like a kid. J and I were both thinking if only the soup was tomato soup, then we could dip the sandwich into the soup...yummm.

J's 513 ($7) was pretty tasty and healthy also. It was eggs, cheddar cheese and greens. Gosh, I haven't had something so healthy tasting in a long time and I was quite surprise that he chose this after he pointed out a plate of sausages being served...hahaha

Overall, I would love to come back and also bring my neice and nephew since I know they would love the ice creams and sodas. In a way, it's a kid's heaven here. With the staff being chipper and nice, there's no reason not to come.

Brooklyn Farmacy
513 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 522-6260

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vietnam: Sugar Cane Juice

I love sugar cane for the longest time, especially when I can have a whole cup to myself.

Finding a place to whip up some sugar cane juice in Vietnam wasn't easy, good thing my mom had a family friend that took us around and I specifically asked if there was any sugar cane drinks around. The friend found us a vendor in no time.

Why is Vietnam so friggin hot?!
I was even more depress when I couldn't have ice with mine because mom is afraid of the bacteria lingering in the ice aka water.

That's ok because you know, I really really really enjoyed it a lot. I love sugar cane juice, especially when it's from the village my parents once lived in.

Sugar cane has a distinct taste, it's not just sugar-y liquid. The one I had was a bit on the thicker side, not too thick where it's like a milkshake but it's definitely not water-y either. Personally, sugar cane juice with the color above suits to be a good sugar cane drink.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Don Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar

One of the reason why J chose this specific Korean place as one of our first full meal back in NYC is not because of the BBQ but because of the wine part. We went away for 3 weeks to Asia and it was definitely unfortgettable. But, now that we're back, it's time to continue on this journey of NYC feasting.

Don Bogam is one of the places where you can choose to BBQ or not, and from that decision the maitre'd will either seat you at a regular table or the awesome table where the table is above a pit and your legs dangle when you sit. Sort of like a cheating way of sitting Korean style.

We ordered quickly because we were starving. For this place, you need to order at least 2 entrees from their BBQ list in order to BBQ it at the table (odd).

Delicious Plum Wine ($19) was a bit on the sweet side. Quite smooth and no aftertaste at all.

Your typical Korean set-up. I really missed kimchi in general and this place didn't disapppoint. Something that was different was the steamed egg custard, it was a lot firmer, softer, and smoother; tasted like tofu and it had a shrimp on the bottom...interesting.

The Pork Belly ($25.95) was already pre-cut and was placed on the grill for some sizzling action. The cut here were particularly thinner than any other places I've previously ate at. The cooking time was quicker and the outcome of pork was a lot more tender.

Love my wraps with lettuce, scallions, kimchi, radish and top that off with the pork belly...heaven. This combo never gets old.

I decided on a Kimchi Jjigae ($10.95) because it was extremely cold that night. We asked for 2 bowls of rice to go with the stew. I was surprised at how much I liked and enjoyed this stew. I never liked kimchi back then but the past year, I've been eating kimchi like it's an obsession. This kimchi stew was excellent, spicy and tangy which makes it really appetizing.

While we were finishing up the pork belly and stuffing ourselves with the stew, our waitress came by and refilled our lettuce basket and gave us more scallion salad (this salad is addicting).

Last but not least, the Beef Short Rib in Spicy Sauce ($27.95) which wasn't spicy at all. Marinated really well, so we didn't need any sauce for this. I actually just ate it on it's own because it was tender to a point I just want it to linger in my mouth solo.

The meal was your average Korean BBQ food, the service was more than I expected at a Korean restaurant, and the seats were what amazed me the most. Will I be back? Definitely, but with a large group of people.

Don Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar
17 E 32nd St
New York, NY 10016
(212) 683-2200