Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Quiz: Plant Guessing (Updated)

Haven't really finish my HCMC, a quick glance what's coming
A couple more to go like interesting wraps, noodles soup from Hue, street scene, cu chi tunnels, tay ninh with unique religion that you can't find else where.

Also few more from Sydney trip, if you love oysters or like Spanish Paella & pasta in rich Iberian sauce, sydney street scenes, stay tuned.

Arghh ... that reminds that I told someone that I will post some shots of of my Mae Hong Son, North Thailand few years back. Looks like it's quite impossible now.

hmm ... seems like gonna drag for months hehehe ... hope that didn't sounds too boring :P

Anyways, with Month end approaching, meaning more crazy work schedules coming. Besides, need to preparing for another trip in Dec 2005 :P So I will less time to work on my post. :(

MEANTIME ...... why not try guessing which plant these flowers belongs to. HINT: Its a pretty popular culinary herb in South East Asia.

Have fun!
p.s: Will reveal answer perhaps in couple of days? Sorry, no prize for making the right guess. Pretty much broke after all the vacations :P

So does this picture tells you anything more?

Well, they are the curry leaves (Murraya koenigii). Actually they are small trees with highly aromatics leaves, They are used in Indian curries dish. But we do find deep fried leaves that are serves along with local chinese dish like oat/cereal prawns, pepper crabs.

Interesting, they are traditionally used for treatments in digestive system, skin ailments & diabetes.

More links here if you are interesting in furthur readings .....
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages
Plant Cultures

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Food: Something Simple @ Home

Being not a early raiser, sometimes I skip breakfast entirely. Otherwise, it will be any simple brekkie that I can easily whipped up with whatever leftover I got. This morning, typically late of me. I found eggs, Savoiardi Lady fingers and Lavazza Perfecto Espresso Coffee pods.

I love Omelette. And since I don't have anything else, I would have to settle for a plain one, seasoned only by natural sea salt & freshly grind black pepper corns. hmm ... This morning omelette was a little over done, nevertheless, it was still good for me.

To finish off, I have Savoiardi Lady fingers with Espresso "dips" :)
You don't really have to stop there.

Got Kahlua? Add a few dash to zing up your espresso
Got Mascarpone? Add sugar to taste, spread it on espresso soaked lady fingers
Gor Vanilla? Imparts lovely fragance to the Sweeten Mascarpone
Got cocoa powder? Sprinkle them over the espresso soaked, Sweeten Mascarpone spread Lady fingers.

So there, you finally got a bite-sized TIRAMISU!!! Well we are almost there :D

LIFE is not religiously adhering to exact "specifications & requirements" of others. LIFE is more of "adjusting & adapting" yourself to ever changing circumstances. And that's makes me more happy & satisfied.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Food: First love ... @ Vietnam, HCMC

I vividly remembers how I meet my first love in HCMC. It was the day when I was suppose to be early. Early for a daytrip to Cu Chi Tunnel & Tay Ninh. Overslept, I find myself feverishly rushing to my meeting point at Sinh Cafe.

Fortunately, I got there 15mins prior to departure. However, I felt so empty, I need a quick fix, to fill up all my emptiness in me. And there I found her, quickly fixed in a jiffy (well, almost). When I first touch, she crackles a little, then it was warm, soft all over. Insides her, were warm, moist & runny. A little spicy with a seductive pungently scent that simply blows my mind away.

Please allow me to introduce my first love. her name, "BANG ME"

Alllrrright, enough of my nonsense hehehe. In all my silliness, I added extra "g" & "e"to the pronunciation. "Bang Me" or "Ban Mee", they sounds so similiarly anyways :) However, my apologises if I unintentionally offend in anyway.

So that's my first encounter with Vietnamese Banh mi . Vietnam solution to french baguette and America submarine sandwiches. These were light & crusty bread made with rice & wheat flour. (According to Corrine Tang in "Authentic Vietnamese Cooking : Food from a Family Table").

I love the thin crispy crust with soft & light textures inside. Warm runny omelette that's laced with chilli, pate & pungently fish sauce. At 10000dong(S$1), what a bargain!!!

Consequently, that leads me to search for more Banh mi .in the streets of HCMC. Luck was with me all along. I found two at the busy cross junction of Hai Ba Trung & Ly Tu Trong, just minutes walk from my stay.

Sitting on one corner, we have a very quiet women. She runs this makeshift stall all by herself in the morning. An empty basket, perhaps a testimontal of her "popularity" along this side of the street. With no menu available & zero Vietnamese language capabilities, I will have to order what the previous person ordered. Did I said luck seems to be on my side? Yes, it was good!

For 5000dong (S$0.50), she starts preparing your breakfast swiftly, spreading butter & pate, filling up spaces whatever available spaces in the bread and fainlly dizziling with some pungently aromatic fish sauce blends.

A peek inside prior to munching reveals ??chicken?? luncheon, fatty cured pork slices, veggies stuffed to "max capacity". I've already said all how I liked the bread, the savoury fillings add notches up to the taste. It was a good breakfast at a bargain!

On the other corner, we have a mother & daughter team. they served Banh mi with omelette. Having tasted my "first love", which was really a plain omelette Banh mi, I actually look forward savouring them for another time.

Again, with no Vietnamese language capabilities & menu unavailable, I have to finger point ao the eggs to indicate what I wanted. I was pleasantly surprised the sweet & shy daughter asked me to choose my own bread. Similarly, Banh mi costs 5000dong as well. By the way, these plain bread sells at mere 1000dong ($0.10) / piece!

Having selected your favourite bread, she starts her swift action, multitasking between preparing bread at the tabletop and making 2 eggs omelette under the table.

Peeking at the fillings reveals a gorgeous piece of freshly maded omelette that completely covers the veggies filling underneath. Pieces of chilli adds some mild heat, and Pate spread (above) with, again, pungently aromatic fish sauce ups the savoury taste & aroma.

Having tried 3, I have got to say that I liked them all. While the breads are the similiar, mix-n-match of different igredients can completely creates an entirely new Banh mi . So if you happens to find one Banh mi stall around the corner when in HCMC, do give it a shot. I'm pretty sure you be will delighted.

Bon Appetit!!!
p.s: Yeah! Managed to fix my home PC. Fortunately it's just a minor window registy corruption. Phew!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ramblings: Home PC down :-(

Last night, while trying to install SCSI card for my scanner, my ethernet card decides to stop working. Even after reverting to original setup & reinstalling hardware & drivers et al ... it simply refuse to autoconfigure to right IP Address. While I'm trying hard to get it to work, it certainly doesn't help to have a mild fever "visitig" you at the same time ... arghhh ..

All my stuffs was on my home PC, I just couldn't do any furthur updates until the ocnnectivity issues got sorted out. Guess we both need some rest :(

Interestingly, the horoscope was right on advising not to make any changes while Mercury was retrograding from November 14 to December 3, I shouldn't have attempted the change during this period.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Food: Bun Oc @ Vietnam, HCMC

Being my first trip to Vietnam, it is quite understandable why many are my first experience. Snail meat happen to be one of them. Many thanks to Noodlepie excellent blog, locating a molluscs meal of all sorts anywhere in HCMC is merely a few mouse clicks away. This man is truely a walking dictionary of all things edible in HCMC (if not Vietnam). I decided on the snail noodle soup at Bo Ai.

With a printed page on hand, I walked-the-talk on the streets of HCMC. I'm really looking for red colored signboard & blue chairs (seen on Noodlepie's blog) since this is far more visible then hunting down some Vietnamese words, which I hardly understand. Strangely, I could not locate Bo Ai even though I have a gut feeling that I'm pretty near there.

Strolling up & down, perplexing, sweating profusing under the noon sun. Fortunately one kind soul point me to the shop right in front of me! ARGGHHHH *blush* IT'S JUST RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!!! *blush* There is a tree available at my side for my head knocking as well *blush* And I realise why I'm not able to locate by colors!!! They changed the color scheme. The signboard is blue/white while the chairs are red now.

Embrassed, I quickly get seated to the nearest chair I could find. A kid brought a menu but I just quickly points to Big Sign on the wall that says BUN OC.

The food arrived pretty quick and the "usual suspects" showed up. The wet towel (1000dong),some shredded vegetables or herbs, chilles, sauce and of course the bowl of Bun Oc.

The veggies / herb plates were made up of possibly mint leaves, ?shredded banana flower bud?, bean sprouts. (ok, I admit, I'm lost here!

Bowl of Bun Oc were full of chopped spring onions, tomatos, noodles (bun) & of course snail meat (Oc - blackish bite-sized thingy in the soup). I so pleased that these don't looked as challenged as the duck egg.

Soup taste light & easy, sourish with hint of mild sweetness from tomatos. No oilliness or fats nor traces of MSG are deteced (at least my head tells me otherwise I will have a throbbing headache). The crunchy snail meat itself don't have any odour nor taste. But I think it adds interesting textures & body to the otherwise soupy noodles bowl.

I really liked this light refreshing soup, it really nice and easy meal. Especially good when you don't feel like having a heavy meal. And with all the veggies and absence of the fats & cholesterol, This is really a great bowl of health!

Where? Bo Ai at 19/12 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street in District 1
Price? hmm ... scribble something in my notebook, will update later (if found) :P

Looking just across the road, I can't help thinking why Vietnamese prefer to "stacked" their houses vertically up on limited land. Perhaps land costs might be one of the primary reasons especially in District 1. However, you have consider the extra costs for "stacking" your rooms vertically up. Besides, I do find it quite a hassle to climb up & down if your bedroom happens to be on the top.

Perhaps there might be other reasons, do shed some lights in the comments if you know them :) Thanks!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Photo: Sunsets

For some reasons I'm not fully aware, I always love watching Sunset. Be it Singapore, Thailand, Tokyo, Australia etc. I will always diligently make a point to watch them whenever possible. Perhaps it concludes a day of hectic work, signifying the end of daily mad rush and time to be back with home with family or out with friends. Whatever the reasons, it always brings me peace, calmness & great sense of contentment

Both photos were taken on the same day (around March 2000) with my old 2Megapix Digicam at different locations.

The first was taken somewhere near ??Singapore Yacht Club??. While the sunset wasn't the most spectacular I have seen. I do find the clouds most interesting & lovely.

The Second was taken from Kent Ridge Park. I was rather late when I rush from the first location. The cloudy skies have eaten up most of the lovely orangy hue. Just when I was about the leave, the sunset (or perhaps it was the clouds?) showing off its last streak of brilliance before dwindling quickly behind the dark skies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Food: Hotel "Embryonic duck"@Vietnam, HCMC

I have long heard about Embryonic duck eggs (Trung vit lon) that were much relished by people of Vietnam & Philippines. These eggs were well-known for their superb nutritious value to these people. Nevertheless, savouring a cooked duck embryo that gone through half it's development stages STILL sounds pretty gross to me. It never ever strucked in my sane mind that I would "savouring" one of these eggs, until one fine day ...

While stroling along the busy streets of HCMC. Stumbled upon a cafe that sells Bo Bia. What really caught my initial attention was Bo Bia, it sounds so familiar with the po-piah that I so loved in Singapore. Bit of glancing around, revealing several white eggs in simmering water. When asked, the owner gladly pointed to a gentleman who was already devouring the half-born, fully cooked egg.

I hestiated. Wanting to retreat. A few strike of lightnings and moment later, the skies turns dark and began pouring. Stucked, stumbled, with no where to hide. Suddenly "Hotel California" rings in my head ...

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
'This could be Heaven or this could be Hell'
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Suddenly, I realise I was already seated. Plates of Bo Bia & an Embryonic egg sits visibility right in front. Damn hard decision which to go first. But finally settled to take a roll of Bo Bia. If it tastes good, I can proceed with the Embryonic egg then, leaving the last two rolls to mask off any aftertaste of the egg. Smart choice! (Assuring myself)

Usual ricepaper, vegetables with striking red colored stuffs that initially looks like chilli

First bite, crunchy vegetables finally revealing the red stuffs to be spicy-sweet shrimps. Dipping sauce of coarse chopped peanuts, hoisin sauce, chillies etc. This is good! So proceed with Part 2 of the plan.

Slowly crack the upper half of the egg, immediately, warm dark brown liquid began seeping out from the cracks. Quickly, I licked the warm liquid, taste exactly like meaty & full bodied broth. Ate a few peppery & minty Vietnamese mint (which we call laksa leaves as well) to counter the meaty aftertaste.

Sprinkle a mixed of salt, pepper and possible MSG provided onto the "partially naked" egg. First bite, taste of different textures. White portion like a soft bone, yellow like cooked yolk and lastly the gross meaty portion like tender young meat.

I paused for a breathier. A dozen of eyes sets upon me, wondering if this stranger is able to finish up the rest. Not wanting to lose out, I take a deep breath, sprinkle more salt/pepper mixture and began "devouring" the rest of this half-borned creature.

More herbs & bo bia began tucking into my mouth. FOllowed by heavy sipping salted lemon drink. Much relieved I have finally "conquered" this fright of mine.

Just as I finish the last drop of my drink, the rain stops, the skies shines. With a sense of pride & accomplishment, I begin to stroll proudly, feeling more confident of any (food) challenges ahead of me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Coming home .........

Hello from Sydney

And YES!!! Feels good to be coming home tomorrow
Meantime, here another eye candy for you "faithful" readers :)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Travel: Langkawi's Pulau Dayang Bunting & hiatus again

We are having a "brief break" from Vietnam stories and i decide to add memories of my past travels

Langkawi - An island situated North-West of West Malaysia (Just off the coast of Kedah. Actually made up of 99 (small) islands which Pulau Langkawi being the largest.

That was a trip made in 2002, we went island hopping and Pulau Dayang Bunting was one of the island we visited. One of the key attraction was the Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden). This picturesque freshwater lake was separated from the sea by a thin shore line. It is believed that barren women who bath & drink from the lake will be able to conceive.

There are a few version of this folklore, I choose the shorter one :P
A lovely fairly princess who married an earthly prince. Their first child died shortly after birth. Deeply depressed, she buried her child in crystal clear watera of the lake. And before returning to celestial abode, she blessed the waters so that any childless maiden who bathed in the lake would concieve thereafter. -The end - Short & sweet huh? :)

That also partly explains how the Island & Lake got its name of "Pregnant Maiden". But if you are still unconvinced, check this out, was told it look like pregnant woman, hmm ... use a little of your imagination lah. :)

Whatever, the cool sparkling cystal clear water gives us instant respite after hours of island hopping. And "free foot massage" also available from the friendly "resident" (i.e Freshwater Catfish). Well, I think are actually biting but it feel more ticklish then pain hehehe ...

!!!WARNING!!! Some variant of catfish, especially saltwater/sea catfish are extremely poisonous. Please be very very sure before you plunge your feet into the water.

With that, gonna make another week of disppearing act again. See ya the following week!

Photo: "EARTH FROM ABOVE" Photo Exhibition by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Was hanging around Borders (Orchard Rd) and was pleasantly surprised of a outdoor photo exhibition by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

An Outdoor Photographer Exhibition
26 Oct 2005 -> 17 Jan 2005
Orchard Rd (Near Borders)

Joinly co-presented by France Embassy of Singapore & Singapore Environment Council, EARTH FROM ABOVE exhibition hopes to bring environmental message across to the public.

The Earth damages are not irreversible but changes need to made as soon as possible. Such developments needs improving production to use earth-friendly methods and changing our consumption habits. With active participation from all around the world, everyone can contribute to the future of the Earth & Mankind.

The exhibit showcase Aerial Photography done over period of 10 years. Flying over 76 countries and clocking up to 3,000 flying hours from helicopter. The large prints of these magnificant landscape aerial photography were simply breathtaking. Not only bringing great aspiration to any photographer wannabe, it left the public viewer astounded, or as what one has wrote in the guest book "BEYOND WORDS!!!"

Though I have not finish the exhibit (as I got to rush back home), I intended to revisit again when I'm back from my trip.

And if you are not around Singapore during the exhibition dates. Check out his website here for more fabulous photographs Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hot skirts, Vespa, Pho24 & Mumcooks

Just some quick updates ... firstly continuing from Hot Skirts, Short Skirts.

Vietnamese Ladies were very fond of their beautiful Ao Dai. So obviously, when I went back that night. No hot skirts, short skirts :( Instead, I found bunch of Friendly Motorola - Vespa Fanatic Club. They were having their Friday nightout with likemind peoples (i.e Crazy over Vespa Scooter). Those customized Vespa Scooters are very beautifully done up.

NOTE: It's really really dark there and I have to boast my camera ISO to the max to capture this which results in noisy & poorer photo

Well, feeling a little "disappointed"(hehehe, just kidding), though the custom scooter & friendly folks were fanastic!. I headed to Pho24 for my first Pho & beer fixes. Having seen a little of pho shops around HCMC which generally looks bit rundown. I was very surprised to find a modern & clean Pho24. Service are fast & efficient

I ordered Pho Bo tai(Price? 24000 dong) and Vietnam 333 Beer (Price? 13000dong). I reckon it arrived within a few minutes. Soup was delightfully aromatic with slight meaty punch. It was hot enough to cook the strips of raw beef within minutes. Vermicelli were the thinner type, anyway I wasn't too particular about the type of Vermicelli.

It was a good meal, Nice & Clean decor, what's there not to like? I won't hestiate to recommend you Pho24 even though Pho cost more here. BTW, the teacup which you see besides my beer is Lotus Tea which they serve at end of your meal

Where? They seems to be everywhere in HCMC. I have mine along Hai Ba Trung Street. And on this same street, there is another Pho24 within walking distance.

More information can be found at their website Pho 24

And fastforward to Singapore ................ I just want to blog down whatever Mumcooks every weekend. And last week, we had Homecook Prawn Noodles. Good thing about homecook meals like this that you add extra prawns, pork slices as much as you like. And of course, nothing beats the freshly made prawn broth, especially it's made by mum :)