Category Archives: Vodka

Is Hoi An The Ryan Gosling Of Vietnam?

I’ve struggled to write about Hoi An and I only just realised why  – I like it just a little bit too much for my normal snarky tone to be used.  There’s nothing funny about Hoi An.  It’s lovely to look at, a great place to spend time…in fact the only downside is that because everyone else loves it too, it’s in danger of becoming overpublicised and losing everything that made it charming in the first place…Huh…it’s kind of like the Ryan Gosling of Vietnam.  (Shut up, I haven’t mentioned him for MONTHS…)

One awesome thing about Hoi An, is that the old town is car free.  You still need to beware of crazy bike riders but the old town really is  a haven after the hustle and bustle of a city like Saigon.  The other lovely thing about Hoi An is that it’s small enough to walk around and see everything on foot.  Alternatively most hotels have bikes either, push bikes or motor bikes, either included in the room rate or that you can hire to explore the local countryside (which I recommend – rice paddies, great beaches, it’s really pretty and flat so easy to ride even if, like me you’re not an avid bike rider).

Map of Hoi An

We stayed at the Vinh Hung resort, marked by the number 1 in the above map.  This was a great resort and has a boat that takes you into town.  Who needs a bike?

Vinh Hung Resort Boat

Vinh Hung Resort Boat

If you ask nicely they even let you drive…

Vinh Hung Resort Boat2

Vinh Hung Resort Boat2

The town itself is famed for its silk, and gorgeous coloured lanterns are a popular souvenir.

Silk Lantern Shop - Hoi An

Silk Lantern Shop – Hoi An

And if you think this looks pretty during the day, look at it at night!

Silk Lanterns Hoi An

Silk Lanterns Hoi An

Cafe at Night - Hoi An

Cafe at Night – Hoi An

By day the mustardy coloured buildings and the purple flowers are a striking combination…

Hoi An Cafe

Hoi An Cafe

Hoi An is a great town for tailors.  They are everywhere although there is a mass of them along Hoang Dieu, across the road from the cloth market.  Also on Hoang Dieu are shoe makers who will hand make shoes for you for fraction of what you would pay for something mass-produced.  And you wonder why I love this place!

My favourite tailor and shoe maker below:

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Hoi An is also a great place for food and a great way to learn more about Vietnamese food is to do a cooking course.  I’ve done two, one at the Park Hyatt in Saigon and also one at the Morning Glory Restaurant in Hoi An.  Both were excellent.  The format for both was similar, a trip to the market to familiarise yourself with the raw ingredients….

Noodles At Hoi An Market

Noodles At Hoi An Market

Chicken At Hoi An Market

Chicken At Hoi An Market

Crabs At Hoi An Market

Crabs At Hoi An Market

Tropical Fruit @ Hoi An Market

Tropical Fruit @ Hoi An Market

Then on to the school for some learning and, better yet, some eating.  At the Morning Glory class we made a number of standards of Vietnamese food including:

Rice Paper Rolls:

Rice Paper Rolls

Rice Paper Rolls

Bahn Xeo

Bahn Xeo

Bahn Xeo

My favourite – Green Mango Salad

Green Mango Salad

Green Mango Salad

Turmeric Chicken Skewers

Turmeric Chicken Skewers

Turmeric Chicken Skewers

And yes, all of this tasted as good as it looks. Maybe even better.

You can find the Yotam Ottolenghi version of Bahn Xeo here.

And Luke Nguyen’s Green Mango Salad with Tiger Prawns here

For the Turmeric Chicken, which was awesome, you’ll need to go to Hoi An.

After some hefty shopping and your cooking class, or just because it’s hot, hot hot, you might be in need of an afternoon libation.  And you can do a lot worse than the Q Bar for this..

Q Bar Hoi An

Q Bar Hoi An

One of the specialties of the Q bar is a Tamarind  and Ginger Martini which is awesome!!!

Here is my version:

Tamarind Martini 1

Tamarind Martini 1

I based my recipe on the Tamarind Ginger Fizz recipe from Food 52 which you can find here.

Spicy Tamarind Ginger Martini (makes 2)

Spicy Ginger Sugar Syrup

1 knob of ginger about as big as your thumb, sliced

2 small birdseye chillies

1 length of lemongrass about 10cm long, chopped

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of water

Combine in a saucepan. Boil until the sugar has dissolved then take off heat and allow to steep.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate.  Can be kept in the fridge for 3 weeks.

Orange Chilli Salt

Zest of 1 orange

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tbsp salt

1 tbsp dried chilli, ground to same size as the salt (I kept mine a bit chunky)

Mix ingredients together and place on a plate.

Tamarind Ginger Martini

1/4 cup Tamarind pulp

1/4 cup Vodka

1/4 cup lime juice

6 springs of mint, preferably Vietnamese mint, plus more for garnish

Soda / Seltzer water to top up

Strain ginger syrup and reserve the chillies.

Combine tamarind pulp, ginger syrup, vodka, lime mint and vodka in a shaker with some ice.

Shake.

Slide an orange or lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip in the chilli salt.

Pour the vodka mix into the glasses about 3 /4 of the way, topping with the soda water.

Garnish

Orange & Lime Wedges

Chilli from Syrup mix

Piece of Crystallised Ginger

Mint Sprigs

Garnish the drink with the orange and wine wedges, the chillies, the sprigs of mint and a piece of crystallised ginger.

Enjoy!

Tamarind Martini 2

Tamarind Martini 2

There’s so much more to say about Hoi An…but you know what?  I’m not going to…just go there, you won’t be disappointed.

Actually, I’ve changed my mind, whatever you do, don’t go there.  It’s awful.  And while you’re at it, leave Gosling alone too.  There are some things in this world that should be just for me!

I’ll be spending my week absolutely, definitely, 100% not booking my next trip to Hoi An…have a fab one whatever you get up to.

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Retro Food For Modern Times – Oh, Calcutta, Odessa, Oh Look, It’s Cocktail Hour!

I fully intended this week to be devoted to Eat your Way To Love and Beauty, but somehow I ended up drinking my way to oblivion and incoherence!

But you know what?  I can now honestly say that I didn’t spend the weekend getting tanked on cocktails. I spent the weekend doing research and development.  For you dear readers, I did it for you!  I’m selfless like that.

O Calcutta Cocktail

Oh Calcutta Cocktail

I found a version of the first cocktail I made, the Oh Calcutta, in Eat Your Way To Love and Beauty.  This combines pineapple, grapefruit, lime and…. curry powder!  Yep, a curry flavoured cocktail!

The Swami’s version of the Oh Calcutta suggests you mix the ingredients with spa water.  I assumed that was a euphemism for vodka when making my version.

O Calcutta Cocktail

O Calcutta – mixing pineapple and curry

Now, I normally like my cocktails pink and sweet so this was a bit of a shock to my system!  Initially I wasn’t too keen on it.  Gradually though, the Oh Calcutta won me over.  It’s actually has quite a complex flavour profile (whoo hoo, look at me using the foodie words!).  There was a slight bitterness from the grapefruit, sweetness of the pineapple, heat from the curry, sour from the lime…the more I drank it the more I liked it!

O Calcutta Cocktail

Oh Calcutta Cocktail

I was still thinking about it  the next day and I decided that, interesting as it was, it needed something  more and that something was a little salty kick.  So, I made it again but this time I edged the glass (badly) with some ginger salt.  I made the ginger salt by bashing some ginger to death in the mortar and pestle and then adding some salt to the mix.  I twirled the glass in this.  It doesn’t look great but it tasted amazing!

Oh Calcutta Cocktail recipe

In my first version I toppped the entire drink with grapefruit juice instead of using a mixer, in the second version I mixed grapefruit juice and sparkling water.  The result was slightly less bitter which I preferred. I also used ruby grapefruit juice so there was a pink tinge to my cocktail!

I’m now thinking ginger beer would be good in this too….version three may well happen next weekend!

O Calcutta Cocktail 4

O Calcutta Cocktail 4

Just in case this has piqued your interest in a curry cocktail, I found a few more versions to tantalise your taste buds bouncing round on the interwebs…

Tandoori Tequila Cocktail

Coconut Blurry Curry Cocktail

But the weekend of cocktails was not over because it’s feijoa season and thanks to a tree that is fully laden over at my mother’s house we are swimming with them…

Feijoas

Feijoas

For those of you unfamiliar with a feijoa (aka the pineapple guava), it is a fruit much beloved by New Zealanders, and apparently Russians and Californians.  It is:

“green, ellipsoid, and about the size of a chicken egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear gelatinous seed pulp and a firmer, slightly granular, opaque flesh nearer the skin”

Boo, Wikipedia boo!  That does nothing to convey the joy of the feijoa – huh…come to think of it from now on, I’m going to be calling them fe-joy-as.  I  once read in an aromatherapy book that you need to be careful when burning Clary Sage oil because the smell of it can make you feel as if you are drunk!  I feel a little bit the same about the scent of a feijoa, it is a kind of fruity, floral, heady smell that…it’s what I imagine heaven smells like.  Not that I’m likely to find out.  There is no doubt in my mind which way I’m heading.

Feijoa Marketing Board…don’t even think about it stealing this, I’m slapping a ™ on “Fei-joy-as…what heaven smells like” ASAP. Happy to negotiate with you on the licensing of my intellectual property for your commercial gain though.  Call me.  I’m easily bought.

Odessa Cocktail

Odessa Cocktail

Mind you, someone at the FMB is doing their job.  These babies are currently selling in the supermarket for $2 each!

When I told mum I was going to do some feijoa cooking for this she wanted to know if I was going to make jam.  It’s that kind of comment that makes me wonder if I’m actually adopted….Jam.  Pffft…why make jam when you can make cocktails?

I found a wonderful blog called Feijoa, Feijoa which is bursting with recipes for feijoas and has an whole section devoted to cocktail recipes.

I made the Odessa Cocktail purely because I had all the necessary but each one of the cocktails sound delicious.  And as for the recipes…this may well become one of my favourite sites!  There are also several jam recipes for my mother to make.

The recipe for the Odessa Cocktail can be found here:

Odessa Cocktail

Odessa Cocktail

Odessa Cocktail 2

If you’re wondering why my simple syrup looks like Coke or coffee , it’s because I only had brown sugar in the house. I think it worked though, it added a treacly depth to the syrup.  (coincidentally, Treacly Depth would be the name of my indie band…)

The Odessa is a lovely cocktail, it’s sweet but with a little tang from the lime and exactly the kind of cocktail I normally love! Coming after the Oh Calcutta, it seemed a little simple but it was still delicious! My advice to anyone making it would be to strain it really well.  I put mine through a tea strainer and it was a little gritty.  I would use a finer strainer next time.

Odessa Cocktail

Odessa Cocktail 3

I’m going to be spending my week sidling up to people outside the supermarket and asking “Psst…want a feijoa? ..One fifty each or three for three…and they smell like heaven”

Have a great week whatever you do!

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Retro Food for Modern Times – Strawberry Fields Forever, Part 1

Let me take you down ‘cos I’m going to...

…my local green grocer where they are currently selling trays of strawberries for $6.  My sincere apologies to John Lennon for that absolute travesty but just in case you are not utterly awestruck by this, let me reiterate.  A tray of strawberries for $6.   That’s 16 punnets.  For $6 dollars. The world may have not ended on December 21st but it has surely gone mad! 

Strawberries

How do farmers make any money when the (literal) fruit of their labour is being sold off at about 40 cents a punnet?

Maybe because the week before Christmas punnets of strawberries were selling for $4 each!

I know,  it’s not the farmers, it’s the wholesalers and the grocery shop owners and all the people in between who add their mark up.  The farmers probably got paid the same for the $4 strawberries as they did for the 40 cent strawberries.

My joy at my bargain buy lasted until I had to carry, not only all of my regular fruit and veggies,  but an additional four kilos of strawberries,  from the shop to my car.  By the time I reached the car (it was a hot day and I had parked some distance away from the shop to get a spot in the shade), I’d stopped thinking “I’m the best shopper in the world! ” and “I’m in berry heaven” to “What  on earth am I going to do with four kilos of strawberries?”  and  “How can four kilos of strawberries actually weigh a ton?”. 

Strawberries Waiting To Be Sorted

Strawberries Waiting To Be Sorted

My first task, on getting home, was to sort the strawberries – a few in each punnet were overripe and were starting to get a bit manky.   The perfect  ones went into a colander and the fridge for eating.  We have been feasting on these all week.

The  almost perfect berries went into a bag and into the freezer whole.  I puréed the somewhat bruised berries and placed them in 6 containers in the freezer where they will be great for smoothies, muffins, etc later in the year. Finally, my kitchen helpers, Oscar and Lulu, were on hand to dispose of the fourth group being the few badly bruised  berries that were left.

Oscar

Oscar

Lulu

Lulu

We have been eating  strawberries all week – by the handful whenever we feel a bit peckish;  for dessert with cream (Mark) and ice cream (me) and for breakfast with mango and vanilla yogurt:

Strawberry, Mango and Vanilla Yogurt Breakfast

Strawberry, Mango and Vanilla Yogurt Breakfast

I have started making a strawberry liqueur based on the link below with some tweaks inspired by other recipes, most notably, I am putting the sugar in from the start.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/homemade-strawberry-liqueur-recipe.html

 I searched high and low for tarragon yesterday; I went to three greengrocers and I could not find it  for love or money.  I decided to use basil instead.


Strawberry Basil Liqueur

Strawberry Basil Liqueur

 I was so excited about making the liqueur and trying to track down the tarragon, that I completely forgot to check the other ingredients.  I knew I had strawberries, I had vodka.  I was searching for tarragon.  And who particularly someone who bakes regularly, doesn’t have caster sugar?  Me apparently.  Grrr… Such a newbie mistake!!!

So today, I ducked into the supermarket to pick up the caster sugar and found piles of tarragon.  As I had another recipe for tarragon and strawberries I was aching to try, I bought a bunch and pulled the basil out of my would be liqueur and popped in the tarragon and sugar.   All the sugar sank to the bottom and when I tipped it upside down to mix it in, it made these drippy pale pink stalactite type things that looked awesome!  The mixture is also already a fabulous pink colour. And it’s only Day 2.  Imagine Day 30.

Strawberry Tarragon Liqueur

Strawberry Tarragon Liqueur

It’s Mark’s birthday tomorrow and the temperature is set to soar.  Baking in my tiny kitchen when it’s anything above 30 degrees outside  is not something I relish.  So, I’ve decided that he will get a White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake Semifreddo in lieu of a traditional birthday cake. I’m aiming for quirky but cool.  We’ll see how that works out.  I also need to get busy making it.  Which means that my strawberry and tarragon salad recipe will have to wait until the next post.

On a more sombre note, and speaking of temperatures soaring, many parts of Australia are currently experiencing devastating bushfires and my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, homes and belongings in this tragedy and to the brave people, many of whom are volunteers, who are so valiantly fighting the fires. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

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