Breakfast with the locals…

Breakfast with the locals (and without the lady) – great moments.

Everybody around knows me by now. And when I am on my own everyone tries to look after me, help and support me. When I am with My they expect her to care for me and don’t do anything for me :)

Here is today’s breakfast spot:

 

Their speciality: pork offals :) Here the missus is preparing my plate.

My neighbours:

And the first part of my breakfast:

part of stomach, stuffed guts, black pudding, liver…a variation of greens…a mixture of salt, black pepper and freshly squeezed lime for dipping the goodies…

And a closer shot. Especially the black pudding and the stuffed guts are gourmet highlights…

My immediate neighbour offered me his rakia bottle – and thinking that it would be rather early for that stuff I declined. But he showed me with gestures that I should add some rice brandy to my dipping sauce :) Which I gratefully did :)

 

As a “logical sequence” the chef provided me with a bowl of steamingly hot rice soup to eat after the offals. I pepped it up with some ground chilies and peanuts – and it concluded the “cycle” in a very pleasant way.

I went home stuffed and content. It was a voluptuous breakfast. At 55,000 Dong not for free (2.25€) – but worth every cent of it…

Feeling wanted

It is wonderful to share your bed with someone who wants to be close to you even when they sleep. Especially when they weigh only 42kg and the arm or leg they wrap around you in their sleep does not bother you at all :)

I have always been the opposite – unless I am drunk :) I always turn my back to my partner when I sleep. The main reason for this is that I need an awful lot of air to breath. Another reason is that I do not want to disturb her sleep…

So, I am a happy and lucky fella these days :)

Vietnamese language

Vietnamese – the one language that sticks out in this part of Asia. You recognise it immediately when you hear it. Its sound pattern is not exactly like the singsong of Thai or Laotian.

It sounds more like drama. Ups and downs in tone, long and short. A roller-coaster ride of the tongue. And strange vowels that you wonder how they are being produced. Challenging :)

Once you start to approach the language systematically you notice immediately that also the grammar is completely different from our Western tongues (and from other Sino-languages). In principal much simpler – but different.

Like there is no conjugation of verbs. Also no declination of nouns. Specific descriptions always put the general first and the particular second. Example: meat = meat pork, meat beef, meat chicken…; station= station bus; station train…and so on…

The biggest hurdle, however, is really the pronunciation and in particular the vowels.

One example: the letter “O”.

“O”  – is pronounced like “aw” in awful

Ô” – is pronounced like “o” in hotel

Ơ” – is pronounced a little like the Bulgarian “Ъ” (but without “air”). There is no real equivalent in English.

That’s for starters. As Vietnamese is a tonal language there are 6 different tones for every vowel, from low-falling to high-rising, Which provides us with 18 different “shades of O” alone. And, of course, 18 different words containing the letter. The same applies to the other vowels – giving as a huge playground :)

Pronouncing even the seemingly simplest things proofs a challenge.

Let’s take the national dish: Phở bò (beef noodle soup)

The “ô” would be pronounced like the Bulgarian “Ъ” – if it would not be “ổ” (which denominates a mid-falling tone in Hanoi – a different one in Saigon, of course).

So the final pronunciation of “Phở” (soup) lies in between “Фъ” and “faw”. After twisting your mouth to produce this sound follows an immediate reshuffle to attach “bò”(beef)  (which sounds like “baw” but with a falling tone).

That’s the simple part. From here you move on to diphthongs and triphthongs :P

Did I make you interested? Will you enrol in a Vietnamese class. I guarantee you, you won’t be bored :)

 

 

 

 

 

Start of the Chronicles

 

 

I will call today, Tuesday October 13th, the first day of the chronicles.

I have started a diet at the end of March 2015, when my scales read a startling 120kg. By the end of August I had lost 30kg – but since then not much has been going on. The ultimate goal is to move to 80kg – which would be a total of 40kg weight loss.

This morning I was at 87.4 kg. I am afraid, however, that the scales I bought a week ago in Hanoi are not very precise So be it!

Let me show you a typical diet day in Hanoi.

Breakfast, as everything else, is usually fresh from the market.

Today it was a “banh te”, usually a rice “pudding” cooked in banana leaf with a stuffing. In my particular case it was made from “taro” (not rice) and the stuffing was minced pork.

 

My had also bought “ban ghio”, which is like a jelly from sticky rice that you eat with a kind of syrup. The taste is quite unusual but too sweet for me…

As you can see, banana leaves are the standard packaging material here…

 

For lunch I will have crab. My found a nice male crab, not too expensive (they are not cheap here). For 80,000 Dong (about 3.25€)…

As we buy crabs only alive this one came with tied claws…

As My is a very clean person the poor crab had to undergo a vigorous scrubbing. I was real glad it was not my turn!

Now it is sitting in the pot – waiting for lunch time…

To be continued…

Lunch time now!

If there is something like “Zen Food” it is definitely crab!

When you it crab the proper way you focus entirely on what you are doing – and it takes a long time. Because you value the crab and you will crack even the smallest hollow shell not to waste the tiniest bit of the crab’s meat :)

And after many years of crab eating you have, of course, developed a liking for the gooey stuff inside the shell, the brown mass that the Vietnamese separate from the crab and fry in oil – and which tastes absolutely wonderful…

 

A perfect diet dish :)

After a digestion break we went to the National Museum of Fine Arts to see mainly the “Folkloric Art” exhibition that was closed the last time I was there.

On the way home (we walked all the way) my feet and my back hurt and I decided to go for a “bia hoi”, a draft beer, before settling down.

This is my favourite beer joint – still empty as we were only – but filling up within 15 minutes after our arrival…

With the beer you always get a plate with boiled peanuts (boiled, not roasted). After you had them two or three times you start to prefer them over roasted and salted ones..#

At a certain moment I noticed that two men who had settled at the table next to ours were served with two small bowls – that very much looked like the bowl of blood tht I had for dinner last night at my duck place!

I had never seen blood at “my” beer place before and when we asked the neighbours they said that it was coagulated goat blood, and that the bia hoi restaurant had this every Tuesday and Friday only. Goat blood! Diet or not! How could I, the notorious goat killer, not try this? Here we go:

It’s only a small bowl. With peanuts and “Vietnamese coriander”…

Of course this made me order more beer. In the end we left the place with 4 glasses of beer on my diet list…

Now we are home and while I am posting this I am watching a football match between Vietnam and Thailand. After which we will have dinner…but about that: later :)

…….

As I expected the Vietnamese did not win the match  and we proceeded to have dinner.

My cooked her stir-fried beef with “bun” (rice noodles) and tofu earlier and- being the well-meaning terrorist that she is, forced me to try her stuff…

The rice noodles are, of course, poison for my diet – but I love them :(

My own dinner consisted also of fried beef, with scallion and green pineapple…very tasty but I was not so sure that the “green” pineapple did not contain any sugar ;)

In addition to the above “bites” I had to eat 5 or 6 of the small and fragrant bananas during the day….I don’t like to eat them but My continues to buy them because they are so cheap – so how can I withstand…:(

Maybe today was not the right day to start the documentation of my diet…I pigged out a little…

My life is a drama – or was it a comedy? Well, I forgot. But it sure is worth living :)

Hanoi by bus

Yesterday I decided to go to the centre of Hanoi by bus. The first time to use public transport.

According to Google maps there was a bus stop not so far away from my apartment. There are no bus maps, so preparation is a bit cumbersome. I did find out that one of the three buses passing our neighbourhood would go close to the Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre. So, we gave it a try.

Our bus came after maybe 30 minutes. The ticket information I had from the internet was not so up to date. The price had gone up to 7,000Dong from 3,000 some indefinite time ago.

One thing that surprised me (also later when we took some other bus) was that immediately after entering the bus some young lad or girl would get up and offer me their seat!  I have never come across that in Europe! It made me feel a bit weird, however, and I asked myself: “do you really look so old and fragile?”.

So, I learned quickly that one should avail of such offers of respect. I refused the seat – and had to suffer immediately. Standing in a bus in Hanoi means you should hold on to all available handles etc. with both hands – all the time. It appears that the most important part of these buses are the breaks. And they may be used at all moments and will send you flying about if you are not straddled in properly! The next time someone offered e a seat I accepted it gracefully :)

We had a nice walk round the lake in the middle of the old quarter and tourist zone.

My got the bus wrong for our return trip – and we ended up near her apartment instead. That was an unexpected but very welcome diversion – as it was close to my favourite duck restaurant and we had some unplanned dinner :)

 

 

 

Another Vietnamese breakfast staple: “Pho”

“Pho” (pronounced like “faw”) is THE Vietnamese noodle soup. The two main varieties are “pho bo” (beef soup) and “pho ga” (chicken).

Apart from that there are all other kinds of noodle soup variations, usually under the family name “bun”. About bun some other day :)

As I have not had “real” pho since last December it was high time to go out and have some for breakfast this morning. Somehow you don’t make pho at home. It is a dish you eat at one of the omnipresent street stalls in Hanoi.

At 7 am we were still in time for a pho. The closest place for pho is around the corner and they offer chicken pho.Two years ago they had a very good one. So, it was my first choice.

That’s part of the restaurant. Notice the chairs :) They are not higher than 20cm – and the size of a small buttock…

The pho itself was a bit disappointing. The quality has gone down. The chicken meat was not the most tender and they economised on the rice noodles.

A bowl of Pho is nowadays between 25,000 and 35,000 Dong (1.05€-1.45€). That is more expensive than a comparable soup in Thailand.

At least it was good “people watching” while we were eating our soup.

Next time we will go somewhere else. There are plenty of other noodle soup “restaurants” to try.

Walking the area at 7 AM is always a joy – and as many people in our little lane know me from the past (such huge beasts like me stick out here) and new ones join them we get stopped for a chat every few yards. And as they are always laughing and looking at me (including My) I sometimes have the suspicion that they make jokes about me :) I hope that Buddha will shield them once I speak the language!

 

 

 

I was too slow…

Yesterday I was very happy when My came back from her early morning shopping at 6 am with a bag of fresh prawn. When you refer to “fresh” prawn here it means that they are still alive and wriggling.

My has an allergy against crayfish, so they were all for me…and my plan was to have them for lunch.

My way – which is not exactly Vietnamese. Rather in the old fashioned Japanese way: to eat them RAW.

To take them by their tail and hit their heads against the kitchen counter, to kill them before you rip off their head and shell and devour them after dipping them in a light and spicy sauce…nothing that My would approve of as she is against me eating any raw seafood or meat :(

And, alas, I was too slow when noon came. Before I even noticed she had the prawns steamed over beer…

OK, they were quite tasty – but when do I ever have the joy to feast on live prawn?!

The bonus was that she did not use all the beer (a jar of draft beer she had quickly bought at the bia hoi around the corner) and I could finish the rest…

I must make her buy more prawns this week – and keep them away from the lady :)

Vietnamese breakfast variations…

Another popular breakfast (especially in the countryside) is “bun oc”: snail soup.

As we had bought some snails we decided to use half of them for this treat.

For the soup you make a broth with some pork bones.

The snails are steamed and taken out of their little houses one by one.

An important ingredient is the “bun”, the rice noodles. You can find them fresh in many places.

The final soup looks like this:

In our case the soup is with fried tofu, tomatoes and various green stuff…a great breakfast that leaves a very satisfied body feeling behind  – and that keeps you going for a long time…

 

Vietnamese households…better equipped than ours?

Life and habits are different in Europe and Asia, not to talk about the differences from country to country.

One interesting feature I find in “richer” Vietnamese kitchens, where they have built in furniture, is that the wall cupboard above the sink has no bottom! The shelves in them are not boards but metal grates. Why is that?

Very simple: in Vietnam there are no tea towels and after cleaning the dishes people put them back in the wall cupboards – still wet. Here they dry by themselves and drip onto the sink while doing so…..

Another significant difference are toilets. In Asia every toilet has a shower hose fixed next to it. To clean yourself and the toilet properly – if necessary. A very cultivated feature. I have installed that years ago in my Bansko bathroom.

The Japanese are, of course, the world leaders in toilet culture :) In comparison we look like primitive Barbarians….

Here in my up-market apartment in Hanoi I have a Japanese “Toto” toilet. Toto is the number one company in the world when it comes to toilets. They are designed in a way that you will never have to clean them manually – regardless of your business…

I realise that not many people will talk about “toilets” – but for me they are an essential part of everyday life. And since I am trying to enjoy my life and arrange my environment in the way that pleases me most – I also have a close look at toilets :)

And  it appears that Asian people also do that – much more then Western folks :)

Street sales…

Hanoi city is full with street vendors. They ride their bicycles or motorbikes at low speed through the residential streets. Most are equipped with a tape recorder and speakers that repeat permanently what is on offer. This goes on till midnight even. Things on sale range from fresh coffee to sticky rice with add-ons.

I am never quick enough to turn on my camera and go to the balcony to make a picture of them for you – but maybe one day :)

Apart fro the usual stuff this morning I heard to guys passing on bicycles. One of them was offering rat traps. The other one hat a few cages fixed to his bike and was announcing that he was looking to buy cats and dogs…You may guess for what purpose!

There are also always a lot of women in my street who settle on the narrow side-walks to sell fruit – like mandarins and oranges.

You could not imagine how many people are selling “something” here. About every family that lives on the ground floor of a building uses the entrance area as a shop :)

That makes everything very personal and charming.