Tuesday, April 19, 2016

For the love of a mango....green mango

Green mangoes around our home in Vietnam, Chateau Mango

There is something incredibly satisfying about losing yourself in every last bit of a ripe mango. I feel the same way about green mangoes. You catch that little bit of tartness with the sweet and sour that makes it absolutely delicious when you pair it with the right flavours. A touch of kaffir lime, coriander, green onion, red chillies, shallots, Thai basil, mint, salt, pepper with just the right amount of Vietnamese fish sauce. Yum, Yum and Yum!

We have a few 'go to' recipes when green mangoes come our way. I love to share...so here goes.. 

Serves 4-6

4-5 unripe treen mangoes (about 1 1/4 lobs/600g), peeled
2-3 teaspoons caster sugar, or more to taste
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
2 tablespoons minced fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
1 green onion (scallion), thinly sliced
2-3 red or green bird’s- eye chilies, thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/3 cup (50g) raw cashew nuts, dry roasted until golden and crisp

Hold a peeled mango over a shredder and grate to make matchstick shreds. Alternatively, hold the mango in the palm of one and with a sharp knife in your other hand, make vertical cuts close together. Hold the knife horizontally and slice across to make shreds. Repeat on the other side of the mango.

Put the mango shreds in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Massage with your fingers for about 30 seconds, then add the rest of the ingredients except the cashew nuts, tossing to mix well. Taste and if the manoes see to sour, add more sugar.

Add the cashew nuts, toss and serve immediately. 

Recipe from Southeast Aisa’s BEST RECIPES- From Bangkok to Bali (highly recommend this book)

Prawn and Green Mango Salad

Serves 8

3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 large green mangoes, shredded
24 medium cooked prawns, peeled and deveined
1 cup mint leaves
I cup Thai basil leaves
1 cup coriander leaves

Place fish sauce, ½ cup water, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Add lime juice, chilli, and garlic, and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use. Place mango, prawns, mint, basil, and coriander in a large bowl. Add dressing, toss to combine and serve.

Recipe from Mindfood Magazine here

Sliced green mangoes dipped in chilli salt

And then there is the kicker... sliced green mango dipped in a mixture of sea salt and sliced red chili...mixed to taste. You just have to go with this one...and may I suggest an iced cold beer alonside it? If you like it extra hot...you might need two. Enjoy! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sights, Sounds and Tastes of Hanoi

When in Hanoi, you want to take it slowly because seriously, 
as you will see from the photos below, 
there is so much happening, 
you can miss it in the blink of an eye. 
Stopping to savor Hanoi in sight, sounds and taste 
is the best way to go...and oh yes, 
the shopping is good too!

I will skip right to the food
because I love Vietnamese food.
When in Hanoi, 
with a view to Hoan Kiem Lake
at 73 Cao Go Street, Hoan Kiem


All of these are worth every bite!

Fried Soft Shell Crab with Garlic Rock Salt
Cua bay rang muoi toi

Marinated Banana Blossom with Shredded Chicken Salad
Goi ga hoa choi

Deep Fried Crispy Tofu with Lemongrass and Chili
Dua trunk chien sa ot

Royal Lotus Fried Rice
Com chien hang bao

Traditional Grilled "Lang" Fish with Local Herbs
Cha ca lang co truyen

Those Vietnamese herbs...you know how I love those herbs.
And a word on the 'fried'...you wouldn't even know it.
Each dish was as light and delicate as the next, the way we like it.

I had spied Hanoi Design Centre 
several times on past visits and always wanted to stop. 
So this time we pulled into 91 Au Co, Tay Ho 
and stayed a while.

The Centre is a one-stop showroom for buyers and tourists
 featuring the work of Vietnamese and International designers. 
You can find all sorts of Vietnamese treasures here and here.

We picked up the handwoven rattan vase
 on the right to tuck away in a corner of Tahilla Farm
and the hand woven fabric hanging from the ceiling below.

All and all it was a good shopping trip 
and well worth the visit. 
Our bags below are a testament to a job well done.

Tan My Design has been on my radar as well.
You can see the glass storefront along the sidewalk below.
It is located at 61 & 63 Hang Gai Street.

The view below is from the inside looking out to the street. 

I have not ventured into the hand-painted silk dress just yet
 although it did cross my mind that it would be a fun idea 
for a mother of the groom/bride dress. 
I am going to hold onto that thought for the next wedding. 
One down, three to go. ;)

We enjoy Vietnamese art as much as we do the food.
Hanging on the wall...a sea of conical hats.
If only we had the room...

I found a few little pieces at Tan My to tuck away for future gifts
and made a note to return another time without the Mr.
who is a good shopper but not a great shopper.  

Shopping mission accomplished, 
we did what we so enjoy doing in Vietnam.
Walking and taking it all in...slowly.

I love street scenes...
especially when I am on the go and no one has caught on.

Because eventually they do.

Couldn't resist the fist sign of spring on the balcony above. 

If you travel to Hanoi, a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake is a must. 
It was a dark and drizzly kind of day in Hanoi...even then, it has it's own charm. 
I should mention that they experience four seasons up north (Hanoi) as opposed
to our endless days of warm sunshine in the south (Saigon). 

To be honest, I find the grey a nice change at times, but not all the time.

Along the lake, gardens are under way with the first spring plantings. 
This was a reminder for me to stock up again on my conical hats for Tahilla Farm.
They make great gardening hats and are the perfect shape if you need to
cover yourself in mosquito netting. Which I do...

 Ladies everywhere (except me) were making efforts
 to protect their hair from the rain. 
I got a kick out of the pink plastic bag brigade below. 

and there you have it...our day in Hanoi. 
For it all happened in one day. 

Beep! Beep! Hanoi!

Planning on travelling to Hanoi?
Here's a few places you might like to check out..


73 Cao Go Street, Hoan Kiem

Madame Hien Cafe
15 Chan Cam, Hoan Kiem


Tan My Design
61 & 63 Hang Gai Street

91 Au Co, Tay Ho 


Thang Long Gallery 
41 Hang Gai.

Green Palm Gallery
39 Hang Gai

Art Vietnam Gallery
2, Ngo 66
Pho Yen Lac

Ha Dong Silk
102 Hang Gai

có một ngày tuyệt vời!
Have a great day!

My day to day Vietnam photos
are posted on Instagram.
If you would like to follow me, click here

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Park and Read- Nguyen Van Binh Street

If you are out and about Saigon, this street is too good to miss. Take yourself to Nguyen Van Binh Street. It is opposite the Notre Dame Cathedral and around the corner from the Saigon Post Office. If you are on the tourist trail you will be sure to happen upon it. On it you will find 20 small bookshops selling new and vintage books.  If you are desperate for a good read, in English, do not despair, you will find a few here. I cannot vouch for the selection or choices in other languages but you will have fun looking. 

 Park and read...Nguyen Van Binh Street
Between Cong Xa Paris
and Hai Ba Trung streets

Ho Chi Minh City

If you enjoy the book scene in Saigon 
and would like to discover more, read here.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Living mindfully...in Vietnam

Living mindfully..Chateau Mango, Vietnam

Living mindfully, slowing one's pace 
and enjoying every second and every breath, 
that is enough.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Creating a Vietnamese Kitchen Garden

There are experiences in life you know will never forget and for me... this will be one of them. 

In previous homes I have had just enough space to grows a few herbs. Basil, mint, sage, rosemary and thyme and occasionally, if I was very lucky, I could get coriander (cilantro) to grow for a few weeks.  When we moved from England to Vietnam, I looked to see if we had anything to work with and discovered we only had patches of lemongrass around the property to deter the local snake population.  It was not exactly what I had in mind. ;)

We have a great garden team- Mr. Thuan, our gardener and Mr. Khai, our green thumbed driver. Together they work their magic. My role is coming up with the ideas.

One day I explained my grand garden plan to establish a herb and vegetable garden. I rattled off the list of herbs we were interested in growing to looks of total confusion. I could see right away that this was going to be a process that would evolve...slowly. I suggested we start with mint. We all agreed mint was a good idea.

And one day I came home to find mint growing in the garden...sort of....jugs of mint..but it was a start.

But..I couldn't let go of what might have originally been contained in those jugs so I asked for an alternative. I returned home another afternoon to find a well stocked garden of styrofoam boxes. The container of choice in many Vietnamese gardens. A transportable garden, for all weather conditions...a reality of gardening in the tropics. We were getting somewhere but we weren't quite there...yet.

Next to our water tank, we had a large rectangular tuft of mondo grass growing I asked what they thought about converting it to a kitchen garden. Having just planted the mondo grass, tuft by tuft, Mr. Khai and Mr. Thuan explained that it was like digging through concrete...but...they had an idea for me.

A few days later I came home to three large mounds of dirt with sprightly little green plants popping out of them. I was beaming, we had lift off...a little Vietnamese kitchen garden to call our own.

It took one year to get from jugs of mint to this patch of garden
and three years of trial and error. I learned that try as we might,
we were not going to get pumpkins to grow at Chateau Mango.

Over the years we have came to love the flavors of Vietnamese food
all due to the wonderful cooking skills of Miss Huyen.

It has been a team effort. 
I supplied the cookbooks with both Vietnamese 
and English translation and she made the menu suggestions. 
She guided me through it all, translating as we went. 
We have had four years of delicious Vietnamese food,
we couldn't ask for more than that. 

The Food of Vietnam by Luke Nguyen

Do you enjoy Vietnamese food?
I have a long list of favourite Vietnamese cookbooks,
if you are interested, you can find them here.  

I have included a list of our 'go to' herbs,
ones that we grow in our garden. 
They are all staples in Vietnamese cooking.

*Vietnamese Lemon Mint
 (rau kinh gioi) (Elsholtzia ciliata
Tastes.. basil meets lemongrass

*Wild Mint
 (rau hung lui)  (Mentha arvensis) 
Tastes.. stong ming, slightly bitter

*Asian Basil
 (rau que) (Ocimum basilicum)
Tastes..sweet/spicy with a scent 
and light flavor of anise/licorice

(rau ngo)  (Coriandrum sativum) 
also known as coriander
Taste..citrus, aromatic

* Ginger
(gung) ( Zingiber officinale)
Taste..spicy, peppery, lemony, 
slighlty sweet...it has a kick

*Vietnamese Coriander
 (rau ram(Persicaria odorata) 
Taste.. peppery mint

*Kaffir lime
( La chanh) (Citrus hystrix)
Taste--lemon/lime fusion

*Piper Leaf
(la lot) (Piper sarmentosum)

(rau ngo gai) (Eryngium foetidium) 
Taste...strong coriander flavor 

(rau tia to) (Perilla frutescens) 
Taste..a blend of mint and basil 

* Lemongrass
  (xa(Cymbopogon Citratatus) 
Taste..grassy, citrus flavor

* Luffa Sqaush
 ( muop huong(Luffa aegyptiaca) 
Tastes...similar to zucchini

*Rice Paddy Herb
rau ngo om(Limnophila aromatica) 
Tastes.. citrusy with mild cumin flavor.

*Vietnamese Lemon Mint
(rau kinh gioi(Elsholtzia ciliata) 
Tastes.. basil meets lemongrass

We have one recent addition to the garden 
which grew by chance.
Miss Huyen popped a few papaya seeds 
into the soil to see if they would take.
They did.
Mr. H's favourite fruit...Papaya

Growing at Chateau Mango...

I have started thinking ahead to Tahilla Farm.
In the past, I have had success with lemongrass, 
 and managed to keep coriander going until the lemongrass
started to grow with reckless abandon.
I learned a few lessons that summer.

 Lemongrass, Coriander, Russian Sage and Cleome
 growing at Tahilla Farm

It's a tricky business.
Finding many of these herbs in the local nursery
in rural New Hampshire is challenging.
 But I will not be deterred.
I have been busy researching and I think
 I might have a few solutions.

I thought some of you might be interested 
and did some extra research for you too!

Here goes...

If you are interested in Vietnamese herbs, 
any one of the links below will help-
Luke Nguyen's Guide to Vietnamese Herbs

Many of these plants are temperature sensitive.
You can check your plant hardiness zone below.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Here are a few places to purchase
 Vietnamese herbs, seeds and or plants-
Seeds (USA) from Kitazawa Seed Co. 
Plants and seeds (Canada) from Richters
Plants (USA) from Dave's Garden
Plants (Australia) from Mudbrick Cottage
Plants (UK) Pepperpot Nursery

 For those who enjoy discovering new flavours,
A great Food App I just discovered..
from Specialty Produce

If you enjoy international food
it is best to stock up on essentials when you can.
 Food 52  here has some great suggestions.
Be sure to read the comments after the article too!

And there you have it...
a tale of our humble Vietnamese kitchen garden
with a few tips thrown in. If you are thinking about
creating your own kitchen garden,
 you can find inspiration here

Growing at Chateau Mango...

I hope you found something here to spark your taste buds.
Do you have a favourite Asian dish?
Would love to know!

You can write to me

Happy gardening and cooking!

Jeanne xx

Thursday, March 3, 2016

By The Travelling Palm Tree

Sunset by the travelling palm tree..

It has been a few months since I last wrote on this blog and I am happy to be back. I write two blogs, Collage of Life and Expat Diary: Viet Nam. They are the stories of my life...two lives, one in the USA and one in Vietnam. Part of the year I spend in the woods of New Hampshire and the the other under a travelling palm tree in Ho Chi Minh City.

We are nearing our four year anniversary in Vietnam. By expat standards it is a pretty long time. It is more common to see people stay 2-3 years. The flip side to that are the expats who have been here for 10-20 years and there are many. It is not unusual for some to end their working assignments and stay on, deciding that life in Vietnam is to good to leave behind. The lifestyle is relaxed and easy, the people warm and friendly, the cost of living is reasonable and opportunity for many is knocking. It is a dream come true for the budding entrepreneur, especially ones with business savvy. It is a dream come true for those entering retirement, a paradise of sorts.

The pace of life along the Sagion River..

Talk to any expat living in Ho Chi Minh City, short term or long term, and it won't be long before they start talking about the immense structural changes that have taken place around the city. Corporate high rises, apartment buildings, Metro rail line..taking the skyline to a new level..all at the expense of many of the beautiful old colonial relics of another time. It pulls on your heart strings each time you pass a familiar section of the city and see another building under demolition. The International New York Times featured an article this week about the very same... Colonial Architecture Fades From Ho Chi Minh City, and Residents Mourn

The calm before the construction...

For us, the changing skyline is personal. We live in a mango coloured house (we call it Chateau Mango) surrounded by orchids, hibiscus, lotus, mango and palm trees and a multitude of creatures who inhabit our tropical paradise... here and here .We once had a view to the clear blue sky by way of our travelling palm tree. And then it happened...day by day, month by month, buildings started to appear in the horizon.

Slowly they rise..

One after the other..

Final stages...a new skyline by the travelling palm tree

The buildings are still under construction and I understand thousands will move into the area. The Metro will transport people back and forth to wherever they need to go...if people decide to use it. In a city that moves to the 'beep beep' rhythm of motorbikes on the move...the Metro might take a while to adjust to. I hope they do because there hasn't been any move to adjust the neighbouring streets to accommodate the incoming residents. Another topic of conversation for the local residents...

As for me..when it fully functional, I hope to moving to the rhythm of another sound..the call of the wild in the woods of New Hampshire. ;)

I hope this works, just to give you an idea. I took this video clip to remember the sights and sounds of a changing landscape, by way of a travelling palm tree.


Have a question? Feel free to write to me at jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

Thank you for reading along!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sharing the LOVE- Aziet Saigon

today for jewelery designer, 
Pauline Portheine of Aziet Saigon. 
I happened upon Paulines jewelery stall recently 
and loved it so much I snapped up a few pieces. 
She creates with 100% buffalo horn from Vietnam. 
A natural byproduct, it is organic, eco friendly 
and what I love most about it, it is light to wear. 

On top of that, it's fun, 
it's quirky and one of a kind. 
Au naturale..just the way I like it. 

If you live in Saigon or plan to visit...
you can reach Pauline via email
or on Facebook here

Note: My Sharing the LOVE series 
is purely a reflection of things I enjoy 
and ones I think some of you might enjoy as well. 
Stay tuned for more, I have a whole lot of LOVE 
to share from Vietnam.

Sharing the LOVE...
from my postcard collection.
'Jarai in Cambodia'
by photographer Thierry Diwo.