Thursday, March 28, 2013

Snakes and Bicycles in Saigon

When I look back at my photos from our time living in England I am thankful for many things but one that stands out to me is my iPhone.  Greatest little gadget ever and if I could pop on out and buy an unblocked iPhone 5, I would. But..I can't, so for now, I am thankful for my iPhone 4GS, for it serves me well. All the photos here and many on the previous posts were taken out and about with just my has it's limitations but for this expat who likes to snap memories on the go, it's perfect.

I decided to make an icon for this blog. I would modify my blog but for some reason, living in Vietnam creates lots of complications and getting into my Blogger account to make change is one of them.  For is this...snapped last weekend with my iPhone.

I plan to give a full insight into compound living one day
but for now...let me just say, I am gutted to see that this
lovely road to our home...

is under construction and will have a massive
brick wall running down one side of it. An open reserve sits quietly 
on the other side, teaming with wildlife. The sounds that
come out when the sun sets is the best of the tropics.

My guess is that it is going up for security reasons or plans for 
building construction are in the works. I am keeping my fingers
that the ladder is not the case.

I prefer as much of this (below) as possible.

It is that time of year...the sun is sitting higher, 
temperatures are rising and the humidity levels are climbing. 
At the moment (2:30pm) it is 97F/35C with a reported 
temperature that feels like 106F/40C..
and 49% humidity...pretty low given the past few days.

This is something I rarely did in England...check the weather.
It was either cloudy or it wasn' or it wasn't.

In's a different story.
Did I mention that I am a cool weather person?
Humidity is not my thing.

But the plants enjoy it and for that I am happy 
and am totally entertained by their growing patterns.
This tree had a sizeable lopping today..

although.. I can't say I am excited by what the heat 
is bringing out of the reserve. There was a buzz of excitement 
yesterday when Mr. Khai, our driver, caught a snake. It
was slithering it's way up to our gate when Mr. Khai spotted it.
 The capture involves a car and a piece of wire..only in Vietnam!
After much fanfare from the security guards and construction workers, 
it was promptly taken away by someone who I understand, 
was thrilled to have it for dinner. I was told that snake
sauteed with ginger and lemongrass it is delicious. 
I think I will pass on that one.

I am still trying to identify it, any guesses?

If you visited me in Vietnam, I would not take you on a snake hunt
but would take you to our local cafe, 
a short stride from Chateau Mango (our home). 
There we would sit..sipping on something..

and watch the water hyacinth float by.
A relaxing pastime, it will be one of 
my many fond memories of Vietnam.

and if you know I know many of you do.. you
will know of my fancy for bicycles. Even though
I have adoring love for my English Pashley bicycle,
I have to say..these Vietnamese bikes are pretty sweet.

Maybe just one...

Speaking of England, a surprise. 
We have our mail forwarded from England and in it today, 
a recent issue of Country Life UK.
My subscription has long been cancelled which is why I was
so excited to see it. I love this magazine so much that I brought
2 1/2 years worth of issues with me to Vietnam. 
Some things are just to hard to let go of.

It is interesting...the things you get excited about 
when living in the tropics. :)

I topped that thought off with a lemon, lime, ginger and mint juice.
Lovely to sit and write to you today.
Until next time...

Best wishes from sunny, steamy Saigon!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Expat Life...Saigon

Someone asked me recently what I do with my day. 
I am always stumped by this question.
The answer came out in a slow ramble of words.
website, (blog) 

As an expat, you want to see and do it all.
Time ticks by and before you know it you are moving on.
Please join me as we make the most of a day in Saigon.

We would start by admiring
the lotus flowers blooming in our garden

and then onto shopping on Dong Khoi Street.

Take snaps of flowers to search botanical names.

Snap the local scenery.

Snap bougainvillea in mass.

Visit my favourite gallery, Tu Do Gallery, to see what's new.

Admiring a growing garden..perhaps by Rudolph?

Taking in sights in our neighbourhood.

Watch Tika swim a few laps.

Pop back into  Tu Do Gallery for another peak.

Contemplating how they do it...pack it all in?

Checking out furniture on Le Cong Kieu Street.

Stop into Chateau Mango for lotus blossom tea.

Visit a market stall close to home.

and...the last shot

This morning, my juice concoction after Pilates class.
No complaints from this expat.

Around Thao Dien, HCMC

I took a long walk Saturday morning, to show my husband what I see from day to day. As we turned the corner from one street to the next, we both commented how much our world has changed since this time last year. He was already living in Saigon and I was still holding down the fort back in England. With that thought we both remarked how fortunate we are to have this experience in Vietnam, it is more than we could have imagined and even with it's challenges, it is one that we will long cherish.

Along our walk...

Street life with a little less
 frantic pace than in the heart of the city.

Walking on the sidewalks is a challenge, there
are obstacles at every turn. I would say this is one of the
more beautiful ones.

I  am always humbled by the hard working nature of
Vietnamese women. If there is a way, they will find it.

Because...I just loved all their feathers.

Across the street...words of love. 

Following the road home to our home, 
affectionately called  Chateau Mango for it's colour...

Where you can find me... hat and fan in hand...

admiring our lotus flowers in bloom.

Is there enough to see and do around our neighbourhood...
for someone like me, absolutely!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Street Life... Ho Chi Minh CIty...

Sometimes life surprises you. I was standing in a frame shop this morning, waiting on the cost to have a few things framed. I looked out the window and saw this woman across the way. Another typical Vietnamese scene in my day. I was across the road, photographing through glass, trying my luck. It appears, on closer inspection, we were both doing the same...taking a closer look. Later I looked back at the photo and saw the's Vietnam. This will be one of my favourite shots, I am sure of it.

Photo by Jeanne Henriques

Ho Chi Minh action

I am in the midst of discovering the video world of Vimeo...for those of you who enjoy the creativity of film, it is a great place to explore. I think Rob Whitworth is spot on with his portrayal of Ho Chi Minh City. I can not begin to imagine how he created it, +10,000 images baffles my mind. Either way...he's got it, on the move and always moving...

View video here

For those of you who prefer to appreciate the slower pace of life... here is a little Vietnamese creative ingenuity at work, a slower pace but just as daring... here

Photo by Jeanne Henriques

Friday, March 8, 2013

Recipes: Thai Grilled Beef Salad and Lemongrass Crusted Tofu

If you enjoy Asian recipes...stay with me. Each week I submit a new recipe to coincide with a Vietnamese organic veggie pack distributed within the local community.  My Asian cookbook collection is growing in leaps and bounds and I am happy to share the cooking love.  I hope one of these sets you off to your local veggie market... 

I made this one for a casual Saturday evening with friends. It was a snap to make and the flavours were delicious.  I am considering creating a container of my own fragrant bouquet of lemongrass, coriander, Vietnamese mint, regular mint  and kaffir lime leaves. It is nearly all you need for most of the dishes cooked in our house. 

Serves 4

NOTE: If you have any left-over steak or roast beef, this recipe is easy to prepare. Otherwise, grill the steak just before you serve the salad. The room-temperature beef is sliced and mixed with a fragrant bouquet of lemongrass, coriander leaves (cilantro), mint and kaffir lime leaves (ask for ‘lime leaf’, ‘la chanh’, in the shop), then tossed with a spicy dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and chilies. Arrange the meat on a bed of lettuce and serve it as part of a meal with rice.

INGREDIENTS: 1 lb (500g) roast, grilled or barbecued beef, preferably med-rare, cut into thin slices 2 in (5cm) in length, 1 stalk lemongrass, tender inner part of bottom third only, very thinly sliced, 4 shallots, thinly sliced, 1 tablespoon minced fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), 2 tablespoons mint leaves, coarsely torn, 4 kaffir lime leaves, very finely shredded, 6-8 lettuce leaves, washed and dried, 1 firm ripe tomato, sliced, cucumber slices, 4 sprigs of mint 
Sauce: 2 cloves garlic, minced, 2 red-finger chilies, sliced, 1 tablespoon sugar, ¼ cup (60ml) lime juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce

METHOD: 1. Put the beef in a bowl. Add the lemongrass, shallots, coriander leaves, mint and kaffir lime leaves. Toss to mix well. 2. Prepare the Sauce by blending the garlic, chilies and sugar in a spice grinder, adding a little of the lime juice if needed to keep the blades turning. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. 3. Pour the Sauce over the beef and herbs, mix well. Cover with the plastic wrap and leave to marinate for 10 minutes. 4. Line a serving plate with the lettuce leaves put the beef (at room temperature, not chilled) on top and surround with the tomato and cucumber slices. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

Recipe from Southeast Asia’s Best Recipes from Bangkok to Bali by Wendy Hutton
NF: recipe no.

I could eat tofu all day long, especially due to the fact that it is good for you and even better when it is cooked with lemongrass. The trick is to find the right consistency of tofu. It must be firm or you will have a holy mess on your hands. Just the scent of lemongrass will have you loving this dish...if you like tofu. :)

Serves 4-6

NOTE: Firm tofu is ideal for this recipe because it can be crusted and handled without breaking apart.

INGREDIENTS: 450 g (1lb) firm tofu, 1 lemongrass stem, white part only, finely chopped, 1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 3 coriander (cilantro) sprigs

METHOD: Drain the tofu and slice 5 x 10cm (2 x 4 inches) pieces, then pat dry with paper towel. Leave the tofu on the chopping board or transfer to a tray. In a bowl, combine the lemongrass, chilli, garlic, sugar, 1-teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix all ingredients together, then coat both sides of the tofu with the mixture. Heat a large frying pan over medium-heat. Add the oil and pan-fry each side of the tofu for 3 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Garnish with coriander sprigs and serve with jasmine rice.

Recipe from Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen,  
NF: recipe no. 5

Photo by Jeanne Henriques