Vietnam and Cambodia so far...
I apologise I have been quite MIA recently. I have been meaning to blog for a good couple of weeks now but I am afraid this whole trip has been such a whirlwind, I haven't quite had the chance. So this morning, as my body has decided to wake me up earlier than most and I am sitting alone by a palm tree lined pool, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to update you on what's been going on.
For those of you who don't already know I'm currently on a little trip. Well actually a big trip, which is turning out to be one of the most wonderful experiences. My lovely friend Leah and I have taken ourselves off to SE Asia for 6 weeks to do a little exploring and I can safely say, halfway through, I have loved every minute of it.
We have packed an awful lot into our first 3 weeks (mainly spent travelling around Cambodia up to now)...far too much to list in a blog post. So I thought, instead, I would pick 3 of my favourite food experiences...as food is, after all, what this blog is all about. If ever you are this side of the world, I would highly recommend any or all of these, they were truly brilliant experiences.
1. So first up there was the Back of the Bike Street Food Tour in Ho Chi Minh City. We started our trip here, for 4 days staying with a friend, Tom, who kindly put us up for a few nights. And so we packed as much in as possible before crossing into Cambodia. For any of you who have visited HCMC, you will be quite aware that the moped system is, quite frankly...crazy...all rules and road safety guidelines we have back home seem to be null and void over here. For a fresh off the plane traveller this can be just a little daunting at first, but I can assure you, they all seem to know what they are doing. Back of the Bike get you to hop on one of these infamous mopeds and they take you on a tour of HCMC, taking you to some of the districts that are off the tourist track and stopping at 5 of the best street food places they have on offer. Nervously clinging onto my wonderful guide Hoa, we set off...
I could not recommend this tour more. Each dish is completely different from the last, a true insight into what Vietnam has to offer food wise, and the lovely girls explain everything, often including how actually to go about eating it.
Goi Du Du Bo: julienned green papaya topped with Thai basil, dried beef liver (tastes like jerky), roasted peanuts and crackers. With lots of chilli and soy bean sauce.
Bun Thit Nuong from the ever smiling Ms Phuong: grilled pork, fresh rice noodles, toasted peanuts, shredded lettuce, herbs with lots of fish sauce...
Banh Khot: savoury coconut rice cakes topped with shrimp. Served with lots of herbs and sweet fish sauce.
Banh Canh Ghe: ocean crab soup with hand cut tapioca noodles, pork rinds, fried fish cake and green chilli sauce.
We even tried Bulot...something I thought I would never try. A 14 day old duck foetus cooked in its egg, this is one of those dishes which often appears on those round ups of the weirdest foods out there. After a little convincing we agreed to give it a go and I promise you, if you forget how it looks, and what it is, it is actually quite delicious...in a sort of hard boiled egg, cross chicken soup sort of way.
2. The next food highlight I want to share with you took place in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. I very quickly fell in love with Cambodia...a beautiful country with possibly some of the friendliest, most
lovely people I have ever met. Here in Phnom Pehn we did a day long cookery course, learning some of the most iconic Cambodian dishes. Along with a cup of tea in the morning, and obviously my wonderful friends and family, cooking has unsurprisingly been the one thing I have missed the most. So this was the perfect opportunity to get my hands dirty. We started the day off with a market tour where we picked up all of the ingredients for the day. Asian markets are a little different to those back home. It is crazy, crowded and hectic but a wonderful place to take in all the produce they have to offer. Freshness over here is a big thing. Live fish still swim around in buckets waiting to be swiftly done away with and filleted when chosen. Live chickens wander around too, equally waiting for their grizzly end. It is different, slightly shocking, and nothing we are used to but you can't deny they go to every length to make sure everything is as fresh as possible.
Back at the school we set about making our feast for the day...and boy was it a good'un. Fried spring rolls with taro and carrot, fragrant fish amok, banana blossom and chicken salad and sticky rice with mango and coconut were all on the menu. We had a wonderful teacher who talked to through everything we needed to know, and who made sure each dish was absolutely delicious. These are without doubt dishes I'll be recreating at home...as soon as I find somewhere that sources banana blossom in London...
3. My third and final meal of note was in Kep, right next to the beautiful, sleepy town of Kampot. Kampot and Kep were quite late additions to our travel itinerary, but boy am I glad we put them on. These beautiful, seaside towns made such a lovely change to the crazy cities we had frequented up until then. Kep is famous for it's seafood, namely it's crab market. We spent the day touring the sites...an underground temple, which involved me crawling, rather unladylike through a pitch black cave and a pepper farm, producing some of the infamous Kampot pepper.
Our supper stop however was at Kep. As I said, they are known for their crab...you sit overlooking the sea, watching the women wade in and out collecting the catch, to then be cooked for your supper. It was a magical evening, the seafood could not have been fresher and it was to die for served up with a whole lot of Kampot pepper sauce. As my lovely Mum would say, "this is not first date food", you use your hands, grapple the claws and make a true, delicious mess. We finished off our evening, full and sleepy, watching the sunset over the salt fields...not a bad way to end if you ask me...
I promise to keep you updated with more of our adventures soon...but for now, it's time for breakfast!