Tastin and Cookin

IMG_3109

When I was doing research for Hoi An going to a cooking class was something a lot of people and sites suggested. I decided on Morning Glory Advance Masterclass. The class started at 8:30 am and you get to go through the local market then to the school where you cook three different dishes for $39; sold. This was one of the things I was most excited about. I was the cheer leader for the cooking class and to say Phil was skeptical was definitely an understatement. It could have something to do with the fact that I dragged him/or group on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, which I still say is amazing and a must do, but Phil would say differently. I scheduled the class for Friday morning. I didn’t realize that would be a problem, but it was. When the alarm went off at 7:30 am the day after our Thanksgiving cruise/party evening it was the worst sound ever. I pressed snooze and wished that nine minutes would feel like three more hours. When the alarm went off again I yelled to Becky that we need to get up and both of us mumbled about how we couldn’t. Me the cheerleader then turned off the alarm and went back to be. Fail. I was so disappointed when I woke up later. I immediately emailed the school and asked if we could come in the next day and lucky enough for us they had room!!! Thank goodness because it was amazing. Even Phil will vouch for this outing. We had a cooking school student lead us around the market; showing us the different vegetables, tools they use, meats, fish, etc.

IMG_3066

IMG_3084

IMG_3091

Then they took us to the school and took us around to the different stations such as fried treats, rice meals, daily workers food, sweet treats, and the one that caught most people’s eye weird and wonderful. At the weird and wonderful station I tried silk worm salad, baby clams, spicy snails, duck egg embryo, spicy frog legs, jelly fish salad, and steamed pig brain. It was intense, the worm was chalky and grainy, the duck embryo tasted basically like a hard boiled egg but with more of a dense texture and the pig brain I actually can’t really remember so it must have been good? We made the rounds. I even tried making cao lau noodle which is a local staple from Hoi An. The recipe is only known by a few and almost impossible to get. The noodles are distinguishable by their thickness. Another item from Hoi An is the white rose dumpling, which are dumplings with a rose like shape (see picture below) and filled with either shrimp or pork. I also helped in making rice noodles patties and I was pretty good at it. That could be a potential carrier move.

Cau lao noodles

IMG_3126

Next we moved on to the hands on section. Becky and I were teammates and shared a work station. First we made cabbage leaf parcels with shrimp mousse in broth, bang xeo (Vietnamese pancake), and finally barbecue chicken and mango salad. We used an Vietnamese knife to cut the papya and as a parting gift we got one to take home with us! You can see it below; it is an interesting shape and unique tool. It made slicing mango very easy.

IMG_3134

IMG_3143

In the end we had a private tour of the market, a full meal, hour of trying food, and a knife to take home all for $39. You can’t beat that. Also it worked out well that we didn’t go the day we were hungover; I would not suggest trying pig brain or walking through a raw meat market hungover, but who am I to stop you. Follow me @Pilots_Daughter.

Thanksgiving Vietnam Style

IMG_3009

Thanksgiving was all of Becky’s doings; she had an idea and ran with it. Let’s just say our money goes a long way in Hoi An so our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty luxurious. We went on a private sunset dinner cruise. Yep is was awesome. Becky and I wanted to wear traditional Vietnamese outfits for Thanksgiving but then decided on matching pants and nón lá also known as leaf hats (my hat didn’t make it home from the bar that night but we went back and they had it so it is now safe and sound on my wall in Denver)We started with fresh spring rolls, then had crab and asparagus soup, barbecue fish fillets in banana leaf, Vietnamese eggplant, and finished with a fruit platter. They gave us little boxes with candles in them to make a wish on and put in the water. They also gave us access to the speakers—they probably regretted that one. We ended the night at Infinity Bar with our new friend Vihn. He was our server so we took him out and taught him how to play beer pong.

IMG_3016  IMG_3013 IMG_3011

IMG_3020

IMG_3022 IMG_3027

 1888672_10102459269082070_4515766995023302310_n 10404333_10152833392574462_8091270984643432622_n

Living the Dream in Hoi An

IMG_3042

I was smitten with Hội An. It was exactly what I expected Vietnam to be; a small village that allowed visitors to get a peak in the day-to-day lives of the people. Besides the city and countryside being amazing we also had the hook up with our accommodation. We rented the An Hai Villa off of Airbnb and it was amazing. It was about three miles outside of the Ancient Town but that was actually nice. The villa sleeps nine guests and it was just the four of us so it was spacious. Each morning we had fresh bread, eggs, fruit, and Vietnamese coffee waiting for us. I could go back just for the breakfast. So relaxing and comfortable. The villa also had a fridge with beer and wine that we could drink and mopeds all of which we would pay for later; making it easier on us.

IMG_3064

IMG_3051

IMG_2985

Our first day we hopped on our mopeds and headed to town. First stop was to get dresses made. Hội An is known for custom made clothes that are good quality and cheap. You go to the stores and look at mannequins and you can pick whatever you want or design whatever you want. You could walk up and say, “I want this top with that pattern but with this back from this other dress.” It was awesome. I had a romper made. We got our dresses, romper, and Phil got a suit made at Micky Tailor. You can check out Phil and I on their trip advisor. We then went and drove around for a bit looking at the rice paddies and exploring. We finished the afternoon with beers and spring rolls at the beach.

Don’t miss Hội An if you go to Vietnam.

We also took a cooking Class and had a sunset cruise for Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ll save that for future posts.

IMG_2996Moped IMG_2989IMG_2993 IMG_2992  IMG_2990

IMG_3002

IMG_3007

 IMG_3036

IMG_3037

IMG_3045 IMG_3058

Follow me on Twitter @Pilots_Daughter

France est Charlie

I landed in Paris on January 10th. This was the day after the hostage situation. My sister and I landed and headed straight to Lyon via train. We were so excited to visit the gastronomic capital of France. We knew we would probably notice some extra security at popular tourist sites because of the recent events but didn’t think there would be anything else to notice; we were wrong. France was immediately united and it was clear in every city you went. Everywhere you looked there were “Je suis Charlie” or “Nous sommes Charlie” signs. We also got to experience the march in Lyon. It was remarkable to see. Below are a few pictures of the how the country came together after such a tragedy.

IMG_3207

 IMG_3218IMG_3217  IMG_3320 IMG_3323 IMG_3330

-Paris-

IMG_3370

IMG_2163

Where the Watermelon Grow

image

Ideally we would have had more time to explore; more time to see it all but we didn’t. We had to settle with only one day in Hạ Long Bay. Most people do at least a three day cruise but like I said we didn’t have time. We thought about even skipping Hạ Long Bay but I am so glad we didn’t. Seeing/cruising around for a few hours was more than enough; it was stunning. We left at 8:30 in the morning and returned at 8 pm. We purchased our tour through Halong Bay One Day Tours for $39. image Hạ Long Bay was magical. When you leave the shore and head out all you see is all these different peaks and points shooting out of the water; hundreds of them. Hạ Long Bay translates to descending dragon. It is legend that Vietnam needed help protecting their land and sent to the gods for dragons. A mother dragon and her children came to earth and the mother shot out fire and emeralds to defend against the enemies. The emeralds were scattered along the water battlefield and created a protective wall i.e. the 1,600 limestone islands we see today. You can either believe the legend or that the limestone was naturally eroded by the wet tropical climate forming the pillars and karst—no judgement on what you believe. We enjoyed beers on the boat and kayaked around for a little at the one place we stopped. My advice? Don’t miss Hạ Long Bay.

  image image  image

image

imageimage  image

Above- Where we stopped to kayak.

Below- The cave we went inside.

imageimage

Follow me on Twitter @Pilots_Daughter

First Stop in Vietnam, Hanoi!

image

When we walked out of the Hanoi airport I was amazed, not because of the view but because I was actually here. I ran into a little issue in the Hong Kong airport with my Vietnam visa. I thought I was so prepared; I had the two copies of my passport photo, two copies of the entrance forms, my printed visa form, and $45 US dollars. I had it neatly in a folder and was ready to go. We go up to the Vietnam kiosk and hand over our visa letters with our passports. We stood there talking about getting bloody Mary’s while we waited if we could find a place that had them since we were early and then the lady put a paper back on the counter and said this person cannot go till tomorrow. I looked down positive it couldn’t be mine and of course it was. I was so confused. She started pointing at the date. It said November 26th and it in fact was the 24th. Shit. I must have been looking at the second flight we were going to take on the 26yh. The agent started talking about going to the embassy and changing my flight and how I can get there in two days. My face glazed over as I started seeing Hanoi disappear, Halong Bay disappear, and wasted money. Becky said don’t panic but that is exactly what I started to do. I stepped out of line and sat maybe three feet from the agent on the groud and dumped all my stuff out. You know that person you see in the airport looking distraught who you feel bad for because clearly something is goign really wrong? That was me. I went back to the visa website and saw I could buy a four hour visa so I did that first but that wasn’t ideal because I would miss my flight. I then emailed the people who sent my first wrong visa. Luckily they responded. I could get the dates changed in an hour for an additiaonl $85. Done! I agreed and made the payment. We had 1 hour and 15 minutes till check in closed at 2:30 pm. I got the visa emailed to me at 2:15 and was able to check in. If we needed a drink before we really needed a Bloody Mary after that.

-The infamous power lines of Hanoi.-

image

Back to the real subject of this post Hanoi. I was happy there. I loved it. I was amazed by the culture and people. It was so different than other places I had been and I wanted to see more and know more about Vietnam with each thing I learned. One of my favorite parts was that they use the sidewalks as restaurant and bar space and the seats and tables are plastic. You know those small stools you would use for toddlers to be able to reach the bathroom sink? Those are the seats they would put out for you to sit and have a beer or tea and sunflower seeds. Hundreds of people would be sitting there. And if you think they are at full occupancy they would just pull out another stool. Same with the restaurants. You want a table? They would pull out a plastic table off of the stack and then put the stools down for you to sit on. If there was a place for them to put a sign on the wall or sit that could be a restaurant. People would even have pop up places, that is what I’m calling them, where they just had a portable burner and would just sit down and people would come to be served. That was the kitchen. It was seriously so cool to see.

Another thing we quickly noticed was that there were barely any street lights. In the downtown Hanoi where we did all our street crossing there were none. Cars are very expensive and most of the families cannot afford them so they all ride scooters. This means hundreds of scooters carrying thousands of people, sometimes four at a time, through the streets. This made for the scariest time crossing the street. Imagine screaming, lots of waiting, and being petrified. On our way out one night we met two guys from our hostel who were actually from Denver as well, small world, and they taught us the trick to cross the street. You look at them and walk consistently right into traffic. Sounds like a trick but it works. They just go around you. If you “frog hop” they might hit you.

image

The French influence was very apparent in the food from the pho to the bahn mi which makes sense because they were French Indochina from 1902 to 1954. Our first night we went to Porte d’Annam for dinner and had amazing spring roll apps and pho. I learned that the pho is different based on whether you get it from northern or southern Vietnam. The pho we had in Hanoi was beef and pork. The second night we had street food. I can’t tell you exaclty what we had becuase no matter what I pointed to and asked for they served me what they wanted and however much they wanted. They gave us a bowl of sauce, plate of fresh greens like cilantro and sprouts, and then a plate of fried spring rolls and dumplings; I think.

image

We also went out in Hanoi which was really fun. We went to Hair of the Dog, Base, and Light House.  The first two are easy to get to from probably whatever hostel you are staying at by walking (we stayed at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- The Original). They are only open till 12:30 though so the Lighthouse is a club that is open late into the morning hours. This is the diviest club I have ever been to. Dirt floors and just not much to it at all besides walls, but it was awesome! This club attracted the typical backpackers; English, Australian, and Irish. I spent a good portion of the night talking to an Irish guy about marriage to gain citizenship. It is that type of place. Like I said before I loved it.

image

-Pictures from our walking tour-

image

After our walking tour our guide took us to get Vietnamese coffee on a roof top cafe. This was an egg cream coffee so the it had whipped egg whites in it.

image

image

We had a 7 pm flight from Hanoi to Hoi An. I had the best bahn mi sandwich that cost $1 and we finally got our Bloody Marys.

#allthedumplingz

If you know me you know one of my passions in life is dumplings. I was so excited to go to Hong Kong to eat at least one dumpling a day—we had one and then some. This could possibly be one of my most favorite posts (only a all hot dog post to rival) Below is my dream post all about my Hong Kong dumpling consumption:

(If you were wondering about the title of this post, that was our hashtag for our trip. Go to instagram and look at all our photos!)

We started with take out dumplings from Central Hong Kong and munched on these while getting ready to go out. Then we ended our night at the “Denny’s” of Hong Kong.IMG_1854

IMG_2684IMG_2682

Next was dumplings in Mongkok before the Ladies Market opened. I had pork, and tried Phil’s shrimp. Becky and I were in love with the dipping sauces and basically drank them from the bottles. We are working on our manners…

IMG_2733  IMG_2735IMG_2736 IMG_2734

IMG_2733

Then after the market I of course wanted another dumpling. I got a steamed bun this time that had veggies and pork in it. The bun was like eating a sticky cloud; slightly sweet and the perfect dough flavor.

IMG_2751 IMG_2750 IMG_2748IMG_2749  IMG_2747 IMG_2746

All the dumplings were amazing but I have to say my favorite was at Tim Ho Wan, which is the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. Our total bill at the one star restaurant was $27. What The most amazing and probably life changing was the pork buns. Instead of a typical sticky fluffy dough bun it was a flaky buttery and crispy bun. I have not had a bun like that before and I am already dreaming about going back for another. I was so excited to eat here that I forgot to take pictures of any of the dumplings besides the pork bun. I apologize to the group. We had the taro soup (this is what I am calling it) for dessert and that was great too. Taro reminds me of like a sweet milk flavor. I’m definitely a fan.

IMG_2845 IMG_2853IMG_2846IMG_2855  IMG_2851

The Big Buddha

IMG_2839

A trip to the big buddha at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island is also a must when visiting Hong Kong. Tian Tian Buddha is the proper name for seated bronze buddha that is 112 feet tall. It represents “harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and religion.” It gets the name Tian Tian because the base of the buddha is modeled after the Tian Tian aka Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

IMG_2811IMG_2803

IMG_2812 IMG_2813 IMG_2815 IMG_2823

Also near the buddha is the Po Lin Monastery which is an active monastery. There are multiple temples that are are beautiful vibrant colors.

IMG_2824 IMG_2836IMG_2833IMG_2829

To get home we took the Ngong Ping 360 home. It was a three and half mile gondola ride to the Tung Chung Terminal.

 IMG_2842

Becky was a little nervous…

IMG_2841  IMG_2844

Follow me on Twitter @Pilots_Daughter

Fish, Salt, And Stilts

image

On our second day in Hong Kong Phil took us outside of the city to Lantau Island. We took a cab to get there and got very lucky with getting one. One way to get to to the island is to take the Ngong Ping 360 which is a gondola. We were a little slow to get up that morning. Why were we slow? It actually wasn’t because of the street beers we had consumed the night before but instead because we had to get a full american breakfast at the Flying Pan and Starbucks. Yep that was us. Becky and I got the Bloody Bull which was a bloody Mary with beef stock so we thought we were being semi cultural with our breakfast? After our cultural breakfast we got to the spot to get on the Ngong Ping 360 and there was a 45 minute wait so we decided to take the bus instead. We got in line for the bus and it was looking like a two hour wait so we said we can splurge and get a cab; by splurge I mean about $4 a person. We got in line for the blue cabs that specifically go to Lantau Island because the red ones do not (little tip). Slowly we noticed that in the 15 minutes that we stood there only one cab came. At this speed and with the amount of people in front of us we could have been in this line for two hours. We decided to go back to the original plan, Ngong Ping 360. We were in line for about five minutes when a blue cab pulled up to drop some people off. Phil hopped the fence and grabbed the cab. Alas we were on our way. Back to my original point, get there early or stick to one line.

image

Tai O is a small fishing village known for the traditional stilt houses located on the Western coast of Lantau Island. There is a seafood market selling all things seafood and the traditional shrimp paste. The house style dates back to the 19th century. Tai O used to be one of Hong Kong’s major fishing ports for more than 200 years and also a huge salt industry back in the 30’s and 40’s. It had a population of about 30,000 and now it has about 2,000. Nowadays it is more of a tourist attraction and the actual fishing is not a sustainable as it once was.

The marekt was full of dried and salted fish. I tried the dry shrimp and I hate to ever admit that I don’t like something so all I am going to say is I did not need to have another one. I also had a donut, egg custard tart, barbequed octopus, and salt baked quail eggs. We took a boat ride out to try to get a glimpse of the pink dolphins but we weren’t the lucky ones that day.

image image

image

imageimage image  image image

image imageimage

Next stop Tian Tan Buddha!

Follow me on Twitter @Pilots_Daughter