Alternative Homemaker

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My good friend Anjali is one of the most creative people I know. In the 12+ (!) years that I’ve known her, there has never been a time that she hasn’t been working on a new project (or three). These projects have included (but have not been limited to): jewelry-making, sewing her own clothing, knitting, making decorations for theme parties (and coming up with ideas for theme parties), papier-mache, designing outrageous Halloween costumes, and developing interesting (and attractive!) concoctions in the kitchen.

That latter interest has recently led her to make her first foray into the world of blogging, so that she can share her creations and the results of her experiments with the world.

My favorite posts so far are:

…with many more on the way. I can’t say the various attempts at bacon ice cream really do much for me, but I am a chickentarian after all.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention — by day she’s kicking ass as a first-year medical student, and this is somehow done during her copious amounts of free time.

Snow and More Snow

I’m in California for the weekend visiting my family. I just decided to check weather back in Seattle so that I’d know what to expect upon arriving early tomorrow morning. Gorgeous:

Interestingly, Kenny told me that snow was a pretty rare occurrence in Seattle during his first six winters there. This is my fifth winter in Seattle, and we’ve seen snow every year. El Nino/La Nina? Climate change? (Somebody get Al Gore on the phone)

And while it looks like this coming week will be complete crap, it bodes well for snowboarding next weekend! This will be my first chance this winter, since I’ve been out of town for six weekends out of the last seven. Crystal got six inches last night.

On Being Chickentarian in Indochina

Being chickentarian* in Vietnam and Cambodia involved some challenges, but in general it wasn’t too difficult. I think that being vegetarian, on the other hand, would be much more difficult.

A few observations:

  • Interestingly, I had an easier time finding good chickentarian food in the north than in the South (perhaps nowhere was as easy as Hang Ga)
  • The chickentarian options on the Santa Maria Cruiser (Halong Bay) were fantastic and plentiful.
  • Hue seemed to be a pho bo town for some reason — it was very hard to find ga, except at Pho 24 (more about Pho 24 in a later post).
  • There are also many “Hue specialties” — food dating back to Imperial Vietnam — almost all of which contain pork. FWIW, they look very good.
  • There was all kinds of seafood to be had in Nha Trang, which was all kinds of goodness.
  • We had two meals in the street stalls in Vinh Long, one before and one after our boat trip. Vinh Long is somewhat remote, and very few people spoke English there. The first time it was a bit difficult to find anything — but a nice vendor made me a banh xeo (pancake that normally contains shrimp and pork) without the pork, in response to some very creative sign language on Kenny’s part. The second time, we had com ga (rice with chicken), which was fine, if a bit boring.
  • Back in Saigon, it wasn’t especially easy to find chicken, and when we did, it was often a bit plain. In Saigon and elsewhere, we had a couple of dishes called “chicken with chili and lemongrass” that were disappointing (although we had an amazing version of the same in Hanoi!). Our three (!) meals at Pho 2000 were the exception — this was probably the highest quality chicken we had on our entire trip.
  • One time while we were in Saigon, we sat down in a restaurant without inspecting the menu first. After we saw the menu, we noticed that there was nothing for me and had to walk out!
  • There’s a lot of pork in Cambodia, especially if you stick to Khmer food. Fortunately, there’s always amok (with fish or chicken — I recommend fish)!
  • I’m certain that there were a few times, in both Vietnam and Cambodia, that I unknowingly consumed dishes cooked with meat. C’est la vie.

In general, both the chickentarian (me) and the meatatarian (Kenny) ate very well in both Vietnam and Cambodia.

*This term means different things to different people. For me, it means: poultry and seafood are fine, but no mammals.

Tropical Fruits

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Kenny and I were extremely excited to try all the fruits we could while in Vietnam and Cambodia. We had many old favorites and got to experience quite a few new ones as well:

  • Bananas – apparently there are five types of bananas that grow in Vietnam. I don’t remember how many types we tried, but most of the ones we had were very small.
  • Green orange – these taste just like oranges, but they are green on the outside instead of orange! Most of the local just call them oranges, although it felt so wrong to me to call something green an orange. When we told our Mekong Delta guide that oranges are orange back in the US, she couldn’t believe it!
  • Green coconut – not too different from the brown variety, but in green!
  • Dragonfruit – my favorite! They are fuschia on the outside, with green tentacles. On the inside, they are white with little black seeds. They are extremely refreshing, especially when cold. We always ate them with spoons.
  • Papaya – just like the ones at home.
  • Green papaya – usually in salads. Delicious.
  • Mango – Nha Trang had the best mangoes I’ve ever tasted.
  • Pineapple – we had delicious pineapples in both Cambodia and Vietnam.
  • Watermelons – the watermelons in Vietnam are much smaller than the ones we usually get at home, although they taste about the same.
  • Palm fruit – we had never heard of palm fruit, until one of our drivers at Angkor Wat pointed it out to us and then procured some for us to try. It has the texture of lychee meat, but not much discernible flavor, although it’s quite refreshing.
  • Rambutan – they’re like lychees, but they have curly red alien tendrils on the outside. Quite tasty.
  • Longan – these are also similar to lychees, but smaller. The seed to meat ratio is high.
  • Starfruit – in Vietnam, starfruit is eaten with salt and a little bit of chili pepper.
  • Jackfruit – we didn’t like the first one we tried, in Siem Reap. We had our second one in the Mekong, and we both quite enjoyed it. I don’t know whether it grew on us, or the Vietnamese one was better.
  • Water apple – we tried green ones and red ones when we were in the Mekong. They mostly taste like water, with a slight tart flavor. 
  • Sapodilla – I never saw a whole one, but I had some sapodilla in fruit shake form and later in a fruit salad at the Hotel Rex in Saigon. It was brown and mushy and I didn’t quite like it.

We also tried something on our Halong Bay cruise that had a texture like jicama, but the flavor of a pear. Unfortunately I never saw what it looked like on the exterior, because they were always served to us pre-sliced (and skinned?). But if you have any idea what I’m talking about, I’d love to know the name.

Some fruits we wanted to try but never found:

  • Mangosteen – supposedly these are delicious. We realized later that we might have seen them in a market in Saigon (but nowhere else).
  • Soursop – we never had a solid one, but we tried it in fruit shake form, which was delicious
  • Custard apple – I’ve heard of this, but I’m not sure what it is.

And although we saw many of them around the markets, we never did work up the courage to try durian. The smell was enough to scare us away.