Cooking Abroad

I don’t consider myself a good cook. I do dabble in experiments in the kitchen but my repertoire is limited to : long cut adobo, paella, Italian style spaghetti and torta patata. Baking, on the other hand, is a different thing.

Back in Australia, our dinners were different from what I am used to in Manila. For one, rice was not a regular except if we have Chinese. And I am talking about food, not the nationality. Cooking, traveling or not, definitely saves a lot of money.

Below are some of the food Boo and I whipped up (except for the prune bread which I baked very early in the morning in my first week there).

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I must say that preparing and cooking your own food bring a different satisfaction. Yes, there are more plates to wash but getting first hand lessons from someone is a happy bonding time. Much better than a fine dining date.

And washing the dishes is never a chore when someone got your back. I am lucky to have Boo who is very comfortable in the kitchen and  Dotty who ate all the excess food.

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A Taste of Hongkong

Aside from shopping malls, night markets, temples and amusement parks, Hongkong is also a food trip haven. Admittedly, our lil family trip was not a food trip. In between walks, we were able to savor some cheap eats in  Kowloon and Hongkong Island.

Yes, we did try McD’s for their fries.

Straight from home

Straight from home

First meal is from Crystal Jade. A hot congee, a bowlful of noodles(not shown) and two kinds of dumplings.

bun and dumpling

bun and dumpling

Steamed dumpling

Steamed dumpling

Dinner at fishball and noodle restaurant near Nathan Road. Everything is meant for sharing — for us, that is.

Singaporean noodles

Singaporean noodles

Ground pork with egg

Ground pork with egg

Cold milk tea

Cold milk tea

Pineapple pork bun

Pineapple pork bun

Vegetable dumpling

Vegetable dumpling

We had no choice but get a burger meal while waiting for the fireworks show in Disneyland. Not that great burger but an image of my favorite alien gives me the happy disposition.

Alien burger

Alien burger

Basic Bangkok thru my viewfinder

Remember the line in Hangover 2, “She has taken them!”? She refers to Bangkok, them refers to the Hangover team. Well, it looks like she will take me once I get a fullblown Bangkok experience at the end of the month.

For the time being, I had to squeeze the quick Bangkok experience in between sessions, morning walks and the unpredictable rain. Yes, it rained when I was there yet it didn’t stop me to walk through the sights in the city of angels.

Cruising through Hanoi

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My two-day stay in Hanoi was not really enough to explore the temples (did not have a chance to visit one) or marvel at the whole Old Quarter (it was more of get lost in the Silk Street) but I made most of my free time feeling the city.

Watch out!

Wow, Do they love their motorcycles? It really didn’t matter if you are dressed in skirt or wearing shorts because motorcycles can really get you from point a to point b pronto. Saying that, one must be careful in crossing the streets. Being good navigators, drivers mastered the way of avoiding pedestrians. Just don’t panic when you see swarm of Vespas going your way.

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Hoam Kiem Lake

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Pho, banh mi and coffee

There are three foods that Viet Nam is famous for : rice noodles or pho, coldcut sandwich or banh mi and Vietnamese pressed coffee.

Pho is your typical rice noodles similar to the noodles used for pad thai. The difference is that the noodles swim in a bowl of tasty broth with a hint of cilantro, spring onions and red hot bell pepper. Srachi sauce and lemon are optional. You can pick out from three proteins to go with the noodles – chicken, beef or ground pork. One can get this from the swanky restos in the Old Quarter or the stalls at the nearest side street.

The true pho experience, however, is eating it on the side street with the rest of the common tao. The makeshift tables, plastic soup spoon, sweaty forehead and all, make slurping pho away an unforgettable dining experience. It didn’t matter that I had to do some kind of sign language while conversing with manang tindera for the type of pho that I want.

Cold cut sandwich reminiscent of cold heros is very Vietnamese if one is eating it with their baguette. Unlike the French counterpart of the bread, their baguette version is not as makunat as one can imagine. And one can buy this from vendors hawking them on their bicycles. Such a treat because it is like their version of pandesal at 12 pesos for a 6 inch bread! As for the spread, one can have the pate spread, chicken strips or ham over a bed of lettuce. Did I mention cheap and healthy?

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Dark  rich coffee that can really kick your ass. It can awaken the senses ala barako but it is best savored with condensed or fresh milk. The taste shouts pressed style, the Vietnamese way.

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You definitely have to forget all your imported high end coffee shops because in Hanoi, it is hip to sit on those low chairs sipping hooooot coffee.

Overruns overload

Viet Nam,lately, is also synonymous to Northface, Kipling and Samsonite at very low prices. Funny thing is that when we were looking at these stalls, there was only one toursit couple I saw buying the goods (probably for their backpacking trip up north) but met alot of pinoys. Are we the only one so into export overruns? One thing for sure, you will get a TNF Borealis at 80 percent off the original price. Be your own quality control when buying them, though.

Feel French

Being colonized by France, it is but logical that there are parts in the city that shouts French. And I am not referring to the bread or the fries (hehehe).

There is the Old Quarter which houses alot of buildings reminiscent of France with ornate facade and large columns. And these buildings house cafes, cosmetic shops, boutiques and all. Aaaah, and the lighting inside these stores add to the drama.

The grand Opera House and the rotunda ala Arc d Triomphe (based on my Vietnam 101) are the ultimate influence. Yellow and all, you will be in awe just like I did when I saw them.

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VIet Nam has a lot to offer aside from the food and the overruns. There are temples to explore, Halong Bay to pay homage to and all the historical places in Ho Chi Minh. One thing for sure, I will be back. Maybe soak in the Vietnamese culture, dip my feet in Halong Bay and crawl my way in Củ Chi tunnel. In between, I’ll still be sippling coffee and eating pho on those low chairs.

Not just a bag of coffee beans

Tagaytay is not what it used to be. No more cold mornings or bright days with cool air embracing you. The flower and the fruit stands are still ubiquitous…so are the establishments like international and local chains of fast food restos, grocery stores, travel agencies, ukay ukay shops and alike. I remember years ago that one has to go either to Dasmarinas bayan or Mendez to buy clothes or eat at a local fast food.

Nowadays, you just have to stand along the Aguinaldo highway to decide if you want some designer coffee, a Korean meal or burger to-go. Mushroom Burger is not your only option anymore.

My friends and I opted something out of the English garden – Bag of Beans. It could have been Sonya’s but given that we are all mega commuters (aka don’t have cars), we decided a heavy load of English pies and coffee instead.

When you think about it, the three ladies going to Tagaytay to lunch grab a bite is like fetching me up in the hilly place of the city of pineapples. I think they did enjoy their short stay even though they commuted longer than their actual stay in the city.

Ladies who grab (a bite)

Ladies who grab (a bite)

It was all out chikahan as if we haven’t seen each other for a long time. Oh yeah, we regularly do lunch (I mean, dinner) like the usual bunch of ladies at home especially when Her Jagness spends the night in Pasig. We’re practically neighbors – She’s from Makati; and  Doc, Teacher and I are next-door neighbors.

Over fraps, bottomless coffee, English and apple pies – we again discuss the merits of Love. And since we were in Tagaytay, the topic was more focused on Her Jagness since Bag of Beans holds a very special place in her heart. Just ask manong guard who took those photos a long time ago.

What is eating out in a very nice looking place ala The Secret Garden without the usual photo-ops? 

The daybed

The daybed

It was a great visit from friends. It didn’t matter that I had to wait a little longer while my officemates had gone home. I thank them for taking some time off and commute to Tagaytay. Our first out of town together, actually. 

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Not our ride back to Manila.