Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You are what you eat

So what's a Cancer supposed to feast for his birthday?

Before moving on to the mouth watering droolage pictures, here's my amusing horoscope:

Today's birthday
(July 20) This year represents a return to the levels of excitement and hope you held in childhood. Nurturing relationships figure into the equation. August turns up your ambitious drive -- a goal is reached in October. Places you see in November are mind-expanding and beautiful, but make you appreciate home. Aries and Scorpio people are fellow adventurers. Lucky numbers are: 2, 12, 3, 20 and 35.

I'm cracking up at the "return to childhood excitement" bit and can't wait to see what corner of the world will I be in November! On the top of my list is Nepal so let's hope there'll be a cheap tix around that time :)

Poor little sideway crustacean

One humongous crab + lots of chili garlic & green onions = a happy Cancer

You can't expect me to be content with just one dish, can you?

The place: Chili Crab Under the Bridge
The verdict: 3 claws out of 5. One of the locals recommended this place to us. As the name suggested, the garlic chili crab pictured above is their signature dish. We were obliged to order the dish even though it has a pricey tag of HK$400ish. Since I just came back from Nha Trang, VN where I feasted on lots of fresh seafood for a fraction of the price, this was definitely an eyebrow raiser. My disappointment with the dish has nothing to do with the price but of the way they cook the dish. The fresh crustacean was deep-fried 'til oblivion. Its shell was brittle and the meat lost its moist and fresh characteristic. It's overwhelmed by a mound of house special mixture of garlic, salt & chili. Be forewarn that although we chose the "just a little spicy" option, the heat was a tastebud killer. The other dish, a bountiful plate of clams swimming in a sea of garlic & spices combined with a hoisin-based sauce receive a lipsmacking thumbs up by both of us. I wish there was a hard baguette handy so I can soak up the delicious sauce. We also ordered a seafood fried rice that actually have bits of real shrimp and other seafood. It wasn't bad but there was also nothing special to write about. Also offered to us gratis were a plate of chicken feet steamed in Chinese herbs and a refreshing soupy dessert with yams. Our bill for the food + beer & soda came out to be around HK$500 which puzzled us since we initially thought the crab alone was already $450??? I highly doubt it was a miscalculation since such miscalculations are almost always benefit the house rather than the patrons. Maybe the shoplady was enchanted by my crabby demeanor and decided to take pity on us? :)
So there you have it, my induction into the big 3-0 club resulted in a foodcomaed evening. Definitely a pleasant change from episodes of drunken debauchery of the past. Could it be I finally grow up? Nah..... perish the thought....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Eating my way out of Vietnam, Part Deux

Caught the Hanh Cafe bus (US$3 from STA office on De Tham) to Da Lat to attend a wedding. What supposed to be a 6 hour ride turned into an 10 hr adventure due to a traffic accident that clogged the highway and also our bus had a flat. Surprisingly, most of the backpacker passengers were good sport. I didn't hear any whining about delay at all. I'm happy to see people sacrifice their usual comfort for the joy and understanding of travel.

Besides the catered meals I had at the wedding receptions, which were neither good or bad, I did manage to get away and snack on some street-food yumminies. There's a "banh xeo" stall near Da Lat market that makes tasty crepe, albeit a little greasy. It's a quaint family-run operation with dad making the crepes on a coalfired oven, mom plays the cashier, teenage daughter's task of making all tables get basketful of herby vegetables and refilling the teapots complete the operation. The banh xeo's filling consists of tiny shrimps and octupus instead of the traditional pork. At 2000 dong (US$0.15) each, these banh xeo are a perfect treat for an afternoon snack rather than the full size version usually served at other restaurants. You can find these guys on a side alley on the left of the central bus terminal on the main road that lead to Da Lat market. Let your nose and tastebuds lead you to this gem.

My short stay in Da Lat ended with a refreshing cocktail at Pho Nui, a popular rooftop cafe with a great view of the city. There was even a live band that play traditional heritage music that night. Check them out on a clear night for a visual treat but I recommend bringing a light jacket or sweater as Dalat's cool air can be chilly to some.

The rest of my short trip to Vietnam was spent in Nha Trang for lots of sun soaking and scuba diving. I visited Lac Canh, with its smoky BBQs and delicious beef as well as other seafood dishes. It's a popular joint so no doubt you've heard of it or been there. I'm probably not the first or the last to recommend this place so check it out if you're ever in Nha Trang. Other places that I dined at include Com Viet Nam, a nononsense restaurant that served the usual Vietnamese fare at a reasonable price.

Enough drooling on food porn? Here's a few photos of Nha Trang from my window at Yasaka hotel. Hehe, I'm usually not the type that would stay at a fancy hotel but luckily, this stay was comped so I'm not complaining.

The rest of the pics can be found here. Bon appetite and bon voyage.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"What, all you did in Vietnam was eat????"

A round of "Dzo, 100%" from all the good eats I've gotten from my trip to Vietnam. My tummy is punishing me right now because I indulged in one too many tamarind candy that A brought back from the Phillippines. That old adage, moderation's the key, rings true again. Oh well, live and learn. I'm thankful for the endless supply of Imodium that I brought from the US.

Where to start... Let this be a post where you can follow my cookie crumbs via a myriad of food porn. Let's hope you've caught up with the 21st century by having broadband connection else you'd be hella frustrated with the slow loading photos...

My first meal was at the invitation of a local friend. The place was Co Ngu restaurant. Located at 222 Pasteaur in District 3 HCMC, the restaurant's setting gets a thumbs up for those looking to impress or relax. The atmosphere of being in a French villa with its shaded trees, high ceiling with rectangular light fixture is nice and enjoyable but the food left little to be desired. We ordered the goi ngo sua, aka jellyfish salad, and crab asparagus soup along with luon chien muoi ot, aka grilled eel served with chili salt. The salad itself was okay but the accompany shrimp crackers were stale which is a major disappointment as the crackers are an important part of this dish's (or any other goi dishes) success. The soup was bland and required a heavy dose of white pepper to make it palatable. And don't even get me started on the eel as the portion was so skimpy and the presentation was so uninspiring that I didn't bother to take a photo.

I have a feeling my friend wanted to impress me, a visiting foreigner hence her choice of Cu Ngu but I would rather enjoy great food at a stall than lackluster offerings in a nice restaurant.
The next morning's breakfast made up for the disappointment. A short walk from my hotel led me to Thanh Noi at 75-77 Cong Quynh, District 1. Hue food with its spicy offerings isn't exactly a foreigner's breakfast of choice but what the hell, when in VN, do like the Vietnamese.

The Bun bo Hue was average because it didn't have enough of the spicy kick that bun bo is known for. However, the other Hue offerings such as banh bot loc & banh nam was quite tasty. The rice flour dough was soft yet chewy and the fillings is delish. The nuoc cham was a good blend as well. My tab of the noodle & the other treats + an iced coffee along with wet nap came out to be less than 35,000 dong or US$2.25.

As I wander aimlessly looking for the next tasty street treat, I spotted a KFC. Fear not, I wasn't about to betray my pseudo-foodie badge... However, I was tempted to go inside as I just happened to be wearing one of these. Somehow I don't think the local employees would get the humor...

Dinner that night was at a noname restaurant on Cach Mang Thang Tam. I'm pretty sure it had a name but my memory is betraying me at this moment. I do remember that my 3 dishes meal along with 2 bottles of Tiger set me back a whopping 125,000 dong or US$7.75. Need to wire home for some $ to fund my extravagant eating habit, I say.
  • Tho xao lang - rabbit in a coconut-curry like sauce with cellophane noodle
  • Cha dum dac biet - House special meatloaf
  • Oc buu chien don - Tempura snails

Tune in next for the seafood chowdown in Nha Trang...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Silly tee or silly me

Haven't been sleeping well lately for various reasons. So as I was sleepwalking to the local mall to pick up my laundry, I spotted a grandma wearing a white t-shirt with noticeable pinkish writing that says: "Pussy Institute..." I did double and tripple take just to make sure my eyes weren't betraying me... Wish I had a camera handy :) Even here in Hong Kong, the land of counterfeit goods, I still get a kick out of seeing funny knockoff brand names and insane messages.

On a foodie note, I'm off to Vietnam for a week of R&R. Got my PDA set up with restaurants that were reviewed by various bloggers. Can't wait to give my two cents on those joints. I'll also be bringing home lots of goodies and seeds so A. can plant herbs & vegetables in our spare bedroom. Yes, I said bedroom!

Plane's flappity flap in 2 hours so I'm outtie. Keeping my fingers crossed that I won't be served the shitty food that noodlepie recently endured.

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