Durians for sale


Fresh durians

Here’s a large crate of the durians I previously mentioned. The previous post didn’t show the outside so here it is. Notice the very sharp and hard spikes. Yes, people do get injured from durians. When the vendors open them they wear very thick gloves and use a huge machete. Before they open a durian they use a long stick to tap it and listen for a hollow sound. If it gives a hollow thump, it should be ripe! Some customers will even take control of the stick whacking themselves as everyone is in search of the perfect durian.

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Chili beer!


Chili beer - brewed in the US

Here’s a really interesting beer that I found in Hanoi as we were leaving.  I like beer, I like chilies, and it sounded quite strange so of course I had to buy it.  After purchasing, I was happily surprised to find a real chili (serrano I believe) floating inside.  I was even more surprised when I examined the label closely and discovered the beer is not from Vietnam or even anywhere in the vicinity.  This chili beer was actually brewed in Arizona!  Great, so I come all the way to the other side of the world to find an interesting drink that is made right inside my home country. Well anyhow, the beer itself did taste very good.  The beer had a nice spicy kick, but it wasn’t overwhelming.  Try to imagine the amount of flavor a lime wedge might add to a Corona and then you’ve got it. Since I can’t get these in Bangkok, I might have to start expirementing with creating my own concotions using Thai chilis….

You can find out more about this beer at there website: The Chili Beer Company.  Maybe next time I’m in the US I’ll try to find a few in the local specialty beer store.


Yeah, that's a real chili in there!

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Excellent Hanoi fish


The whole setup

This is a famous fish dish from Cha Ca La Vong restaurant in Hanoi. It is the only dish they serve although serve is used rather loosely here since the patrons end up doing the cooking. I must admit, this fish was extremely tasty–my best meal in Vietnam. A simple mix of fish with dill and chives in there special broth. A few more accompaniments and you have a nice bowl of food. Here’s the kicker: an essence extracted from the ca cuong beetle is the supposed secret ingredient. Apparently this essence is in such high regard that it is worth it’s weight in gold. Many say it smells like perfume and a few drops are added to Vietnamese fish sauce to remove some of the fishiness. Way more info on this can be found here.


Cooking away...


A tasty serving

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Sea cucumber soup


Sea cucumber piece

Well, I just posted about sea cucumbers and now I had a chance to try them myself. Interesting, but I won’t be seeking them out again. This dish was at a fancy Chinese restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. First of all the texture wasn’t too appealing. A bit crunchy and a bit rubbery with some sliminess mixed in. The taste itself was not bad, just rather bland. The soup had a thick gravy like broth that was also quite bland. I know this is a huge generalization, but it seems to me that many Chinese foods have a bland overtone to them. I feel like this especially applies to their sweets and more exotic dishes, but not the standard stuff you would eat. I’m sure many of you will disagree with me there.


Sea cucumber soup

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Rose apple tree

Pictured here is a rose apple tree. Rose apples, called chompuu [ชมพู่] in Thai, are very common when in season around here. A tasty fruit, they are very juicy with a firm flesh, but not too sweet. I have never seen them in the US. Supposedly it grows quite easily and is almost considered a weed.  It is located on most continents and even grown in Florida, so I’m not sure why people in America aren’t eating these? They sure are missing out!


Rose apple tree

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Jackfruit vendor


Jackfruit vendor in Vietnam

Here’s another jackfruit street operation.  this one’s from Vietnam and you can see the vendor preparing jackfruit for somebody.  No need for a shop, just set up anywhere along the street and start to sell you wares.  Sometimes you’ll see a mass exodus, though, as the police walk by and the illegal vendors don’t feel like paying their ‘fine’.

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Tasty fish in Vietnam


Tasty Fish - Before


Tasty Fish - After

Check out these before and after shots of a tasty fish we had beside the Mekong river in Vietnam.  Nothing too special to note of the fish-just your typical asian fried fish-but I was really intrigued by the fish holder.  It makes breaking off pieces of meat a lot more fun than the usual task it turns out to be.

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Here’s something plain but interesting. I think most of us have heard of tapioca, but maybe not had much experience with it. The only real experience I can recall is of tapioca pudding when I was younger. Anyway, here is the actual root in all it’s boring glory. This food is similar to a potato in some ways. It’s very starchy and quite plain by itself. Tapioca is actually the starch extracted from a plant that goes by many names, most commonly cassava. It is found worldwide.
This photo was taken at the Chu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War many of the Vietnamese relied almost entirely on tapioca to keep themselves from starving. It’s sometimes dipped in a chili sauce to add a bit of flavor, but otherwise it was quite a bland diet. These days I find it most common in southeast asian desserts.





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Vietnamese snails



Here are some snails we order in Ho Chi Minh City. An interesting food, but I’m not a big snail lover in the first place and these certainly did sway me. I suppose not too bad, but I always find snails a bit rubbery. Maybe I have just never had any good ones. Anyway, there are a lot of large snails around Southeast Asia and these ones seemed pretty big to me. I wonder if the French influence has anything to do with snail consumption, or perhaps the enjoyment of escargot is a result of Southeast Asian influence on France? They pulled all the snails out of the shell first, chopped them up, threw them in a mixture of spices and batter, then restuffed the shells. I did enjoy being able to easily get the stuffing out by pulling on the ‘plant-stem handles’. I still think I prefer it when you take the snail right out of the shell yourself. Anyway, I am always tempted when I see snails on a menu, I just need to get it into my head that I don’t really enjoy them.


The mixture inside

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Thai eggplant salad


Thai eggplant salad

Thailand has many kinds of eggplants.  Before I moved to Thailand the only eggplant I knew of was the big purple one and it wasn’t even used in that many dishes (that I knew of).  Well, they don’t have the big purple eggplant over here.  Instead they have long eggplants (makua yao [มะเขือยาว]), small green eggplants (makua [มะเขือเปราะ]), bitter eggplants (makua kuen [มะเขือขื่น]), pea eggplants (makua puang [มะเขือพวง]), and even miniature versions of some of these.  They all taste somewhat similar, but not very similar to the big purple eggplant we know.  They also differ in that, while they can be cooked, many are commonly eaten raw and dipped in chili sauces (nam prik [น้ำพริก]).  The bitter ones mentioned above are used in somtom for flavor and not typically eaten as a vegetable.  All in all, I enjoy eggplants of all types, but I find these Thai eggplants to be much more versatile.

Pictured here is a cooked and prepared version of the long green eggplant.  This is yam makua yao [ยำมะเขือยาว] which is basically a Thai version of a salad.  The eggplant is mixed with shrimp, chilis, and a sour sauce.  Most Thai style salads [ยำ] are mixed with a similar sour sauce.

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