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Part 1 here, written September last year.

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the arts of sitting on kiddies’ chairs

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Restaurants: I’m combining both Vietnamese and Western this time ’cause some of them don’t fit in either.

– Madame Lân: My new favorite! I had passed this place so many times but didn’t go until a couple of weeks ago. The menu is Vietnamese and extensive, and the prices are very unexpectedly reasonable. You can get a variety of noodles or order dishes to share family style. Love sitting by the infinity pool and get the breeze from the river.

– Hà Nội Xưa: I’m extra picky when it comes to Hanoi food. I know what it should taste like, and outside of Hanoi, it goes wrong way too often. This place is quite strange compared to the normal Vietnamese place. It’s closed on Sunday, they sell one dish for breakfast, and one dish for lunch/dinner. They can sell out pretty fast too, and never seem too interested in making more, or opening longer hours.

– Pizza Hug: the bastard child of Vietnamese noodle and Italian pasta, i.e. pasta way overcooked and soggy in a bath of sauce.

– Hang’s kitchen: My go-to when I crave extra protein in the form of burgers. It’s my favorite in their menu. They have promotion night (buy 1 get 50% off) and also Mexican night, but I’m not fond of their version of burrito which I find way too soggy and lacking in ingredients. Bonus point: They always deliver with a free copy of the Word, a high quality travel lifestyle magazine for expats in Vietnam. And their restaurant has a few racks of books for you to browse or borrow, or in my case, they even gave me for free!

– Family Indian restaurant: Everyone raves about this place. At least everyone I know in Da Nang that eats Indian food. I went once and can’t even remember what I got because it was pretty mediocre.

– Mumtaz: For Indian, I prefer Mumtaz. My friend was visiting and the 3 places that we wanted to check out were all closed that night. Not knowing where else to go, we cruised the street and happened to see Mumtaz and decided to give it a try. Good curry, but lassi is too cardamom-y.

– My Casa: a new-comer that is trending right now with a menu boasting Spanish, Italian, and Malaysian food. I haven’t tried their tapas. Their home-made pasta is a hit with ground beef, and a miss if it’s carbonara. I’d not get the Malaysian dishes. Nice outdoor seating but beware of mosquitos.

– Tam’s Pub and Surf Shop: ok, this place has history, I get it. But I don’t get the rave for their burgers. Average.

– Waterfront: Good pasta, decent burger. Now I’m thinking I’m also extra picky when it comes to burger though I’m not from burger-land.

– Sakura Friends Cafe: Run by a Japanese charity in support of an orphanage, next door to Japanese language center. The menu has everything from green tea drink to tempura to soba. The food isn’t amazing but it’s cheap. I love the quite atmosphere, the wooden decor, and best of all the small but very pleasing garden that shields us from the noisy street outside.

 

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Bars & cafes:

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Everyone has their own curse. When I first went to the US, I outweighed the freshman 15, going from 105 to 122 lbs in just 7 months, thanks to a nightly diet of quesadillas and mozzarella sticks paid for by pampering upperclassman. My parents panicked a little seeing my manapua face in the photos I emailed home, and gently advised me to watch my eating as they didn’t want me to become too American. Didn’t happen; my weight stubbornly hovered around 120. But once I returned home, the old weight also decided to come back. I already eat more than any of my female friends (except for the pregnant ones) and yet the fat or muscle or whatever it is between my skin and my bone keeps disappearing. It’s disgusting how easily I can count my ribs. Blame it on the no-cheese diet.

Fed up with this pathetic lack of meat, I decided to go on the offensive: 1.3 liter of oatmeal shake every day: 80g dry instant oat, 200ml low fat milk, 200g plain yogurt, 1/3 tbsp PB, and a variety of fruits. I’m having fun with experimenting new tastes, like adding passion fruit, ginger, cacao powder, or putting carrot pulp back in the mix. But cleaning a 8-piece blender/juicer is a pain. And it’s not easy to down 1.3liter; my belly is bloated. Desperate measures for desperate times. It’s been a week and I’m not seeing any changes yet, but crossing my fingers it will leave some visible trace.

shake collage

The culinary scene of Da Nang isn’t as nearly exciting as Hanoi or Saigon, or even Hue for that matter. There are plenty of street food and cheap eateries, but they mostly offer the same fare: mỳ Quảng (Quảng province noodle), bún thịt nướng (noodle with grilled pork), and nem lụi (grilled ground pork on skewers). Non-Vietnamese options aren’t that diverse either.

I actually cook for the most part, and only eat out when visitors are in town. Following are the places that we’ve graced 🙂 Ideas mostly come from tripadvisor, indanang (a site for expats in Da Nang), foody.vn (the tripadvisor for food in Vietnam), and danangcuisine (a site dedicated to local food).

My reviews are divided into Vietnamese, Western, Cafes, and Bars.

eating out Read the rest of this entry »

food collage

 

Easter 2010,

Oaxaca is 450 kms and normally 5 hours away, but traffic was expectedly congested so I figured it’d likely take twice as long. I decided against hitchhiking right outside of Mexico City. It’s never a good idea to thumb up at by a busy toll. Everyone’s pissed after sitting too long in the crawling traffic. And as people speed by, they tell themselves there’s a good chance the car right behind may stop. Plus, Mexico City is really not the nicest city on earth to just be hanging out on the road.

I spent an hour on the bus to Puebla, and took my chance there. Within 10 minutes of getting off the bus, I got picked up by a sales rep of a national milk company. He was going all the way to Oaxaca. Great, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting more rides. But I was a little nervous, not so much thanks to the forbidding threat from my supervisors when they found out I wanted to hitchhike, but because it was my first time riding for such a long distance. I have the good habit of falling asleep if I’m in the passenger seat for more than an hour. The steady speed at which the scenery passes is a soporific lullaby to my eyes. This spells trouble when hitchhiking long distance because a/it’s rude to the stranger driver – I should keep the person company even if no conversation is required, and b/it’s not wise to be unconscious on the road. The driver was nice, but we didn’t really click so conversation was mostly cordial. Sleepiness crept up; a couple of times I did find my head jerking ahead from almost nodding off, and immediately fought back by pinching myself and biting my tongue.

We left Puebla at 9 a.m and finally crossed into Oaxaca 8 hours later. Before dropping me off at the center, the rep drove me up a hill that offered a stunning panoramic view of the city and the valley below. The city is quite compact, and typical of colonial urban planning, you can see a prominent cathedral dominating the center.

Oaxaca, the land of the native. My favorite Mexican singer-songwriter Lila Downs was born here to her Mixtec mother. It was through her heart-wrenching soul-tearing songs that I was introduced to the region’s indigenous musical heritage. I knew that the culture was living strong here, but was still surprised at the number of native speakers that I encountered.

Oaxaca valley, MexicoOaxaca valley

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There should be a TV show dedicated to our love of noodle, highlighting the best regional dishes, the most curious ingredient combinations, the newest fusions… I’m sure there are more than enough topics to cover.

các món mỳ, bún Việt NamClockwise, from top left:

Bánh hỏi: skinny noodle strings woven together into bundles. Served cold with dipping sauces. A specialty throughout the southern central coast.

Mỳ Quảng: from the central province of Quang Nam but popular throughout the central. Here in Da Nang, you can see cooks shredding the white noodle right in the restaurants. Usually served with toasted sesame rice cracker.

Bún nước lèo: rice noodle in fish-flavored broth. Originally a Khmer dish, now with Chinese and Vietnamese influence. Most famous in the provinces of Tra Vinh and Soc Trang.

Cao lầu Hội An: specialty of the town of Hoi An. Tumeric-colored udon-like noodle whose complicated making process has spun a few urban legends. It’s said that the rice has to be first soaked in water filled with ash of a specific plant from the islands 15 kms away. It’s also a purist dish: there’s only one version.

Going home in August, I was excited, knowing that my sister had brought me some chocolate in April. I opened the box that my mom had carefully put away, and it was a big-name brand (which equals barely average quality). Sis said she was in a rush and had to pick some up at the airport. No wonder! I could only digest a couple of pieces. That’s the thing about chocolate for me. I’m addicted, but to quality, not to quantity. I’d rather not eat any for years than eat something less than gourmet (so spoiled i know). Read the rest of this entry »

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