August 31, 2012

Wanderlust: Turning 25 in Vietnam

I am not one for big celebrations but since it was my birthday while we were in Vietnam, my dad thought it would be a good excuse to get the family together and, you guessed it ... EAT! My only request was, no fish - I had, had about enough at this point. 

To give the family members a break, they hired a neighbourhood caterer to cook all four courses. This was their pop up kitchen. They managed to build this makeshift prep station and kitchen in the middle of the backyard. Everything grown, picked, and made fresh by the locals. It was pretty impressive how many people they fed.

The above is the first two courses. The left is the Vietnamese version of a "charcuterie" platter with pickled onions and the right is a beef "ceviche".  I'm stretching it a bit here, but who doesn't want charcuterie and ceviche at a party? Both dishes were served with delicious crusty, flaky, bread. I loved this combo! The beef is cooked with lime juice & fish sauce so it has a bit of a sour tang but nothing too overpowering. There were julienned carrots and lotus root mixed through the ceviche as well, just too add a contrast in texture, but who are we kidding, it was mainly beef - you know I like my meat! The ham was my favourite part. They're the same slices of ham you can find in banh mi sandwiches. I could have had this all day!

Next comes the beef curry, again accompanied by those yummy baguettes! In order to keep the dish hot while everyone is drinking and socializing, every table gets one of these portable stove top burners. Genius. I like my curry to be spicy and strong in coconut milk. This was not. It was more of a stew with fresh tomatoes and carrots. So, while everyone else devoured the curry, I went back to the first course.

Next is what I call, "The Sponge Soup". Okay, its not really made with sponges but its made with mushrooms, fungus, and tofu with textures similar to a sponge. This, I like. I know, I know, what the hell? But listen, the "sponge" sucks up all the flavours of the delicious broth so you get little pockets of flavour in your mouth with every bite. It's divine! I also really, really, like the texture. It's crunchy, soft, chewy - completely satisfying! 

Dad also let me order this cake. It's definitely over the top and aesthetically not something we're use to here in North America, but man was it delicious! Not too sweet and the icing, although thick, was just enough for the light sponge. The cake as well as the stand had to be picked up from the city, twenty minutes away. My super amazing little cousin made the trip...on his motorcycle!

It was a great birthday and after sharing the past two birthdays away on the mountain, I was so thankful to be able to share this one with everyone. I was completely drowning in love that day and I soaked up every minute of it!

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