A taste of street soul in Hoi An

A highlight of our eating experiences on the world tour so far, is without a doubt Neville’s tour of foodie Hoi An.

In five hours, plus a few more at the end over some 20 cent beers (and no I haven’t missed off a zero), it was not only the flavours and sensations that grabbed me, emotionally the tour is something special; the whole morning was full of smiles, laughs, warmth, chatter, quirky history, fantastic tastes and many stories.

I admit to being a little nervous about street food initially, now the menus have been a little demystified, and the flavours were all superb, I think the only thing I chickened out on was the spam, historically a favourite for the Vietnamese to pinch from the GIs! A few outdoor foodie shots before I move onto the delicious bit…

The tastings themselves varied from on street action to cafe and restaurant comfy tapas style dishes, none of us were any good at following Neville’s advice to ‘just have a bite’, well we were all from Melbourne!!! And can you believe one of the two lovely sisters we met lives in HK, works in publishing and knew my Dad’s chemistry book, what a small, small world it is!

The large rolled rice below is a special dish for TET and it’s history goes way, way back to a legendary royal son who realised simplicity and symbolism were a more important part of food than complex showiness…this was his solution to the quest for a food that could work equally for royals and the everyday…and rather tasty once fried, placed on a bit of cruchy cracker and chillied up…see below:

There were lots of other noodly, herby, fresh, savoury dishes to follow; flavour balance and never forgetting the crunch essential.

As well as finding out there are hundreds and thousands of fish sauces, the rather chalky biscuit intrigued me, historically something that came from the years of war, this one was official, unlike spam; included in the rations, a treat of sorts.

The final essential ingredient was passion; from Neville for Hoi An, the local stallholders for dishes passed down generations and the unadulterated enjoyment this imparts to every taste, it’s taken me a while to get to Vietnam, happy I’m here.

For lunch today we had a pork bun from the side of the road, clearly well loved, a Bourdain street fav for a reason, yet still only $1…soooo scrumptious some of it is still on my t-shirt; extra chilli is my excuse!

Looking forward to testing my camera skills on the lantern festival this Sunday, still a little unsure of night time photography, having some fun doing a bit of prep…think I might need to invest in one of those dinky tripods at some stage.

The great book ‘swap’

You all know I’m an avid reader.

New, borrowed, second hand, electronic, just as long as I have a few on the go I’m happy.

This post is about the repeatable, serendipidous moment when you discover the latest book swap bookcase in a guest house, cafe or beach bar and slowly flick your eyes along the spines, dig behind the covers for lost literary gems, make your choice and swap it.

The book swap started with the 4 books Loc and I bought from WHS in Heathrow airport on 2 November 2011, taking advantage of the BOGOHP, one of my favourite acronyms in retail marketing.

We headed to Mumbai with:

  1. Amitav Ghosh – The lonely tide
  2. Shantaram – Shantaram…
  3. David Nicholls – One Day
  4. Greg Hororitz – Or she dies

Some of the swaps so far:

  • Dawn French – A tiny bit marvellous
  • Michael Ondatje – Running in the family
  • Monica Ali – Alejanto Blue
  • Lee Child – Worth dying for…yet another Jack Reacher
  • Paulo Coelho – the winner stands alone
  • Wilbur Smith – sailor series…!
  • Eragon – Christopher Paolini
  • Blink – Malcolm Gladwell(need to read tipping point!)
  • Jeffrey Deaver – the empty chair
  • Jo Nesbo – the snowman
  • Iain M Banks – Surface detail

Observations so far:

  • There are a dissproportionate number of crime novels
  • ‘Shantaram’ is the book when travelling through India
  • ‘One day’ is ‘the’ bestseller latest book in the rest of Asia
  • Lonely planet is still the guide of choice for travellers
  • Ebooks are evident, but physical still rules on the beaches
  • The most frequently found books are English, German & French
  • Readers prefer reading books set where they are travelling
  • About half of the swaps were books I really wanted to read
  • About half of the swaps were not and some suprised me

The books above are only a selection of the last couple of months’ reads, the ultimate book ‘swap’ is not available to the masses; my parents incredible inexhaustible selection, and my dad’s ability to find exactly the right books to suit my current travelling interests.

The book swap trail will have it’s final point at WHSmith Sydney Airport on 27 April 2012.

I’m looking forward to swapping my way through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Phillipines, Tokyo and Beijing, may do a few reviews, and likely to do a stint at the library on Rathdowne when back in Melbourne…!