Friday, December 08, 2006

Saigon When It Sizzles - 2 (And a bit about Hanoi)

It's hot!

"For Saigonese, Christmas also offers a rare opportunity to enjoy the feeling of chilly air. The greenhouse effect has reduced the time when the termperature in Saigon drops to its low point of 18C from about a week to only a few days." Saigon Business News - December 2006

Well it doesn't look like the deep freeze will be setting in over the next day or two - it's been 30-32C the past two days.


The scooter is the transportation of choice in Saigon - scooter outnumber cars about 3 to 1. The buzz of Vespa engines at times sounds like a squadron of very angry, very large hornets planning to attack. And as the Rex is located in the heart of the old city that sound is constant from 0530 until 2359! At first the thought of trying to cross a busy intersection gives raise to panic if not outright terror - and at night the sight of a pair of compact headlights coming at you can be hypnotizing. Then you realize that it is a well-choreographed ballet - drivers are very adept at weaving there way around moving cars, trucks, buses and pedestrians. Laurent says its a hell of a lot safer than Beijing!

Hanoi addendum: We just spent an hour in a cyclo - a bicycle-powered rickshaw - going through the 36 streets of old Hanoi. The noise of scooter horns, reeving motors and the smell of exhaust tended to take the joy out of the adventure. Still don't know how they do it - saw a couple with papa driving, momma on the back and the baby squashed between them! And nobody is wearing a helmet. Our guide explain that if you wear a helmet it's difficult to recognize friends or talk on the cellphone. Okay!

PHO - not just for Breakfast

Who the hell wants bacon and eggs when you can have a bowl of rice noodles, chicken and herbs swimming in hot broth. It's the national dish of Vietnam and though here in the south its a breakfast treat, you can have it for lunch and dinner. Vendors sell it on the street, there are glossy PHO24 fast food chains everywhere and the most upscale restaurant features it. I've made it at home a few times and it really is one of those one-dish meals that's quick and easy for that weekday meal.

The beauty is that almost anything can be added to it: beef, pork, tripe (oh yeah!), deep fried onion, basil leaves, coriander stocks, hot pepper slivers, lime juice - the possibilities are endless. It's healthy, it's economical and it's good - but not good enough to have for breakfast lunch and dinner. Below I've included the recipe I've used from Cook's Illustrated for anyone who wants to try it at home.


December 6-7

For a few shots of the past few days click on the date link and watch the sideshow (it's not necessary to sign in as a member.)

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