Monday, October 24, 2011

Tib Vegetarian Restaurant

We had driven past Tib a few times before finally trying it out.  Located at 11 Tran Nhat Duat in a leafy corner of District 1, it has an extensive menu and a stark, modern interior.

As well as a special little creature lurking under the tables! Follow the white rabbit...

We started with Banh Beo: bite-sized, delicately sweet rice discs topped with nuts.  I was excited to gingerly peel them off the plate, roll, and subsequently lather them in a veggie nuoc cham sauce.  The texture is a bit rubbery for the non-initiated, but it's another delightfully subtle Vietnamese delicacy. 

Next up was a thick rice noodle dish complete with tofu and vegetables.  While it wasn't like anything I have ever had in Vietnam (it was akin to Chinese chow fun), we were impressed and devoured nearly every bit before our other dishes arrived.

We ordered stuffed tomatoes, roasted eggplant, and some steamed rice on the side.

While we regularly eat a similar tomato dish at our local veggie spot, Com Chay 27, this veggie version of ca chua nhoi thit was a bit of a surprise.  Two robust tomatoes sat virtually submerged in a vermillion pool of overwhelmingly sweet and rich tomato sauce.  They were packed full of a bland mixture of vermicelli noodles, mushrooms and tofu.  A striking platter to the eye, but the acid punch of the sauce and insipid insides of the tomatoes were a decidedly off-putting combination.

On the other hand, the eggplant was sound - marinated in a sweet soy sauce and roasted to perfection. One of those veggie dishes that has a slightly meaty flavor. Good for quelling those insidious urges to consume animal.

Good food, fair prices, and a decent atmosphere make this a spot to return. But we aren't exactly sprinting back.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Egg Tofu and Black Jasmine Rice

I just experienced my first completely work-free weekend since we moved to Vietnam!  There was simply no better way to celebrate my newfangled freedom than cooking up a tempest in the kitchen and taking shots with my new camera.  Since it was a dreary day and my vegetable drawer was looking a little bare, I decided to cook up some comfort food.  But first I put on some tunes: Kurt Vile's new album Smoke Ring For My Halo has been a mainstay for me lately.

Then it was time to cook: Chop up a robust head of cabbage.

Cut it into bite size chunks.

Break it up and add to a pot of water with a vegetarian bouillon cube.

Add a few hot peppers for flavor and bring to a boil.

Simmer until cabbage is soft.

Next take out some rice.  Gavin and I have been trying different kinds of rice I discover at the local market, so I went for some Black Jasmine Rice I picked up the other day.  Supposedly healthier and heartier than the brown and white varieties, it has a slight nutty flavor and is almost creamy once cooked properly.  Rinse away!

Last, but certainly not least, I started on my egg tofu.  I've mentioned it before on the blog, but I don't think I did it justice.  Egg tofu is delicate, flavorful, and one of my favorite foods here.

Cut open the package and gently slide out the tube of tofu.

Slice and add to a pan of hot olive oil.  Cook on a medium/high heat until golden brown, flip, and cook the other side through as well.

Once everything is ready, serve the rice topped with a few slices of egg tofu and drained cabbage.  There is no possible way you'll finish all the cabbage, so hold on to it.  Lunch is usually served with room temperature vegetable soup in Vietnam, so it can go to use in your next meal.

Serve with spicy soy sauce, a pair of chop sticks and a spoon.  Tasty and hardy.  Perfect for a rainy day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Disappearing and Reappearing (Once Again)

While blogging has been an important outlet,  it has recently been relegated to a back burner as new jobs consumed hours and our lives got busier.  Sometimes you just need to live and not have to worry about writing about it later.  This particular bit of cyberspace has been dwelling in the back of my mind as we go through life, it has not been entirely forgotten! In fact, a recent purchase in the household will hopefully rejuvenate our sapped creativity and keep it interesting. 

Here, I present a sunny afternoon in the zoo.  Notice anything different?

 No, it isn't that Gavin has got even hairier (although he has!).

We finally upgraded from our old point-and-shoot camera to the real deal: the Nikon D3100.  Oh, what a joy it is to capture the world around you from such a splendid device!  Hope to see you around here a little more frequently and thanks for your patience with our sporadic posting schedule.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dragon Fruit (Thanh Long)

Dragon fruit (Thanh Long) have recently become quite popular in the western world despite a difficult cultivation process (the finicky cacti that bear these fruits bloom only at night and rely on nocturnal creatures for fertilization).  While beverage conglomerates have capitalized on dragon fruit infused vodka and fancy eateries offer the fruit in upmarket cocktails or as a post-meal delicacy, we eat it in Vietnam like a Washingtonian eats apples - amply and habitually.

Although they were originally a New World plant, they are now a staple in Southeast Asia.  In semi-arid regions of Vietnam (e.g. the coastal flat-lands of Binh Thuan province), farms are plentiful. Row upon row of the plump, magenta medallions hanging ponderously from razor-sharp cactus fronds can be seen from many of the main highways. 

If you are in a country where these delights are readily available, give yourself a pat on the back and head to the nearest fruit-bearing market.  Pick out a handsome dragon fruit and cut it in half.  Sometimes the meat inside will be bright pink, other times white.  Don't be alarmed at the amount of small black seeds inside.  Cut into slices and remove the skin, which should separate from the fruit quite easily.

Cut the spears into cubes and serve.  The taste might surprise you.  While their skins are bright and ostentatious, dragon fruit is subtly sweet, many would say even bland or insipid.  I like to pair it with cereal in the morning or throw some in a smoothie with a sweeter fruit, like a mango, to give some tasty substance and stave off the saccharine overload.  It's also a nice dessert - an effective palate cleanser.  A true gem this cactus-fruit. It not only throws some added zest into your fruit basket, but has a subtle complexity that is admired in this household.