Pigging out

Henry landed me today with a big task – work my way through lashings of pork belly pieces.

He asked a friend to stock up for the cafe, but the friend got the order wrong. He manhandles a pig’s worth of meat onto the table.

It’s mine! It’s a tough call, but I think I’m up to the challenge, since pork belly pieces are my favourite Vietnamese meat.

In case motivation wanes, I composed the wee ditty below to help me through the Last Days in Nha Trang.

Pork belly slabs
good for the muscles

pork belly slabs
need no hustles

the more you eat
the better you feel

pork belly slabs 
for every meal

Pig Skin Cake

Above are two of the latest ‘adventures in food’ as part of making a pig of myself in my last days here in the Tropics.

Yes, ‘pig skin cake’ ( a.k.a Bánh da lợn ) is indeed the name of the dessert on the right. The specimen above, I’m guessing, is made from tapioca starch.

On trying it, I was a little disappointed – it’s an almost tasteless bundle of carbs, but went down easily enough with the usual spoonful of cacao and wads of coconut cream.

On the left is another episode in chocolate-making. Pretty basic – cacao, butter, a duck egg, and coconut cream. Directions – 1) whip up ingredients. 2) stash in freezer.

Works a treat, a filling stop-gap snack with a tiny amount of sugar.

Market warning

Morning Haul – clockwise from bottom left; Yuca ( Cassava ), rice cakes, lettuce

The morning jaunt to the market came with a warning.

The old chap from the cafe over the road – which I hobble past every day – was gesturing at my foot, pointing to the Cassava root ( mmmm ), and wagging his index finger.

On asking Henry over coffee, it turns out the delicious root ( AKA “Yuca” ) is very bad for inflammation, especially when one is lame. Who knew?

Apparently, the ground Yuca is acceptable, but the sap from the root – which looks like a white carrot – is released upon chopping, and does all varieties of mischief.

Henry being his generous self has offered to bring some for my sampling tomorrow. I shall report back therewith.

Glorious food

First things first…

I’ve booked a flight SGN -> SIN -> AKL on September 20th.

It arrives in Auckland Sept. 21 at 0815. The suspense of it all was taking a toll, so I’ve bitten the bullet and stumped up $1100+ USD, on what I hope is good advice that the flight will more than likely get off the ground.

So that leaves 32 days, or so, to finish exploring Vietnam. And, of course, the food adventures continue. Above is the result of this morning’s haul.

I have other plans, as well, for the last days in this here tropical paradise;

  • Get this damned leg plaster removed, I’m hoping by the end of August latest. I suspect and hope that I might have recovered a little faster than doctor’s expectations. The ankle is starting to feel stronger, and is giving me less gyp day-by-day.
  • Once that’s off, get back in the briny. The sea, and riding a bike, are two things I love about Nha Trang.
  • Maybe take a 3 – 5 day trip to DaLat, the inland high altitude city which I always planned to at least visit. But that depends on this-and-that, including organising Visa.

It’s a huge relief having bought the ticket. Anything could happen in the meantime, of course, but I’m betting that the flight will get off the ground.

To Market, to market

Above is the local market on Lạc Long Quân St, Nha Trang. It’s 5 minutes walk from my apartment on Van Kiep. As you look at the map below, follow Lac Long Quan down, and to the right, and Van Kiep is the second street.

The hobble, on crutches, has become a daily morning ritual, before the blessed caffeine injection.

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d974.7636905655337!2d109.18374446715525!3d12.244571404802663!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x31705d81a7c67257%3A0x5f6ebbf73d35b628!2zTOG6oWMgTG9uZyBRdcOibiwgVHAuIE5oYSBUcmFuZywgS2jDoW5oIEjDsmEgNjUwMDAwLCBWaWV0bmFt!5e0!3m2!1sen!2s!4v1597709169610!5m2!1sen!2s&w=800&h=600]

Old dog, old tricks

I finally got it together to pull some old tricks in the New Place.

The dodgy looking … matter in the bowl is my first successful Vietnam attempt at almond bread / cake. Ingredients are pretty simple – baking powder ( mixed myself from baking soda and cream of tartar ), a duck egg, and almond flour, or ground almonds.

It soaks up anything – I could use it to mop the bench – and is healthy and satisfying.

In today’s case, it’s on the menu with the crockpot dish above. That’s Basa fish, red peppers, pak choi, and carrots. Here’s the directions – throw the veges in with some water, bring to the boil, let cool, add fish. Maybe some salt. Simmer. Forget until hungry.

At chow-down time, I’ll usually add coconut cream, and maybe turmeric, but today, I’ll be sampling it with said almond bread.

Phwoar !!

To market, to market …

Not this morning, alas “..to buy a fat pig…”, but to stock up on fresh veges, and a salad-filler.

Steamed kumara, fresh lettuce, and tofu

Cost for the above? 15,000 VND or about $NZD 1.

The kumaras are perfect with a bit of melted butter. The tofu is a recent addition, on learning that it’s mainly protein and fat, and a ‘cheap as chips’ salad-filler at about 30 cents.

Plus, I’ve discovered that the woman stall-holder whose duck eggs are the freshest I’ve found, also has reliably non-flaccid veges on offer.

Go figure.

Morning Haul

Below is the result of the third order of business for the morning.

Eggs, Pak Choy,tomato

That is, off to the nearby ( 1km ) market, where I scored shown pak choy, a dozen fresh duck eggs, and tomato. Price 45,000 VND ~= $NZD 3.

Which is another thing I love about this place – cheap produce.

Two others are the first and second orders of business for the day. The first, walk on the nearby beach, and the second, a morning cup of genuine potent Vietnamese coffee.

Easy days. But things are about to get tougher, with the scheduled start of school Monday March 2.

Cocoa heaven

She’s a hard road finding the perfect cocoa, but I think I’ve got as near as possible.

Thanks to the continuing generosity of ‘Henry’, my private student turned good friend, I’ve laid my chops on some dark-brown gold.

Henry grew up in the countryside, and his family farm produces real food, in its natural state. He tells me, during our regular morning coffee sessions, that this stuff is produced by first grinding the cocoa beans, and then achieving a solid state using centripetal force ( spinning it very fast ).

I got my first taste yesterday, and I find it difficult to avoid raving about it. It has that beautiful bitter taste of real cocoa, but it is also sweeter than any natural cocoa I’ve tasted.

At first I made hot drinks from small chunks. Then I decided to cut out the middle man, and just melt the stuff in my mouth.

The result is best described below.


It’s like eating chocolate, without the sugar – so good, it should be illegal.


I originally met Henry through sheer dumb luck. I posted a job-seeking ad ona Facebook forum, back when I first arrived in Nha Trang.

Henry replied. We started to meet for study at his favourite cafes, and it slowly became obvious that not only is among the finest of fellows, he’s a top-drawer foodie. Even more, he’s curious and very bright, which means he’s very easy to teach.

Moral of the story – when dumb luck comes your way, don’t question the whys and wherefores, just grab it with both hands.

Lemons and Lemonade

As lemons are to lemonade, so is liver to pate.

Such is my discovery after collecting the organs from a graveyard of chickens.

After a dead-end search for pate, I heeded a suggestion from a Facebook post, and took myself off to the local market.

After locating the ‘butcher’ among a football field full of dead flesh, we ‘spoke’ in gestures.

Pointing to the quarry,I did a quick calculation, rifled around, and waved a 20k VND note ( ~ NZD 1.35 ) at her,

When she handed back a small knapsack full of the stuff, I realised that haggling over quantity wouldn’t work.


So after cooking up a small batch, I froze the rest.

Yesterday I attempted pate. Olive oil and butter,heat slowly. Throw in some raw ginger.Add some finely chopped mustard greens. A bit of soy sauce, and cook slowly.

Cool, then chill or freeze.

The result? Beautiful! But a little more like mince than pate.

Good for 4 or 5 meals, and that’s only the quarter of it. Enough vitamin B12 for Africa.

Obviously further refinement is needed, but it’s a start.