Was hoping to do a proper post to wish you all a very pleasant Tet – new year in these climes – but time’s caught up with me and the year of the dog is almost upon us. We’re splitting town for a week or more. Heading somewhere with (hopefully) no internet, no mobile phones, no much of anything. That’s the plan anyhow. Saigon’s full of all the usual stuff, sculpted dogs, yellow flowers, tradition, lights, gladhanding, yet more stuff. Thankfully 2006 sees the return of the whopping great bloody Banh Tet. Tet just isn’t Tet without at least one of these beasts landing in Saigon. And, I’m hearing, this year there’ll be two in town. Almost worth hanging around. Almost. Meanwhile, it’ll be the same as last year for dinner tonight. Cheers.
Archives for January 2006
A new find. They’re getting rarer. This street level stall serves a late afternoon snack called Banh trang. Banh trang is the rice paper that gets thrown in with whatever you fancy from the tray above. Here we have deep-fried shallots, spring onion, fish balls, big tub of (manly) rau dang, minced red chilli, prawn powder, a large jar of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and some black stuff. Sorry, I don’t know the name of that. It’s 3 or 4,000VD a throw. I spot this seller at the corner of Luu Van Lang/Le Thi Rieng junction in District 1, Saigon. In fact I’m gobbling here immediately after I gobbled there.
Pictured above the seller is prepping my score. It’s a decent little bite. I skip the chilli, but it’s still got plenty engine power, not a little crunch and a healthy herb kick. Since I tried this I’ve seen two more stalls selling exactly the same thing. Funny. Never ever seen this in 8 years or more, then it’s all over town like a dose of clap. As I’ve said before, you gotta keep your eyes open in this town.
Hit the podcast link for a 37 minute interview with New York-based, freelance journalist, journalism professor and blogger, Sandeep Junnarkar. I asked Sandeep about Lives in Focus, his mulitimedia blog journalism project, which aims to give voice to "those who are rarely given space or time in traditional news media." The initial project looks at the impact of India’s new patent law on the HIV+ population. I’m pitching a feature about blog-based journalism. I Skyped Sandeep to find out more. It’s a 35MB download… Woah. Too big? Read about the project at Online Journalism Review. As soon as (and if) I land a commission I’ll blog more.
UPDATE: I now have a commission from the UK press. Deadline mid-February.
I’ve whinged about Vietnamese pop music before. Been driven to the edge by the psychotic repetition of one particular song by Abba throughout the streets of Saigon. However, over the last two days a new ditty has hit the streetspeakers across from Fortress Pie. Maybe I’ve gone native, but I’m digging this new song. Imagine a kiddies choir weaned on those superb 60’s Girls in the Garage compilation LPs given the sheet music to Roll with it by Oasis and asked to sing it in a combination of Vietnamese and cat sounds. Yup, really. What? You can’t? I recorded the song from the front door this morning at 7am Download the MP3. See what I mean, no?
Got an email yesterday telling me I’m a finalist in the 2006 Bloggies. Thanks to everyone who nominated me – real nice 🙂 We’ve been here before, and we all know the outcome, but still it’s better than a kick in the teeth, losing a fiver or returning home after a night out to find your house on fire and the neighbours laughing. So, thanks 🙂 Will take some time to go through the finalists and maybe blog about them a la this guy if and when anything takes my fancy.
"With a flood of new restaurants opening in Ha Noi on a seemingly daily basis, it is often hard to choose which one to try next. Ocean Star Restaurant, located at 13 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, has been open now for only for seven months and specialises in sea food, as do many other places in Ha Noi. Owner Sam Tran said his mother is Chinese and his father Vietnamese and he wanted to blend these two cultures into a menu that offers "very cheap, very good food". He also lived in California for 10 years before coming back to Viet Nam, which explains the Western influence on the wide array of cuisine offerings." reports James W Coates for The Vietnam News.
Beverage: Nha Dam Thach Dua/Aloe Vera Nata de Coco Juice
Ingredients: Water, sugar, Nata de Coco, Aloe Vera, Artificial flavour
Appearance: Another in the spooky solids range of softdrinks. All a bit Jon Ronson goes to Lapland or unshaken snow scene in a jar, but, you know, it’s that pissy snow at the back of Santa’s grotto to the left of the Elk’s Head pub by the entrance to the beer cellar. Unlike many of the sixteen previous drinks I’ve suffered for this blog, the solids in this tin sink. Interesting. A first too, I think. The hot-chick-with-straw action artfully etched onto the outside of this can belies grim tidings from inside.
Aroma: Nutty, wholesome, dare I say? dare I dream? vegan. I’m getting mucho back odour. Odour of man sweat. Man sweat bled from an army of coconut tree climbers. Concentrating harder, I can trace the distinctive whiff of a Cuban cigar. It’s being smoked by a man in a white linen suit. He struts the coconut plantation with something of the Gregory Pecks about him, circa Boys from Brazil. The bastard’s got a whip, knuckle dusters and a big bloody dog. People are scared. I am too. Arrggghhhh…
Our survey said… Actually they didn’t. They left the buildling. Running. Last seen groping a Coca-Cola vending machine.
Ingredients: Carbonated water (2.5 v/v), sugar (110 g/l), acidity regulator (330), natural & synthetic flavors, caramel color, preservative (211)
Appearance: Deep and dark. Mysterious. A little bit cheeky. Cheeky chops. Cheeky, cheeky, chase me.
Aroma: Flashbackmungus. This is the inbred, halfwit, twin brother to the Brit classic dandelion & burdock produced by god’s own softdrink manufacturer Barrs. Barrs are worshipped internationally for not just one drink, but two: Irn Bru and the seminal Red Kola. I digress… So, Saxi… Hmmm…??? Sexy.
Taste: Not the full-on liquorice clout of a dandelion and burdock, but this stuff’s alright. It’s medicinal – in the not good for you, messes with your brain sense – and it’s hawwribly sweet. This isn’t what I was expecting. Although I don’t quite know quite what I was expecting really. Who does? I dunno. The world’s in such a mess, innit? Iraq, climate, beavers, espionage, pike. Just never ends. Oh well.
If this drink were a pointless waste of three years of your sad little life it would be... Applied Golf Management Studies.
Our survey said… 6 out of 10