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Domain Movements, Disappearing Feeds, and ♥ for my Blog Friends – an Update

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Hello all,

I think there’s been some trouble with the relocation of Bubbleteafordinner.com.  Feeds not showing up in readers, especially.  I so apologize!  I’m trying to fix all of that as we speak, and I think part of the solution is erasing the location of the old blog – this place may not exist very soon in the future.

WP-reader still seems to be a problem, but the new blog will show up Google Reader if you subscribe to the RSS feed shaped like a pillow on the right-hand sidebar.  I hope it’s enough to stay in contact for now, but I’ll do everything I can to get back on the WP-reader!

Missing you all, and I’ll be around to check out your adventures regularly as always!

♥♥ Lizbeth

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Resolved

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Resolved.

There at least two meanings of the word that I can think of.  The first that came to me, and perhaps the one with the most meaning anyway… is the resolution to finish something, to see it through despite all setbacks and fears.

I’m trying right now to move my blog from wordpress.com to a self-hosted domain running wordpress.org.  Despite what anyone says, it can occasionally be a nail-biting experience.  I’ve already had to erase all my work on the new blog, and believed for a few hours tonight that I’d erased all the posts on my old one.

Nerve-wracking.

I think all is well, if still a bit up in the air.  And the second meaning of the word came to me only as I started writing tonight.  Resolve as in the resolution of a situation.

See you on the other side.  :)

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Bánh đa Cua – Crab Cake Soup with Red Rice Noodles from Hai Phong

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It is freezing in Hanoi right now, all thing being relative.  My coworkers shudder in furry coats, doors keep closing everywhere to keep the draft at bay, and let me tell you – SOUP is on the menu.

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the condiments are questionably clean and it tastes better for it. really.

One of the downsides of the cold weather is a tendency to lay back and order takeout, thus avoiding any (however slight) reminder that this place isn’t tropical 24/7.  Sometimes, though, it’s worth it and then some to put on floppy sneakers and a light jacket and brave that 10 celsius weather. (ha ha).  To remember that the enticing smells up and down so many streets don’t go away in January, they just get more rewarding to find.

Take bánh đa noodles.  If you live or even visit here for any length of time, your phở and bun intake is going to spike through the charts – which is no terrible thing, but it happens.  Rice noodles are king, and they usually come in only two kinds – flat and sproingy or round like spaghettis.  Bánh đa is another beast entirely.

It’s a rice noodle variant, admittedly.  But it’s made of red rice.  And green tea.  And it’s thick, and wheaty tasting, and exciting to look at.  Like a cousin of fettucine, maybe, if it was topped with electric jazz and not cream sauce.

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It was invented in Hai Phong, a region east of and very close to Hanoi – lucky proximity.  The soup features chunks of sweet crab meat, shrimps, pork slices or fatty pork, dark bitter greens, spring onions, tomato, nuts, otherworldly broth, and more things too, if you’re lucky… but the star is always the fried crab cakes.  They float, glistening on the surface begging you to snap them up with chopsticks and explode their flavours all over your mouth.  And if you eat them too fast, you might get sad, but then more tiny shrimps pop up from the magical murk and the fun starts all over again.  It’s just warming, you know?

It’s popular here, obviously, and I haven’t explored any other stalls besides the one at the end of my street, but it’s busy every morning and I know why.

Bánh đa Cua Hai Phong
the corner of Tong Duy Tan and Tran Phu
open from morning until early afternoon

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2012, in summary.

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What the hell happened?  New years 2011 I remember pulling Tarot cards that were a bit ominous, the Seven of Swords or something, and getting so drunk I kinda blanked on what me and my friends got up to in the secret attic-den in the back of our apartment.  Deep shit or acrobatics or just guitars and whiskey sours, probably.  But the point is, I once lived with 8 (+) people on a key street corner in the Mile End part of Montreal, and life was easy and thoughtless.  I had a boring job I was perfect at.  I had a boyfriend who was intriguing but not quite right for me.  I saw my family intermittently and I went out dancing sometimes.  It was a good life.  I had time and space to make art.

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something about The Higgs boson God Particle.

And then.  Something huge.  It would test the limits of casual blogging to really explain how it happened, but I fell in love harder than I’ve ever before, and I’ve loved a lot of people.  My roommate actually… and the world transformed overnight.  We nestled in bed and on mountaintops and cast intensely dreamy spells for a few months and then promptly decided to move to Vietnam.  My career wasn’t going anywhere, his was impossible to start in a French-speaking town, and for the love of all that’s worth living for – we were BORED!

not bored of eachother, though.

not bored of eachother, though.

Then the middle of the year came, the ominous Tarot cards reared their terrible heads, and a lot of shitty stuff happened in this part of 2012.  Bed bugs.  Estrangements.  Family problems.  Ill-fated vacations.  Refugee status.  I shan’t get into it.  We made it though, waved goodbye to the city we’d known for seven years and – like a switch getting flipped – stepped onto that airplane.

Fast forward, and allow the requisite sparkle-eyed newbie fascination with an incredible country.  The dark of the summer made way for september lights like comets to blast through our cramped heads, letting an even bigger sky through.  I now have a job that requires me to make money for my boss, and not sandwiches.  The bf has a job that’s polishing and nurturing the intellectual nascents of Vietnam and they are very lucky to have him.  And speaking of sandwiches, there’s stand outside our righteous apartment that sells a pretty good Banh mi (and plates of fresh fruit with chili & salt) for 50c, and in these ways – among truly countless others – life is good.

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It’s also kinda come full circle lately and I can sense some parts of the person I used to be returning, now that the shell-shock of the first few months of expat-dom have abated, mostly.  I’m playing music again, eating whole grains, talking to people and forgetting where we are, putting on poses for no reason, pizza has entered the easy midweek dinner rotation, and indeed, we went out dancing for New Years.  Yes, in Hanoi!  The city of no nightlife threw a metallic confetti’d rager that careened on until dawn, and I was wide awake to see 5 am peak over streets so silent they seemed made of ancient petrified paper.  I wasn’t even drunk, unless you count Red Bull.

my linh

An improvement.  The first of many, even if I can’t see four weeks ahead of me, even now.  It’s just a feeling, like standing at the edge of a huge dark meadow, absolute mystery inside, but I’m there, not somewhere else.  Real adventure.  And hopefully, an even wilder year than the one before it.

Happy Gregorian New Year.

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Tropical Mincemeat

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There’s a stretch of highway that lines eastern part of Hanoi, hugging the Red River.  It’s cheered slightly by the longest mural in the world (endless streams of turquoise, mustard and honey-pink portrayals of dragons and such), but for the most part, it’s a pretty damn seedy part of town.  I take the bus from a major transit stop there every morning.

mincetallIf I had a Canadian dollar for every time someone tried to get me to take their xe om  – motorbike taxi (“moto?”  “moto-bike?”  “where you want go?” “moto-taxi?) I could rent my own wheels in a week and be done with it.  So aggravating!  I know how to say “please, no motorbike taxi for me this morning” in Vietnamese, and that’s usually more than enough to convince them, but this stop is different.  They grab your arm, hover and giggle and stare, and they do this to everyone, not just foreigners.  Sigh.

Yesterday, the familiar refrain started up behind me.  “Moto?  You want go?”

This time, though, it was different.  This time, it was a girl.  Well, a woman anyway.  I had to admit trying a bit to repress an urge to acknowledge her, out of sheer appreciation for her nature (but that nature included daily heckling of innocent bus-riders, so it wasn’t all that hard to quell).

I sat down.  The regular swarm of drivers came by.  I lit a cigarette.

I don’t remember how it happened, but I just knew I had to offer her a smoke when she came walking by again.  The least I could do?  I tossed one to her friend as well, and we shared a moment of eye-contact, of unspoken communication, respect even.  We puffed a bit, and then they dispersed to leave me miraculously in peace.

With just enough time before the bus came to let the gayest Vietnamese boy I’d ever seen lunge across the transit way to borrow my lighter – nails as long as pennies, wonky asymmetrical hair, and skintight powder blue club-pants.  Not something you see everyday in this country.  There was a distinct moment of mutual appreciation, there, too.

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes, classics get reinvented, and they become interesting again when you least expect them to do so.  And while I know that mincemeat is a bit of a classic in such a way that people have been known to come to holiday-table blows over it’s specificity of preparation, I am of the mind that recipes intended for preserving should reflect the situation that they’re in.  My situation involves pineapple and mango a lot, and while currants and apples are a bit more precious, they do have fantabulous dried kiwis here, so who am I to argue?  Into the pot with the requisite spices and booze, thanks please.

And, it makes enough to share.  Even with hecklers.

Tropical Mincemeat

  • 1 large cooking apple, minced
  • 1 small pineapple, minced (about 2-3 cups)
  • 1 mango, minced
  • 1 cup raisins, minced
  • 1 cup raisins, currants or cherries, minced
  • 1 cup dried tropical fruit (papaya, kiwi, mango, etc)
  • 1 cup tropical fruit juice, or orange juice
  • 1/4 cup cane syrup
  • 1″ piece of ginger, minced very fine
  • 1/4 cup dried orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup rum
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • pinch of salt

Pile all the fruits, juice, syrup, peel and spices together in a big pot (apples through nutmeg), and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until the apples start to soften and the raisins release their juice into the mix.  Take off the heat, stir in the coconut oil, vanilla, rum, lime juice and salt, and place into jars.

It will keep 3 months at least in the refridgerator (probably a lot longer), and for years if you properly preserve it in mason jars.  At least until next Christmas!

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Do Nuong Sapa – Mountains of DIY Barbecue, Mountain-village Style

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“The origins of dinner tonight, will be attributed to Sapa, in the Lao Cai province of northwestern Vietnam.  They like to play with fire a lot up there.  It will happen, on the other hand, on the side of the road in Hanoi.  Thank you.”

grillersI was hesitant last night to pull up a blue stool and be at the mercy of the same onslaught of food that was crowding out all the other tables around us.  The brightly lit display in the centre of the gaiety, housing various raw animals in assorted states of bite-sizes made it even worse – mostly because I wanted to try everything, which compounded the first problem nicely.  There were tiny fishes, fresh silver prawns, huge pieces of pork belly and ribs, glistening piles of liver, marinaded chicken fat and chewy chicken parts, spiced sausages, hunks of beef, tofu cakes, and all sorts of the kinds of vegetables that taste really good with a bit of burn on them – zucchinis and okra, tiny tomatoes and corn slices… boggling.  Can I have a bit of everything?  Is that possible?  Without stressing my embarrassingly limited Vietnamese language skills?  Can I have a couple beers with that, too, and some ice cubes?  And for less than 13 USD?

grillandbasil “Totally you can, yo.  Actually, if you kindly sit down here at one of these flimsy blue tables, we’ll shortly drop a giant stone BBQ in the centre of it along with some macabre looking scissors and tongs and skewers.  Oh, and napkins.  And chili sauce, and if you run out we with replenish your chili sauce with astonishing attentiveness.  In the meantime, here is a mountain of juicy cucumber sticks, thai basil, spring onions and a giant bag of thick white rice crackers to taunt you while you wait, hunger-dying in the aroma wake of your neighbours’ grilling meatstuffs.”

At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what they said.

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Anyway, four whole agonizing minutes later, the smorgasbord arrives, and it does, indeed, have a bit (a lot) of everything.  A few minutes on the grill, and what was pink becomes dripping and browned, and insanely delicious in a very primal sort of way.  Chopsticks were bypassed in favour of scissoring everything

endless bounty plate

endless bounty plate

into shareable pieces and plucking things right off the grill with our sticky fingers.  A bit déclassé, I admit, but would you have tried using chopsticks while attending to 9 things on the fire and trying not to knock over your icy beer which is actually sitting on a stool next to you because there’s no room on the table?  To say nothing of how easy it was to forget contamination rules and pick up raw things with them (I do say nothing).  Much easier just to snatch morsels from the “done” plate and make a little shatteringly crisp rice paper boat loaded with meat and a bit of grilled basil – some sort of textural analogue to tostadas, maybe, but completely Vietnamese in flavour.  I’m dreaming about them already.  And despite initial concerns, we cleaned everything out, and strutted out there perfectly sated with protein ringing in our ears.

“Do you see how wise we are in the ways of Sa Pa grill?  We didn’t give you too much.  We didn’t give you a platter of fresh baguette pieces because you would obviously have exploded or complained you silly Westerners, and we only have one hose and I don’t know if it reaches over there.  You can rinse your hands with it, though.”

This is going to be one of those once a month things, I can tell.

 Dồ Nướng Sapa 
83 Nguyễn Thái Học street
Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi

On Facebook even.

 

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Peppermint Chocolate Candy Crack

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My one giftee this year loves minty chocolate, and that kind of candy I can pull off without shopping flurry.  It’s easy enough that I’ll hardly explain the process (and I’m also itching to jump back into bed and steam-roll over his loafy sleeping body so I can open my presents which includes  a DURIAN, merry merry, merry Christmas!).

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  • Melt chocolate.  Microwave is okay.  100-150 grams or so.  Add mint extract, lots.
  • Chop up a handful of little chocolate-filled peppermint shelled candies.  Watch out for jumpers and shrapnel, though!
  • Melt said candy-things in the same microwave, but watch it carefully lest the sugar re-harden.  What happens is the lovely additives and fake choco-taste filling they use in those candies melts into the simpler minty sugar outside and makes a kind of chewy and pliable dough – but only when it’s warm, mind.

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  • Find a bar-shaped plastic container to make your candy in.  Spread half the melted chocolate in the bottom, then form strips with the mint-candy dough and lay them down.  Top with the rest of the chocolate (jiggle and shake and smash the container on the counter to flatten), and top with things you like to see on chocolate-fields.  I went with cocoa nibs and silver baubles ’cause I had ‘em, but like, crumbled oreo tops would be wicked probably.
  • Throw it in the freezer, for not very much time, then pop out the hardened bar and chop into pieces.  Crack!
  • Wrap all nicely and leave under the tree for the mint lover in your life.

Easypants.  Big effect, though.

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