IT WAS A LONG HARD FLIGHT FROM TOKYO VIA BEIJING AND NANNING CHINA TO BEAUTIFUL HO CHI MINH CITY -- AND IT REMINDED ME OF BJORK'S OLD SONG: "I AM TAKING AN AEROPLANE ACROSS THE WORLD, TO FOLLOW MY HEART." After all that stress, just 3 hours sleep, in a downtown hotel. Buffeted by the smell of durian -- sweet dreams indeed! and took a bite of the forbidden fruit. Snake, wild boar, more recently dog and seahorse
wine, I have hogged and scoffed it all, as Noodlepie might put it, but for whatever reason my culinary adventures have tended to stay on the meaty side. Maybe that is because I am a meatlover at heart,
it is hard to say. If there has been any theme to this latest Vietnamese jaunt, codenamed Summer Love in the Cruel Heart of Winter, it is this: fruit. That is probably due to the new feminine influence in my life,
the girl who invited me to Vietnam, and is my reason for being here. Fruit's such a girl thing anyway, isn't it? -- that's why I normally don't consume much of the stuff. But one of the first things Nga did after I met
her at Saigon airport at 3am after my backbreaking, soulwrecking Air China flight, was cut up a few slices of that tubular Vietnamese watermelon, and serve them
to me. Seeds and all. Later that morning, after I had showered and was ready to hit the sack, she asked: "Do you notice that smell? Is that the smell you were waiting for?" Surprised, I said: "what smell? do you mean the smell of strange green fruits known as Sau rieng in Vietnamese. And you can be sure we cracked open those fruits within the next 24 hours, to enjoy the strange and strangely meatlike fruitiness inside.
I have heard there is a North Korean restaurant in Hanoi (the Pyongyang Restaurant, also known as the Binh Nhuong Quan). According to a magazine story I read in Le Pub, it is at 28 Nguyen Thi Dinh Street. North Korean restaurants are a rarity in this world, and I would love to visit Binh Nhuong Quan after visiting some of the mausoluems and other Communist crap in Hanoi. Tru to style, the staff here are impatient and rude. In Vietnam though people are much more relaxed and liberal, and nobody was going to mind about Nga's little green stash. It is good for you too -- packed with rare nutrients and potent vitamin combinations. As Rick Kump wrote: "The taste from heaven, the
smell from hell, it's the durian! One of the highest respected fruits throughout Southeast Asia, the durian has earned the nickname "King of the Fruits". King or not, it's one of the most interesting fruits I've ever come across. To those who are used to apples and
bananas, the durian experience is anything but ordinary... All durians have a custard-like consistency and can taste sweet or even nutty. My first reaction to the taste was one of surprise more than pleasure. It tasted like sweet, garlic pudding! The durian's health
a beautifying mineral, which also give the durian its slightly garlic taste..."
Han Quốc Garden: 449 Binh Quoi St., Ward 28, Binh Thanh Dist. Phone: (08) 5563829.
The little yin/yang flag on the sign is a dead giveaway of the Korean nature of this restaurant (Han Quốc being of course the Vietnamese word for Korea, the Land of the Han.) I don't know if this restaurant is intended for Han's visiting or working in Vietnam, or native Vietnamese hungry for a taste of kim'chi and other Korean food (or perhaps it is a bit of both.) I do know though that Korean dramas are huge in Vietnam now, so it wouldn't surprise me that the cuisine is also making inroads.
In fact, as Anh Thu in The Vietnam News has written (and this came to me via Noodlepie):
"Last year, if you had walked into a Korean restaurant in Viet Nam, you would have spotted, yes, you guessed it, mostly Koreans. Today, these restaurants are full of Vietnamese of a certain age. Most are university students enamored of anything Korean -- hairstyles, clothing, music and dance that have been popularized through Korean movies and TV series shown on local TV. Scenes on television and film of Korean actors cooking their native dishes have whetted the appetite of Viet Nam's biggest movie-going group, university students. One of the best places in the city to sample the cuisine is Seoul House..."
Han Quoc Restaurant:
5-15 Ho Huan Nghiep St., District 1; tel: (08) 8237381.
As the owners claim: "Located right in the city center, Han Quoc restaurant is a big, luxurious one. We are very pleased to bring you our menu with many kinds of dishes like Korean food or fresh seafood. More importantly, ingredient is imported directly from Korea."
Nha Hang Xinh Xinh: 106 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St., District 3. Cooking With The Single Guy ate seasoned cold noodles here and went on to blog: "I ate at this Korean restaurant because I was searching for a seafood restaurant recommended in Food and Wine Magazine, but the restaurant was closed (or Food and Wine got the address wrong!). I ordered up several dishes, including this cold noodle dish that I thought would be perfect in the hot weather. It was a bit gummy. Ironically, it tasted way better after I took it home and placed it in my hotel refrigerator for awhile. Then it was perfect! (By the way, this Korean restaurant just opened and the service was fantastic. Food is your standard Korean fare.)"
-Binh Quới I Tourist Resort
-Binh Quới II Tourist Resort
-Sài Gòn Floating Restaurant
-Tân Cảng Tourist Resort
- Văn Thánh Resort
OCuisine of the South ReclamationP event was the successful landmark of this resort and has left an unforgettable impression of the trade name Binh Quới in the heart and mind of the city dwellers, followed by a series of excellent festivities:
For years, there has been talk about developing the airport, but it's doubtful that a full-scale project will be undertaken anytime soon. The one benefit of Tan Son Nhat's small size is that the airport is very easy to negotiate. Ironically, the airport's lack of sophistication makes it relatively hassle-free.
There are no telephones available inside the Arrival hall. Also, it is best to use the restrooms inside, as those located outside are unclean and often closed.
Wrote Love Paradise: "I and my darling took motobike to get there on a Sunday afternoon (~30min from HCMC center). I'd been there several times, but he'd never. He seemed doubted in what I said about BQ. But when he entered it, his eyes were caught by the beautiful landscapes, one after another, such as the green grass field, the waterfall, and so on. The heavy rain that day couldnot stop us enjoying the VNese southern traditional food buffet. You may stuff your stomach with plenty of things, but still like to eat more.hihi. My darling really likes the place, asking me to bring him there once again someday. And so I'm happy."
At Saigon Airport once I picked up a little book called The Cuisine of Viet
Nam, bought out by the Viet Nam Cultural Traveler. In one of the articles inside, Huu Ngoc writes:
"In the West, grain and fruit overflowing from the Horn of Plenty traditionally symbolizes the abundance of a
good harvest; in the USA at Thanksgiving, the horn filled with fruit is a symbol of the prosperity for which one is
thankful. In Southeast Asia, there is a popular folk tale about a gourd with many seeds, the seeds representing the
rebirth of humankind after the Deluge. And Vietnamese pay homage to their ancestors by placing a tray of five fruits on an
altar: pomegranates, pears, peaches, plums and finger citrons, though people often choose other foods according to the season,
or the region in which they live. The particular varieties of fruit are less important than the beautiful appearance of the fruit tray,
with its harmonious colors and balanced presentation. Nowadays, a bundle of green bananas is also a must. Like the Horn of Plenty, the
tray of five traditional fruits symbolizes the wish for abundance. It is also the emblem of the five elements of Asian cosmology: water, earth,
wood, metal and fire.
"From the time they are small, Vietnamese children come to associate three fruits with particular stories: the thi (Vietnamese persimmon), the watermelon and
"The thi fruit is succulent, smooth and attractive. When ripe, it turns gentle yellow and gives off a subtle, sweet smell; it is often one of the five fruits placed on pagoda altars.
Children are likely to hear of thi in the Tấm Cám, Vietnam's Cinderella. The tale is based on the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. In the story, Tấm is killed
by her stepmother and stepsister, but is reborn into a thi tree bearing only a single, beautiful fruit. An old woman, seeing the gorgeous fruit, takes it home, not to eat,
but to cherish as a prized possession. Tấm is reborn from the fruit and becomes the woman's adopted daughter, after which she is reunited with her husband the King.
"Watermelon also serves as a votive offering on altars, and plays a very important role in an appealing fairytale for children. Three thousand years ago, the story goes, during the times of the
Hung kings, a young man named An Tiem was adopted by King Hung. Spoken ill of by the king's toadies, An Tiem and his wife, the princess, and their children were exiled to a wild island where they
led a very harsh life. One day a flock of birds flew over the island, dropping some black seeds on the island. An Tiem planted those mysterious black seeds, and soon they bore fruit. He cultivated the seeds
for his crop and traded them for rice and necessary equipment with trading ships that came to the island. An Tiem's life quickly improved and eventually, through his hard work and intelligence, he became
rich. On hearing of An Tiem's success, King Hung had him welcomed back to the royal palace.
"The succulent star fruit (carambola) with five sections, can be served raw in salad, or cooked in soup. It is also served as a dessert. There are two types of star fruit: the sweet and the sour, both kinds
grown in out-of-the-way garden corners or by the ponds. There is a folk tale about the star fruit tree. Two brothers, when coming into their inheritance, received unequal portions. As was the custom, the elder
brother took the majority, but contrary to custom, the elder brother failed to provide for his sibling, leaving his younger brother only a shabby cottage and a star fruit tree.
"One day a phoenix came to eat the fruit of the young man's tree, but made a promise, as follows: "For every fruit I eat, I will return you a bar of gold. You must sew a bag three
spans wide to hold the gold you will receive." The young man followed the instructions of the mysterious phoenix and that very night was taken to an island in the middle of the sea to collect his gold.
"When he saw how wealthy his younger brother had become, and hearing the story of the magical bird from his guileless brother, the elder brother persuaded the young man to trade the star fruit tree for all the elder
brother's treasures. The next day the elder brother made the same bargain with the phoenix. Just as he expected, the bird came to eat the star fruit and made the same promise to the elder brother, who sewed the biggest bag
he could to hold his gold. But when he got to his island, he was so greedy he filled up his bag with so much gold that after flying a short way, the phoenix could carry him no longer and had to drop him into the sea, where he
sank still clutching his treasure..."