Vietnam 

A Continental Cuisine Series

Vietnam Journal

Part 7

Next day its an early start, 5.30. We pile into the coach and Nghia produces a welcome breakfast box of sandwiches, cakes, yogurt and fruit. We settle back into another 1½ hour coach ride to the floating vegetable market of the Cai Be. We set off in two thin boats and sail about 30 minutes into bay. The inlet is packed full of boats of all shapes and sizes, some lived on some just selling goods. You can tell the ones selling produce as they have a tall pole with whatever they are selling tied to the top.

We film squashes and tarot being unloaded and the general busy day of the area, even large blocks of ice being packed onto boats. I love this area and could send more time here with the locals. Next stop, the salt purification shed and rice paper making. We see how the rice papers are steamed and dried.

Plus popcorn rice bars being produced. First of all a small amount of black sand is heated in a large pan over a fire made from burning rice husks. The heating of the sand ensures an even cook to the rice. Rice is added and quickly stirred. The rice puffs up like popcorn, and the sand is sieved out and re used.

The popcorn rice is then cooked with palm sugar to form a puffed rice bar, similar to the breakfast ones you see in the supermarkets here, only much better.
We try and have a cold drink, finally buying rice paper for my cooking sequence later.
As we leave we step over tow sleeping dogs, they look so happy. I say to Hghia, what lovely pets they are. He replies 'yes, until Christmas, you won't see many after Christmas' apparently they are like turkey to us. I take a quick photo and get back onto the boat. We steam for 1 hour right into the island inlets for lunch.


We finally arrive at our restaurant after many pieces to camera on the boat. I'm a bit peckish now and we are greeted by the owners. Its a warm close day today. We are given hand towels and wash our hands. We are ushered around the back of the restaurant just in time to see our lunch being netted and dispatched. Two large fish are then cleaned, and popped straight into boiling oil. It goes against all the rules of frying. I fully expected to see the whole place go up in flames.

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I wander outside and sit with the rest of the crew. We are all a bit jaded today; it does start to catch up with you after a few days.

Lunch is very good starting with spring rolls, and our fish 20 minutes ago swimming about is now proudly sitting pretty on a wooden stand, crispy scales giving the fish a sparkling effect. The lady deftly removes chunks of delicate flesh, and place on a spring roll wrapper. We then help ourselves to impeccably fresh herbs and salads to add to our fish and a little cucumber and carrot. Rolled up and then dipped in fish sauce. Its very nice. We quickly film a member of staff catching the fish, then have rice, a sort of pork broth and some vegetables. I'm stuffed now. We film my piece to camera, a version of what we had had for lunch. I cook on a traditional stone stove, its very good and really holds the heat well. We taste, pretty good I reckon for a beginner.

After saying our goodbyes and thanks, we hop onto the boat and sail back to the mainland. I fall asleep in a hammock on the boat, full to the brim, its bliss.

 

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