Re-experiencing da Down Under

There is so much to discover and love about Melbourne, even though I’ve used to live here for a year, Australia’s second largest city is still appealing to me. I personally favour Melbourne to Sydney because it is more atmospheric, stylish and eclectic. Not surprisingly, Melbourne is also rated as world’s most liveable cities. I can’t think of a better place for an exciting escapade – the city boasts extensive green parks, boundless art galleries, hidden laneways, lively bars, stunning beaches, charming neighbourhoods and constant evolving food and wine scene.

I always like to explore places by foot. Melbourne city is definitely the place to do so though known for its multiple personality disorder climate. Strangely walking around in this city can enliven my spirit. In contrast, Ho Chi Minh City is not a stroller’s paradise, not because of the scorching heat but because of the sea of people and motorcycles crowding/wheeling every possible corner, I feel less enthusiastic walking around.

Melbourne’s food truly celebrates diversity – Italian, Vietnamese, Greek, Chinese, Moroccan, Lebanese, to name a few. Interestingly, each unique precinct offers wide choices of eateries from budget eats to high-end restaurants. Not to mention, if you are looking for al fresco and coffee culture, this is unquestionably the city where you can eat, drink and be merry!

 

Fresh & simple Asian pineapple dessert

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This is a must try dish if you are looking for a healthy Asian pineapple dessert with a twist! Now back in Penang happily hibernating at home, my mum is Thai stylin’ her dish for me despite the unpleasant hot temperature brewing in my island. In this dish, my mum is using her home grown edible purple flower called Butterfly Pea Flower.

In Thailand, Butterfly Pea Flower is known as dok anchan. The flowers are widely used in Thai and Malaysian cooking for blue or purple colouring for glutinous rice, white rice or even cocktails. My Thai aunty loves to eat the flowers on its own or garnish some on top of a bowl of rice for a kick. Typically, hotels in Thailand welcome their guests with a drink made from dok anchan, honey and sugar syrup.

Whereas in Malaysia, the flower is called Bunga Telang. The flowers are used to create a variety of decorative traditional cakes called Nyonya Kuih. If you would like to use something exotic yet simple for your food, consider using this flower. I find it therapeutic even by looking at the flowers in my mum’s garden.

To give the dessert a delightful tangy spin, mum made nam jim (Thai dipping sauce). Perfect dressing for this pineapple dessert. Without the sweet, sour and salty dipping sauce, it is rather incomplete……

Level: Easy

Serves 2

Fresh ripe pineapple wedges

Fresh Butterfly Pea Flowers or any edible flowers to garnish

For the nam jim:

Light Soy sauce (any soy sauce will do) 1 to 2 tablespoons

Bird’s eye chili, sliced (depending on your preference) 1 to 8 pods

Lime juice 1 to 2 tablespoons

A pinch of sugar

Mix them all together. Set aside and decorate the pineapples with Butterfly Pea Flowers.

Living on the edge in a foreign land

Am I comfortable being uncomfortable?

Ho Chi Minh City is an exceptionally vibrant and a dynamic city, and what I like about Vietnam is that the Vietnamese identity is prominent – all because of Vietnam’s fascinating history. Although I am in awe, I am not ashamed to say that the city is a bit intimidating for me as I struggled to understand life in this city. Obviously, I am finding comfort in a foreign land.

Moving to Ho Chi Minh City for me was exciting and frustrating at the same time. Exciting because there is so much to discover and frustrating because at times I feel as if I am disconnected from the rest of the world. Truth alert – having lived in Kuala Lumpur for so many years, the fascinating multi-layered city has fashioned me into a full-blown variety-seeking-manner person and I have to switch off this FoMO (fear of missing out) syndrome instantly and by far is proving to be a challenging task.

Do I need introduction to Vietnamese food?

Vietnam is a culinary playground for food lovers especially if you like street food. I am a Thai Malaysian from Penang; soooooo it is not a surprise that I am naturally obsessed with street food. Penang not only celebrated for its amazing food, it is also listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. You can already guess I will be spicing up my site here largely on food.

Vietnamese cuisine is absolutely delicious, fresh, well-thought and cleverly prepared, however I have to confess that it can be flat, less satisfying and really simple in comparison to her neighbouring countries. Of course there is still so much for me to learn about the local food but I am sharing about my experiences here and I will not adopt the style of omg-everything-I-eat-is-delicious impression.

Malaysian cuisine is multicultural and eclectic – think of the influences from different ethnic groups of Malay, Indian and Chinese. Thus creating a bolder, colourful and more experimental cuisine in comparison to Vietnamese food. What is truly unique and exotic about Malaysian cuisine is because of the diverse and complex spices and flavours used in the cooking particularly in Peninsula Malaysia.

To get inspired, I signed up for GRAIN by Luke Nguyen’s cooking studio which is strategically located at Saigon city’s centre. Fairly new, Luke Nguyen’s cooking class (opened in March 2015) did not disappoint me. If you would like to learn about Vietnamese cooking, I can assure you this is the place to do so.  The chef, Hoa Le was natural, knowledgeable and energetic – I was impressed with his passion for Vietnamese food. Below are the photos taken at the cooking studio.