First day in Turkey

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My first meal in Turkey--lamb kebab, rice pilov, yoghurt, roasted vegetables.
My first meal in Turkey–lamb kebab, rice pilov, yoghurt, roasted vegetables.

My flight to Istanbul, via Kuala Lumpur, was mercifully uneventful, but long. Sixteen hours getting there, plus customs, passport control and a 6 hour time difference. But I’m here and safe, staying in a hotel and trying to get on Turkey time. I should see my school for the first time tomorrow.

The weather here is good, highs in the 60’s F, sunshine. The folks at the hotel and the restaurant across the street speak fair English. I’ve even met another new teacher, Edgar, from Huston.

I’ve been walking and trying to stay awake all day to adjust to the new time zone. Of course I don’t know the language or the neighborhood, but it’s funny how the ear tries so hard to make sense of the words it hears. I did this some in Vietnam, but it’s very strong here in Istanbul.

And I’ve already heard the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. Here are a few first photos.

This is pieces of lamb on a spit, called donor--amazing.
This is pieces of lamb on a spit, called donor–amazing.
The street outside my hotel.
The street outside my hotel.
The street outside my hotel,
The street outside my hotel,
Always construction going on. I wonder how old the walls of the foundation are? And what amazing things you find when you dig in this city? Istanbul was established about 1000BC. The nearby highway was part of the silk road.
Always construction going on. I wonder how old the walls of the foundation are? And what amazing things you find when you dig in this city? Istanbul was established about 1000BC. The nearby highway was part of the silk road.
One of the mosques nearby,
One of the mosques nearby,
I'm going to get so fat......
I’m going to get so fat……
Fresh meat and seafood.
Fresh meat and seafood.
....and the pastries.
….and the pastries.
Fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere.
Fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere.

 

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Goodbye Vietnam!

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It was a great ten days in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s time to move on to my next job in Turkey. But before I look ahead, let me share just a few last photos.

This temple was just steps away from my hotel, but seemed to be more of a place for monks to live. The ground floor had a huge dining room, but it didn't feel right to investigate farther. Chua An Lac.
This temple was just steps away from my hotel, but seemed to be more of a place for monks to live. The ground floor had a huge dining room, but it didn’t feel right to investigate farther. Chua An Lac.
Detail of the Chua An Lac (Lac Temple). This inset is hand carved stone, taller than me.
Detail of the Chua An Lac (Lac Temple). This inset is hand carved stone, taller than me.
Even the Benh Thanh Market--shopping haven for tourists--closed for Tet, but it opened again before I left.
Even the Benh Thanh Market–shopping haven for tourists–closed for Tet, but it opened again before I left.
A dragon dance to bring in the new year. This is in front of the Post office in District 1.
A dragon dance to bring in the new year. This is in front of the Post office in District 1.
A hotel was re--opening. A ceremony, involving Dragon dancers, incense, drums and bells was performed.
A hotel was re–opening. A ceremony, involving Dragon dancers, incense, drums and bells was performed.

HCMC Feb 2015. 5

It's easy to meet folks when traveling, which is how I met Jurek.  He was born in Russia, raised in Poland and lived most of his adult life in Canada--fascinating guy. He retired recently and lives on his boat in Toronto in the summer, travels in the winter.
It’s easy to meet folks when traveling, which is how I met Jurek. He was born in Russia, raised in Poland and lived most of his adult life in Canada–fascinating guy. He retired recently and lives on his boat in Toronto in the summer, travels in the winter.

 

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Cooking Vietnamese

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I took a second cooking class at Saigon Culinary Arts. This time with Lee, who says he’s the cook back in his Florida home. (I hate to tell him it was partly a ruse so his wife, Carolyn, could go shopping!). We had a wonderful time and got to eat our creations, too! We were stuffed.

Lee and I ended up back at the Saigon Culinary Art Center for a new cooking lesson. This is our chef Mia, who taught just the two of us.
Lee and I ended up back at the Saigon Culinary Art Center for a new cooking lesson. This is our chef Mia, who taught just the two of us.
These are our spring rolls, stuffed with chopped pork, shrimp and crab. We dampened the rice paper wrappers with sugar water to make them golden and crispy, but our cook said beer was even better.
These are our spring rolls, stuffed with chopped pork, shrimp and crab. We dampened the rice paper wrappers with sugar water to make them golden and crispy, but our cook said beer was even better.

Fried Spring Rolls, Cha Gio
• 30g crab meat, minced
• 40g shrimp, minced
• 30g pork, minced
• 15g dried wood ear mushroom, rehydrated and minced
• 40g sweet potato, grated fine (or turnip, taro)
• 1t chicken powder
• 1t sugar
• ½ t black pepper
• 1t each, chopped spring onions and shallots
• 3-6 rice paper wrappers
• Mixture of sugar water, coconut juice or beer to wet the rice paper with your fingers
• Soybean oil for deep frying
Use 1 heaping teaspoon per rice paper wrapper
Dipping sauce
• 1T sugar
• 1T lime juice
• 1T fish sauce
• 1t minced garlic
• ½ t chopped red chili
Serve with lettuce leaves, fragrant herbs, fresh rice noodle and dipping sauce

This is the sour fish soup. It gets it's sour taste from tamarind and lime juice, but we added sugar and pineapple to balance it.
This is the sour fish soup. It gets it’s sour taste from tamarind and lime juice, but we added sugar and pineapple to balance it.

Sour soup with shrimp, Canh chua thom va tom (makes one serving)
• 70g of shrimp, fresh peeled (we used fish)
• 1T cooking oil
• 1 t chopped garlic
• ¼ pineapple, cubed
• 1 small tomato, peeled and cut into cubes
• ½ t sugar
• 1t chicken powder
• ½ t each salt and pepper
• 1T chicken broth
• 1T lime juice
• 1T sour tamarind (more lime if you can’t find)
• Water, if needed
Garnish, just before serving:
• Fragrant herb, minced: long coriander, mint, Thai basil, cilantro
• Bean sprouts
• 2 slices of red chili or red pepper
• Fried, chopped garlic
Heat oil. Add garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Add tomato and pineapple. Stir in sugar, chicken powder, salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, lime juice and tamarind. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and bring to a boil again. Adjust seasons (may need sugar or water, especially). Top with herbs, sprouts and chilies. Serve.

Caramelized fish in a clay pot was amazing, particularly the sauce. The single hot pepper, which was not chopped, added a tremendous amount of heat. This dish was served with steamed rice.
Caramelized fish in a clay pot was amazing, particularly the sauce. The single hot pepper, which was not chopped, added a tremendous amount of heat. This dish was served with steamed rice.

Caramel Fish in clay pot, Ca kho to (makes 1 serving)
• 100g boneless fish
• 1 ½ t caramel syrup (sugar cooked in water until it thickens and darkens)
• 1t chopped shallot
• 1t chopped spring onion
• ½ t chopped chili
• 1t sugar
• 1T Fish sauce
• 1t chicken powder
• ½ t pepper
• ½ cup water
• 1T soybean oil
Marinate fish in oil, caramel, fish sauce, sugar, chicken powder, pepper, chili and onions. 20 minutes.
Bring fish to simmer. Stir occasionally until sauce dries. Add water. Put on the lid and let simmer until done.
Garnish with spring onion and chilies and serve with steamed rice

I'm an official Vietnamese cook, now! We ended our meal with a sweet soup, made with mung beans and coconut milk.
I’m an official Vietnamese cook, now! We ended our meal with a sweet soup, made with mung beans and coconut milk.
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Night out in Saigon with new friends

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John, me, Carolyn, Linda,Guy  and Lee.
It’s easy to meet fellow travelers here in Ho Chi Minh City. John, me, Carolyn, Linda, Guy and Lee. John and Linda are from Colorado. Carolyn and Lee from Florida. Guy is German and was waiting for his wife to finish with her massage.
The squid dealer is an older woman who pushed her cart down the street each evening. She charged 60,000vnd ($3) for enough squid for all of us.
The squid dealer is an older woman who pushes her cart down the street each evening. Many work from scooters or modified bicycles. She charged 60,000vnd ($3) for enough squid for all of us to have an an appetizer.
The Squid snack starts with dried squid that is roasted over a flame, then shredded and pan sauteed in a sweet sauce.  The dipping sauce is red hot.
The Squid snack starts with dried squid that is roasted over a flame, then shredded and pan sauteed in a sweet sauce. The dipping sauce is red hot.
Pork stew, in a flaming bamboo tube.
Pork stew, in a flaming bamboo tube. I had no idea this is what I was ordering. It was good, but mostly for show.
Ban xeo, Vietnamese pan cake. "Xeo" is the sound of the pancake sizzling on the griddle.
Ban xeo, Vietnamese pan cake is a common breakfast for me. It’s an egg dipped rice paper wrapper, stuffed with seafood and vegetables.. “Xeo” is the sound of the pancake sizzling on the griddle.
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Water Puppet show

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These are the puppeteers. They did most of their work from behind the green bamboo mats.
These are the puppeteers. They did most of their work from behind the green bamboo mats.

I don’t generally think of water and puppets mixing well, but it’s a tradition in northern Vietnam. My new friends, Carolyn and Lee, and I went to the 50 minute program, which is about as long as I wanted when I didn’t know what they were saying. There were 6 live musicians and far more puppeteers than I could count.

Entrance to the theater.
Entrance to the theater.
There were many puppets. The program was a series of short Vetnamese folk tales, complete with narration, songs and musicians.
There were many puppets. The program was a series of short Vetnamese folk tales, complete with narration, songs and musicians.

 

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Cooking Class at The Saigon Culinary Art Center

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The large classroom/dining room was for another group, but it was very colorful.
The large classroom/dining room was for another group, but it was very colorful.

2/18/15
A lovely, private cooking class with just three of us. We had pho ga (chicken noodle soup), grilled pork, rice (in rice molds, my favorite part of the meal), a colorful salad and fresh pineapple for dessert. Tasty, healthy and enough food I may not eat the rest of the day.

Our chef was 26 years old and from Sapa, but he's moved his family here to Ho Chi Minh City, working at the International Hotel 5-6 days a week and teaching 2 days a week for the last 6 years. "No time for girlfriend. No money for girlfriend. Yet!" he smiles.
Our chef was 26 years old and from Sapa, but he’s moved his family here to Ho Chi Minh City. He’s managed it by working at the International Hotel 5-6 days a week and teaching 2 days a week for the last 6 years. “No time for girlfriend. No money for girlfriend!” And then he smiles, “Yet!”

Making the soup gets a bit complicated, but I can share the salad recipe:

I even made the little carrot roses!
I even made the little carrot roses!

Vegetable Salad with pork and shrimp
Shred or julienne:
• Carrot
• White onion
• Cucumber
• Red pepper or chili pepper (seeds removed)
• Tomato (we didn’t use any)
• Mint
• Cilantro and/or basil
• Pineapple

Top with 2 boiled and peeled shrimp and a few slices of cooked pork. These have been marinated in:
• 1T sugar
• 1T lime juice
• 1T fish sauce
• 1t chopped garlic
• 1t chopped chili

Dressing (mix until sugar is dissolved):
• 1T sugar
• 1T rice vinegar
• ½ t salt
• Black pepper
Serve with shrimp crackers, top the salad with crushed peanuts and garnish with basil leaves and carrot flowers.

Putting the finishing touches on the pho ga (chicken noodle soup).
Putting the finishing touches on the pho ga (chicken noodle soup).
The rice molds were great and easy. Just wet everything with water, work quickly and the rice won't stick.
The rice molds were great and easy. Just wet everything with water, work quickly and the rice won’t stick.
We marinated the pork for 20 minutes before grilling in something similar to the salad dressing plus additional lemongrass and garlic. Tasty! It's topped with lightly sauteed spring onions. And the rice came out in a firm cake.
We marinated the pork for 20 minutes in the salad dressing with additional lemongrass and garlic. It was then quickly grilled. Tasty! It’s topped with lightly sauteed spring onions. And the rice came out in a firm cake.
dessert!
dessert!
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