Fascination With Vietnamese Coffee

If you’ve seen my previous post yakking about the Banh Cam, you already know that I was a tourist in Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam for a few days last week. Being proper tourists that my family and I were, we visited majority of the tourist spots that the city is known for. In all those spots where goods can be bought, you can be sure that someone will sell you coffee (or you know, shove it up your face), be it the beans of different varieties or already brewed, hot or iced.
Trung Nguyen is one of the bigger brands

To be fair, most of the beans I got to smell smelled wonderful. Most had a robust, strong coffee scent that make you want to have a cup at first sniff. Coffee is big in all of Vietnam. Being one of their leading export products, naturally, the locals have thought of other ways to market it. Besides plain old brewed coffee, one of the more popular coffee products for locals and foreigners alike is the cà phê sữa đá, or iced coffee with milk in English (my favorite!).

Making the delicious cà phê sữa đá

To make, filter finely ground Vietnamese coffee beans using their individual filter thingamajigs (or use a conventional coffee maker). Pour the filtered coffee into a glass full of ice and mix in condensed milk to suit your taste. Or you know, find the nearest street vendor selling the stuff and have it brewed, mixed, and packed neatly in a disposable container ready for sipping under the hot Vietnamese sun in 5 minutes all for just 10,000 dong (about 25 pesos). Luckily for us, it was easy to get our iced coffee fix daily from the street vendor in front of our hotel (the hotel staff order theirs from the same lady).

Other yummy coffee products: Kem Trung Nguyen (coffee ice cream, with coffee syrup. Yum!), street iced coffee, coffee chocolate cake

Vietnamese coffee is such a delight that the family hoarded and bought too much of it to bring back home, both as pasalubong and for personal use. Including my mom. She doesn’t drink coffee. Btw, advance happy mothers day to Mama and all the loving mothers in the world!


Steak Out Saturday: Homemade Steak Dinner Recipe

UPDATE: Bim has since honed his steak cooking skills. He shares his tips to make almost perfect steaks on this post.

Last weekend, Bim, mastermind of GeekOut had the brilliant idea to cook for me. Instead of eating out as usual, we opted to stay in, cook for the family, and enjoy the (relatively) cooler weather in the house. Because he’s not exactly Alton Brown, we consulted the Boucouse In Your Kitchen cookbook to find a simple enough recipe to follow and eventually decided on Steaks au poivre and Pommes de terre sautées.

Here’s the thing, we forgot the book when we headed out so he had to wing it. Steaks au poivre and Pommes de terre sautées became Bim’s Butter Garlic Steak and Boiled Potatoes.

20120508-233225.jpg Look at how smug he is!

Here’s what you’ll need:

– 750g of beef tenderloin cut into inch thick slices
– 1 stick of butter
– 1 small bag of baby potatoes
– 1 clove of garlic, skinned and minced
– Salt
– Pepper
– Rosemary (optional)

20120508-234526.jpg I’m not entirely sure why he keeps pointing at the meat

Here’s how to make a hearty homemade steak dinner:

Garlic butter steak
Season the meat with a liberal amount of salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes. Melt 2/3rds a stick of butter in a non stick pan. When the pan is hot enough, sauté the garlic in butter just until the smell of garlic fills your kitchen. Remove the golden bits of garlic and set aside. Turn up the heat until it’s hot enough and sear the meat, 6-8 minutes per side for medium well done steak (less if you like it rare or medium rare or medium and more for well done steaks). Put on a plate and sprinkle garlic (from earlier) and rosemary on top.

Boiled potatoes
Fill a pot with water, put potatoes in, sprinkle with salt and wait for it to boil. Let the water boil for a few minutes and then poke one of the taters with a fork to check if it’s done (it’s ready when you can easily stick the fork in). Drain the water from the pot and mix in the rest of the butter with the potatoes. Add salt to taste (you can add basil too, if you like).

Best served with salad on the side (thanks Lianne and Roma!).

Bim gives his steaks a 6 out of 10 rating, I give it an 8. The meat was tender and the flavor was just mouth-watering (loosely translated as “You should cook for me again!”). Wearing this apron alone added 1 to the total score.


Bouillabaisse Is Marseille’s Specialty For A Reason

And let’s rewind to several weeks in the past.

Before going back to Manila for good, my officemates and I decided to take the weekend train to nearby Marseille as a last hurrah of sorts. It was just a 2-hour train ride from Lyon, just as long a drive is from Manila to Tagaytay minus the traffic. We were at the huge Marseille train station before noon and had the whole day to take in the change of scenery.

20120507-192125.jpg Full parking, please proceed to basement 2

Marseille couldn’t be more different than Lyon. While Lyon is squashed somewhere in the middle, Marseille is in the south of France, by the sea, making it a port city. As you can see from the photos, there is no shortage of boats in this area. If anything, docking space is what they’re short on. And because the city is next to the ocean, fresh seafood are aplenty! For someone who adores seafood and hadn’t had any for a while, that was very welcome news. (tastebuds went omgilusomuch)

Seafood everything! Also, everything is so orange.

For lunch, we decided to enjoy the view and chill at a cafe along the coast, called Le Macinissa Cafe. Their menu did not lack for seafood, and we went a little crazy and ordered anything with sea dwellers in them. Seafood paella, seafood pasta, and salmon spaghetti were our picks and they all looked like they were cooked in one (delicious) pot. But that’s not just it, the real star of the show was the bouillabaisse, Marseille’s specialty.

OMGNOMNOM! Marseille Bouillabaisse

Famous chef Julia Child once said this about the bouillabaisse: “to me the telling flavor of bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base – garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel – and, of course, the fish – lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish.”

Our order tasted like authentic bouillabaisse (or at least, in accordance with Julia Child’s description). The bread was served in a basket with this wonderful spicy mustard dip. The meats were fresh and were served in a separate dish but we decided to put all of it in the soup base (which was a good idea). The soup was very tasty (and orange) with a hint of spice, probably from the saffron, without being too rich or too filling. Together, it was a successful marriage of seafood and spice (and everything nice, hyukhyuk).

If you’re in Marseille, you cannot, and should not pass up THE bouillabaisse. It’s part of the true Marseille experience.


Vietnamese Treats – Banh Cam

Last week, my family trooped to Vietnam for a little RnR. The short trip had us discovering all the things that the hot Ho Chi Minh city had to offer. Noms included, of course. This is one of them.

Maybe it’s the hue of the cakes, but I’d call these golden more than orange

It’s very easy to spot a bahn cam vendor along the streets of Vietnam because the “cakes” are carefully stacked on top of the other in a basket and carried on top of their heads, making the bearer a head taller than the crowd. When you do find one, you can get one of these sweet treats for 10,000 dong (roughly about 22 pesos).

I would think that this is their version of our local turon

In English, “banh cam” is translated as orange cake. Funnily enough, there’s no orange in it and neither is it a cake (watda?!). The banh cam is a sweet treat made of soft mung bean filling covered by glutinous rice, deep fried in oil and then generously topped with caramelized sugar mixed with a healthy amount of sesame seeds. It’s not unlike the more common Chinese buchi but is a whole lot sweeter. The banh cam is perfect as dessert, or as an afternoon snack when you’re running low on energy juice. Omnomnom!

More Vietnamese noms coming up!