Welcome to "A Mad Designer's Journey"

The comic, inspiring and always fashionable adventures of this "mad designer" as she navigates the reality of pursuing her dream...living the artisan lifestyle of a jewelry designer.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Wild Rice and White Bean Salad

Planning home cooked meals here in Hanoi, Vietnam can be challenging. I have leftover wild rice from last night and am thinking of making a wild rice salad. I go to the gym in Tay Ho  which is an area with a high population of ex-patriots and many of the stores (grocery and otherwise) cater to this clientele . So today I am looking for lemons/limes, green onion, cucumber, carrots & lettuce. The availability of thing in Hanoi is kind of hit or miss, either everyone has it and is selling it at every stall and shop  or you cannot find something and have to substitute. So I am playing it kind of fast and loose on this recipe. I could not find lemons or carrots at the 1st grocery store I went to in Tay Ho and when I tried to stop at another shop in a cab with my purchases thus far, the police were on the street so the cab could not wait for me to shop. I decided to just head back home vs. loosing the cab since it was getting close to rush hour (which is a mess as normal car traffic stays at a steady 30-40 mph and rush hour brings this down to 25 mph).  I ended up finding a woman selling limes as I was walking down my street from where the cab dropped me off…yea! Then I tried to do without the carrots but ended up going back out and picking some up at the last minute as I really wanted the pop of orange and sweetness of the carrots to counteract the vinegar in the salad. So here is my recipe for Wild Rice and White Bean Salad…off the cuff! I have already sampled several bites and it is yummy! Let’s see if Stephane my other half likes it too…
Salad Ingredients:
3 cups leftover wild rice pilaf (or wild rice cooked in chicken or vegetable stock)
1 can butter beans (or any other white bean you have on hand), drained and rinsed
2 small cucumbers (or 1 large), peeled, sliced and quartered
1 good size carrot, shredded (would probably be nice julienned)
2 spring onion sliced thin (include green part)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 T white wine vinegar
3 T olive oil
1T dried tarragon (fresh would be great if you have it!)
1T dried parsley (again fresh if you have it)
1/2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic (smashed through salt)
1/2 tsp. sea salt (more or less to taste)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Make dressing first so that the herbs sit in vinegar as long as possible. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bottle, I used a recycled jelly bottle and shake. While this is sitting prep your salad ingredients and combine in bowl. Toss salad stuff add dressing and toss again. Let sit in refrigerator for 1-2 hours and you are good to go. Enjoy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bún chả…my ongoing addiction

Bun cha (Vietnamese: Bún chả) is a Vietnamese dish, which is thought to be originated from Hanoi, north Vietnam.[1] Bun cha is served with a plate of white rice noodle (bún) and a bowl of sauce that contains grilled meat pork and slices of green papaya. Accompanying foods include nem (fried spring rolls) and different kinds of herd like lettuce and tia to (Perilla).  - Wikipedia

Bún chả
I have been living in Hanoi now for about 8 months after moving here from Atlanta, Georgia USA to say this was a  big change would be an understatement! One of the biggest differences is the food. I live close to downtown Hanoi on Tong Duy Tan commonly referred to as “Food Street”. Food street is open pretty much 24/7 and is lined with street food vendors, restaurants, café’s  and a couple other random shops.

Tong Duy Tan, Hanoi, Vietnam
In the beginning , I was hesitant to experience street food and concerned about stomach issues but soon I “maned up” and tried a couple  dishes like Pho Bo (typical breakfast noodle soup with beef) & mixed rice (stir fried veggies may include small bits of beef, chicken and or seafood) . Then it happened, I came across a Bun cha stand…the lightning bolt struck...clouds parted, the sun came out and I was in love! Two women run this stand on Tong Duy Tan and are open for lunch daily until about 3 ish, I usually try to get there between 12-1pm just to make sure they don’t run out of Nem, which is an essential part in my opinion to the bun cha experience. 

My favorite Bún chả stand
 One of the woman man’s the grill; cooking the tiny pork patties to perfection (for me this is very well done) and frying the Nem in a small pot on the same grill. The other woman brings me a small plate of bun (rice noodle), a bowl of broth with about half a dozen of the pork patties fresh off the grill with thin slices of green papaya floating on top and a basket of salad which varies by the day but usually consists of several kinds of Vietnamese mint, cilantro and butter lettuce. A small side order of Nem is the perfect compliment to this delicious lunch.

Side order of Nem
This is how I enjoy my bun cha. First I add some of the freshly chopped garlic and up to 3 slices fresh of chili pepper to  my bowl of broth, sliced green papaya and meat patties. Then I add some veggies and herbs from my salad basket and enjoy a couple bits of the sweet delicate flavors.
Add garlic, chili, herbs and veggies!
Next I dip a bit of the Nem into the broth while the Nem is still hot; enjoying  the crispiness of the wrapper while the juicy broth seeps out of the roll and into my mouth. Now I add more mint from the basket and add a bit of the bun to my bowl and enjoy. This step can be messy with chopsticks as you slurp up the noodles but who cares, I’m in heaven! Last but not least I add more herbs and lettuce and try to get the perfect bit of the meat patty with that bit of crunch. Repeat all steps over and over again until done.

Regards to the chef!
As you can see I have this down to a science and I should, my longest running bun cha streak so far is 14 days in a row of bun cha for lunch! I have tried bun cha at another stand when I was across town but it was no where near as good…if you are ever in Hanoi, you have got to try the bun cha on “food street” as part of your experience! Enjoy!!

For another intertaining bun cha story follow this link: http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/1031

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