All right, on to the next part of our journey, after about a week in Saigon (I’ll get to that in the next post), we flew out to Phu Quoc, an island paradise to the southwest of Vietnams mainland, it’s actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, but I guess the poor Cambodians lost that one too. It’s a short flight, probably less than an hour, and from the airport we got a taxi to our hotel, four star Famiana Beach Resort, which is next door to five star Salinda Resort (where I wanted to stay). We decided to stay in this area as it was not too far from the city centre of Duong Dong which is the main city on the island, we just didn’t want to be anywhere too remote. The plan was basically to relax, and not do too much, maybe do one day of touring, and two days of chilling by the beach, we had three nights there in total.
The private hotel beach was very nice, and was probably the highlight of the trip, especially since taking little Oscar around makes things a little difficult, he also decided that he was in a tantrum throwing mood most of the time there, so that was fun. The sea waters were quite calm and the beach clean, the sand nice and soft under foot, and if the waves were too powerful (lol), then the hotel had a nice swimming pool to relax in as well. I thought that the hotel was good, breakfast buffet was solid and well rounded, and service quite diligent, emmy didn’t think that the “Resort” title was justified though.
For our day trip, we just jumped on a stock standard south island tour, which visited a pearl farm (boring), a buddhist temple of some description, Sao Beach (whether it was any better than our hotel beach, I’m not sure), a Prisoner of War camp (called Coconut Tree Prison), and a fish sauce factory – where you can buy fish sauce but apparently you can’t fly with it, so I’m not sure what the point of buying it is – before heading home a bit after lunch time. That was it for visiting stuff, I didn’t even get a tropical sunset picture, I left the room too late the one chance I had to get a tropical sunrise picture and had to settle for some boats on the horizon shots.
We were so ridiculously lazy that we ate at the hotel one lunch time, and probably across the road at the local restaurants every other time except twice where we ventured to the city centre and had crab at the crab restaurant, and another time we had dinner at a seafood restaurant (with rats running around nearby!). The food was actually quite nice generally, expensive (relatively speaking), but there’s a good variety of Vietnamese island food and regular Vietnamese food.
The Crab Restaurant was pretty hipster-y but good quality nonetheless, and one of the restaurants across the road from the hotel we ordered Canh Chua Ca (sour fish soup) and it was very nice, just like home made (which is a good thing). I didn’t really rate Phu Quoc the island that highly for things to do (although having a toddler can alter your perception), but I certainly wouldn’t complain about the food. There are probably a lot of fun things to do there if you’re not looking after a 20-month old little monster, and/or you’re not super lazy, good place to chill at least. Next up, back to Saigon to finish off our trip, our stay there was interesting to say the least.
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Every summer when I was young, my mum would send me to Hanoi to stay with my grandma for a month. I remember reading lots of manga borrowed from my cousin, and playing card games with my childhood friend. It was simply too hot and humid to play outside for long. Every morning at 7, I would go and knock on my friend’s door hoping that she was up so that we could go down to the alley way to have breakfast. She was never up, opting to sleep in every single day. In my defence, the sun rises around at 5am in Summer so it was impossible for me to sleep in. After a lot of yelling and knocking she would finally wake and we would go down to get the last few bowls of bún on offer. The seller usually packed her stall around 8-8.30am. My friend would go for bún ốc (snail noodle soup) while I would always go with bún riêu cua (crab noodle soup) since I found (and still find) the former a tad sandy.
Bún riêu of my childhood is a simple affair and much different to its southern counterpart. It was made out of freshwater crab paste with lots of tomatoes and the secret ingredient of giấm bổng (a kind of vinegar) which gives the broth a subtle sourness. It was eaten with chopped salad leaves, purple perrila and the usual spring onion and coriander. Admittedly the seller (she also lived in the apartment block) was heavy handed with the MSG but I found this version the most wholesome of all. I tried another seller in Hanoi but the taste didn’t match and I was too snobby to ever eat it in Saigon being put off by the red colouring, fried tofu, and even pork blood cubes.
Even with the abundance of Vietnamese restaurants in Melbourne, it was impossible to find a good bowl of bún riêu since we don’t have freshwater crabs here. I once bought a frozen bag from the grocery store but couldn’t make it coagulate to form the crab cake. The version listed here is what I make with the available ingredients to satisfy my craving but it’s nowhere near as good as what the real bowl of bun rieu was in my mind.
Ingredients (serves 4)
Q: Can chicken stock be substituted with beef/pork stock? Can I use stock from a can or stock cube?
A: I wouldn’t think so since we want a milk flavoured stock here. You can make the stock by boiling chicken cases with a knob of ginger, 1 tbsp of salt for about an hour.
Q: Can I use live crab instead of the one from the can?
A: You can add boiled live crab meat to the mixture but using it alone wont result in crab cake.
Q: Can I use a different brand of crab paste?
A: You could try but this one is my favourite.
Q: Can I not use mince pork?
A: Yes, in that case double the crab paste and make sure that the stock is not on high heat. Otherwise it will over boil and you won’t get any crab cake.
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