Sunday, May 11, 2008

miscellanea from Hanoi

[J]

We're beginning to find a routine here, which means that we can report a bit more on various doings of late. Our primary theme is...

FOOD.

B has yet to meet a meal in Vietnam that he didn't like... though he might argue that some of these meals have not come as promptly as his metabolism requires. But when fed, he always perks up. None of our children tend to be picky eaters, but B is definitely adventurous. A couple of nights ago, we ate dinner on a dockside restaurant on West Lake (Ho Tay) [Note: I won't try to reproduce the diacritical marks that indicate the tonal movement necessary to correctly pronounce Vietnamese words.] I think it was the Potomac Restaurant... though why it is named after a Washington DC river is beyond me. B had clams in oil and garlic and pepper, and he practically licked the plate when they were gone.

Last night, we ate at Thuy Linh, a seafood restaurant just behind the Somerset Westlake, facing onto the lake. (It took us a day or two to find and wander the street behind the Somerset that runs along the lake, but it is a much quieter street than Thuy Khue, the street onto which the Somerset faces. Thuy Khue is a busy street, but not one on which tourists wander much. Being so far from the Old Quarter and the French Quarter, there are fewer tourist-y shops, and those that one sees tend to serve local needs [motorbike repair, construction material, etc.]. The other street, along the lake, is mostly residential, with a few food places.) Anyway, Thuy Linh, the seafood restaurant, was quite good, though the staff seemed to have very little English... and we have less Vietnamese. We succeeded in ordering a variety of food, including some delicious crab, encrusted with salt, grilled shrimp, and a few other items. The prices appeared to be quite reasonable... until, after the meal, we realized that the some of the prices were per kilo (or tenth-of-a-kilo?). We ended up paying more for the crab alone than we had previously paid for an entire meal. A bit of a shock, but thus one learns. And, really, despite the sticker shock when measured in VN dong, the meal was still an incredible bargain when compared to what one might pay for the equivalent seafood at a US restaurant.

Fortunately, that expensive dinner was balanced by our lunch yesterday, which was bun cha from a street stand a few blocks away. TM and I had spotted a shop selling inflatable pool toys not too far from the Somerset, and we decided to take a walk and see what they had. TM, B, and M have really enjoyed the swimming pool, and we thought s cheap inflatable toy might be fun... and on the way I could pick up some lunch to eat in the room. The walk was a bit further down Thuy Khue than I remembered, but we made it, purchased our pool toy, and moved on to the bun cha shop... where I was eventually able to order bun cha for five (with a couple of orange sodas) for less than the cost of a cheap pool toy (and cheap swimming goggles). An incredible bargain, from which we even had leftovers.

Bun cha was one of my favorites from our last visit to Hanoi. If Matt Wise has a pho bo monkey on his back, then I have a bun cha monkey on mine. E suggested that I might write an ode to bun cha... and if I were to do so, it might be something like this....

ODE TO BUN CHA... DANS VERS LIBRE

Oh, bun cha, how I love you,
the snowy, undulating hills of your rice noodles,
the verdant mounds of your leafy greens,
your sizzling, smoking pork scenting the air,
your sauce, so tasty,
your taste, so saucy,
nuoc cham and hot peppers, fire and salt water,
something, something, something....

Well, it might be something like that, but finished... and then probably destroyed.

Two nights ago, we took the Somerset dinner shuttle to a cha ca restaurant. Cha ca is fish cooked at your table and served smoking hot with rice noodles, vegetables, and other condiments. The restaurants that specialize in cha ca serve just cha ca... no menu over which to ruminate... just one dish for everyone. But boy is it good. A pan of hot oil perched on a charcoal brazier is brought to your table, in which chunks of fish and various leafy greens are sauteed (or whatever it is that happens in really hot oil. Then everyone just serves themselves from the hot pan. The one downside is sitting at a crowded table in an already hot restaurant right next to a big pile of red hot charcoal. Don't put your beer bottle too close to the pan.

K has been really quite reasonable in all of these restaurants. He's been trying more and more foods... and has been less interested in the rice cereal. He isn't really happy unless he has his own utensil, and he's more interested in feeding himself. We haven't had to hastily exit any restaurants with a screaming child. But we could really use some sort of high chair with a strap and a tray.

K continues to sleep well and to enjoy playing around the room with TM, B, and M. E wonders whether we should be more concerned that he doesn't seem to feel any grief about leaving the orphanage at Bien Hoa. We both have the feeling that there might be another shoe waiting to drop... but I'm not sure we have any good reason to feel that way. Certainly, K is making everything as easy for us as he can, under the circumstances.

Tomorrow we take a day-trip to Ha Long Bay with the Wise family.

We'll attempt to get some more pictures into photobucket later today. But now, TM has been promised some pool time.

6 comments:

LawMommy said...

Thuy Khue is the road on which I was walking and holding Lana on the 4th day we had her, and I tripped and DROPPED her IN THE ROAD and she was almost killed by a taxi. It was very, very scary...the name of the road makes me feel a little sick, is that crazy?

There is another restaurant on the road behind the Somerset called, I think, Bep Viet. It is quite good, but, they charge by the kilo for the fish, as well. There is also a Chinese restaurant with a children's play area about a 10 minute walk...if you leave the Somerset through the front door, and walk straight up the street (not the street that runs in front of the Somerset, but, the one that you end up on if you kept walking straight from the front doors of the hotel, it hits the road that runs in front of the hotel) (I am describing this badly...so sorry)- if you walk along that road, and then turn right on the next main road, and keep walking down that road until you see some steps that lead down to the left, and then continue on to the right, you will hit a huge road, and the restaurant is near the beginning of that road...) Argh...it is so hard to give directions. Anyway, they have really good food, and a place for the kids to play, but, they also have some kind of house special where they kill a turtle tableside and drain its blood into a glass of vodka, which we witnessed on both occasions we ate there, both times for Japanese businessmen who were very impressed...but, they do have an English menu which almost makes up for the repitle murder...

Gretchen

maxhelcal said...

What a memory you have Gretchen! I remember that turtle story. Ugh.

I wouldn't worry so much about K not grieving yet. Having the other children around really make a difference. Bronte did not grieve one bit and I truly believe it was because Nolan was with us. Children connect to other children easily and it gives them a feeling of security. It keeps their guard down. I always highly encourage families take along a sibling as it seems to make a huge difference in attachment process. Having been through a much different experience with TM I can see why you would worry. I was praying for you guys about that. Anyway...


Happy Mother's Day Elizabeth! :-)

~Michelle

thecurryseven said...

Thanks, Gretchen! We think we know which restaurant you mean.... Was it Thienh Thai? (I may have the spelling wrong.) It's in that same location, and has a waterfall and pool in the entry courtyard? We did eat there, and it was good... but I didn't see the play area! We'll have to go back and look.

Jud [J]

thecurryseven said...

Actually, we did see the play area...J just didn't remember. B is a bit of a turtle fanatic so it's just as well we missed the floor show. We'll just ask not to sit near any Japanese business men if we go back.

E

S. said...

HAve you been to Quan an Ngam? Near the Somerset Grand--our favorite. I miss the cha ca!

LawMommy said...

I think it was Thienh (sp?) something, and it did have a waterfall in the courtyard...here are two photos of the play area -

http://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r21/gretchenfaith/dannyonfish.jpg

http://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r21/gretchenfaith/lanaonslide.jpg

and Lana eating "sweet potato buds" with great gusto inside the restaurant

http://i140.photobucket.com/albums/r21/gretchenfaith/DSCN0855.jpg

Yeah, the turtle thing was something I could have lived without!

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