traditional vietnamese rice puffs, mekong delta





these are some proper traditional rice crispies – before viewing this demonstration, I never realised that the traditional goodies made of rice pops were quintessential rice crispy treats, but they really are. made of freshly harvested rice grains popped by stirring through hot charcoal granules, there are sifted and then folded through caramel before being cut into rectangles.

the sifting removes the husk that pops off the exploded rice grains, and the cooks work very quickly with hot caramel so it doesn’t harden before the rice puffs get added.

they are poured into traditional wooden moulds as above, which ingeniously have grooves to make neatand consistent cuts. made with different variations such as sesame and coconut, and even noodles instead of rice – I really like this version – there are packed into clear plastic bags and sealed to be sold in the city and overseas.

it’s an old-school treat that’s been overshadowed by the prevalence of marshmallow-rice-treats, and one well – worth revisiting. you might just realize, as I have, that the oldie is a true goldie.

traditional vietnamese rice paper, mekong delta





I still have a few posts on vietnam to go – this is the result of having a backlog so dense you can barely see the wood for the trees (does anyone watch QI?). but they’re still pretty cool and share-worthy.

this one is about that traditional vietnamese rice paper that we mostly see wrapped around salad leaves and prawns to make a summer roll – or goi cuon. the ones that you see here are made in the same manner as those translucent wrappings, just these are more opaque from the addition of coconut milk.

the lady competently ladles on batter of coconut milk and flour onto a cloth for it to be steamed, before lifting the thin and now-cooked sheet onto the edge of a rattan basket for it to dry slightly, before drying completely on vented rattan mats. some of them have sesame seeds or coconut shreds added to them.

you can buy these large dried rice sheets, and bring them home to toast into crisp shards of mildly sweet cracker, fragrant with the coconut milk and textural with the sesame sheets. they were a little large for us to carry, but I highly recommend them if you’ve got the space.

that last photo is of a rice mill, from which you can get the ever-useful rice flour.

fruit farm and tasting, mekong delta



other than the scintillating milk fruit I told you about just a while ago, we also got the chance to visit a sort of village hall where we were treated to some local fruit and a musical performance – a couple of duets accompanied by some traditional instruments. on the platter were a couple slices of watermelon, baby thin-skinned raja bananas, longans, jumbo or water apples, and I think I might have missed out one or two – but we also leapt at the chance to try a local durian when our guide told us there were some available.

the other fruits were included in the trip, but the durians we had to pay extra for – not too expensive but we barely touched it after having a seed each. the durians had a strange sort of texture, like a taut skin over a very watery flesh – unlike the creamy, dense, unctuous flesh that characterizes the popular variants in singapore. the taste was likewise watery, with barely any sweetness and just a faint whiff of a durian. it was rather difficult to eat, actually, and I don’t think I finished the piece that I took.

this probably does explain why singaporeans hunt for specific variants of durian (as does my family), and why the good ones cost quite a bit – there is a great possible variance of taste, and for such a calorific fruit, the flavour ought to be well worth the indulgence.

p.s. if you don’t like durians, make sure you ask a well-informed singaporean to bring you to one! the best ones are undeniably delicious (and I don’t even eat much myself).

breast milk fruit, mekong delta





bet that got your attention. this isn’t anything so risqué, really – just a tropical fruit with a green rind and white flesh, and milky white sap that oozes out as you stick a spoon into it.

we were brought to a villager’s family home, where they grow these trees in abundant – the elderly matriarch of the house took a pole-mounted net, stuck it up the trees and grabbed us a couple of ripe specimens (while I frantically googled these fruit after our guide mentioned its very suggestive name) and very proficiently threw them into a basket. these fruit grow on tall trees, and look sort of like a very smooth green orb, a little like a smooth-skinned guava.

you slice them into half, stick a metal spoon around the inner circumference (where ripe flesh meet the rind), swipe your spoon around neatly to eject a hemisphere of fruit, then spoon bits to eat, spitting the seeds out as you go. the taste of the fruit is a little like a custard apple, really kind of mild, while the texture is a little like a silky mangosteen. a very interesting fruit, and my dad caught onto it very quickly, finishing quite a few right there and then. I personally found the experience a little strange – but it’s more a visual reaction than a flavour one: I found the white sap coming out a little unsettling, almost like cutting into actual flesh (I think my mind makes far too much of the name of this thing). didn’t stop me from having two-and-a-half of these milk fruit though.

do get one if you come across them; it was only after this excursion that we realized we had seen quite a few of these in the ben thanh market, very large, perfect green spheres sold with a bit of stalk and a leaf. let me know how you like them if you’ve ever had a go!

bee farm, mekong delta






this is the first of a set of posts I have on a side trip we took from ho chi minh to stay at the mekong delta. after years of only eating-and-shopping/tailoring in this city – not that those are insignificant activities to us – we decided to try something new, so I booked us on a two-day stay at the mekong lodge (their website here).

we stayed in one-storey bungalows along the mekong lodge, did a bit of guided sightseeing and local-eating, went out to see a local floating market and how some traditional delicacies were made – and let’s start with some pretty photos from the trip we took to a bee farm nearby.

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