the streets of hanoi, vietnam

street scenes, hanoi

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粽子, or a family feast

rice dumplings (粽子: zòng zi) are a rather antiquated tradition passed down from our ancestors: when a celebrated and patriotic poet – qu yuan, of the warring states period in chinese history – drowned himself, these triangular dumplings were devised to be thrown into the river for the fish to eat so they would leave his body alone.

on a more snarky less serious note, the dumplings probably had a dual purpose – not only tasty enough to prove sufficient distraction for those gullible fish, the glutinous rice is so stodgy as to end up leaden in their stomachs. I put forth the hypothesis that our ancestors were both clever and merciless.

I feel almost culpable – I’m part of the generation that’s consigning this tradition to near obscurity and do-if-convenient. one day I will learn to make this – even if I’m not sure I’ll ever finish eating one on my own.

so, if you’re making efforts to keep up cultural traditions, I salute you. and in the meantime, I’ll tell you the best rice dumplings are grandma-made, chock-full of dried mussels, pork, mushrooms, chestnuts, and a salted egg yolk – surrounded by sticky-but-separate rice grains that are soft and not mushy.

p.s. this is a month after the festival – but hey, umm, photos were taken and must be shared!

coconut candy, mekong delta



while at the mekong lodge, we got a quick look at how coconut candy was made – it’s a semi-hard sort of toffee with a deep caramelly flavour, full of the notes of toasted coconut. essentially, caramel gets cooked in a large pot, thrown on the table to cool, before it’s divided into mounds and pushed out into a mould. these moulds are wooden, with straight trenches so the candy gets shaped into strips, before they’re cut into smaller squares.

we bought a couple bags that had bits of coconut in them, and these are some tasty things – sort of like werther’s originals done up asian-style. tasty!

more on the mekong lodge:

bee farm

teochew city seafood restaurant, town












(surprisingly) rather good cantonese-teochew-chinese food in the slightly-abandoned centrepoint shopping mall. this isn’t a real review, since I was here for my partner’s sister’s wedding dinner – so this is more useful as a guide to a chinese wedding dinner (if you’re new to this sort of thing), if you’re considering venues for your own celebration dinner, and as a reference to the skills of the kitchen.

they fared really well, actually. reasonably priced, generous portions of food that we couldn’t finish, and really rather impressive cooking – especially at such volumes.

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chinese new year flowers, part 2









view part 1 here!

I know, I know, this isn’t a flower blog – but will you forgive me for the flowers I’m bringing you? regular programming coming right after this!

and if you want a head’s up to start your very own chinese new year tradition of potted plants, then you can’t go far wrong with a pineapple, which phonetically sounds very much like the chinese term for fortune coming your way. that red-and-purple-tinged variety in the second photo up there probably isn’t of the eating variety, but is gorgeous as a festive ornament.

chinese new year flowers, part 1








just part one of a batch of photos I took while at the nursery today – my parents buy a number of potted plants every year in preparation for chinese new year (10 february this year), and it brightens up the garden wonderfully. this is one in a long list of traditions – and I think the easiest one by far. many plants have significance based on the sounds of their name – essentially if the name of the plant shares the same pronunciation as something lucky, you buy it.

this is the first in four years that I’m back for the celebration, and it’s a little bittersweet, as with many things: it’s going to be great having steamboat with the family and stealing slices of abalone in the kitchen while my grandma prepares the meal (I am a favourite grandchild), but having a reunion dinner with friends and my partner in the midst of the cold of winter has its charm too.

but anyway, aren’t these gorgeous? the second half of my photos will be coming up!