a little bit of silliness....click on the picture to create a fly for it to eat....

Monday, January 17, 2011

a strange week...

Through a combination of misunderstandings and apathy on my part (I got tired of forcing the issue) I've not had a lot to do lately.  Mr Doan has been working full time at the restaurant and up till Thursday the oven in the training kitchen still wasn't working so I've had nothing much to do.  So on Wednesday I went for a reconnoiter of the city.  I had a list of things to achieve.
1. Find the shop that sold the flower embosser - 100,000vd here, about $17 in Oz.
2. Return to the DVD shop with my computer so I wouldn't buy anymore dud movies (that simply wouldn't play or were dubbed out of sync).
3. Find and write down the address of the movie theater that Rosemary and I had been to once and never found again.
4. Take the books I had already read back to Bookworm to part exchange for some new ones.
So I rugged up...it's still pretty cold here, and set off; map in hand.
Taking the scenic route over the causeway I had no problems getting to the place I thought the movie theatre was meant to be...one street over and hurrah...there it was 20 Hang Bai (near the corner of Hai Ba Trung) only a block from the lake.  We like it because it's a lot cheaper than the big Megamovie theatre and there's a funny little restaurant nearby where we can eat inside (on these cold dark nights that's a drawcard).

When I got to the lake I saw that some of the Tet decorations were up.  Huge balloons that look like beach balls were bobbing over the lake, suspended by filament lines. 

It looks quite whimsical; all the balloons dancing with their vibrant red tails flowing in the breeze.

It doesn't matter how often I see this tiny pagoda in the middle of Hoan Kiem lake, I still stop and admire it's miniature perfection.
Entering the Old Quarter of Hanoi is not an experience for the faint hearted.  The traffic is compressed into the tiny streets but dosn't seem to want to slow down.  There is no space on the footpaths; they are for parking motorbikes on.  Between the locals and the wandering tourists it's heaving with people.  I've been lost in there so often that now I walk with my map in hand and stop and check it almost every cross street.  My navigating served me well this time and I found my cake decorating shop in record time.  Last time I was here with Doan the woman quoted me 110,000vd for the flower embosser.  This time I found a young woman eating lunch with her mates.  I was pretty much ignored outside so I went in and had a poke around.  I've been watching You Tube instruction videos of how to pipe flowers.  You need a flower pin, which is a thing that looks like a huge drawing pin.  You hold onto the 'pin' part and pipe the flower onto the 'head' of the pin.
Our first attempts with the piping pin

Even the stuff  ups look quite pretty

   Well, I found one, made of plastic.  I took it outside and asked how much.  The young woman's pal translated my crappy Vietnamese and I was told 10,000vd (50c), fine, I got two.  Then I reached for the embosser.  I was told 90,000vd ($4.50)... a saving of 50c from last time.  I countered with an offer 0f 100,000vd for the embosser and both flower pins.  The young woman had such a fierce frown on her face... no...110,000vd.  I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud and making a frowny face too...she really was laying it on with the grimace.  At that she and her pals couldn't help themselves and all cracked up giggling too.  We all had a good laugh and she smilingly let me have my little victory.  Just in case you think I'm being a miserable cow you can rest assured that the price I paid would still have been well in excess of what she would have asked of a Vietnamese.  The average price we are asked it about 5 times the usual price.  So while I'm happy to pay double or even triple it's always good to bargain...provided you do it with good humor and accept that there are times when the price is the price ( I've found that fabric sellers don't do much bargaining unless you buy large quantities ).  So I went on my way, smiling and happy that I had checked off two of my objectives.

I popped into Dong Xuan markets as I went past to check out material (I'm getting some stuff made up)...happened to glance over the banister as I was climbing the stairs and saw this wonderful angle...it's the dried fruit...looks great.
Look at what's holding up the second tier...

Number three was ticked off also - DVD shop found and DVD's checked before buying (out of 8 that I checked 3 worked).   Then I headed for Bookworm.  This wonderful little place is at the back of the Hanoi Cooking Center.  They sell new and second hand books, but they also pay 1/3 of the marked price for your old books.  I've been three times now, it's a great way to keep overheads low and yet still have plenty of reading material.
Tracy noticed me as I passed the kitchen window and we had a nice catch up.  When she heard that I had quite a bit of free time she offered me her Vietnamese cooking classes in exchange for presenting classes to her staff.  I'd mentioned the croquembouche class I'd done at Koto so we arranged to do another the next day.
It was a great success,  Tracy's business partner Mr Linh took some amazing photos of the class but I've yet to get hold of them so please be patient.
By the time the class finished it was 6.30pm and since his family were out of Hanoi Mr Hung and I set off on another culinary adventure...he took me to the 'sticky rice' street.  It's the perfect food for the cold weather.  A layer of sticky rice at the bottom of the bowl, topped with a thin of slivers of green bean 'dough' (the beans are cooked into a sort of dough, much like a very dense mashed potato but more solid) then either pate or the lovely Vietnamese 'meatloaf' and slices of sausage.  It was really tasty and perfect for the shivery weather. 

this is the sticky rice with the pate

With the pate on the left, pickles and with the meatloaf and yummy thin slices of spicy sausage...

  After that we had to pop into Mr Hung's favourite bia hoi in the old quarter...but the sticky rice filled us both up and we could only manage one drink before heading home.  He was off to the country to cook for hundreds of people the next day as his brother was getting married.
I had a disastrous start to the next day...but more of that later...

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