I had the pleasure of being able to contribute to making a cake for a double birthday party recently. I overheard it being discussed and insisted on being able to join in because it all sounded like so much fun. It was to be a cake for two kids turning 3 and the theme was butterflies and flowers....heavenly! So Mr Hung and I went shopping for decorating supplies. We found some fab butterflies on wires that could 'fly' above the cake. Mr Hung made a large slab of carrot cake and a small bowl cake too. We cut the base of the bowl and upended it to create a dome on which we stuck loads of royal icing flowers to create a sort of posy.
The grass was coconut tossed in food colour...note to self - don't use fresh coconut unless you dry it first! The moisture in the coconut almost melted the icing under it...ooops! But thankfully not so much that it ruined anything. It was fun working on the cake because the staff hadn't seen anything quite like it before....mind you neither had I....and they were all keen to have a look and make suggestions. Thankfully most of the suggestions were in Vietnamese so I couldn't understand them. (Control freak alert).
|the whole crew ....butterfly time....|
It was a really fun, bright cake to create and apparently the kids loved it too...I got a nice text message from Michelle (Mum of Mai) the day after the party.
|Mr Hung and I with the finished product...|
I had my last culinary adventure with Mr Hung last night. He had offered to take me to try to buy a platter that a pal in Sydney had requested but on that front we were unsuccessful. So to make up for the disappointment he took me to 'bbq chicken leg' street. It's a bit of a misnomer because there weren't actually any legs, just feet and wings...and pork ribs and a kind of bread and apparently sometimes even rats....but thankfully not on the evening we went. Anyway, getting back to the bbq chicken's feet. I have tasted the glutinous boiled chicken's feet available at yum cha in Sydney, nice but not enough meat on for me...well these guys had even less meat - but the skin! The bbq marinade was composed of honey and maybe fish sauce with a hint of chilli...wickedly good. We had two feet each then Mr Hung took pity on me and ordered me a wing...yummo! I'm going to have a good go at reproducing the lip sticking, tongue seducing smokey, sweet sauce when I get home. But this was just an appetiser and we soon jumped back on the bike to hit his favourite Pho joint, not far from West Lake. The pho was served with the 'chinese bread' - small sicks of fried dough that soak up the wonderful redolent stock and are just what the doctor ordered on a cold night. The pho comes with 'well done' beef and 'medium' beef. The 'well done' is a boiled rolled shoulder that has been sliced wafer thin, the 'medium is actually almost raw fillet that cooks in the stock very briefly. We loaded our bowls with lime juice, the pickled garlic that I have come to love, a hint of chilli for me a chunk for him and got down to the serious bisiness of slurping our way to pho heaven.
Mr Hung then did something that almost made me cry. He produced his much loved Chinese Swiss Army Knife in it's custom made holder and presented it to me in thanks for my teaching. I was gobsmacked. No matter that I insisted that his hospitality and kindness were all that I needed I could see that he was serious. Not wanting to give offence I took the loved knife and will cherish it. It will be the best reminder of all that I love about Vietnam, the generosity and kindness of the people.
Here's a shot of the lot of us outside the Hanoi Cooking Centre, if you are even in Hanoi you simply MUST visit, take a class or just snack on one of the many gorgeous dishes that come out of the kitchen. Tracey and her team are a sterling bunch of real foodies whose passion and commitment is a joy to see.
|I'll miss you guys....|
I have one more class to do at HCC...I'm going tonight to learn about 'Food from the Coast' - I love seafood and can't wait. Then it's on the plane tomorrow - home to friends, work and uni...I'm feeling sad and happy in equal quantities. I have no doubt that within weeks I will look back and my immersion in Hanoi with all that is good and not so good about it will seem like a dream. One thing I do know...I'll be back...it's like a welcome virus...it's in my blood now and I don't ever want to recover.