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eG Foodblog: nakji (2011) - Gong Xi Fa Cai - goodbye Tiger; hello Rabb

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I've really enjoyed following along as we welcome Chinese Year 4708, but it will be weeks before I stop writing 4707 on my cheques. :laugh:

We had a snow day yesterday so the kids and I made a ton of food inspired by the Chinese New Year. Their lunches today include 18" green beans and winter melon.

Can you find actual rabbit on menus this time of year?


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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My husband is leaving for a trip in Vietnam today, so we had lunch together before he went to catch his train.

I had wanted to go to a dumpling place that does a good wonton soup and even better fried/steamed dumplings, but they were shut for the New Year. Our plan B: Mongolian hotpot at the "Little Sheep" chain.

Decorated for the holidays:

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The menu - you tick off what you'd like. My husband is fairly decent with characters, so we manage. One thing I love about restaurants - and I assume this is a China-wide thing, but correct me if I'm wrong - is that the wait staff will stay patiently with you through the ordering process; telling you what's fresh; fielding questions; telling you what's not in today (the menu lists all possible options, but there's always the chance a dish is finished for the day - or was never started. It's important to never have your heart set on anything and have a plan B. If you don't have a plan B, the waiter will help by suggesting a replacement.) I've seen people in restaurants take upwards of ten minutes with the staff, asking about every dish on each page, and they never bat an eyelash.

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The implements:

Wet wipes, chopsticks, toothpick (a necessity!), and tissues.

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We ordered the split pot: soup for the indecisive. On the red side, you can see chilis, leek, and Sichuan peppercorns, along with a more orange dried chili - anyone know what that is? On the white side, there's ginger slices, goji berries, Chinese cardamon, dried longans, and some other sort of nut - anyone? Both sides have a scoop of peeled garlic cloves that will cook down and become meltingly tender later on.

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Because I had so much meat yesterday, we ordered a lot of vegetables:

Winter melon and lotus root:

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Greens:

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Cilantro. I tear the leaves off for a dipping sauce for the meat, then throw the stems into the soup.

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Quail eggs - they're delicious, and excellent dexerity tests; using chopsticks to pluck them slick with chili oil over a molten pot is no game for n00bs.

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Oh, and , uh, hmm...some more beef. How did that get ordered?

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I like to make a sauce/salad to receive the hotpotted items - mixing chili oil with sesame paste, and tossing it with the cilantro leaves. It goes excellent with the beef.

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The eggs and greens are nice enough on their own, with just the broth clinging to them.

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We ordered some noodles at the end to take advantage of the thickened broth: these were called "Mongolian Silver Noodles" on the menu, and I suspect they're made with some sort of bean, as they were listed on the bean products page. Anyone?

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At this point, the garlic cloves were at the perfect stage, and mushed up nicely on the noodles, melding with the chili broth. I found it hard to eat them, because my lips were so numb at this point, it was hard to manipulate them into my mouth.

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Miraculously, I managed to eat several bowls without spraying myself with red.

I'm glad the beef somehow got on your table. It's beautiful!

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I've really enjoyed following along as we welcome Chinese Year 4708, but it will be weeks before I stop writing 4707 on my cheques. :laugh:

We had a snow day yesterday so the kids and I made a ton of food inspired by the Chinese New Year. Their lunches today include 18" green beans and winter melon.

Can you find actual rabbit on menus this time of year?

I know, right? I've botched my last three cheques the same way!!!

Winter melon is under-appreciated.

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Dinner for one: lonely hearts love carbs.

Awww. My girlfriend's back in the States right now. I miss her so much. I really should have gone with her.

Anyway, your husband and I went to dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in Shanghai and then went to a Belgian beer bar. I understand that both of these of types of establishments are not to be found in Suzhou.

For those of you wondering, Erin and I have met on a few occasions, once when we she came up to Shanghai and another when we went to Suzhou. The train ride from Suzhou to Shanghai is only 30 minutes on the high-speed train, and an hour on the slower one.

and these mushrooms were leftover from the Carrefour trip:

You know, growing up, my family only ever cooked with dried shitakes, never fresh. I love both, as the dried ones have a more concentrated flavor, but the fresh ones have such a great texture.

Certainly at the supermarket and wet market they seem to sell a lot of fresh shitakes, but I rarely see Chinese actually cook with them.

We had a snow day yesterday so the kids and I made a ton of food inspired by the Chinese New Year. Their lunches today include 18" green beans and winter melon.

I haven't seen winter melon in a while. A wet market vendor told me the season has already passed, odd since it is still winter.

Can you find actual rabbit on menus this time of year?

Oh, you can find it year-round, at many restaurants. Whereas in America rabbit is a bit of a rare dish, it is quite common here. I've even been to a restaurant that had live rabbits in cages that you can pick out (along with live chickens and seafood).

Tomatoes and anchovy go in, and cook down; tossed with orrichiette, 'cause that's what I had. Served with an old movie for company.

Those tomatoes look good. Which brand of anchovies do you get? I haven't seen them in stores at all; guess it's off to Taobao.

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We ordered the split pot: soup for the indecisive. On the red side, you can see chilis, leek, and Sichuan peppercorns, along with a more orange dried chili - anyone know what that is? On the white side, there's ginger slices, goji berries, Chinese cardamon, dried longans, and some other sort of nut - anyone? Both sides have a scoop of peeled garlic cloves that will cook down and become meltingly tender later on.

gallery_41378_6890_63746.jpg

Looks like Gingko nut Erin.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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We ordered some noodles at the end to take advantage of the thickened broth: these were called "Mongolian Silver Noodles" on the menu, and I suspect they're made with some sort of bean, as they were listed on the bean products page. Anyone?

gallery_41378_6890_43777.jpg

Noodles are quite often made from mung beans.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Awww. My girlfriend's back in the States right now. I miss her so much. I really should have gone with her.

Anyway, your husband and I went to dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in Shanghai and then went to a Belgian beer bar. I understand that both of these of types of establishments are not to be found in Suzhou.

For those of you wondering, Erin and I have met on a few occasions, once when we she came up to Shanghai and another when we went to Suzhou. The train ride from Suzhou to Shanghai is only 30 minutes on the high-speed train, and an hour on the slower one.

I'm containing my jealousy. Belgian Beer! What did you get? We have a Nepalese place in Suzhou that specializes in Nepalese curries and Belgian beers, as Peter probably told you, but it's quite a hike out in a cab. I can't wait until our subway is up and running.

Kent, you're going to have to volunteer to show us Shangahi.

You know, growing up, my family only ever cooked with dried shitakes, never fresh. I love both, as the dried ones have a more concentrated flavor, but the fresh ones have such a great texture.

Certainly at the supermarket and wet market they seem to sell a lot of fresh shitakes, but I rarely see Chinese actually cook with them.

It's funny that they're there, right? Maybe people dry them themselves.

Those tomatoes look good. Which brand of anchovies do you get? I haven't seen them in stores at all; guess it's off to Taobao.

I actually get a paste in a tube, "Rizzoli Gran Pasta di Acciughe", although I have purchased small cans before. I'd thrill if I ever saw salt-packed. I've thought in the past about substituting dried fish, but the texture isn't right...maybe if I packed them in oil for a while first?

I'm fairly sure I got that paste in Shanghai. Maybe at City Super in IFC, or City Shop on Nanjing West.

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Looks like Gingko nut Erin.

Hmm. I don't actually think it was, as I'm pretty familiar with ginko nuts. This was more pod-like, and didn't seem edible. I wish I'd got a better shot, as it has kind of particular onion or garlic bulb shape to it.

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Noodles are quite often made from mung beans.

That would be my guess, but mung bean noodle are usually clear. Maybe these have some rice in the mix, too.

I'm containing my jealousy. Belgian Beer! What did you get?

You guys are my Belgian beer buddies. It's not often I meet people that like the stuff—even though it's so obviously awesome!

We had Gouden Carolus Classic, Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Kaizer 2010, St. Bernadus 12, and Pauwel Kwak.

Kent, you're going to have to volunteer to show us Shangahi.

Yeah, I'm thinking about it. I would have pretty different stuff from your blog.

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Breakfast did not happen today. Neither did lunch.

Or, rather it did; but in both cases, it was a single cup of black coffee.

So, dinner. Takeaway, with a bit of light vegetable work on the side.

I went down to the Cantonese place where we'd got brunch last Sunday, as they do takeaway barbecue. The plan was to get some pork, then some vegetables from the market.

The holidays have taken their toll on the shops, though. The market was shut, and I got the last box of barbecued pork, since everyone else was forced to get their roast meats from restaurants, instead of the market like normal. I felt victorious watching the chefs portion up my cut, sipping complimentary tea, as everyone behind me was told "Mei you".

Fortunately, I had a plan B for the vegetables. (I always have a plan B) I knew nobody in their right mind would be going without vegetables, and that if the central market were shut, people would be going to their local neighborhood vegetable hut, like the one near my school. Of course, I was no where near my school, so for the first time in two years, I'd have to go find MY neighborhood vegetable hut, somewhere in the alleys near my flat.

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I live near the Master of the Nets Garden, one of Suzhou's famous gardens. The alleys surrounding it have a lot of traditional homes. I love walking home through the maze. You can smell the cooking coming from the windows onto the alley - this evening as I walked by, I smelt and heard the exact moment someone poured cooking wine onto their wok. A little further down, baozi steam floated out one window.

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And, just behind the wall of my flat, I found a hut. I got some qing cai for my greens, some daikon for making pickle, and some green onions for baozi filling.

The take: (four yuan for the vegetables; 38 yuan for the pork, plus the bad karma for screwing other people out of their dinner)

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Noodles are quite often made from mung beans.

That would be my guess, but mung bean noodle are usually clear. Maybe these have some rice in the mix, too.

I'm containing my jealousy. Belgian Beer! What did you get?

You guys are my Belgian beer buddies. It's not often I meet people that like the stuff—even though it's so obviously awesome!

We had Gouden Carolus Classic, Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van De Kaizer 2010, St. Bernadus 12, and Pauwel Kwak.

Kent, you're going to have to volunteer to show us Shangahi.

Yeah, I'm thinking about it. I would have pretty different stuff from your blog.

I'll bet! For starters, I'm sure you'd probably spell the city's name correctly, unlike me. :laugh:

The beers sound excellent; I know Peter's a big fan of Carolus. Is the Kwak the one that comes in the big glass with a wooden support?

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One reason I started getting vegetables delivered from a CSA, rather than going to markets was so that I would be forced to eat more greens. I wasn't naturally inclined to buy and prepare them on my own, so having them delivered every week has really pushed me to learn to prepare them. Now I love them, and can hardly go more than a day or so without having some on the table. This week has been very greens poor, with my delivery stopped for the holidays.

I don't like to mess around with them too much. I don't keep them whole, since I find the grit likes to hide out in the nooks and crannies, so I pull them apart, and soak for at least ten minutes, before rinsing each leaf under running water. Then I give them a shake and set them aside.

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I was forever burning garlic in my wok until I just gave up entirely chopping the cloves into tiny pieces. Instead, I took a page from Marcella Hazan, and simply crush the cloves to infuse the hot oil.

I get my wok quite hot, add some peanut oil, then add the garlic cloves - usually two. When the smell pops out of the garlic, I gun the heat even higher, and dump in the leaves. I give the wok a shake, and add a small spoon of salt.

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A lot of people spend a lot of time talking about wok hei. I don't have the experience to wade into that discussion, but even with my basic kitchen flame I can get it. I find it really comes out when I shake the leaves vigorously, and keep them on the side of the wok, allowing the water to boil off of the bottom of the wok, away from the leaves. As you can see, the gas flame isn't to restaurant standards:

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I use a pot to cook rice, rather than a rice cooker:

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I made a pot of green tea from yesterday:

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And poured out some peanuts for a small side snack:

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"Plated":

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Very oddly enough, I received a fortune cookie today. A gimmick for a shop's foreign clientele; I had it for dessert.

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Hmm.

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I occasionally make baozi for quick lunches in term, when I know I'll have to work through lunch at my desk. You can get them down the street at the market, two for one yuan, but sometimes I don't even have time to run down; my co-workers also get a kick out of a foreigner making baozi from scratch. Since they also make perfect snacks or meals for one, I thought I'd do up a batch for the freezer next week, when I'll be dining alone.

They're also great for breakfast.

Kouign Aman requested a wrapping step-by-step in our baozi topic. I'm no expert, but I'll do my best. Am I right - baozi means "wrapped thing"?

The dough ingredients:

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The filling - more vegetables:

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Mushrooms, pickled greens, green onions, ginger and garlic; chili paste and bean paste. And a cabbage that's been lurking at the bottom of the crisper for a while - the real call to action for these baozi. Do these things last forever?

Chopped. Takeaway cartons make excellent prep boxes.

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I sauteed everything down in the wok and set it in front of an open window to cool while I made the dough.

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I followed Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe for Spicy Pork Buns from Revolutionary Cuisine.

A wet but firm dough:

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Kneaded for ten minutes:

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Set aside for twenty minutes to rise:

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Once the dough has risen, you split the ball into halves, then roll them out into long logs. A shop by my school does this every morning out on the street, so I've had the advantage of watching experts at work. I think you're meant from the recipe to get ten pieces out of one log, but I usually get eight. I cut the log in half, then cut each half in half, and then again to yield eight equal-ish pieces:

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Then I stand one up vertically, and squash it down with my roller.

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Then I go around the edges with the roller, to make it thicker in the middle with a thin edge:

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Then I roll it out turning by quarters to make it even. I then pick it up and stretch the edge to make it quite thin.

A scoop of stuffing - not too much:

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Then, holding it in one hand, I pull one piece into the middle, and start using my fingers to pull in the rest of the edge, using my thumb to hold the initial piece still in the middle. I use the thumb of my flat hand to keep the stuffing tucked under the crimp.

It was hard to photograph and do at the same time - normally I'd get my husband to come in to take a shot, but I'm flying solo now. The crimped piece should be pulled into the middle and held there with the pinching hand's thumb:

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Pinch, pull, stuff, tuck:

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I give it a final pinch to seal at the end:

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Then they should be put into the steamer to rise for another twenty minutes.

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Are the pickled greens mustard greens? Are they a briny pickling? Or sour?

I can't read the package without my husband - but yes, I think they're pickled mustard greens. They're quite salty and a teeny sour. Since there's no meat in these, I wanted to add bean sauce and pickles to give the vegetables flavour.

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Over in the baozi topic, Ben Hong shared that he uses parchment paper to keep his from sticking to the steam - the bane of baozi makers; usually avoided by using squares of paper that seem to tear off the bottom of the bun, sometimes sending scalding juice into your hand. Seemed genius, so I cut some out. Please tell me somebody, somewhere sells pre-cut parchment rounds?

Wait! Hmm. How will the steam get through?

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Aha! Chopsticks are a versatile kitchen tool.

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Buns in the steamer.

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I inherited this steamer from teachers who left the school last year. They said they used it as a rice cooker. I'm not quite sure how, but it works a treat for baozi.

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The finished product - very inelegant. I guess if you pleat enough of these things, you begin to get good at it. But as Dejah says - nobody looks at the pleats when they're eating them!

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No sticking problems at all! The parchment is my latest kitchen best practice. Thanks Ben.

At this stage, once they've cooled, you can freeze them and reheat them in the microwave at will.

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My last project for the day: the white radish.

I think it's safe to say the white radish is my favourite vegetable. I practically survived on them in Japan, when I could buy a large one for 100 yen and make four or five dishes out of it. The Canadian in me marvels at a "winter" vegetable. A vegetable that grows in the winter? The mind boggles.

It's nice in hotpot, or braised in dashi with a bit of pork and shiitake mushrooms, but I like it best lightly pickled. I don't think a meal is complete with some sort of pickle or vegetable salad, and I often keep some quick pickles going in the fridge.

I picked this recipe out of "Beyond the Great Wall", by Alford & Duguid, for a Tibetan radish pickle that looked interesting.

The radish should be shredded into thin strips - the sort of thing that a mandolin would come in handy for - their recipe specified a Benriner, but I just hauled out my cleaver. All this knife work practice must be good for something, right? Radish, ginger, red onion, and green onion:

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The seasoning/pickling agent is salt, Sichuan Peppercorns, and garlic.

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Packed into sterilized jars and topped up with white vinegar. I'm to keep these on a sunny ledge for a couple of days, shaking it from time to time. That makes me feel good: there's no a window ledge in my neighborhood that doesn't have a few sausages and joints of meat wind-drying, and a pot of pickles on it. Now I'll fit right in.

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I'll let you know in a few days how they turned out.

The reward for an evening's hard work:

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Lovely baos, Erin!

Think I'll be making BBQ pork ones later today. I can't do the pleating in one hand, but I have seen some of the new immigrants do that...guys who were trained as dim sum chefs in China.

Finally beat the rest of the immigrants to our Superstore this morning. Picked up cruellers, lobak, etc.I love lobak braised, but students have been asking "When will you make something for us?", so I will make lobak goh for them for Monday "breakfast" - first class. :wink:


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I can't believe it's been a week!

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Last breakfast: yogurt with maple syrup. Very Canadian of me, I suppose. Growing up, I hardly every had proper maple syrup - too expensive! Now I buy it each year for Christmas breakfast, which is always French Toast chez Garnhum. This is the leftover at the bottom of the bottle. If I'm feeling quite productive later today, I'll use the spoon of yogurt left in the bottle to make some more.

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      After ...
      ... I headed to the airport and flew Nanning, China to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. The meal on board the plane is here.
       
      We landed two hours later and after the usual immigration nonsense  I was met by an old friend and her husband. They had helped me book me a hotel and took me there. The couple are Chinese but live and work in HCMC. They dropped me off at the hotel, made sure I was settled in and took off to attend to some business (they work in the jewellery business, importing and exporting between China and Vietnam), but returned in the evening to take me to dinner.
       
      We went here.
       

       
      The place,  Làng Nướng Nam Bộ,  is huge and, on a Friday evening was packed. My friends ordered - they both speak fluent Vietnamese whereas mine is limited to the basics. I just looked around.
       

       

       

       
      Each table was supplied with
       

      Tissues and two dips. One was fish sauce and the other seemed to be shrimp paste with sesame.
       
      and
       

      A bag of crackers, some pickled gherkins or similar and a dip of salt and chilli
       

      Steamed Chicken with Banana Hearts
       

      Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls - accompanied by a mixed selection of raw greens, which are served with almost everything.
       

      Grilled Venison with Grilled Okra
       

      Hotpot protein - squid, shrimp, clams, beef
       

      Hotpot Vegetables - including both banana hearts and shoots.
       
      Everything was good. Especially the venison. I hadn't expected okra, but it seems to be popular. Every market I visited had some, but I'm getting ahead of myself. More to come.
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