Tuesday, August 30, 2011

김치전 Kimchi pancake

     This past weekend was stock full of goodbye gatherings and "last nights", and being in Korea, more than enough drinks were consumed. We stayed out til the sun rose, til words streamed into one long murmur, and until all we could do was dance, or stumble...or fall. Korea's all about drinking, but no matter the culture or location, when saying peace to loved ones...sloppiness is inevitable. Whether it be from alcohol, substances, explosive expressions...sloppiness is inevitable.
     Due to my...'sloppiness' this vegan lady scrounged around her (sad empty) fridge and whipped up a classic traditional and super easy Korean classic, 김치전 (kimchi pancake). Most people turn to fries, deep-fried tacos, something greasy and hangover healing...I usually knock it out with a massive coffee but this time...but this time.
김치전~ a little blurry, eeep (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     전 (jeon) is typically eaten as 안주 (food eaten with alcohol), be it 소주 (soju) or 막걸리 (makgeoli), you can often see friends, business partners, families gathering together and downing shots of alcohol while nomming on loads of 전. There are lots of varieties also, like 파전-pa jeon (onion pancake), 두부전-dubu jeon (fried tofu), 감자전-gamja jeon (potato pancake), the delicious 호박전-hobak jeon (zucchini pancake!!) etc.
     When I was a kid, my mom would have special 전 nights, usually 호박전, and this happened when zucchinis were on sale!! My brother and I would help her slice and sliver loads of zucchini while watching her make magic. I miss when I was nothing but metabolism, my brother and I could throw down so many of these guys and go running for miles after. She was (IS) a master still, they're perfectly crispy, never burnt, and there's always a generous portion of squash in everything.
     Now a days, I only eat one, and it's rarely if ever. I was feeling guilty nomming on this so I threw a bunch of greens on top of it...to make it more "healthy" (?) Anyways, here's the go to:

What you need:
~김치 (as much as you want!!)
~whole wheat flour
~enough water to make a batter
~olive oil

What to do:
1. Take your 김치 and chop it up rather small **keep the juices!
2. Mix the flour and water into a batter, only slightly thinner then American style pancake batter
3. Add the 김치 and juice into the batter and mix well
   **If the batter is too watery, add more flour
4. Heat a non-stick pan on med-high heat and coat the bottom in oil
5. Once the oil is hot, add ladles (up to you how large) of the mixture and let it get crissspy!
6. flip it when it's brown...keep watching it!
7. enjoy this sucker!!!
optional~>add shredded bitter greens on top (arugula would be sick! or sprouts!!)

The Total Package: Total Arts Festival Cafe TAF

This is my spotlight piece written about TAF, featured in NEH magazine

     Tucked away in the uphill streets of Sinchon lies a very special place, a hidden Seoul-mine. An art collective, cultural space, energy-pumping (while still relaxed), green, ‘secret’ hide out. When thinking art or creativity, many venture to the alleys of Hongdae or the displays of Kundae, the classic hotspots. Total Arts Festival (TAF) is a space that independently takes creative art-ism into its own realm, field, and notion.
     Located outside of Sinchon station, at the top of a hill and cushioned within apartment shadows, discovering this place is similar to a glided adventure, and it’s just minutes away from the soju-marinated streets of Hongdae. Small restaurants guide you along and once you find TAF, your soul makes a mental map.
when you walk in (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     TAF was running in minds and on paper a little less than a year ago. The inspiring force behind it is the talented and beautiful Dori Lee and Mr. Sung-min Kim. Dori is wise beyond her years, a lover of art; in all its fields (manipulated descriptions and overwhelming definitions). She is an environmentalist, artist, traveller, student (of the world), vegetarian, and a training pole dance instructor. On one of these monsoon rain-ridden nights, I found myself in the special TAF sharing a hot coffee with this peaceful, innovative woman.
     “I want to not be too indie, [this is an] artist collective, easy place for those who love art, having fun- events, workshops-[I want] customers to enjoy their time and have good comfort food and drinks. I want the customers to have fun,” she takes a sip of coffee “...enjoy.”
collection of local works and the red wall! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     She speaks of this cultural art collective space with both comfort and humility. Dori is the force behind TAF and her expansive mind has clearly touched everything in the cafe. The space has been manipulated into an apartment, her father (a carpenter) constructed the bar, and all the furniture inside is donated from loved ones.
     “I want to keep it natural and honest.” Dori says. Part of the attraction and energy is the bare honesty of the place. The mix-matched chairs and tables create a beautiful ensemble with the ever-changing artwork on the walls.
at the bar (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     TAF is putting ardent effort into being as green as possible, which is one of the passions and missions pumping behind this place. Heavily involved in being Eco-friendly, Dori’s love of the environment is clear. Right by the door, there are pots of herbs that appear in the innovative menu.
     “When we make food, I don’t want to use chemicals, [I want to] keep it natural.”
cheesy spinach dip garnished with crushed walnuts (photo taken by Dori)
     Most of the menu is organic and Dori states that TAF is continuously putting efforts towards getting everything that way. The novel “comfort” foods TAF offers include items such as a cheesy spinach dip garnished with crushed walnuts, and their signature burger that comes with onion chutney, pumpkin salad mixed with earl gray soaked raisins. Dori is a scientist when it comes to the “drink lab.” She is always thinking up new ideas for drinks that she as a customer “would like” and feels would appeal to all types of customers.
TAF's signature burger with onion chutney (photo taken by Dori)
mixed greens and pumpkin with balsamic vinaigrette;
topped with nuts, tomatoes, and earl grey tea soaked raisins (photo taken by Dori)
caprese baguette, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, fig compote,
and topped with balsamic (photo taken by Dori 
     The coffee soju cocktail is a wonderful balance between caffeine and alcohol. The mixture blends so beautifully you feel like you’re drinking a sweet cup of chilled Americano, but with a bonus head rush. Imagine running a marathon and instead of Gatorade, ice cold coffee. The drink goes down smoothly and tastes good enough to have every morning, and night...and as a snack.
local artwork (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Dori is remarkably honest about the challenges she faces and has faced through owning TAF. This isn’t her first project or “baby.” In fact, she has been involved in eco-friendly public relations. She doesn’t coat anything in glitter and gold, not even with turpentine. Being innovative and creating both artistic and comforting dishes for the menu takes about a month to prepare and she documents her struggles with posts like, “creating a system.” Dori took on two good friends to help with this particular challenge and says she’s always learning.
     “I love to share ideas, but when it comes to business, I feel like I can do [it all] by myself. Normally, [when I’m] in deep [into something like] art or teaching (doing things with others) is a hard-to-accept concept-(I’m) still learning, so I’m pretty happy.”
     As an artist, Dori (who majored in ceramics) is accustomed to taking on projects independently. There is also the aspect of doing something truly unique and new in Korea. Seoul is "trending" with "indie" clubs and "art" exhibitions.
     “Indie-culture, [I] feel like something is missing. [I] don’t want to bring a lack of perfection. [I don’t want to leave here] feeling like something is missing.”
     An art and cultural space as open and progressive as TAF is intimidating. Of all the challenges, creating menus, finances, etc, there is the hope that customers will be on the same page, or even in the same book!
     “I hope customers can understand a “cultural” space. My motto, in my life, the most important thing is experience. So why not try everything? Customers, do like me, try like me!” With enthusiasm Dori shares her beliefs and being a part of her passion, you are motivated and dare I say, driven.
     TAF is a place that really aims to promote all forms of art- “Life, living is art.” There have been numerous events hosted there that truly aim to create progression and art in all forms. There has already been a magic show, interchanging art displays, and a dating mixer. The art adorning the walls have been knitted-ware, paintings, and much more. Dori urges and supports new work to come and be shared. Her openness to art comes from her passions, and experiences.
     “After living abroad in Guam, I met and learned a lot about and from other cultures. I don’t want to box anything.”
interior by the stairs (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     This cafe also has live musicians, and there are rumors circulating about a live nude painting event, ECO classes, and maybe pole dancing. A green peace fund raiser may also be in the works where can artists donate their talent! cafe is pushing all sorts of barriers and challenging a lot of norms, it is a haven.
     “My goal, my life goal is to be exposed to the world, I want to be creative.” Dori cheerily and genuinely explains. Listening to what she has done in her young life, inspiration is impossible to avoid.
TAF urges, supports, and embraces art, in all its forms. The heart of this place is fully open to broadcast all art.
     “I like to create things, the most important thing in life is experience and TAF is a dream. My artwork is my life.” And with that, Dori puts down her beer and as the empty canvases hang just blocks away on dusty walls, you can’t agree more.
photo taken by VeganBeats)

TAF (Total Art's Festival) bar/cafe
33-12 Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu, 121806 Seoul
Sinchon green line 2, exit number 5
Take a right at the first side street and walk up the hill for about 5 minutes, TAF will be on your left!
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Tom Tran Chau (vegan shrimp): Bomb Vegan Noms thanks to Vietnam

     While wandering in Vietnam's Chinatown I stumbled on lots of vegan animal bits, and with impulse strongly wrapping it's arms around my wallet, I got some "shrimp" and "baby squid". They were a whopping 40,000 dong each ($2.00). I haven't had any type of seafood in a long time and even when I did (way back in the day) it was steamed, or raw. What the hell was I to do with this?
veggie shrimp package! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     I don't have very much in my fridge, and haven't for a while. I eat at my school and have been trying to save money...and coming home I'm growing less inspired to create something amazing and energy draining. I usually reach for fruit, but that's been a negative option. So, thanks to my lunch ladies at my school, I have an abundance of cabbage. 
     This Saturday, honestly a bit hungover and unable to ignore the pang SCREAMING in my stomach, I managed to whip up something that was brilliant. 
  ~I think I was delirious, because I started thinking about this cooking project I had in 6th grade where I made tempura shrimp with panko~~inspiration:

And this is what happened:
slightly creepy because...just look at it! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     It was a simple yet delicious meal. My taste-buds EACH had their own heart attack. I've been eating so much raw food, it was nice to have something warm and with a little crunch. 
     I kind of threw things together and it all worked out...so the following is more or less and guestimate...

What you need:
~package of creepy seafood vegan meat
~2-3 T whole wheat flour
~1 T sesame seeds
~2 cloves garlic chopped
~BIG handful raw cabbage
~1 T olive oil
~1-2 T soy sauce
~splash of water
~as much hot pepper as you like!!

What to Do:
1. drain the seafood vegan meat and set aside
2. mix the sesame seeds and flour together in a bowl and throw in the "meat" and batter it up a tad
3. on med-high heat throw in that oil, and when it starts to heat up, throw in the meat. 
4. turn over when it starts to brown, then add the garlic and cabbage
5. stir fry for about five minutes, or until the cabbage become soft, then add the soy sauce and water
6. let the liquids boil off, then throw in the hot pepper and mix

now nom it up!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vegan Bake Sale Fundraiser to Battle Hunger and Famine in East Africa~

     The FABulous and wonderful Mipa Lee of Aliens Day Out is hosting another Vegan Bakesale to raise funds for the famine in the Horn of Africa. Keep yours calendars booked...
africa poster2 by mipa lee
africa poster2, a photo by mipa lee on Flickr.

     Mipa and Kia will be baking loads of treats and I'm on top of the gluten free treats! Hope to see you there~~

When: Saturday, Sept 17, from 11AM - 4PM (or until everything is sold out)
Where: Infront of Suji's Restaurant at Noksapyeong Station, Line 6, Exit 3
What: Delicious all-vegan baked goodies, made by myself, Kia, and several other vegan volunteers! All proceeds will go to the
United Nations World Food Programme

Check out the Facebook Events Page~~

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sawole Boribap: 사월보리밥

     Before peacing to Vietnam, I grabbed some noms with a couchsurfer at Sawole Boribap (사월보리밥). I've eaten here before and love the 도토리묵, so naturally, grabbed this again.
dotori muk (도토리묵) and banchan (반찬) photo taken by VeganBeats
     There are loads of vegan options at Sawole. A bunch of different types of 부리밥, vegan 반찬, and of course the 도토리묵. Their 도토리묵 is served on a big plate, and they don't skimp on anything. There's fresh greens chopped up and mixed throughout, along with thin cuts of cucumber, and thin ribbon strips of sweet onion. They also layer it in soft and crisp seaweed (김) and ground peanuts. The sauce is spicy, cool, and refreshing and the 묵 is soft and lovely. I really love this dish...so healthy!
yum! (photo taken by VeganBeats)

Directions: Gangnam station (강남역)line 2,
get out of exit 5 and walk straight and take the second left (7 eleven is on the corner)
Walk straight and pass about three buildings on your left side,
It's in the same building as the Mister Pizza.

사월에보리밥 강남점
South Korea 서울특별시 서초동 1316-29
Phone #: +82-2-596-5292

Vegan samgyupsal (삼겹살) and bulgogi (불고기)~

      I've been in Seoul now for...a month! An entire month since Vietnam has passed! I've been busy doing Vietnam blogposts so the Korean happenings have been a bit silenced. But since I've gotten here, so much has happened, and changed...
     A while ago, through wine swivels, crooked walks, and verbal exchanges with Kia and Sean, the idea for Vegan samgyupsal (삼겹살) was inspired. When I returned from Vietnam, Kia and Sean hosted a Vegan Samgyupsal night at their home!
vegan spread! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Samgyupsal is a classic and traditional Korean barbque meal. Most people (omnivores) gather together and barbeque their pork belly and eat it with some grilled garlic, 고추장, rice all wrapped in lettuce. Vegan meats that you can barbeque on a flat grill like legit meat?!   
                     Where would you get that?!!

     Kia and Sean found some through Loving Hut stores and they also ordered vegan bulgogi (불고기) and vegan Samgyupsal from Vegeland. They marinated the 삼겹살 in soy sauce and liquid smoke. Even though it looked similar to meat, it was a bit bland in flavor~~season it UP!
the vegan meats! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
      It was both creepy and impressive how much this vegan meat looked like actual meat. I haven't had legit 삼겹살 for over a decade, so I'd be lying if I didn't say this was a bit fun! And it brought me back....way back~~
grillin (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Kia really outdid herself with such a HUGE vegan and traditional Korean spread! She got loads of 반찬 like 도토리묵, beans, 김치, 전etc! (and LOTS of makgeolli-막걸리)  Kia also made Mipa's saucy sweet-spicy tofu, and nom nom nom!
saucy sweet-spicy tofu (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Mipa was also super sweet and brought over some of her goodies to share with us! She brought over some Dandies vegan marshmallows and some graham crackers she baked herself and we had s'mores!! (Mipa has a bake shop!!! Delicious cruelty-free treats available and made with love!!)
vegan s'mores! (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The entire evening was great and it was so wonderful to kick it with Mipa, Kia, Sean and some new friends! Check out Mipa's post about our Vegan meat night!! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vietnam Wrap up, guide, help...the go to sources (lots of links!!)

     This post is a general hint list of great resources, places to now and where to check out while in the adventurous land of Vietnam!

     I went to three destinations total, spanning all throughout Vietnam (though there is a LOT more to see)! I started my adventures in Hanoi (the capital) then went South to Ho Chi Minh City, to Mui Ne and then routed back to Hanoi. 

Here are some helpful phrases that are worth knowing:

Hello~ Xin Chao (Jzin Chow)
Good morning~ Chao buoi sang
Good afternoon~ Chao buoi toi
Hi friend!~ Nay E! (Nay,ye!)
Good night~ Chuc ngu ngon 
Thank you~ Cam on (Caam oon)
No good/ too expensive~ Come phy

GREAT website: newhanoian.xemzi.com  Has classifides, restaurant reviews, events, things to do, etc...

GREAT travel agent: Lai, She is located just inside iProvecho
     Address: 18 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi (about three blocks from Hoan Kiem lake)
     Phone #: 0912223996

Where to eat~
Vegan restuarants:
GREAT Vegan food at White Cloud
     I ate food from here three different times, and was pleased each time. The food is made with love, be patient. If you want food quickly, this is NOT the place. Put at least an hour aside. It is worth the wait and the place is super cute. 
     ~I highly recommend the spring rolls (of course), the banana flower salad, fried mung beans, and tofu cooked with tomato sauce!!
     Address: So 2 Ngo 12 Dang Thai Mai,HaNoi

                  No.2, alley 12, Dang Thai Mai street, Hanoi
     phone #: 04)-6258-1622/ 0912-143-647
     hours: Monday through Sunday 11am to 2 pm and 5pm to 9pm

     This is an all vegan place that offers a LOT of vegan meats, more quirky than yummy in all honesty. It is more than affordable and the interior is stunning, but that all it really has going for it. The best dish is the grapefruit salad, this is worth coming back for. But if you want to explore a vegan variety...I'd steer elsewhere. 
     Address: 184B Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
     Directions: At the end of Xuan Dieu (West lake would be on your Left is you are walking   

                    towards it), across from the turn into Cong Doan Hotel
     phone #: 04-7307-8838

Vietnamese street food: Quan An Ngon

     This place means 'delicious food' and has an interesting concept, taking street food inside. You can dine family style next to loads of people, order lots of food on the cheap and be more than entertained by the busyness that is going on around you. NOT very vegan friendly, but you can find something (tofu, and specify for soy sauce!)
     Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
     Phone number: +84-4-3942-8162 

Western Food: iProvecho
     Daniel Hoyer is the head owner and chef behind the food here. It is not very vegan friendly, but the guacamole I had was lovely. Fresh, creamy, full of flavor...and served with fresh made tortilla chips. While your here, grab a drink, sit at their glass bar that opens over the streets, nom on some Mexican glory and who knows, book a tour somewhere! Defiantly worth checking out!
     Address: 18 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.
                  It is about 3 blocks from Hoan Kiem lake.
     Phone #: 0912223996
     email: provechohanoi@gmail.com

More affordable: Foodshop 45
     This place has a lovely interior and is great to go with friends while on the go to a bar or out on some nightly adventure. Lots of people came in and out, so it's more popular than I may give it credit for. The staff was very kind, but the food isn't amazing. It's affordable and with everything in Vietnam, you get what you pay for. This is more vegetarian friendly than it is vegan friendly. But I had an alright experience. 
     Address: 59 Truc Bach street, Ba Dinh, Hanoi 
     phone number: +84-4-3716-2959 

Quality: Namaste 
     This meal was beautiful, aesthetically, through taste and experience. The food was a bit more expensive, but well worth it. Gopi, the owner is very attentive and clearly has a passion for food. Everything is made to order, is fresh and able to be slightly manipulated. Not originally vegan items were made vegan after I let Gopi aware of my dietary restrictions. He helps you out too, not letting you over-order and giving great advice on what works well with what. 
     ~*I highly recommend the pakeezah, a coconut appetizer that is just so strange it works! And the Kapuli salad is DIVINE!!!

     Hours: Open 7 days. 11am-2:30pm (last order is at 2) and 6-10:30 pm (last order at 10)
     Address: 47 Lo Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
     Directions: East of the Northern end of Hoan Kiem Lake
     Phone #: 84-4-3935-2400 

     Website: www.namastehanoi.com 

~***Bia Hoi= BEER***~
Barbetta: A classy bar that's always got good people in it. You can sit on the roof and sip on some delicious cocktails while the moon shines overhead. The staff doesn't speak very much English but no worries, if you can read it, you'll be fine. The drinks are all creative and from all the ones I sampled (mojitos, to beachy drinks, to rums)~ you can't go wrong with anything. 
     ~Drinks are around 80,000-100,000 dong ($4-5) 
     Address: 34C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Mao's Red Lounge: This place is dark, to the point where you have to feel around to figure out where to park it. But the drinks are cheap, it's FULL of people to talk to and meet. It is located in the Old Quarter, so if you'e aiming to meet fellow travelers, you're in luck. There are a LOT of drink options, so if you want the cheap bia hoi, or the frothy coconut milk cocktail~ this place has it. 

      ~IF you are all dressed up (why in Vietnam>!!) you will sweat loads...
     Address: 7 Te Hien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
    Phone #:           +84-4-3926-3104 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +84-4-3926-3104      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      end_of_the_skype_highlighting 

Half Man/Half Noodle: I'll be 100% honest, I don't remember very much about this bar. I remember loving the name. I was...a tad tipsy at this point (damn those fruity cocktails!!) but I do know that this is one of the only places that serves food rather late for the hungry kids! In Seoul, where you can a full course meal at any hour, no matter the point of inebriation, in a country where everyone sleeps around midnight (at the latest) those drunk munchies are left to munch. Drinks are affordable, but...honestly, it's the name isn't it!     
     Address: 62 Dao Duy Tu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoiend_of_the_skype_highlighting
     Phone #: +84-4-3926-1943 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +84-4-3926-1943      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

~Hoan Kiem Lake: a beautiful walk, peaceful, full of people watching, photo opportunities, and also legend has it an ancient turtle lives here!
~Check out the Old Quarter, there's a big backpacker's district here (travelers, LOADS of places to crash here!) shopping opportunities, comforting AND exotic foods!
~Shop around: eat the fruit, buy scarves, bikinis, and iPho tees!
~ Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: A place we were going to check out (another reason, man they keep popping up!) Apparently all the tribes and communities of Vietnam are represented here and it is more than interesting!!!
     address: D Nguyen Van Huyen Street, Cau Giay, Hanoi
     phone #: +84-4-3836-0350 

Ho Chi Minh City
     Ani and I only stayed one night and two days here. Even though we were there for a short time, we experienced all the main tourist points, here's my two cents^^*!~

Vegan noms: Saigon Vegan
     A more than extensive menu offering lots of traditional Vietnamese fare, just without the flesh!>.<# Everything is more than affordable and like all places in Vietnam~ BE PATIENT. This place is affiliated with Loving Hut (murmur) and due to that, low prices and Vegan safety. 
     ~I recommend the bi cuon springroll, it's fresh and subtle. Also the Goi Nam Bao Rau Ram (mushroom with flagrant knotweed salad) is interesting and packed full of flavor!! And the coffee is BOMB!!!
     Address: 240 Bui Vien Street, District 1
     Phone #: +84-4-3837-2686

~* Bui Vien street is backpackers district, loads of places to crash, find cheap drinks, wander, and meet people*~

Hong Han Hotel: For only $25.00 a night you sleep in a clean big room, complimentary breakfast on a cute balcony, and a staff that speaks English! Ahn (brother) gave Ani and I a map along with easy directions of where to go and how to do it. Very relaxing area, located in the middle of bars, restaurants, stores and shops. We had a great experience here and if you're wanting a bargain, and a CLEAN place, stay here!!
     Address: 238 Bui Vien street, Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam     
     telephone: (84-8)-38-361-927 

~China Town: This is the biggest one in Asia (besides all of China!!) and is full of options and opportunity. Enjoy some Chinese fruits and snacks, or shop for vegan meats on the cheap. There are black cashews (roasted with the skin still on) and they're AMAZING! There are loads of things mirroring China, knock off bags, breaking toys, hammocks...worth to play around in! And a great people watching experience!!
~ War Remnants Museum: This is a MUST. It's upsetting and powerful and very informative. It provides a side to the war that Americans especially are unaware of. IT's heartbreaking...recommended to go after eating...you won't be hungry after. 
     Address: 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
     Telephone number: 930-5587
     Open: 7:30-11:45 am and 1:30-5:15 pm
It is 15,000 dong to get in ($0.75).
~ Into Yoga and meditation? Check out the YMC: Yoga and Meditation Center. Classes are nearly two hours long and come in at 200,000dong ($10.00!!!) The instructors speak English, along with the desk staff. It's a bit hidden away but it is walking distance from the War Remnants Museum!!

     Address: 335/31 Dien Bien Phu, Ward 4, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
     Phone number: (08)-3929-1707
     e-mail: info@ymcvn.com
     website: www.ymcvietnam.com

     Ani and I stayed here for only a couple days and were in paradise. There is so much to see, explore, eat- pure brilliance. A MUST go for anyone if you're in Vietnam. 

Vietnamese noms: 
Vietnam Family Resturaunt: The spring rolls here are amazing, and the drinks are fresh and refreshing. The food is affordable, healthy, and quality. The family that owns this place is very kind and accommodating and understand English. The owner speaks the best. They have two dogs that are just too cute to handle! 
     ~get the spring rolls and the mango vodka!!!
     *located on Nguyen Ding Chieu Street near Mai Am Guesthouse. 

WHERE TO STAY: (and eat at!!)
Mai Am Guesthouse: Hands down the BEST hotel experience I've ever had. The family running this joint are beyond accommodating and so genuinely kind. I've never been more relaxed and "at home" in any other place. The food they serve here is great, the coffee wonderful, the location superb! You're RIGHT on the beach, so you wake up to a breeze, the sea air wafting around you and the sun shining smiles! The rooms are large and clean and the rooms are $25.00 a night. Bikes and motorbikes are available upon rent. The location is great also, lots of restaurants and bars around, along with tourist shops and the Fairy stream is nearby. 
    ~~Eat their springrolls, a vermicelli noodle nest wrap instead of the flat noodle! The coffee is strong and sweet!!
     Address: 148 Nyguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Ham Tiem Ward, Phan Thiet City, Binh     
                Thuan Provine, Vietnam
     Phone number:             (+84)-062-3847062 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (+84)-062-3847062      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      
     email: guesthousemaiam@gmail.com

~ Rent a motorbike!!! and EXPLORE!
~The White Sand Dunes: Impeccable, breathtaking, straight up spiritual. Seeing such beauty with your own eyes can't compare to anything also, no effects, movies, pictures. This place is magical. Miles upon miles of stretched out sand dunes, high hills, and a direct connection to the soul. PLEASE PLEASE go here!!
~Fairy Stream:(pictures part 2) This is a beautiful stream full of stunning views and giddy glory. It stretches for a long time, and is hidden behind some dingy neighborhoods. The water looks murky but it's only because of the runoff sand and clay. You're in a canyon, surrounded by red and white sands, thick clays, and tropical plants. I took so many pictures because everywhere I turned, my eyes were astounded, and in that my heart nearly stopped! 

~*Ha Long Bay: sadly a typhoon hit while our overnight plan was supposed to happen. I just have to go back again. ^^*!~

*You can get your Visa On Arrival...I used this VietnamVisaPro, all together (stamp and service fee is $35.00)
*bring a LOT of tank tops, this will soak up the sweat...and you'll be sweating
!*Ladies, ditch the make-up...not worth it
*When wandering or shopping, remember to SMILE...it goes a LONG way
*Remember that your freedom does not travel with you!
*Enjoy and be open to what life brings you!
*Drink a lot LOT of coffee and 
*Eat all the fruit

VEGANS/ VEG-HEADS~ Vietnam is do-able!!! GO GO GO!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vietnam: Lost shots...

     I can't believe that a month ago today, I was flying to the land of Vietnam. A country filled with a infinite amount of discovery, sweat, and adventure. Truly a land and experience that has left me yearning for more.
     Here are some shots that I gathered while wandering the streets of Hanoi.
fancy lights and track suits (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The only streets in Seoul lined with trees are Garusogil...But in Hanoi~

hairs hang (photo taken by VeganBeats)

spiced and pickled fruits (photo taken by VeganBeats)
      I can't believe I didn't write about this stand. There were over a dozen different fruits just lying in the open, not fresh but flavored and spiced. There were papayas, plums, berries, mangoes, etc...all pickled and sprinkled with spice. Back home, I would stock up on Trader Joe's brand spicy dried mangoes and, when I saw fresh spiced ones...my hands were already reaching for cash.
spiced mango (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Verdict: sweet and rather ripe mango, it was a bit snappy, but there was a sweet limey pickling with some dashes of heat that were interesting. These flavors bounced on my tongue and even though my senses halted a bit, I was thinking about this mango so many times throughout the trip...next time. (Aha, another reason!)
cute cute baby (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     ~~again, Vietnam I miss you~~

Soon to come a post with helpful hints, recommendations, resources, etc~~

Goodbye Vietnam~

photo taken by VeganBeats
photo taken by VeganBeats
...I miss you...

Hanoi: White Cloud- The Final Meal

     The final meal, the last noms of Vietnam to be had would happen at where else but where it all began...heya White Cloud!
     On my first day in Vietnam, I was introduced to this secret spot, and on a tired journey of return, we turned to White Cloud. The restaraunt is a gem, the owner is beautiful and the food is loved. I have read other reviews where others complain of how slow the food is, or how long they have to wait~ that is one of the biggest beauties of this place. You grow excited for what's to come, food takes time to prepare. This is a reality we must understand. It is comforting to know that they are taking time with what they are giving me. And, it's worth the wait!
     Ani and I set ourselves up for a feast, ordering whatever our hearts, stomachs, and eyes desired~ hell we're on vacation and this jazz is great. What do you think we started with?!
Nem ran~ spring rolls (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     We ordered our favorites, the com gao lut and dau phu ca chua (brown rice with lotus seeds and black soy beans and tofu cooked in tomato sauce) and the quay dau xanh tam vung chien (fried mung bean batter with sesame). Everything was fresh, warm, full of flavor...just awesome!
     And because I fell in love with it the first time, I got a nom hoa chuoi (banana flower salad). And...it was delicious!
nom hoa chuoi~banana flower salad (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     We tried something new too! The Cha dua is described as being a pineapple pie and I was curious! In my head I was thinking of sliced pineapples with layers of coconut cream and sugared lime (sounds good though eh!), we ended up getting this...
Cha dua~ pineapple pie (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     Plump generous chunks of pineapple in a thin sesame and flour batter and served with a spiced pepper sauce. The pineapple lost it's bitterness but the sweetness soaked well into the batter. The sesame seeds made the individual 'cakes' prettier but didn't make much of an effect on taste. This was good, not great...and we were full!

One hell of a feast though!!
     After this meal...the airport was waiting, and my heart was falling...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hanoi: Phat Truong Tho

     Right near West Lake, and Ani's place there seems to be a surplus of vegan restaurants! While driving around one day I spotted a brightly colored spot at the end of Xuan Dieu. The place is called Phat Truong Tho and according to the New Hanoian, it's not that bad.
the entrance of Phat Truong Tho (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The parking is confusing here, there's a small driveway and garage on the right side of the restaurant...walk there!
     When we entered we were seated in the back room where a smiling monk greeted us while eating a table full of colorful veggies. Matching the veggies was a vivacious room of crimson red, sunny yellows, and apricot oranges. A large golden Buddha was at the end of the room, inside of an impressive shrine. Being in all that color, you can't help but smile a bit wider.
Beautiful Ani and Buddha (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The menu was decent in size, offering the classics, noodles, rice dishes, etc...but some interesting offers included snails, shrimp, and frog~all vegan, so no worries!
     We were both hungry and tired and ordered spring rolls to start (ahh yea!)
spring rolls (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The springrolls were filled with a lot of greens, smashed tofu, and some julienned root veggies. They were served with slices of spicy hot peppers and a peanut sauce. Not great, not bad...just okay.
     The salad I ordered was a grapefruit and shredded mango one. It was delicious! Chunks of sweet sour tangy grapefruit topped with julienned mangoes, mint leaves, and dried hot peppers and in a sweet lime and rice vinegar dressing. The chewy peppers, slightly grainy mint leaves, hardy sweet mangoes, and plump juicy grapefruit mixed together so well. It was a refreshing and delectable salad.
          ~I desperately miss grapefruit...I long for it.
grapefruit and mango salad (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     One entree we got was the classic tofu in tomato sauce. This dish, wasn't impressive. It was missing a lot...greens and veggies. It was pre-fried and re-marinated tofu cubes in a slightly oily sweet tomato sauce. The tofu just tasted like- sponge. The sauce would have worked if there were some carrots or onions (give it a natural versus artificial sweetness) and some more color. We didn't finish this, it was just...missing.
Tofu in tomato sauce (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     I forgot what I originally ordered but I guess it was out so I went with a quirky sounding dish that had 'snails' in it. It was a curried inspired stew but really what came out was something similar to dwenjjang jigae (된장찌개). The soup base was soybean paste, and it had that same spongy tofu in it (points lost). The greens in the soup were rather bitter, like raw bitter melon, but the "redeeming" points are only on the strangeness of some of the ingredients. The snail was beyond odd, looked like vegan clam and tasted like nothing, the texture was... squeaky. There was something starchy int he sop I couldn't figure out, it was soft, slightly sweet, and smooth~ banana! I am not a fan of bananas but in a soup, it's not too bad. This dish though also wasn't nearly finished, not very impressed.
'snail' soup (photo taken by VeganBeats)
     The menu boasts of a lot of interesting potential options but in the end...not that awesome. It wasn't very pricey, I think all together we spent around 120,000-150,000 dong ($6.00-7.25).

The best part of Phat Truong Tho are it's decorations and artwork inside, the smiling ski-ball hat wearing monk and the grapefruit and mango salad , other than that...not worth it. (unless you're nomming on that salad!)

Address: 184B Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Directions: At the end of Xuan Dieu (West lake would be on your Left is you are walking towards it), across from the turn into Cong Doan Hotel
phone: 04-7307-8838