Saigon

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh on Friday evening after a lot of hassle in several countries, not having eaten or drunk anything since the morning. Needless to say, I was in a bit of a shock, coming from the Island of Gods to a city with a population twice as much as Finland’s. On my first night in Saigon, I just went to walk around the (backpacker) district 1, were my hostel was conveniently located, found myself some good fresh spring rolls and read the Lonely Planet to locate myself.

Great coffee and bananas for breakfast.
Great coffee and bananas for breakfast.
Bright post office, where people mainly just take pictures. Apparently they do handle mail too.
Bright post office, where people mainly just take pictures. Apparently they do handle mail too.

On my first whole day, I went to see the sights: the colonial bright yellow post office and the famous Notre Dame church. In the afternoon I decided to join a French guy from the hostel to see the famous and popular Cu Chi tunnels, where brave people of Vietnam suffered and survived during the war. The tunnels were interesting enough, and we even had a veteran as our tour guide, but the group of 80 people was a bit too much to handle. I skipped the possibility of shooting all the real guns, but did manage to crouch 40 meter way 6m underground to get the war feeling: Not pleasant.

In the evening I went to enjoy dinner at the same place we had lunch: the magnificent Saigon Vegan restaurant, cheap and amazing food from fresh ingredients! I went there 3 times in 2 days, and if I had stayed longer, I would have definitely gone more.

Fresh spring rolls for lunch and dinner, can't complain.
Fresh spring rolls for lunch and dinner, can’t complain.

Market life.
Market life.

The second day I started walking around, trying to find Chinatown with no success. All the areas I went to seemed to look more or less the same, but I did roam through some interesting and very local markets. I visited the war museum, which made me want to puke and cry a bit, showcasing pictures of the war and of mutilated people and all that. Pretty one-sided approach to the whole subject, but it was interesting to see anyway. In the afternoon some kids stopped me to practice English, which was pretty interesting since I hardly understood a word they were saying. In the evening I had dinner with another French guy at the same vegan restaurant. Om nom.

 

Beans beans beans.
Beans beans beans.
Bars from heaven.
Bars from heaven.

On the third day I woke up early morning to wait to be picked up to a cacao farm: the plans changed a bit so instead of 7 we left at 9 to visit Marou chocolate factory outside of town. After the visit we went to Mekong area, to Treasure Island by ferry to select cacao beans for Marou’s Treasure Bar. It was so much fun, and we got 300kg of top notch cacao beans. We enjoyed dinner back in HCMC, spectacular Vietnamese cuisine country-style from local ingredients, shared at the table. This magnificent meal of several small dishes cost around 12€ per person, my most expensive meal in Vietnam. I took a motorbike taxi home, and booked a Mekong Delta tour for the next day at 10.30 pm. The best thing about big cities: they never sleep.

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Last quarteryear

Dear friends,

I am still alive! (Not that I thought any of you might have thought I was dead because of what seems like forever-lasting radio -erhm- blog silence)

My last post was something about food, posted from my home at that time – actually my mom’s home- in Tampere. After that, so many things have happened, that they would be worth several posts. Anyhow, since it’s the New Year and the new year is all about looking back and ditching all the bad things and thinking positively about all the great things that lie ahead, I decided to make a comeback. No matter how unpopular this blog might be in the Finnish scale, since Finns read only blogs from Finns that are in Finnish (go figure)…here I go. Again.

La vie, c'est belle!
La vie, c’est belle!

Yeah, I went to Paris (and I did go closer to la tour Eiffel than that). For a brief few days in October, to visit NatExpo trade show for organic industry. Ate a lot of baguette, and have been gluten-free ever since! No more French paradox for me, merci beaucoup. The trip and all the pictures I took would definitely be worth a post itself, but I’ll just give you a hint: if you go to Paris, you must visit all the markets, i.e Bastille, Raspail (organic!), and if you get a chance, go eat in Sol Semilla. I didn’t, and I regret it. Paris, I’m not done with you quite yet.

Morning sunrise in Pyynikki
Morning sunrise in Pyynikki

In September I was feeling out of breath, and not in a I-just-ran-5k way, but in a What-the-f-am-I-doing sort of way that makes you want to just, well, I don’t know how to describe it, really. Long story short, I changed the view above to the biggest hustle and bustle I could find in this country: Helsinki.

Big city life.
Big city life, no kidding

Here I have been since November, busy as a bee. There was Smoothie national competition where I was not smoothing but working for my friend’s company, there was Chocolate Festival where I was working and eating myself up a weight category (though I don’t do any sports that require categories…), there was the Food &wine expo where I was promoting Vitamix for 4 days to people who were interested mostly only in free samples, there was the new job, the other new job, the thesis that finally got started in a way…and trying to figure out which gym to join or sport to start.

My “day job” is now working in a raw food/smoothie bar that is inside Finland’s oldest vegetarian/living foods restaurant. I have learned a lot about coffees and such, get to work with nice people and see people at my workplace (which is luxury), and get to eat proper food! Win win win. Maybe soon I’ll learn how to make the heart shape to cappucino.

Silvoplee, aka who wouldn't want to eat/work here?
Silvoplee, aka who wouldn’t want to eat/work here?

The other job has been editing and creating product descriptions for Foodin.fi, my friends’ online store that sells the best quality stuff I know and have had the chance to try. I am proud to be able to sell the same products in Silvoplee.

The best candy.
The best treats and Lasse.

The third job is not really job – I am working on my thesis for Goodio (chocolates, which just happen to be the best chocolate, pictured above). Coconut ice cream coming up! I have been extremely lazy on the thesis, but this Christmas time I got a kick to do it since it was pitch black and raining all the time, my brother and dad were in Thailand, and I just wanted to feel at least tiny bit proud about being miserable and stuck here. Mission accomplished.

Umm…I was supposed to post this on 2nd of January, but there was few things that got on my way…like a broken wrist. Anyhow, we’ll see how things go. See you soon, I hope!

Midsummer festivities: How to Open a Watermelon

As I have posted before, Midsummer or Summer Soltice is one of Finland’s biggest celebrations. Last year in New York I missed all the traditions: summer cottage, new potatoes, dunk people and whatnot, so this year was my opportunity to take it all back!

Guess what? I decided to stay in the city. Apparently I was not the only one, since there was (still is) a rather big city festival in Pyynikki. No summer cottage (though we do live next to a forest and have a nice view of the lake, which to me is the point of the whole thing), and no new potatoes with fish, but a lot of drunk people at the festival. It all evens out, right? The sun was shining, I even managed to  burn my back on the beach(!), and it was almost full moon, though still light outside at midnight. I “forgot” to collect 7 different flowers to dream of my future husband or the love of my life, nor did I do any other magic tricks and hocus pocus that is traditional to this feast ofthe inevitable: the days are getting shorter, and the winter is coming.

Midsummer midnight swim. Not me, though.
Midsummer midnight swim. Not me, though

With this long intro to the whole deal, I will now reveal to you how to deal with the uncomfortable situation of making a watermelon edible without a knife. A fast youtube search suggested banging your head to the fruit, which I was not that keen on trying (wonder why…) As smashing it to the ground would not have been cost-efficient, I wanted to find an alternative solution.

Battle of strenght
Battle of strength

At this point, you already have the solution. It is suggested to start off with the equipment.

The most beautiful melon
The most beautiful melon

To open a melon without a knife, you need a friend -or someone random- who just happens to carry around some nail scissors or a sewing kit. Just poke holes and cut around the whole damn thing, then start pulling with a friend. Or use karate moves on the cut line, which ever you fancy. The result is much greater than the boring triangles you get with cutting with a knife!

Getting at it
Getting at it

And as a bonus, after scooping the flesh out with your plastic forks and spoons (reserve few extra cause if you’re like me, you’re gonna break at least 4), there’s juice left for making punch drinking.

Sweet juice
Sweet juice

An idea: the left over bowls can be used as helmets, or hats.

So…that was yesterday, there still is today of everything-being-closed-and-drunk-people-wandering, we’ll see if I’ll get the courage to get out of the house and to the city! So far, I have just been devouring on chocolate sauce I made because I didn’t have enough patience to make actual chocolate. Recipe would be coming up in another post, but it’s ridiculously simple and I have no pictures of it besides my chocolatey mouth, so here goes: basically just mix melted coconut oil with cocoa powder and (raw chocolate) honey, then add some lechitin and toco (/other “superfood stuff” or just skip the powders, they’ll add creaminess and vitamins and stuff but who needs those, anyways) and bee pollen to the mix. No need to freeze, scoop it up (with sliced apple, for example) and smile!

The winter is coming, but who cares – it’s summer now!

Whole lotta food love

No idea where the name comes from
No idea where the name comes from!

Lucky to be working in the food industry, I was able to visit Asia’s largest Food & drink, hotel, restaurant & food service exhibition HOFEX, held in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center this week. During the first 3 days, the expo had 38,297 buyers – not quite the same caliber as any expo in Finland!
If Natural Expo West/East in the States (or any other natural/organic expo for that matter) would be my Heaven, HOFEX probably is something right outside Heaven’s gates. Exhibitors in 3 floors, from so many different cultures, presenting what they perceive as the best from their country. (Scandinavia was not represented at all, though at least I saw one oven door manufactured in Sweden!) Unfortunately for me, European Fine Meats were well presented. On the other hand, the only producer of quinoa products was from Holland – Go Europe!

Scottish lard
Premium Scottish lard

Besides the culinary presentations, panels and other cookings, there was barista championships and the more visually intriguing flairtending competition as well as some rather fancy culinary competitions. And of course some the cool kitchen equipment was tested on-site – I saw some pretty cool sushi making machines as well as veggie spiralers, among others.

Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes
Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes

The thing I like most about this kind of events (besides all the nibbles), is to talk to interesting people who possibly share same interests and have passion about their work (hopefully). In general, I was maybe a bit surprised how many pig legs there was, and so much ice cream! It seemed like pretty much all of the European countries were focusing on meat, alcohol and possibly some cheese. Food traditions rather than trends…

Not your regular cuppa joe
Not your regular cuppa joe

Speaking of trends, the extensive coffee and tea sections were rather seducing. I got to try my first ice drip coffee, which was surprisingly soft – I tried the same Vietnamese beans as hot dripper coffee, and the flavor was much more intense. The coffee had been dripping for 2 days until ready to drink. In Hong Kong, single origin beans and more love-requiring brewing methods are definitely a hit – when Hong Kongers don’t drink bubble tea or milk tea, they at least value their coffee! About beans…the only single origin bean is not coffee, anymore.

Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao
Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao

I admit being a “bit” of a snob when it comes to certain things. Chocolate just happens to be one of those things that I will rather not put in my body, if it’s low quality. Some chocolove-talk in HOFEX got me an invitation to taste these amazing single-origin chocolates from different villages in Vietnam. Though I do prefer raw chocolate to processed ones, these sweeties were pretty impressive: the only ingredients used are the specific cacao beans and sugar.

Simplicity at its' best
Simplicity at its’ best

When it comes to processed chocolate, these ones were top notch. From cool packaging design to the origins of the bean, Marou has got it figured out. Lucky me, I still have their event invitation which was a chocolate bar. Plus I got a goodie bag with their special golden chocolate, which cannot be bought anywhere. What a dilemma – I don’t want to eat it, but how can one resist the temptation?

Oh, expos, how I love you. If I ever get to go to Fancy Food Show or Expo West, I’ll be happy for months in advance! I hope the next time won’t be too far away from now.

Good Life

Once again, long(ish) time, no post – sorry about that. After the Chinese New Year (which kept the banks and such closed up until Valentine’s Day!) I have been as busy as always with work and wandering around. This week I had divine home-made raw chocolate at the office, strong happy hour margaritas in our neighborhood, and Chinese style “laskiaispulla” (shrove bun).

Another day at the office
Valentine’s day (and chocolate week) at the office

I visited Andy Warhol exhibition in the Museum of Art. Ridiculously cheap (less than 2€!), and 2 hour tour. What I learned: Warhol had 25 cats, all of them named Sam. Talk about equality!

When taken out of it's context, anything can be art
When taken out of it’s context, anything can be art

Today I got a flashback of the New York atmosphere I have been missing: East Island Market.

(Pretty much) everything hand-made, organic and more or less fresh!
(Pretty much) everything hand-made, organic and more or less fresh!

Nice, quiet area with live music, young entrepreneurs and happy people, what a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

Something natural in the concrete jungle
Something natural in the concrete jungle

I know what I will do on lazy Sundays after this. The good thing is, that I can walk home via a mountain road. A bit of exercise to balance out the treats!

Made to order, fresh and familiar. No chopsticks needed!
Made to order, fresh and familiar. No chopsticks needed!