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Special Edition: Thailand & Vietnam Cuisine

I recently went to Thailand and Vietnam for 3 weeks and there were so many different dishes sampled that I have to post this special edition – non baking related post.  Rest assured, while on vacation I was desperately looking for the next great dessert.  I stopped by every bakery, cart, and restaurant that offered anything that looked like baked goods.  Desserts aren’t done up in Asia how they are here but the great food and fresh fruits made up for it.

3 weeks, 5 different airports, 8 different hotels, countless taxi  and motorbike rides, a couple swings in a speed boat and a couple of walks down the wrong alley offering some not so kosher shows….I was definitely in another world.  Life was wild.

The heat in both countries was sweltering.  It was at least in the high 80’s – 90’s with a minimum of 75% humidity.  At 7am, I was sweating.  I felt a closer connection to Anthony Bourdain as I sweated through the streets looking for the next great dish :D.  The streets are filled daily with local vendors up since 4am to prepare for the market.  I quickly found that there was no “junk food” in these asian countries but rather rare and exotic fruits that kept me asking “what is that??” and ” how are you suppose to eat it?”

In Thailand the street food ranged from spicy papaya salad with blue shell crab to angel wings (chicken wings stuffed with some mushrooms and glass noodles) and finally to your usual pad thai & pad see ew.  Never had I seen so many items grilled on a stick as I did when in Thailand.  Squid, fish balls, sausages…basically anything that can be put on a skewer.  Had I never lived in Southern California and never tasted any of these delightful dishes, I would have been in paradise; however, I had a greater appreciation for such dishes as I was at the root of it all.  The Thai tea was heavenly and a completely different concoction than what I was used to back at home.  Perhaps, the Thai teas that I’ve been enjoying was the lazy man’s way of doing it.  In Thailand, the tea is placed into an espresso maker and is pressed through, mixed with steamed milk, sugar, and condensed milk.  All too sweet?  Absolutely not, it was amazing!

My extended stay in Vietnam was all the more interesting.  I stayed in the Northern capital of Hanoi for several days and tried the best of the best in specialty dishes of many different street vendors and restaurants.  The fruits in Thailand was also found in Vietnam….ahhh Southeast Asian fruits.  I traveled a couple hours away from the chaotic city into a Haiphong, which is much slower paced than Hanoi and offers a greater country charm.  In Haiphong, you will find Ha Long Bay which is a very picturesque body of water and rocks that is a national treasure for Vietnam.  I rented an entire boat out with my family and climbed into caves and cruised the bay while eating fresh fruits that I could never taste fresh in America.

The next move was down south to Saigon where I was pleasantly surprised of it’s westernized development.  Being in Saigon was similar to being in a small town city in the States…clean, no crooked cops, no dirt roads, etc.  Saigon offered the same foods as the north but offered more international cuisine such as Japanese, Indian, and Malaysian.

I came to Asia, ate, and left with some extra weight.

I plan on incorporating the exotic fruits tasted into some type of delicious baked item.

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Triple Attack!

I made this cake several weeks ago in celebration of my youngest brother’s graduation from college.  I wanted to make the cake extra special and different from any cake that I’ve previously made, it also had to be big enough to feed everyone.  So I decided to go crazy with the filling to give the cake an extra kick! This cake is a triple attack with 3 types of filling – mixed berry mousse, pastry cream, and 3 different types of berries!  The mixed berries mousse was made from fresh strawberry and blackberry puree that was mildly sweet and a perfect complement for the pastry cream.  I love berries and added strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.  Too tarty?  Definitely not when you have the sweetness from the pastry cream and the light mousse to further accentuate the flavor of the fresh fruits!

This cake was also one of the biggest cakes that I’ve made from my kitchen, it was 1/3 sheet.  This cake was a good size since the 1/3 sheet fit into my over just right with enough room for the heat to circulate compared to making a 1/2 sheet which would have limited the convection of the heat and definitely produced a dry cake.  I also didn’t have a recipe large enough for a 1/3 sheet so doubled up on my favorite sponge cake recipe.

This cake was a hit…it was light and not too sweet and fed over 40 people!

When’s the next graduation???  😀

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