Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mangoes in Season

I love mangoes. I love pie. Now that mangoes are in season, I can't get enough of making mango pies.

Below is a lattice-top mango pie that I made two weekends ago. It was my first time to make a lattice top and I think my lattice strips ended up a bit too wide but I guess it's not bad for a first time.

We had some leftover vanilla-mango-graham ice cream that time so hurray for mango pie a la mode!

I paired it with iced Vietnamese coffee one humid afternoon.

And just tonight, I was itching to make pie because we still have a lot of mangoes. Luckily, I had just enough flour and butter for a single pastry crust so I made this quick mango tart. I'm glad it still ended up flaky despite the hot and humid weather.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of pie-making. I've been making my pie crusts a lot quicker than I used to. I have another mango pie variation in my mind so hopefully I get to do that next weekend or the weekend after that!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Messing with Masking Fluid

I bought a bottle of masking fluid alongside a few brushes last week, after watching Pitch Perfect 2 with my friends. I got home a bit late but I was too excited to use my new things and I couldn't sleep until I could make something presentable. By the time I finished the piece below, I didn't realize it was already past 2am.

Took me a few tries before I could make this

Two days ago...


I obviously need more practice and I think I should also invest on better-quality watercolor paper to see how it will make a difference.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Earth laughs in flowers

...and I cope with stress by painting.

A flower border-- I was thinking of writing something in the middle but couldn't decide what to put.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Dinner at Nina's Cafe in Hue, Vietnam

After the Perfume River cruise, we were all eager to take a shower and then have dinner. We decided to eat at the highly rated Nina's Cafe. It was only one kilometer from the hostel. However, after passing through a couple of shady alleys, we started to wonder whether HERE Maps was accurate. Thankfully, when we saw a property lighted with pretty lanterns, we knew we had arrived at the right place.

Since we were all hungry, we decided to go for the set meals.

To start, I was served a Vietnamese pancake with bean sprouts, greens and peanut sauce. I was also given rice paper. 

What happens is you take a rice paper, add pancake, bean sprouts and greens, then roll it like a spring roll, seal it with water and then dip into the peanut sauce before digging in. In the background is passionfruit juice that contained a piece of kiamoy (some kind of preserved plum with very strong sweet/salty/sour flavors). The addition of kiamoy seemed odd at first but I realized that its flavors do compliment the passionfruit well.

Next was banana flower salad with shrimp and pork served with a dressing mainly composed of vinegar and fish sauce.

Banana flower salad with vinegar and fish sauce dressing

Next, I was served a dish with chicken on lemon grass skewers, bean sprouts, salad and peanut sauce. Same as the Vietnamese pancake, it's also rolled in rice paper. At this point, I couldn't eat any more so I gave half of my rolls to the boys haha.

I had removed the lemon grass already when I took the photo.

Then again, there's always room for dessert. I had flan with passionfruit topping.

I can't even express how this post makes me hungry even though I just had dinner. The food at Nina's Cafe was REALLY good (which most probably explains the high ratings). Did I mention that the set meal (excluding the drink) only costs VND150,000 (~USD 6.91 or PhP308.57)? For that amount and for that quality, Nina really gave me the bang for my buck!

Now, if you find yourself in Hue, Vietnam, don't miss this place!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hue Perfume River Cruise Diary

We arrived in Hue at around 9am on a Saturday, after a 15-hour bus ride from Hanoi. We walked to our hostel, put down our backpacks and immediately booked a river cruise tour. We were only staying one night in Hue so we had to make the most out of it. We paid VND700,000 to get a dragon boat.

It was REALLY hot and humid that day and the wind barely blew. The heat index or "feels like" temperature was around 38 to 40 degrees Celsius and we were still tired from our overnight bus journey from Hanoi so you get the picture. Nevertheless, we were not going to waste the day.

We went to four sites: Thien Mu Pagoda, Minh Mang Tomb, Hue Nam Shrine and a garden house before being dropped off to the Hue Imperial Citadel.

This is Thien Mu Pagoda. There's no admission fee required to enter.

I attempted to climb the ladder to the second floor of the building pictured above but I couldn't manage. The boys were able to climb, though.

We went to Minh Mang Tomb afterwards. Admission fee is VND200,000. It's huge and beautiful.

The view from a pavilion where I chilled for a while. It was relaxing.

We went back to the boat and lunch was ready.

Spring rolls, grilled fish, fried chicken and omelette.

Lunch was modest but it was really good. Everyone was pretty famished because it was already past 2pm and some of us didn't even have breakfast that day. However, having to pay VND250,000 EACH, I couldn't help feeling ripped off.

The boat turned around and then we went down this place called Hue Nam Shrine. The site is small and quite grim and we all thought that the VND40,000 admission fee we paid for wasn't worth it because there's practically nothing to see.

We also visited a garden house.

Finally, we were dropped off at the Hue Imperial Citadel

We were told by the hostel staff that the Imperial Citadel closes admission at 5:30pm and we arrived there at 5pm but we were still unable to get in. I was really disheartened because I really wanted to see this place. We've already bought a bus ticket to Hoi An scheduled to depart 9am the next day so it would have been impractical to move our schedule. Thankfully, the Imperial Citadel opens at 7am so I went there with two other co-workers the following morning. I will write about it next!

Monday, May 4, 2015

First Taste of Hanoi

Along with seven other co-workers, I flew to Hanoi a few days earlier prior to the company outing in order to visit Central Vietnam. We arrived in Hanoi early at dawn. The bus to Hue wasn't scheduled until the evening so we checked into a hostel first, slept, checked out at noon and then had a little taste of Hanoi-- literally.

For lunch, we went to Cha Ca La Vong which serves grilled fish tossed in a pan with vegetables and peanuts and then eaten with noodles and sauce made of vinegar, fish sauce and chilies. It was good albeit a bit pricey at VND170,000 (~USD7.87 / PhP351.40). It was worth a try, though.

In the afternoon, we had work to do so we went to Highlands Coffee near Hoan Kiem Lake. It was a really great place to work because it's spacious and comfortable with just the right amount of background noise. They have free and fast wi-fi as well as power outlets. It's not air-conditioned as are most cafes in Vietnam but it didn't really need any because it's quite cool in Hanoi (at least compared to Manila).

I had iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk (ca phe sua da) and it was really good! To be honest, I never understood the deal with Vietnamese coffee before. I mean, we have good coffee beans in the Philippines anyway. However, I learned that it's not just about the coffee beans, it's also the way they prepare the coffee (using a metal filter called 'phin'). Vietnamese coffee is very strong and condensed milk is quite a good way to balance the bitterness. To be honest, I got hooked with it.

Iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk (VND 29,000 or ~USD1.34 / PhP60.00)
Tiramisu cheesecake (VND35,000 or ~USD1.62 / PhP72.40)

That's pretty much how I spent my first day in Hanoi. Though I wasn't able to see many places, it was a great one, especially for my tummy lol.