MY FIRST PICTURES –NHUNG TAM HINH DAU TIEN CUA TOI
My love of photography is natural. I have loved to see myself in photographs ever since I was small.
It might be an obvious desire. Remember I was born in a remote village. There was no electricity. Although electricity was nothing related to photography, I introduce it here to let your mind play some imagination about the kind of life, dark, remote, and primitive. Rarely someone had a camera, and a primitive one it was. Still, it was a fancy thing.
I had my first picture taken in 1968 at the only studio in the closest district town. It was a 4x6mm and a 3x4mm. I did not ask the money from my parents for fancy pictures. They were needed to attach to the application for taking the entry exam for the 6th grade, the entry level for my elementary school.
With the eyes of a 6-year-old person I believed I looked beautiful.
Now, after adding years of life, I see in the picture a little creature, shy and timid, exposing her inner self to the photographer, wearing her white school dress. I was puzzled to find myself in a strange and dark studio. I trembled when the strobe light was turned on. Yet, I was burnt with desire to be beautiful in the picture.
I took a few more pictures when I was in the 6th grade.
My school organized a tour for students to the sea. That was my first trip away from home. That event was big. My mother was excited as much as I was. From our village to Saigon, the old capital of the South of Vietnam, was the farthest she had ever gone from home. She had never had the opportunity to see the sea, so she was happy for me. She went out buying me a stainless steel fork and spoon that were so big that I felt embarrassed. Her effort was to get me something fancy to have to eat my meals with other students, instead of using ordinary bamboo chopsticks that we used every day.
My youngest aunt lent me her new beautiful blouse. I even had a pair of black glasses.
So I was there, me and the ocean for the first time. I played with the waves. I rented a float (it was actually a huge tire) and rode on it. I was not afraid of the ocean at all. So young and so brave!
I was curious and patient to wait for the light beams that casted over the school yard of some school that our teachers could arrange for us to stay.
I believed all the overwhelming excitement from discoveries of new things and new places were captured there in my pictures. Thanks to the photographer who had the camera and cared enough to take my pictures.
Now it is your turn. I can’t wait to read about your first picture taking experiences.
This is a popular appetizer. These mushrooms are very flavorful and healthy at the same time. Do not wait until you have a party to make them. My husband loves to add them to his lunch or dinner.
1 lb white button mushrooms, cleaned
6 dried shitake mushroom, soaked in hot water
1 medium onions, peeled and minced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 slices of ginger, minced
3 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoon breadcrumb
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
A pinch of parsley salt
A pinch of ground black pepper
A teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oil
Preheat the oven 375oF.
Use the point of a small knife, making an incision into the base of the stem, turning the mushroom around to remove the stem. Remove more to make bigger cavities.
Chop the stems coarsely.
Discard the tough stems from shitake mushrooms, chop coarsely.
Heat a skillet or pan over medium heat until hot. Add oil and wait until hot, add ginger, garlic and stir for 30’ until fragrant. Add onion and both mushrooms and cook for 5’, then season with salt, soy sauce and black pepper. Remove from heat, stir in cilantro and let cool.
Mix in parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
Spoon the mixture into the mushroom cavities.
Bake for 15’. Remove from the oven and they are ready to serve.
This is the ultimate cooked chili for heat lovers. When you open the jar the aroma allures you to take a spoon (or less) for your Hue beef noodles soup (bun bo Hue). There are so many dishes like sauté chili squid (muc xao sa te), sauté beef hot pot (lau bo sa te) call for this condiment.
I use ginger in this recipe. If you can get galangal it would be a nice component. In some cases not strictly for vegetarian people, dried shrimps or fermented fish or shrimp sauce can be added. They are sure to make distinstive flavors.
It is worth the effort to make at home; clean, fresh, and safe because of no preservative chemical addition. The only caution to take is wearing gloves to protect hands and masks to protect nose and glasses to protect eyes from hot smell.
10 medium red chilis, minced
¼ cup dry red chili flakes, soaked in water for 10’
Heat a pan or skillet over medium heat until hot. Add oil, ginger, garlic and lemongrass, stir until fragrant. Add dried chili and fresh chili. Add sugar, salt and fish sauce and cook until dry. Remove from heat and let cool.
Spoon the sate chili into a jar. It can keep in the fridge for about 10 days. The first time I made and left on the counter and forgot about it. When I opened the jar it was full of fungus. Better to put in the fridge.
Hi everyone! The countdown is on. Are you ready? I am.
After Thanksgiving day, I removed the pumpkins and fall decorations in front of the house. I put up multi-color lights all over our balcony and the holly bushes. For the entrance the red lights garland took place. A wreath with green pine and red and yellow bows is hung on the door. A bunch of fresh pine and red bow is tied to the tree on the street near the driveway, another one for the mail box post and one more for the light post. From the street the house looks festive and brings the holiday spirit up. My husband and I love to see our house lit up when we drive home. He often takes me on a tour around the neighborhood to see who has the best decorations.
How about inside?
The chandelier in the dining room is hung with all green ornaments and a silver and gold Morroccan ball. The other chandelier at the breakfast nook is hung with blue ornaments and a red Morrocan ball. The opening from the breakfast nook to the family room is lit with multi-color motion lights. I love it. Sometime it is green, then blue, then red, then orange and then all together colors flashing. Another string is dragged over the staircase bannister going up to the second floor. At each post I attached a bouquet of fresh pine with a red bow.
Over the mantel is the fresh pine wreath with red bow and pine cones. I made another wreath and hung over the window in the living room. I am happy it is there because it balances the chandelier in the dining room as our living room and dining room are open great room.
I made the wreaths and bouquets myself. I will try to find time to show you how I made them.
We have two kids to give presents. I already wrapped Tyler’s (2nd grade) present. Riley’s (6th grade) gift is pending to the last day because I do not want to fold her beautiful burgundy gown and let it sit in a box too long.
We also purchased fresh poinsettias. They will go into fresh flower decorations when I set the tables.
Come back to see how I do with the tables; promise!
You do not want to miss my food, either. This week I am going to make the cookies.
My husband has been busy building the entertainment center. Today we assembled the bottom unit. It was too big and I was not happy. I am to blame because I designed it. We decided to make another smaller version. Poor my husband!
So you do not want to miss our entertainment center either.
A VIETNAMESE COOK TAKES ON HANUKKAH LATKES – BANH TOM HO TAY
vegetarian sweet potato cake
shrimp sweet potato cake
sweet potato cakes
I saw the latkes picture in the Bon Appetit magazine volume 57 number 12. It looked exactly like my shrimp sweet potato pancakes. So I have posted this recipe for all of you who want something new for their holiday. There is no better time: the sweet potato season is here. The cold weather allows us to eat some fried food.
This cake was created and loved by Hanoi people and put Ho Tay (West lake), a beautiful lake in Hanoi on the map of food culture. Hanoi people bring along this dish with them whenever they go resettling. Now the whole country is able to devour this dish.
There were two versions of this cake: one soft and pluffy and the other crispy with sweet potato. Both are savory. They have shrimp on top and served with varieties of vegetables and dipped in a little sweet and sour fish sauce with green papaya and carrot pickles.
To eat, break up a piece of pancake, put on top of a lettuce leaf with some herbs like mint, Thai basil, chives, roll into a roll, dip in fish sauce. One bite can give you an amazing experience: soft dough, crispy sweet potato and shrimp, a little spicy herbs and sweet and sour dipping sauce.
The best part of it is you have fun making them. Watching the cake releases itself from the mold when it is cooked is fun. You have the accomplishment feeling of making the food that people are craving.
So do not wait any longer. Follow my recipe and let me know how your cakes turn out.
For this recipe it yields 7 vegetarian cakes (no shrimps and they look like latkes) and 7 shrimp cakes
Sweet and sour fish sauce dip (Hanoi style) recipe follows
Carrot and papaya pickles (Hanoi style), recipe follows
The mold to make banh Gia (Bean sprout cake mold) or strainer or flat ladle.
Mix all ingredients for the batter 30’ in advance so that the batter has time to rest. It can be made and kept in the fridge for a day.
Shred potatoes into matchsticks. Soak in ice water to remove some starch and keep them crispy.
Marinate shrimps with garlic, salt and pepper. I use shrimps with heads and tails on, they crispier this way. You can trim if you prefer. I use the white shrimps (tep bac) as their shells are tender. I use one shrimp for one cake. You can use 2 shrimps if they are small.
Bring a deep fryer or a pan with at least 2 ½ inches oil to 350oF. That is the ideal temperature for making this cake. Too hot will burn the cake before cooked. Too low will make the cake soggy (not healthy eating). Leave the mold in the oil to heat. Lift up the mold from the oil (no oil in the mold). Mix some potatoes into the batter and place on the mold. You will hear sizzle. It is preferable the potatoes sit on different directions. Dip one shrimp in the batter and place on top of the potatoes. Lower the mold into hot oil. Let it cook for 1 minute or so, the cake will release itself from the mold. Leave the mold in the oil for the next cake. Cook the cake for 1 minute longer. Remove the cake to paper towel.
Now you are ready for the next cake. Repeat until all batter and sweet potatoes and shrimps used up.
You can make a lot of cakes and keep in 200oF oven until ready to serve. It is also good to eat them at room temperature. I put in the fridge they are still crispy the next day.
Carrot and papaya pickles:
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced across
¼ green papaya, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced across
1 cup vinegar
2 cups water
Soak carrot and papaya in vinegar and water mixture for 30’ or until they are slightly sour.