Physically I am back in Melbourne. The rest of me is still twisting and turning, smelling and eating, listening and chatting, and sipping Vietnamese ca phe at my local.
Hanoi has been an eye opening time that has left me both saddened and inspired. I have loved the simplicity and camaraderie of the Hanoians, and therefore have returned to the ‘routine’ of life, saddened. However, having removed myself from routine and having had the honour and pleasure to ‘live’ in such an exhilarating environment for a month has left me feeling inspired and with a fire in my belly to achieve anything I desire, especially with reference to cooking.
I hold true to what I said in a previous post and that is you can only truly experience cooking Vietnamese when you have cooked in Vietnam. I will also say that you have only truly eaten Vietnamese when you have eaten it in Vietnam.
In Melbourne there is an area called Little Vietnam, or Little Saigon. Before I went to Hanoi I would rave about the food here – real Vietnamese food. Recently there was a festival there celebrating the lunar New Year; it was just after we had arrived back in Melbourne. Feeling ‘home’ sick for Hanoi we were in a frenzy to get down there and drown ourselves in pho. But this time it was different. Don’t get me wrong it was still good, but it just wasn’t a patch on those grubby little street stalls in the Old Quarters. It was almost as if it had been commercialised to suit a broader palate.
I am a great lover of the Melbourne food scene, and the ingredients you can get here are fantastic, so this is no blight on Melbourne, or indeed Little Saigon. It’s just that I have experienced how simple food can be simply perfect if it is made perfectly. This is something I hope that I will carry forward in my culinary adventure, wherever it takes me.
Over the next few weeks I will be testing out recipes gleaned from various sources in Hanoi, and will be putting them on this blog.
When I travelled in India, which was one of the most inspirational periods of my life, there was a saying that went:
Journeys are forever. People come and go,
And the eternal fascination of India endures.
And when it’s difficult to say goodbye,
India has a popular saying that translates to mean
“I go, so I may return”.
…and this is my ‘conclude’ dedicated to Vietnam.