On Learning and a Marinade That Came About From a Mistake


I grew up in Vietnam where schooling mostly meant studying. We attended classes, jotted down notes, completed homework, took one test after another. We studied much but learned little, for the elusive prestige of getting into yet another good school, securing a stable job and then continuing the circle of life. There was this structured, uncomplicated path that you were advised (or expected?) to follow to become law-abiding functioning members of the society. Continue reading

The No-Recipe Roll-it-yourself Platter

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Recently two of my very close friends (one of them an expert in pumpkin prep) decided that their current jobs have become too much to bear. There comes a point when all the long working hours, the taxing straining professional relationships and the constant supervision will no longer justify the monthly paycheck. There comes a point when the learning curve stagnates and you start churning out results like a robot. They have reached that point, and they quit. Continue reading

My Pb’s Porridge


It sucks being an adult. Work on that proposal! Apply for that job! Find a boyfriend! Get married! Responsibilities everywhere. In the midst of completing the endless task list, I fall into little periods of hiatus which I call my occasional episodes of quarter life crisis, worsened by the mood swing like London’s weather. One moment I’m Mother Teresa on a mission to change the world and the next I’m a bed hugger binging on junk food and Friends for the nth time, mouthing Chandler’s jokes as he speaks. When that happens I go with the flow and allow myself to reach the bottom of the pit, at which point I finally get out of bed and make my Pb’s porridge. Why such a name? Read on. Continue reading

Easy Cucumber and Prawn Salad Recipe

There was one time I developed a constant crazy craving for prawns, so much that I had to call for an intervention. I’ll never get tired of them, I just need a more balanced diet (because who doesn’t?) Prawns are such versatile ingredients that there are endless possibilities of how they can be cooked: grilled, caramelized, pound into prawn cakes and fried or even raw. One of the many (lazy) ways I use to enjoy these little guys is to steam them and pair with fish sauce so I can feel the saltiness of the fish sauce, the chewy texture and sweetness of the flesh. And another (less lazy) way is to mix them up in a crunchy cucumber salad. I still remember those afternoons working while my mind was filled with the thought of how I would go to the supermarket, choose the prawn, pick up some cucumbers and dash home to make this dish. Continue reading

Roll, roll, roll away: Spring Rolls Recipe

I’m probably too clumsy and impatient to be someone who loves cooking. There I said it. When I was younger, all the ingredients were prepared and laid before me. My “fine” garlic and chilly mixture was not up to my aunt’s standard; my julienned carrot didn’t look so julienned. It took me one year of living alone overseas and eating unevenly cooked and unappealing looking food that I decided to make an effort to be better. Although I still haven’t mastered the art of chopping onion or julienne carrots as fine and thin as they can be, I’m better. Still, I’m not confident of making stuff that involves a lot of shaping by hands like dumpling, or even spring rolls (really? I know!)

But here I am today, making spring rolls, more to satisfy my constant craving for a bowl of vermicelli filled with fresh herbs, crispy spring rolls and a tangy dipping sauce than a desire to test whether my patience has improved over the years.  Continue reading

Bánh bột – My childhood favorite

Boc boc boc…that sound keeps playing on my mind whenever I remember my mom at the stove stirring and stirring continuously, preparing bánh bột (savory coconut cake).

A family rooted in Bến Tre where there is an abundant supply of coconut, we’ve always had this crazy love for the wonder fruit. We make no excuse to let coconut make its way into our cooking: fish sauce made with the juice instead of plain water gives it a natural sweet taste while the milk in chè (sweet soup) acts a flavor enhancer. When it comes to bánh bột, coconut milk is absolutely a must. Continue reading