An oyster’s beauty is more than shell deep

Sometimes the words can be more appetising than the pics. I don’t fake my food pics, what you see is what I eat 😁.

Here are 12 scallops and four huge oysters, all barbecued on the shell.

I like mine with a (visually somewhat unattractive) dollop of sweet, home-made mayo/sauce; others prefer savory/chilli condiments.

This has almost become my staple dinner in Vung Tau, Vietnam, thanks to my hotel’s street seafood barbecue.

USD6.90/AUD10. Not bad for “tourist prices”, eh!

Always remember: “Never judge a scallop by its shell.” 🤠

 

A 24-carat lunch for $US3.40

Carrots add character: this colorful combo is fried egg, fried rice, salad and a chicken leg with a slightly spicy salsa of tomato, onion and carrot cubes.

It’s served in a “hot pot”, I presume for looks, as it’s all fried in the wok (except for the salad, derrr) at the restaurant”s streetfront kitchen.

Big serve, big taste, big value at USD3.40. I’ll be back again …

Morning coffee and an egg – but cooked, and not mixed together

Vietnamese Egg Coffee: I’ve tried – by God, I’ve tried – from Vung Tau to Phu Quoc, both iced and hot, I did my best, folks, but for me it is NOT.

*Pic: iced egg coffee version, and the raw egg yolk/sweet condensed milk forms a custardy curdle that is scooped with a spoon. It’s a treat for locals. I feel bad because it was given to me as a gift.  I’ve consumed a quarter of it … but I’m afraid the remainder is staying right where it is.

Seafood, taste food

Real pics don’t do this food justice. But  this is what I’m really eating and really tasting. Believe me, it’s all about the taste:

#ôc tói is a Vietnamese broad term for garlic snails but these big sea molluscs are more than that – they are snipped out by by the cook, hard bits removed, placed back in the shell and barbecued with a mild chilli sauce, mild garlic cloves, chopped green onion and uncrushed peanuts. The trick is to grab a bamboo skewer, get in there and give the shell a good poke – there’s always a juicy portion hiding around the curve.

#scallops simply barbecued and finished with a mild, creamy sauce. I’d pay again, just for that scallop sauce …

Squeeze a little South-East Asian lime juice over all of it, add a slice or two of rye bread, and it is a meal everyone should get to enjoy at least once in a lifetime.

(I genuinely, sincerely, feel sorry for people with seafood and/or peanut allergies.)

USD6.50/AUD$9.60, street seafood bbq, Vung Tau.

China, lobsters and soaring prices

A roast chicken USD10, average live lobster USD50, airport taxi USD30: The huge Chinese “spend” in South-East Asia is causing a rapid inflation of prices.

Expect enormous inflationary pressure to soon weigh on the smaller economies as locals struggle to cope with rocketing property/food/transport costs.

It’ll be much worst if tourism turns away from “once cheap” Asia…

Clarification: roast chooks in SE Asia haven’t yet undergone the Ingham/Steggles “miniaturisation” program and are a decent size, and come with claws and head cooked and intact – woo hoo, a bonus locals love!

 

QANTAS OFFERS COLD COMFORT

Have no fear of burning your mouth when eating the inflight meal in Qantas economy class. The meal warmers at the paupers’ end of the plane must have one setting: cool. Hey, you might even find a frozen woolly mammoth in the middle of the veggie lasagna. OK, that last bit is an exaggeration, but it’s a pity the Qantas “cattle class” meals (which are notorious for running out) have a reputation for arriving lukewarm at best. Why? Cathay, Vietnam, Thai, Singapore – the Asian airlines’ meals have to be opened and left to cool before consumption.

REACQUAINTING WITH QANTAS

This is my first Qantas flight since ditching the disappointing Australian national carrier 4 years ago, and I’m on what I dub the “M&M flight”: Monday Midday, Melbourne to Singapore. It’s a fair fare – all airfares have leaped lately as fuel prices soar – I like the daytime departure, and the cabin crew are friendly. And digital-savvy: “If you like my service, please go online and say so – don’t forget to hashtag Qantas,” ebullient Ana tells a bubbly bunch of Aussie ladies as she serves their second drink with their (tepid) lunch. It’s good vibes, all round. My mini bottle of a cheeky Embrazen shiraz warms the soul where the limp lasagne failed (it was tasty and wholesome, if only it was not cold). The passenger on my left only nibbles at his “pre-ordered meal”, the passenger on my right takes one mouthful of her Asian chicken and declines the rest, saying the food is cold and the chilli is way too hot. Oh the irony! You just know the preferred passengers in Business and First, sitting above you – literally, as they are seated on the top deck – are being fawned over. For more than a decade, Qantas management’s attitude has imbued an elitism; a segregation in travel. There are the important “us”, and then there’s “them” down the back there. But so long as Ana and her cabin colleagues keep up their good service and friendly fun, the flying majority will remain happy in economy class and perhaps stay loyal to the Flying Kangaroo.

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MIRACLE ON A MOTORBIKE

Moses. This motorbike taxi bloke from now on is known as “Moses”. The way he parted the storm clouds, all the way from Bui Vien Street to Ho Chi Minh City airport, was nothing short of a travel miracle. Or maybe an even better moniker is “Charlton Heston”, the actor who played Moses in the movie. After all, Heston also played Ben-Hur – and starred in that unforgettable scene with the racing chariots weaving and dodging, trying to “knock off” each other. Today, there was thunder and lighting to our left, to our right, to the north, to the south, and yet my man has delivered me – via Vietnam peak-hour traffic, a dirt road and the wrong way around a roundabout – to the International Terminal “bone dry” and in one piece (though my crook back is screaming for painkillers). And then he’s charged me double – a whopping 6,000 dong (USD25), while telling me how much he “loves Melbourne, Australia: Number 1”. Maybe “Charlton Heston’s agent”, is a more appropriate nickname.

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IT’S SENSIBLE TO BE SUS

Stop staring at the clock, it won’t tick any faster: I’m bored and sitting at HCMC Airport, waiting to check-in. A man in his early 20s, wearing black framed glasses, shorts, a tired looking T-shirt, thongs and looking very much like a stressed out uni student, approaches me and, in a good effort at speaking English: “Excuse me sir, but I was wondering if you can please help me to buy a ticket.”

Me: “Why? What’s the problem?”

Student: “I must catch the flight but my card has been declined. Can you please help me? I can pay you back…”

Me: (CENSORED)

I watch “uni student”, who has small markings on the ankles and calves of both legs – which may be from bed bugs or needle tracks but let’s presume bed bugs – walk the length of the departures area several times and approach middle-aged men of Western appearance. But to no avail and he eventually wanders off into the crowd, empty handed.

I really do hope I misjudged the guy and that he was genuinely seeking assistance. I mean, at least he didn’t ask me to carry his backpack on the flight for him …

(Article from Asian Journeys magazine, August-September 2019 issue)