Category: Travel

Balinese Chicken Satay Skewers

Okay, so I was planing on giving you the next instalment of The A-Z of Cooking this week.  But, my plans went awry in much the same way as my life seems to be going awry. So Balinese Chicken Satay Skewers it is!  Not that I’m complaining (and nor should you be) because I know what is coming  up next from the A-Z and believe me, even though I haven’t made it yet?   I strongly feel that we are onto a winner, winner chicken dinner with the Balinese Chicken Skewers.  

Chicken Satay2I love chicken satay skewers and have been making these regularly since my return.  The recipe provided below is based on the one we learned at Ketut’s Bali Cooking Class in Ubud.  Sadly it is not as good.  Possibly because it is not cooked in an open air kitchen overlooking rice paddies and cooked over coconut shells:

Chicken Satay7Nor were the spices hand ground in the traditional way:

Chicken Satay9Also, the Balinese have about forty types of ginger and here, we have one. However, whilst these won’t absolutely transport you to Bali, they are utterly delicious! How could it not be?  I am a big fan of pretty much any meat on a stick.  Here, the marinated chicken remains tender and juicy after grilling

Balinese Chicken Satay SkewersAnd the spicy peanut sauce is a perfect accompaniment.  I bought a tiny terracotta Balinese grill, however, I cooked these in the oven.  I really like my terracotta friend though!

chicken Satay6Here he is again!

Chicken Satay3

Ketut suggested that you serve your chicken satay skewers with white or yellow rice.  In the first photo above, I served mine the way my Malaysian friend Aiden serves his – with a very simple salad of cucumber and red onion.  Simply stab the tip of the skewer into the cubes of cucumber and onion and then into the sauce.   So good!

My favourite way of eating these is in a wrap (more traditionally a roti) with some tomato, cucumber, onion and coriander salad and sprinkled with extra peanuts!

Chicken Satay4Just looking at these photos is making me want to make them again, right now!  So, here’s the recipe!

Balinese Chicken Satay Skewers
Perfectly grilled chicken and a spicy peanut sauce is a match made in heaven!
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For The Skewers
  1. 500g chicken breast
For The Marinade
  1. 3 tbsp chopped shallots
  2. 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  3. 1 tbsp lime juice
  4. 4 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  5. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  6. 5 tbsp coconut oil
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
For The Peanut Sauce
  1. 300g peanuts
  2. 3 cloves of garlic
  3. 4 shallot cloves
  4. 2 tbsp palm sugar
  5. 1 tbsp red chilli (more / less to taste)
  6. 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  7. 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  8. 1 cup chicken stock
  9. 2 tbsp coconut milk
  10. 1 tbsp ginger
For The Chicken
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together.
  2. If using wooden skewers, soak these in water to prevent them burning.
  3. Cut the chicken into cubes and marinate 15 minutes.
  4. Thread onto skewers.
  5. Grill until browned and cooked through, basting with the leftover marinade.
For The Peanut Sauce
  1. Fry the peanuts until golden brown. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Drain off most but not all of the oil.
  2. Grind the chillies, garlic, shallots, palm sugar and ginger in a food processor or mortar and pestle until they form a paste. Add the peanuts and grind to a paste again.
  3. Place the peanut paste into a pan. Add the chicken stock and coconut milk.
  4. Add the sweet soy to taste.
  5. Bring to the boil.
  6. Simmer until thick and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the lime juice to taste.
Adapted from Ketut's Balinese Cooking School - Ubud, Bali
Adapted from Ketut's Balinese Cooking School - Ubud, Bali
Retro Food For Modern Times

Chicken Satay5

Have a wonderful week!  I’ll be back, next week possibly with something quixotic and quaint  that hopefully will not leave me feeling too queasy!

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Bali and My Holiday Reading Habits

Salamat Datang!  I’m back from two week in Bali and, whilst I have yet to cook anything, I am serious blogging withdrawal so I thought I would give you a brief catch up on the trip.  There were many hours of pool and beachside lazing so I did a LOT of reading.  So, I thought I would do a combined what we did / what I read post and also let you know the…ahem…science behind how I choose my holiday reads!

Stop #1 – Ubud

Our first stop was Ubud in central Bali.  Unlike the rest of Indonesia which is Muslim, the Balinese are largely Buddhists.  They are deeply spiritual and part of their spirituality involves putting out offerings for the Gods each day.  Offerings on the ground ward off evil spirits, offerings above the ground attract the good spirits. Sometimes you will also see an offering with a cookie or a cigarette or a glass of arak in it.  These are the ancestor offerings and contain the respective ancestor’s favourite things! 

Balinese Offerings

They also adorn their statues of the Gods with fresh flowers each day! 

Bali StatuesI did a Balinese cooking class at Ketut’s Place which was awesome!  The class was in an open kitchen overlooking rice paddies and a garden where most of the vegetables we used were grown. Ketut was also a fabulous host, knowledgeable and incredibly funny! I can’t wait to get back into cooking so I can show you some of what I learned!  Incidentally, there are only four names in Bali.  The first child is always called Wayan, the second is Made, the third child is Nyoman and the fourth child is Ketut.  If a family has more than four children, it starts all over again with child #5 being called Wayan.


Bali Cooking SchoolWe did a trip to the Ubud Monkey Forest.  Now these guys take the term cheeky monkey to a whole new level – if it isn’t bolted down, they will steal it – hats, sunglasses, cameras are all fair game!  We sat down for a little rest at one point and the Fussiest Eater in the World had a monkey rifling through his pockets!  Another baby monkey held out what was his prize possession for us to look at – it was a diamond earring.  So brazen!

Monkey Forest 6

Monkey Forest 5Ubud Monkey Forest3

Ubud was lovely, a lovely place to chill out.  The cooking class was amazing and I would recommend that to anyone.  Food highlight was eating at The 3 Monkeys on the Monkey Forest Road.  The downside/s were that it was a little rainy and the villa we stayed in happened to be next to a chicken farm.  I don’t know if you’ve ever lived next to a chicken farm but the roosters start crowing at around 3am and do not STFU.  Afternoon naps became a thing!

Holiday Reading Habit #1 – The Re-Read/s

I have an annual book cull where I get rid of all the books I have read that I didn’t enjoy (so many this year, it has been a really BAD year for reading for me).  Then I  do a sweep of my main bookshelves and pull out anything that I look at and think “Now…what was that about again?” and these go onto a holding shelf where they become the basis for the holiday re-read.  The holiday re-read is ruthless.  It is a case of love it or leave it. Literally.  Leave it in the hotel or ideally, swap it for something better in the hotel book exchange!

I had two re-reads in this years picks and OMFG…if anything could convince you of how varied my reading tastes are, have a look at these. Lets start with: by Allison Rushby

I read this cover to cover on the plane.  And had time to spare. Which should tell you everything you need to know.  It’s a light, frothy piece of chick lit about a girl who sets up a website called which,  quelle surprise,  goes viral and how she finds true love despite her man hatin’ ways. It made the 6 hour plane trip to Bali go by relatively quickly but the main character really annoyed me.  I also found myself wondering why this had made the re-read shelf and was not dispatched to a better place, i.e. the local charity shop in the first instance.

Verdict: Left it on a jet plane.

The Raw-Shark Texts by Stephen Hall

I bought this when it first came out in 2007 and remember being not entirely taken with it. Obviously not enough to discard it but I remember thinking it was a bit too clever-clever, a little too fond of it’s own high concepts and wordplays (for an example…name the Raw-Shark Texts is a play on words on the Rorschach Tests administered by psychiatrists).  I chose it because about a week before I left I was listening to some old booky podcasts and heard it being reviewed favourably on on Hear…Read This.  This was enough to get me to pull it off the shelf for another go.

I don’t even know where to begin with this.  A man wakes up one morning with no recollection of who he is.  Turns out he is Eric Sanderson v 2.  Through letters from the original Eric Sanderson he learns that he lost the love of his life, Clio in a diving accident in Greece.  Eric and his  cat called Ian embark on a quest to find Dr Trey Fidourus who may hold the clue to Eric’s past.  Eric’s nemesis in this quest is a Ludovician, a gigantic thought shark who, before it kills you, destroys your memories. 

It is a really clever book and I enjoyed reading this a lot more this time and felt that I either understood, or was not as irritated by,  the wordplays and stylistic concepts as I was the first time round.  I also enjoyed the story which is all about the power of words and memory and loss a lot more than I did the first time round.  However, I felt that reading this twice was enough and it did not make the journey home with me. 

It was also quite unnerving lying on a beach and reading about a (thought) shark.  All the more so when I slipped on a rock on Lembongan island and cut my knee open.  The only place to wash it was in the sea and the entire time I kept thinking of how sharks can smell a drop of blood in about a billion parts of water and expected to be attacked any second!

Verdict: Left (somewhat reluctantly) in Sanur.  Standout character – Ian the cat. 

Stop #2 – Legian


Ummm…if my photos are anything to go by I didn’t carpe diem at all in Legian.  It would seem the opposite – all my photos are of night times, bars, cocktails, restaurants…and the Fussiest Eater in the World getting up close and personal at a drag show!  It was much busier than Ubud with better weather and thankfully no roosters!  In amongst all the tourist tat there here is some good shopping to be had in in Legian and it’s neighbour Seminyak.  I bought two lovely leather handbags for a fraction of the cost back home.  If you do want the tourist stuff, be prepared to barter hard. 

Legian cocktailsLegian Drag Show2

Holiday Reading Habit #2 – Personal Development

I like to use our winter holiday as a time of reflection and planning for the “year” ahead.  My birthday is mid August so I tend to set my annual goals each year to start from September.  Our winter break is a great time for reflection  on the year gone by and what to aim for in the coming 12 months.  To that end, I like to get a bit of my personal development reading in during this time.  This is also my time to plan for the blog and I had a super ( at least I think so) idea for a new segment.  Stay tuned for that. 

This year I read:

Radical Self Love by Gala Darling

I think I would have loved this book had I read it in my 20’s when I totally lacked confidence in myself. Having someone say that it is ok to be yourself, however offbeat or oddball that self if would have been very empowering.  Now, that I am an old curmudgeon, I didn’t find anything in here that I hadn’t heard before.  Having said that, I think there are times we could all use a little boost and I think this will be a book I turn back to in those times to get some motivation or see myself out of a low patch.  And having said THAT, I found her talk of tapping as a way to relieve everything from eating disorders to childhood traumas to be way too out there for me.  Does anyone do this? I had not even heard of it before reading this and it sounds highly spurious. Please correct me if I am wrong!

Verdict: A real pick and mix.  Some parts I will definitely refer back to, some parts (the tapping) were not for me.

Let it Out by Katie Dalebout

I used to be a frequent listener to Katie’s podcast, The Wellness Wonderland but I gave it up because it got a bit too woo-woo for me.  There is a bit of that in Let it Out but I feel that the great journalling tips contained in here far outweigh the flakiness quotient.  I have not finished this yet but, as a sporadic journaller who wants to be a regular journaller, this contains some great ideas!

Verdict: Definite keeper!

Stop #3 – Sanur

On the way to the beach resort of Sanur we drove to Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most beautiful temples:

Tanah LotAnd we did a day trip to Lembongan Island…tropical paradise! 

(Except for when you fall over over and  cut your knee on a rock so are a bit too scared to swim in case a shark gets you!)

Lembongan Island


Holiday Reading Habit #3 – The One You’ve Been Wanting To Read for Ages

I took The Goldfinch with me.  Did not even open it.  Very disappointed with myself as that is a big and heavy book to be carrying around for no reason!


Holiday Reading Habit #4 – The Book Set in the Place You are At

Epic fail.  Did not even think of a book set in Bali to read.  BUT had an awesome idea for a book set in Bali to write.  Then again I was rather cocktail fuelled at the time.  Lets see.  If it’s still burbling away in there by NANOWRIMO, maybe I’ll have a crack at writing it!

Holiday Reading Habit #5 – The Total Surprise

This is usually something I pick up on my travels but this time was something I had with me. 

I finished Gala  Darling by the pool and could not be bothered to walk back to the hotel room to get The Goldfinch.  And here’s my Gala Darlingesque tip for the young and impressionable.  ALWAYS walk back to the hotel room to get the book you really want to read.  Because otherwise you will flick on your Kindle to something like The Good Girl which you have already started and didn’t particularly enjoy but hey, its there and there’s no point in starting anything new when you have The Goldfinch waiting in your hotel room. 

Maybe I have read too many of the Gone Girlesque books that have come onto the market since the original but this story of a kidnapping did not grab me at all. 

Verdict: Should have walked back to the hotel room to pick up The Goldfinch

However, I read it here so life was not all bad!

Sannur Beach 3 Sanur Resort SanurBeachResort2

Back soon with some cooking!

And tell me how do you choose your holiday reads?

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A Peacock Cake & The Gala At Yala Part 1

It was recently the fussiest eater in the world’s birthday and I made him a peacock cake!

Peacock Cake1
Isn’t it adorable?  Even if I do say so myself!  And for the non-bakers out there it is all assembly, no baking involved, unless of course you want to bake the cake yourself.

But more about our little peacock friend later. The peacock was a special symbol for us as it reminded us of the time we spent at The Yala National Park when we were in Sri Lanka earlier this year...OMG…last year! 

The National Park at Yala is a huge tract of land at the Southern tip of Sri Lanka that is home to a myriad of wild life.  It is situated in leopard country and whilst we did two Safaris hoping to see one of these magnificent creatures, we were unlucky both times….or were we?  Whilst we did not spot a leopard (pun intended) we saw so many other wild animals, living in their natural habitat that I felt utterly privileged to have been there.

Here was Mr Peacock:

Yala - Peacock2There were monkeys galore:

Yala - MonkeySloth Bears:

Yala - Sloth BearSome jackals playing:

Yala - Jackals PlayingA crocodile, most definitely not playing:

Yala - CrocodileAnd a huge amount of elephants – my favourite part was when we saw two older female elephants and a cub walk down to a pond to have a bath and a drink:

Yala - Mummy and Baby Elephants BathingThen the baby decided to have a little roll in the water:

Baby Elephant SwimmingAfterwards, they came right up to us, crossing just behind the jeep we were in.

Yala - Mummy and Baby Elephants BathingThen there was this little one who decided to head off on his own:

Yala - Baby Elephant BathingThe closest we got to the elusive leopard was these tracks:

Yala - Leopard Prints

On a more sombre note, there is also a monument to the people who lost their life at Yala in the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. 

Yala - MonumentI could go on about Yala all day and have thousands more photos of all the animals and all the birds but we have a Peacock Cake to talk about!

The recipe comes direct from the Women’s Weekly Cheat’s Cakes 2. The idea behind these books is that you can buy a cake and then just decorate it instead of having to factor in baking as well. Obviously the cover caught my eye but there are many more treasures to trove in these pages!

Women's Weekly Cheat's Cake 2

Hmm…I don’t think I did too bad a job!

Peacock Cake2I made the cake for the peacock’s body because there was a random box of cake mix in my pantry. But you could totally use a bought cake.  The Women’s Weekly provides a template for the body.  I copied it onto a sheet of paper, enlarging it a bit as it was really quite small and I wanted to use up as much of my cake as possible.

Peacock Cake2One of advantage of cutting around a template is that if a bit of cake “falls” off as you are cutting around it doesn’t really matter and you can have a little taste test as you work.  You can call it being greedy if you must.  I prefer Quality Assurance.

I used the tip of an ice cream cone for my peacock’s beak.  A black jube, topped by a piece of white jelly bean topped by the end piece of a black jelly bean made his eye, with a swoop of licorice creating his cat’s eye.

Peacock Cake Peacock

And you will need something to fortify you because threading all those lollies onto the skewers takes a long time.

Peacock Cake Tail FeathersIf making the Peacock Cake for a children’s party you can place more tail feathers in a glass by the side of the cake if you need too.  Just be sure to remove the lollies from the skewers before handing them out.  

Here’s the recipe for the Peacock Cake, straight from the book.  I had to deviate from some of the sweets suggested because I could not find them – use what you have and let your creative juices flow!!!

Peacock Cake RecipeThis is so fun and colourful and would be a great party cake for a child of any age.  If you want to make it and would like a copy of the template, let me know. 

Peacock Cake3

 Have a wonderful week.  I hope it’s full of pomp and pageantry.  For me, today is the return to work after the Christmas break which is going to be tough!  Back to the dreaded alarm and early mornings.  On the upside, tonight I am seeing one of my food heroes, Nigella Lawson, live in conversation at the Melbourne Town Hall – it should be A-MAZING!

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Nuwara Eliya & A Tea Punch Cocktail

If you were looking to write a Gothic novel, your first choice of location would most likely not be tropical Sri Lanka.  Because the tropes of Gothic novels include storms, rain, mist and fog and Sri Lanka is all sunshine, white sand, blue water and palm trees right?

Wrong, so wrong.  Welcome to Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya WeatherSituated “up country” Nuwara Eliya is about as far away most people’s idea of a “tropical” country as you can get.  This is a famous tea growing district  – all of the bushes you can see in the photo above are tea plants.  We were there for three days and the weather was like this the entire time, all low swirling clouds, fog, mist and rain. 

As we climbed higher and higher into the hills, the weather changed from hot and sunny, to cold and gloomy.  It was as if you were entering a different, very isolated world – even though the nearest town was only a few kilometers away and you could usually get a decent wifi signal. 

As well as the weather, a good Gothic novel should be set in a (preferably haunted) old mansion or manor house.  Nuwara Eliya is nicknamed Little England and The Hill Club, where we stayed,  would not look out of place on the Yorkshire Moors. 

Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya

I’ve read enough Agatha Christie and watched enough episodes of Midsomer Murders to know that the English Manor house is actually a hot bed of murder and sexual intrigue.  If it’s not a pyromaniac mad woman in the attic, it’s something nasty in the woodshed!  

Hill Club3The Hill Club may well be the one place where the sun hasn’t set on the British Empire.  Staying there is like taking a step back in time.  I suspect that not even in Britain today are there many hotels where one wall in the bar is adorned with a large portrait of the Queen and another with an equally large photo of Winston Churchill.  And this is not someone’s idea of a decorating a hotel with some kitschy memorabilia from the days of Empire.  This is a Hotel from the days of Empire.  Actually, sorry, not a hotel at all.  A gentlemen’s club.

Hill Club
The olde-worlde atmosphere only contributed to the feeling that you had somehow strayed into either some sort of time slip stream or parallel universe.  I would not have been entirely surprised to wake and find myself back the 1940’s or to see a ghostly figure roaming the halls. Speaking of which, there was also a long corridor which could have come direct out of The Shining:

Hallway CollageAdd to this some flickering lights and power outages caused by the storm and you have almost the perfect place to gather around the fire in the reading room either to read your favourite Gothic novel by candlelight or to see who can make up the spookiest story.  Who knows, it may even be the next Frankenstein!

Hill Club4But telling ghost stories can be thirsty work, so whilst you are doing that you need the perfect libation to not only wet your whistle but give you some Dutch courage in the event that a large hound starts baying outside or the tap, tap, tapping on the window turns out not to be a tree branch but your dead lover come to woo you from the grave. 

All of which, after the longest intro, ever means, I made us a cocktail. 

Tea Punch Cocktail I wanted to make something with tea to highlight the wonderful produce from Nuwara Eliya. And, in a wonderful piece of serendipity, the very next chapter of The A-Z of Cooking contained a recipe for a tea punch. (Yes, we are still only up to D – Dips and Drinks). 

Tea Punch Cocktail 2

Sadly, the Tea Punch in The A-Z of Cooking was non-alcoholic.  So, I boozed it up.  Because in my mind, a punch needs to have a little punch if you know what I mean. 

My only dilemma with this was what to use as the “spike” for my tea.  Absinthe would have been the Byronesque choice however I can’t bear the taste of it nor the big shirts with frilly collars. 

Tea Punch Cocktail 4

Arrack was my next choice because I brought a bottle home with me, but that would be no fun for any of you.  Arrack is a Sri Lankan spirit made from toddy, which is the fermented juice from a coconut palm. 

Tea Punch Cocktail 5

I then found this wonderful article in Gothicked which confirmed not only spiked tea as a Gothic drink of choice but also whiskey.  I still had some Jameson’s from when I made the Emerald Presse so I used that.

The original recipe called for Orange Bitters, I had Rhubarb Bitters so I used them instead. 

Whether you are in a Gothic Manor house or at home just reading about them,  this is a really nice drink –  the combination of the tea, whiskey and ginger give it a dark, smokey flavour whilst the peach and orange adds some sweetness and a lovely bright tropical colour!

If you are a reader and you were interested in learning a bit more about Sri Lanka, particularly the civil war that tore that beautiful country apart in the ’80’s and ’90’s you might want to take a look at this book:

  I read it when we were there which made the story that much more real, particularly as completely by chance we stayed at two of the places, Mount Lavinia and Havelock Town which feature in the book. 

And if anyone is inspired by this post to write a spooky Gothic tale or locked room murder mystery set in Nuwara Eliya, please let me know, I would love to read it!

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Tea Punch Cocktail
A tropical cocktail with a dark heart
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  1. 50ml strong Ceylon tea
  2. 30ml whiskey
  3. 30 ml peach juice
  4. 30 ml orange juice (about 1/2 an orange)
  5. 5 drops Rhubarb Bitters
  6. Dry Ginger Ale
  7. Orange and peach slices to garnish
  1. Mix the tea, whiskey and fruit juices.
  2. Top with the dry ginger ale.
  3. Add the bitters and stir to mix.
  4. Garnish with orange and peach slices
Adapted from The A-Z of Cooking
Adapted from The A-Z of Cooking
Retro Food For Modern Times

Cha Ca La Vong

Let’s step back in time to a few years ago and a completely imaginary pub quiz.  Let’s suppose I am poised on the brink of winning the meat tray.  Believe it or not, a meat tray is a valid prize in Australian pubs.  I won one once. It was awesome. 

Cha Ca
Cha Ca

it was a whole tray of steaks and chops and sausages and, if I recall correctly, some very nice bacon.  You may scoff, but it’s actually a pretty good prize.   As long as you’re not a vegetarian. 

And here comes the question.

And for the tray of meat “What is a Cha Ca La Vong?”

“Oh……:A Latin American Dance?”

“No, wait a moment…isn’t it the name of the slutty girl from Grease?  The one stole the dance competition from Sandy?”


No, Cha Ca La Vong is not the name of the best dancer from St Bernadette’s (with the worst reputation) or the type of dancing she may engage in. 

It is a super delicious Vietnamese dish of fried fish with turmeric, dill and tomatoes.

I first came across this dish last year when I did the awesome Hanoi Street Food Tour with Mark Lowerson from Stickyrice.  You can read about that here.

Cha Ca
Cha Ca

 When I had Cha Ca with Mark it was a soupy style.  And it was super, very fragrant and possibly my favourite dish (apart from the a-may-zing coffee with yogurt) of the whole tour. 

This year however, I discovered a new way to have Cha Ca.  We read about a restaurant called The Gourmet Corner.  And being cautious, we dropped in one afternoon for a cocktail.  I like to call it scoping out a restaurant before commiting myself.  You can call it afternoon boozing if you wish.

Well, one meal later this became our favourite place to eat in Hanoi. I think we pretty much ate there every night after that.   Fabulous food, great cocktails, and 360 degree views of the city. And all as cheap as chips!!!!

Cha Ca La Vong - Gourmet Corner Hanoi
Cha Ca La Vong – Gourmet Corner Hanoi

Their Cha Ca?  O. M. G.  One of the best things I have ever eaten. In. My Life. 

First up, the combination of fish and dill and onion took me right back to my first ever time in Hanoi, my first ever full day in Hanoi and the tour with Mark.  Kind of like Proust’s madeleines.  But fishy.  And second -So, so  tasty.  Perfectly cooked fish, perfectly spiced, the most amazing flavour of the dill and the tomato and the turmeric….I ate this EVERY night for pretty much a week.  And I had such a craving for it the other night, I decided to make my own!

 Two disclaimers.  One.  My version, whilst being pretty damn good, is not a patch on either version I had in Hanoi.  There really is something about eating in situ that can make any meal super special. But, that being said…it doesn’t totally suck either.  It’s actually pretty tasty.  And so fun to eat! Particularly if you have a group of people.  Set it all out and people can wrap and roll what they want.  It would be best served outside on a tiny chair and table as at a Bia Hoi Bar and washed down with some icy cold beer but failing that, your own home or garden would also be fine. But do have that ice cold beer!

Cha Ca
Cha Ca

 Which leads me to my second disclaimer.  It’s an absolute bastard to cook.  Not difficult but there are a lot of moving parts.  Don’t even try to do what I did and make it all in the same day. Do the pickles at least one day ahead.  I would also try to do the tomato and dill mixture the day before too and just heat it up when you need it. 

Cha Ca Quick Pickled Vegetables

I couldn’t find the right sort of rice paper rolls and the ones I had turned into a hot mess so I  I wrapped my Cha Ca in lettuce leaves.  They added a nice crunch.  You could also use tortillas to make it into a kind of Vietnamese Fish Taco.  

Alternatively, ditch these all together and make a noodle bowl – I had one of these with the leftovers the following day and it was super. 

Cha Ca Noodle Bowl
Cha Ca Noodle Bowl

I’ve added a few photo’s from Hanoi.  I’m really starting to love that city!  And I think even possibly more that Saigon is a great food city.  Food is everywhere and in such fresh abundance.  I hope you get a feel of the city from these…looking at them and eating the Cha Ca really took me back to our holiday.  And got me thinking about the next….

Hanoi Street Sellers
Hanoi Street Sellers


Hanoi Street Food
Hanoi Street Food – Suckling Pig and Duck
Hanoi Coffee Shop
Hanoi Coffee Shop


Hanoi  - Freshly Made Tofu
Hanoi – Freshly Made Tofu


Hanoi - Street Market
Hanoi – Street Market…and a fabulous rose dress


Hanoi - Banana Shop
Hanoi – Banana Shop


Hanoi Chickens dressed with roses
Hanoi Chickens dressed with roses for a festival day


Hanoi Cooking School
Hanoi Cooking School – So Proud!


Tanned and Happy At The Gourmet Corner
Tanned and Happy At The Gourmet Corner
Hanoi - Street Scene
Hanoi – Street Scene from a Bia Hoi bar.

 To make your week fabulous why not cook something from a place you love?  And don’t forget to tell me all about it!

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Cha Ca La Vong

Cha Ca La Vong


    For the Fish
  • 500 firm white skinned fish (I used kingfish)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tbsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • For the Pickled Vegetables (optional)
  • 2 carrots, finely julienned
  • 1 daikon radish, finely julienned
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 2cm piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 birds eye chilli, quartered (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar - rice vinegar would be traditional, I used white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • For the Dill Mixture
  • 1 bunch of dill, roughly chopped
  • 8 Spring onions, finely sliced
  • 18 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 chopped red chilli
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for sauteing
  • 125g vermicelli
  • Iceberg Lettuce Leaves / Tortillas / Rice Paper (optional)
  • Accompaniments - All Optional
  • Pickled Vegetables (as per above)
  • Chopped roasted peanuts
  • Crispy Fried Shallots
  • Herbs - I used coriander, mint and vietnamese mint, roughly chopped
  • Lime Cheeks
  • Soy sauce
  • Nuoc Cham,
  • Pickled chillies


    For the fish
  • Cut the fish into 2 cm chunks. Sprinkle the pieces with salt and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Mix together the fish sauce, ginger, garlic sugar and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Add the fish to the bowl and ensure that all the pieces are coated. Place them on a plate, cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  • Heat your oven to low.
  • If using the chilli powder add this and half the turmeric and half the rice flour to a small bowl and the remaining turmeric and rice flour into another bowl. If not using the chilli powder, add all of the turmeric and rice flour into one bowl.
  • Coat each piece of fish in the flavoured flour.
  • Heat the peanut oil in a frying pan or wok until very hot. Add the fish in batches, and using tongs turn and move the fish until it is evenly cooked and golden brown. (The chilli fish will be a darker colour than the turmeric coated one).
  • Once cooked through (approximately 4-6 minutes) use the tongs to transfer the fish to an oven safe wire rack lined with paper towels and place in the heated oven to keep warm.
  • For the Pickled Vegetables
  • Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in small pan. Heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Pour this mixture over the carrot, daikon, onion, ginger and chilli.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  • For the Dill Mixture
  • Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and allow to soften. Add the garlic and chilli and cook until they have also softened. Add the dill and the cherry tomatoes. Saute until the dill wilts and the tomatoes have softened slightly. Squeeze some lime over the top.
  • For the Vermicelli
  • Boil a kettle of water.
  • Place the vermicelli in a heat proof bowl.
  • Pour the just boiled water over the top and let sit as per the directions on the packet.
  • Drain.
  • To Serve
  • If using tortillas or rice paper prepare them accordingly to the packet directions.
  • If using lettuce leaves, pull them off the head of lettuce and stack them on the platter.
  • Add your fish, vermicelli, dill mixture and the pickled vegtables, arranging them around your platter so they look pretty. Add the mixed herbs, peanuts and fried shallots. Depending on the size of your platter you may have use separate bowls for some ingredients. Ensure that you have serving implements for each part of the meal.
  • Using the lettuce leaf / tortilla / rice paper as a plate, guests can add the fish, vermicelli, dill mixture and any of the accompaniments they desire, then roll up their meal.
  • Alternatively, the vermicelli, fish and dill mixture can be placed in a bowl and guests can serve their own accompaniments.
  • Best served with an ice cold beer!
  • Enjoy.

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