Read this: The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet American
by Graham Greene



I was watching a “No Reservations” episode on Vietnam to prepare for my pending trip,when Anthony Bourdain mentioned that he reads this book every time he visits the country. I take what this man says very seriously, and as such jumped online to order myself a copy, so that I, too, could read it on my travels.

It’s a quick but intricate read, about the experiences of two men (an English journalist and an American undercover CIA agent) who fall in love with the same woman in the throes of the Vietnam War. When one of the men are killed, an investigation ensues, and the book jumps back and forth between that investigation and the events leading up to it.

I enjoyed this book; it was easy to read, but the concepts were a little more thought provoking. It was also interesting to read about some of the places I was travelling through, and really incredible (and quite difficult) to imagine them as war zones.

If you are travelling through Vietnam, if you have travelled there in the past, or even if you haven’t, it’s still a great, short read – pick up your own copy here.

A quick guide to Vietnam’s street food!

There is some ridiculously good street food going around in Vietnam – probably the best street food I’ve come across in any of the countries I’ve travelled through, to be honest! Everything is delicious and fresh, and ridiculously cheap! Here are some of the dishes I’d recommend getting your hands on when you visit Vietnam!

Banh Xeo
Vietnamese pancakes/crepes that are made slightly differently in different regions – my favourites were the ones made in Hoi An, as they were a bit thicker. Generally make with pork and shrimp, filled with bean shoots, and served with fresh herbs and a dipping sauce. Amazing.
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Bun Cha
A pile of rice noodles, fresh herbs, freshly fried spring rolls and whatever meat they decide to serve you. You’ll also get some delicious sweet and sour sauce with a side of chilli so you can decide how hot you want it!20140707-153052-55852691.jpg

Banh Cuon
Steamed rice rolls/crepes filled with usually pork and prawn, and topped with tasty deep fried shallots and garlic, accompanied by the standard pile of fresh herbs and dipping sauce.

Banh Mi
Vietnam’s famous baguettes, usually filled with some sort of pork, fresh coriander, chilli and pickled cucumber, but they can take on other forms too, like the triangular one with Kewpie mayo I got at a market in Hoi An, below. I tried a few different versions over there, and regardless of the other variables, they were probably the best breads I’ve ever eaten.


All-you-can-eat vendors
Places like Bale Well in Hoi An that provide basically a table spread of food for a tiny cost (around AUD$4 or $5 per person) are not only great value, but a fantastic way of trying out a heap of different things! Look out for tables full of food and happy people!

Sticky rice
This is one of my absolute favourites to eat – generally available in both sweet and savoury (below we tried sticky rice with black beans, chickpeas and mung beans) varieties, there is no better way to end the night that a scoop of sweet sticky rice swimming in coconut milk and topped with a fresh mango!


Donuts seem to be quite popular in Vietnam! Whether on a stick and coated in soft sugar, or freshly fried and filled with coconut or banana, they’re all delicious. The ones I tried all had soft, tasty dough, with just enough “crunch” to bite into. Really lovely and cheap to pick up while walking through markets.



Bakery cakes
Thanks to the French, there are a ton of gorgeous little bakeries with beautiful, delicate cakes and pastries in the windows. My favourites were these small coconut treats, that were basically a pastry crust with a cakey filling and topped with a little sprinkle of sesame seeds.


Cook this: easy lamb & sweet potato tagine


I noticed my Michelle Bridges’ Crunch Time Cookbook sitting amongst my cookbook collection around the same time I noticed my jeans getting a little tighter, a few weeks ago. Husband and I decided to make some changes, which should be easy considering we both have university degrees in exercise science, he’s a high school PE teacher, I’m an ex-personal trainer, and we’re both athletically inclined. We’re also foodies, so actually, it makes it harder. We decided to commit to a month worth of eating from the book, hoping the pre-calculated calorie allowances would mean less work for us. As you can see by some of my other posts like this one and this one, we’re also still allowing treats, because we’re humans and we like food, and we don’t believe in depriving ourselves of donuts and hamburgers and what not.

Anyway, we weren’t completely sold on this recipe but thought we’d give it a go anyway; it looked pretty hearty and warming for the current cold winter nights we’re getting, and it’s turned out to be our new favourite dinner meal. Added bonus is that the recipe below makes 6 serves, so left overs are making life hella easier at the moment!

To make 6 serves (don’t worry, it freezes/re-heats really well):
– 650g diced lamb
– 2 tsp olive oil
– 1 brown onion, diced
– 3 garlic cloves, crushed
– 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
– 2 tbsp Moroccan seasoning
– 1 cup vegetable stock
– 400g tin diced tomatoes
– 850g sweet potato, peeled and diced in 3cm chunks
– 1½ cups frozen peas
– juice of 1 lemon
– coriander leaves, to serve

1. Spray a larger pot with cooking oil and heat on medium-high.
2. Add the lamb (in batches, if needed) and cook for a few minutes, until browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.
3. Heave the 2 tsp olive oil in the same pot over medium heat, and add the onion, stirring until softened. Then add in the garlic, ginger and Moroccan seasoning and stir to combine.
4. Return the lamb back to the pot and stir it through the onion mixture to coat.
5. Pour the stock and tomatoes into the pot, bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 50 minutes with the lid on.
6. Add in the sweet potato, replace the lid, and simmer for another 20 minutes.
7. Stir in the peas, cooking for another 2 – 3 minutes.
8. Just before serving, stir through the lemon juice, ladle into your bowls and top with coriander to serve. Enjoy!

Through my eyes: fishing in Hoi An, Vietnam


Fishing is one of the more popular ways to make a living for the people of Hoi An – these enormous nets are dropped into the water and left for a while, then brought up (hopefully) full of the beautiful, fresh seafood so coveted by the local restaurants and visitors, making some money for the fishermen to live another few days. Those who can’t afford to set up nets simply fish the old fashioned way.



Open House Melbourne 2014

Open House Melbourne

I was super excited for my first Open House Melbourne attendance this year! I’d heard of it before but never really given it much thought; now that I actually work in Melbourne’s CBD and come face to face with the city’s stunning buildings every day, I was a lot more interested in the event.

Open House Melbourne is essentially a rare (and free!) opportunity for people to take a look in and around some of Melbourne’s more popular spaces. You can read a little more about it on their website, but suffice to say it’s a great opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. Melbourne joins a list of beautiful cities around the world such as New York, London, Barcelona, Chicago, Rome, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv who are opening the doors to their spaces, too.

If you’d like to find out more about the events, please visit the website; I’d rather show you some of what I saw. Here’s some of the shots from my peek inside some of Melbourne’s more fascinating buildings…

Stop 1: State Library of Victoria: La Trobe Reading Room


Stop 2: Russell Place Substation

Stop 3: Melbourne Town Hall
Stop 4: The Melbourne Athenaeum
Stop 5: Scot’s Church and Assembly Hall




Through my eyes: Melbourne street art – Blender’s Laneway


On our way from the Queen Vic Market area to our first Open House Melbourne stop (that post coming tomorrow), my disposition to distraction by bright colours stuck again while walking along Franklin St. The laneway next to Charles Darwin University is filled with the most STUNNING street art, and I cannot believe I’ve only just found out about it! After further investigation, I discovered The Blender Studio, located next to the laneway. You can read more about the studio on their website, but I’ll let the street art talk for itself.


By the way – here’s a map!

Make this: Coconut blueberry overnight oats

At the moment, I’m really enjoying a DIY oat breakfast. Home made porridge made the old fashioned way over the stove is so very good. Baked porridge hot out of the oven is crazy delicious. Overnight oats is another level of amazing breakfasting.

It’s pretty easy: oats + yoghurt and milk + leave it overnight = delicious bircher/cold porridge/breakfast pudding type deliciousness. Oats always have been great for you; they’ve been shown to lower cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease, stabilise blood sugar levels, are high in fibre, low in fat and sugar, and keep you full for longer than other highly processed breakfast cereals. I also like to add chia seeds into mine (I use them in my porridge and baked porridge too); they’re full of the good stuff like protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium and iron, they’re gluten free, and they absorb a LOT of liquid, meaning that they’ll kinda expand in your stomach, keeping you fuller for longer. There are a ton of variations (see below), but here’s one of my favourites.

For a decent breaky for one, you’ll need:
– ½ cup rolled oats
– 2 tsp chia seeds
– 2 tbsp coconut yoghurt (I highly recommend using the coconut yoghurt from The Collective if you can get your hands on it)
– ½ cup low fat milk
– 50g frozen blueberries

Put all of that into a jar, put the lid on, and shake it up until it’s all combined. Then put it in the fridge and go to sleep. In the morning, pour it out into a bowl and top with another 50g of blueberries and a tsp of desiccated or shredded coconut. And seriously just enjoy it.

If you want to get creative, keep the base recipe (oats + chia seeds + milk + any yoghurt) and try…
– peanut butter and banana or apple
– vanilla (use a drop of extract) and berries
– pistachio and honey
– peanut butter and chocolate chip/cacao nibs
– different flavoured yoghurts
– coconut and mango
– passionfruit and strawbery
– pecan and maple syrup
– fresh ginger and peach
– almond and kiwi
It’s just endless possibility after endless possibility… please add your favourites to the list, too!!