Eat here: Morning Glory’s Market Restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

Morning Glory’s The Market Restaurant
3 Nguyen Hoang Street, An Hoi Islet
http://www.restaurant-hoian.com/

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Sibba and I are both keen eaters. We also both love to cook. And, if I may say so myself, we’re both pretty good. So it was only natural that we decided we’d need to do a cooking class in Vietnam. We’d heard from every man and his dog that Morning Glory was not only the place to learn to cook, but to eat as well; we thought we’d take advantage of their offerings and booked a cooking class that included an all you can eat buffet breakfast. More on the cooking class itself tomorrow – first, let’s talk Vietnamese breakfast of champions.

The market restaurant was so beautifully set out – different stations all produced different food, clearly labelled and manned by smiling chefs who were happy to offer further assistance and explanations. We took our seats and were told that we were free to eat as much as we wanted in the next hour, before we would be collected to start the cooking class and market tour. We were just a little bit overwhelmed, no idea where we should start, not knowing how many plates were appropriate to have on our table at once. We started with our unanimous favourite – coconut sticky rice. To make it even better (didn’t think that was possible, but it was!), we also added some of the accompaniments lined up beside the rice pot – shredded coconut, freshly toasted peanuts, and the most incredible crushed peanut/salt/sugar mix. One of the best things I ate in Vietnam – Sib agreed.

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It was a bit hard to know where to turn next – we both went our own ways and grabbed a few different things each, so we’d be able to nibble off each others’ plates and try more. I went with the mini Hoi An breakfast pancakes with pork sausage. Crispy, tasty perfection in nifty little hand-held bowl shapes, and the pork sausage was better than I’d have thought possible. A little bit of spice, followed by an almost sweet flavour. So good!

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The last plate I tried was filled with a few different dumplings. The ones on the top right side were really nice, in a transparent skin. Two were filled with shrimp, and the other white looking one was a tapioca dumpling. I was worried the shrimp might have been a little too seafoody for breakfast, but they were actually quite subtle; the deep fried garlic and shallots they were served with, as well as the sweet chilli sauce to dip in balanced the shrimp out surprisingly well. The bottom plate was a shrimp dumpling ball on top of a croquette – can’t remember what was in that, it was fairly plain though. The croquette was amazing, crispy but simple. The dumpling, in this case, was too fishy for my stomach, so I didn’t quite finish it!

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Finally (we were filling up at this point and still had our trip to the market and class to go), I couldn’t go past a mini Hoi An cupcake – they were being baked fresh, in a little cast-iron skillet with little flower-shaped holes in it that wouldn’t have been much bigger than the size of a thimble. I have no idea what they were made with, but they were so soft and light, unlike any other cakes I’ve had before.

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It was an absolutely fantastic way to start the day and a gorgeous introduction to the amazing world of Morning Glory which we’d heard so much about! I can completely understand why everyone raves about it so much – I just wish we’d had the time to check out some of the other restaurants they run for a lunch or dinner! There’s always next time ;) and I did buy the cook book! If you’re in Hoi An and you want a one-of-a-kind breakfast experience, I couldn’t recommend the Market Restaurant more highly!

Through my eyes: the streets of Saigon, Vietnam

I’m really missing Vietnam right now. Yeah, I was only there for a week and a half, and yeah, it was only my first time. But it just felt right, being there. Something within me connected with that country, and my soul truly aches to return as soon as I can (I’ve got a little/big plan in the works for that… stay tuned!). So I’m gonna go with a Vietnam theme this week, looking back on some great memories and reminding me of the amazing world out there for me (for you, too) to discover :)

I found Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to be a fascinating city, and really wish I’d had more time there. It was very busy, the traffic was insane and every time we went to cross the road felt like we were tempting fate just a little more. I felt like the people of the city would have really had some stories to tell, if I’d only had the time (and an interpreter) to listen… add it to the list of cities to return to!

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Hamburger cakes :)

Thought this needed a quick little post of its own… There’s not much I do that I’m really proud of, but I’m damn proud of my hamburger cakes! I first made them a few years ago for a cousin’s birthday – mini ones, like the size of a really little cupcake, and they were a MASSIVE hit! My grandfather particularly was quite partial to them once he overcame his initial confusion as to what exactly he was eating (he couldn’t understand why we were being served little hamburgers with tea and coffee) and polished off more than a few. Since then, I’ve also made them as big, full sized cakes for family and friends, always met with big smiles.

This week, we have a birthday at work of my colleague and manager. Like me, she loves cakes. Also like me, she loves hamburgers. I offered to forgo the usual buy-a-cake-from-a-bakery thing and make one myself. I hope she likes it!

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I also had a heap of batter and dough left over, so I made some smaller ones (regular sized cupcakes) for husband to take to work and share. If they don’t get eaten tonight. Which they might.

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They’re actually pretty easy to make… it’s just really fiddly and time consuming. Basically, what you’re looking at is…
– Burger bun: vanilla buttermilk cake topped with sesame seeds
– Pattie: a chocolate fudge brownie cookie
– Lettuce: shredded coloured coconut
– Cheese: coloured royal icing
– Sauce: runny vanilla icing

Then you just kinda build your burger! They’re really fun to make, but the best part is seeing the smiles on the people who get to eat it. That’s the best part of baking and cooking for me; when what I can create brings a smile to someone, helps them recall a really good memory from childhood or travels or a good time past, that’s what makes me the happiest :)

Cook this: peanut butter oat slice (gluten free, lactose free & low FODMAPs!)

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You may have noticed, I’m doing some more special diet-friendly recipes at the moment. I’ve noticed that there’s not a lot out there if you do have certain intolerance, and the food that is out there isn’t always amazing. With my past as a personal trainer and degree in exercise science and nutrition, I actually really enjoy playing around with recipes to make them a little healthier and/or friendlier to sensitive tummies and what not. I’ve also been quite ill lately, and am trying to find out if there’s something my body perhaps can’t tolerate, like lactose or gluten or who-knows-what.

Anyway, as has been well documented, I am a nanna, I like tea, and I cannot have my tea without a slice of cake or a biscuit or even more cake with it. It cannot and should not be done. While I’m cutting out gluten and lactose and some other foods as per the low FODMAPs thing, I refuse to accept my only tea time treats as the crappy packaged “special” biscuits available at supermarkets. I’m not eating that stuff.

I adapted this recipe from a baked porridge recipe I came across and adjusted to perfection a few years ago – rather than making a baking dish full of baked porridge (which is amazing, by the way!), I decided to spread out the mixture over a larger, rectangular tray, so it would be a bit of a cake/slice/biscuit hybrid kind of thing.

 

You’ll need:
– 1½ cups oats (use wheat free to make it GF/low FODMAPs friendly!)
– 2 heaped tbsp brown sugar (if you prefer to go sugar free, you can use honey instead, 2 tbsp should do it!)
– 2 tbsp chia seeds
– 2 tbsp cacao nibs
– ½ cup mixed seeds (I used sunflower and pepitas)
– pinch of salt
– 1 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
– ¾ cup peanut butter (Mayvers, of course, my favourite!)
– splash of vanilla extract

And the super easy part:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a tray with non stick baking paper.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add all the wet ingredients.
4. Mix them together until they’re completely combined.
5. Smooth the mixture out in the tray, put it in the oven, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes

That’s it. Just let it cool completely before slicing it up and chowing down.

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It came out exactly as I wanted – soft and crumbly, great flavours, still sweet without being overly sugary, and chock full of things that are actually good for you and provide nutrients, rather than the processed and genetically modified stuff you buy in a package. The other great thing is that you can (obviously) play around with the add ins and use what ever you want – nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, whatever! Have fun making this one your own – would love to hear other combinations you guys have tried too!

Through my eyes: Street food women of Thailand

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In Thailand, as in a lot of South East Asian countries, it seems to be the women who shoulder a good portion of the work. You see them up early, trawling through markets, heaving baskets full of fresh fruit, often with a child or two in tow. They are the ones who sell the market goods, who purchase them, who cook them and then sell them. They’re the ones who run the show, they are strong, often silent, with wiry strong bodies and faces that tell of a tougher life than I could ever imagine.

This woman really caught my attention in Koh Samui. Husband and I had been walking around way off the main drag all morning, and sat down at a street food vendor for a lunch of pad thai, when this lady ambled up, baskets teetering on her small shoulder, and parked herself on a tiny plastic stool. To our complete amazement, she had somehow set up her portable kitchen, complete with meat grilling over charcoal and condiments, in the middle of the street in under 30 seconds.