Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My favourite food in Vietnam

Having a slightly fuller figure suggests I like nothing more than a good feed and a few beers. This pretty much sums me up! Soon I'll write about my favourite Vietnamese dishes that I think anyone visiting this country should try; however, my favourite dishes are usually found 6 hours away in Korea. So, for those of you unlucky not to have tried or heard of these food, here's a quick introduction to my favourite meals in VN.

Korean Restaurants

Unlike most other places I eat at, the first thing that surprises me about Korean restaurants is that you don't have to pay for water, or most importantly, side dishes. These sides aren't just a bowl of peanuts, bread or potato chips but many varieties of Kimchi (rotten cabbage to the layman), Korean pancake, pickled vegetables and tiny fish. Here's a selection from a meal I had on Sunday:

And this is before our 2 main courses!


Galbi is Korean BBQ pork or beef and it's delicious! The meat is usually cooked in front of you and is chopped and sliced into small pieces. It is accompanied by leaves (a bit random to us westerners), various vegetables and most importantly red bean sauce. If you're a meat lover like me, you'll just pick up the succulent meat and devour it, perhaps dipping it into the mouthwatering sauce. If you're prefer the different textures of vegetables and meat you'll wrap the meat up into a parcel and stuff it down your gullet enjoying the sensational flavours. Sounds good doesn't it! It is!

                                                          Kimchi Jigae

As I mentioned before, Kimchi is rotten cabbage. The vegetable is fermented for about 6-9 months and the more fermented it is, the better! Decaying cabbage sounds disgusting doesn't it? Well it's delicious! I can't get enough of it! Which is really strange as it's very bitter and I have the biggest sweet tooth in the northern hemisphere! However, there's something mysterious about Kimchi soup that allows it to clear any cold and cure any hunger!

Kimchi Jigae is basically Kimchi in water with random bits of pork, tofu and chili and it often comes accompanied with rice. It's spicy yet doesn't burn your throat, satisfying but not too filling and sour yet surprisingly sweet. It has all the ingredients to leave your taste buds tingling and I promise you'll never look back!

These are only two of the dishes I sorely miss from my time at Seoul. Unfortunately, these are the only two that are really well done in Saigon. Other Korean cuisine can easily be found here. Kimbap, Jeyukbokkeum (spicy pork) and Samgyupsal (grilled pork) are common in the Han Quoc eateries but they're not the same. For now, I'll just enjoy the little bits of Hankook I can find in the heart of HCMC! Bon appetite!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Injury Injury Go Away!

Anyone that spends about 10 minutes with me immediately realises that sport is my major passion in life. However, more recently they will have noticed that I've spent most of the past 10 months limping due to an ankle injury.

2010 was pretty torrid for me in terms of injury. The year started promisingly. I was at football training once a week, running 4 times a week and was playing cricket and tennis on a regular basis. I felt grand, untouchable, in the best condition of my life. Then, disaster struck. One week in May, before my cricket team was scheduled to go to Singapore on tour, I seriously sprained my left ankle whilst trying to turn sharply at full speed. At first, my friends were laughing, but soon realised I was in a lot of pain and was potentially seriously hurt. More importantly, I was incredibly frustrated knowing that I was out of cricket and the Phuket half marathon which I had been training for.

I went straight to hospital and got it X-rayed. Fortunately it wasn't broken, but I had severely sprained it and was told I wouldn't be able to run on it for 3 months. No football, no tennis, no cricket and no running. I was allowed to swim, but I swim like a brick and don't like exposing my belly to the world so I reluctantly made my way to the swimming pool as often as I could as it was the only activity I wasn't prohibited to do.

After 9 weeks, I made my first error. I attempted a gentle jog. I managed all of about 10 yards before I felt sharp pains up my left leg. Being stubborn, I decided to run through it. 10 metres later it pretty much gave way so I figured I should give it a longer break. Over the course of the next month, first walking then jogging, I started limping around the sports field at work trying to build up my ankle's strength. And guess what?!! It started to work. Gradually the limp and discomfort subsided and I started to run much more freely. So what happened next?

Football! I started training again with the Raiders. I couldn't twist, turn or stop myself when sprinting, but I taped it up and just didn't try to do anything too fancy. For a month it was fine. That was until the end of rainy season. Now, for those of you who don't know, Ho Chi Minh City has 2 types of weather: hot and hot and wet. During rainy season it usually rains at about 3 or 5 pm like clockwork everyday. On this day (4 weeks before a 6 aside football tournament in the Philippines (yes the one in the previous posting!)) it rained during training. I knocked the ball around the opposing left back, went to cross the ball in with my right foot and my standing leg gave way. Needless to say I was limping again and my ankle swelled up.

This time I didn't go to hospital. I sat on the side of the pitch, iced my foot and prayed that I would be able to play in the forth coming tournament. I didn't run, took the weight off it as much as I could and appeared to make a swift recovery. In fact, I even started playing again (with strapping and heavy support) a week before and took full part in the tournament. This was perhaps brave and dumb, as although it hurt, I battled through the pain but potentially caused it more troubles.

After the tournament I rested it for a while. I joined the gym and used the treadmill to try to lessen the impact of road running. Again, I started to feel well again. I was also excited because my cricket team had a game against Australia (who unlike their professional counterparts have some Kiwis who can protect their wickets and bowl straight) and I was due to play for the first time in 8 months. To fit in with the tale, I went over on the ankle again in football training. This time, I thought, time for a proper examination.

I went to a well respected doctor, who after hearing my story ordered a CT scan, which is a 3d X-ray for those who don't know. The scan showed I have tightening of the muscles and ligaments due to multiple sprains and because of an old ankle fracture I had when I was young. The second part of this came as a complete surprise! I never knew I had broken it, and the only time I recall a bad ankle injury was when I 17 and apparently was a major reason for the problems I've been having.

This was 2 days ago. He's recommended physio and hopefully that will be enough. I've been told I should be doing ankle exercises, swimming and cycling without resistance. I'll start doing that soon but I'm just relieved I haven't been any lasting damage and that I didn't need any surgery. Anyhows, I'm hoping for a better 2011 on the injury front as I'm not the greatest person to be around if I'm not able to relieve my stress on the sports field!!

Moral of the story - give up football! (Unlikely!!!!!)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm having a baby....apparently!

Firstly, let me take this chance to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope that 2011 brings health, success and happiness to everyone! Additionally, I'd also like to apologise for the lack of blogs recently. I'll be catching up shortly, but life has been pretty hectic recently as the title of this blog might suggest!

So, let's go back to the beginning. About 2 months ago, I decided I wanted a cat. Unfortunately, pets living indoors isn't the norm in Vietnam, and Hanh wasn't (isn't) very keen on the idea. I joked and said 'if I can have a cat, you can have a baby'.

Then, 6 weeks ago, Hanh and I went to Manila on football tour with my team the Saigon Raiders. We played extremely well, qualified unbeaten from our group and reached the semi-final. Unfortunately, we got beaten in extra time by the eventual champions Manila Nomads who were the home team. We then went to a third-fourth place penalty shoot-out. Some of my team mates recalled a conversation we had all had the previous evening. I promised Hanh that she could have a baby when I scored my first Raiders goal. Despite protesting that tournament goals don't count, I was overruled and selected to take the first penalty. To make a bad situation worse, my 'mates' decided to speak to the tournament MC who announced the situation over the mega phone. So what to do? Slot the penalty and face the consequences, sky it and let the team down or hope the keeper saves it? Well, being a team player, I tried to do the first option while hoping for the third. I put it down the middle, the keeper dived to my left and 1-0 Raiders! Although we lost the shoot-out, again in sudden death, we had some great performances in the side and a wicked night out after!

After that, for about 2-3 weeks, not a lot happened. That is until, Henno, a South African friend of mine, asked me if I could cat sit for a week before Crimbo. I duly obliged, and Millie came to stay for a week. Whilst she's a lovely cat, after 2-3 days she drove me nuts! At 5am she would jump on the bed with her plastic mouse wanting to play. When I was getting changed, she would climb up my trousers and hang onto my shirt as if she was saying 'where do you think you're going!' And on the few occasions when I do work at home, she would work over my keyboard to practice her typing! So, grumpy from a couple of sleepless nights from a crying cat, I get a call from Hanh while I was at work...

To cut a long short story shorter, she informed me that she was pregnant with our first child. I got my cat, and she got her baby! Unfortunately, for me, Millie had to go home, and I'm not allowed a cat. I have been promised that we are allowed to cat sit again in the future (probably when Hanh wants another baby). And for those of you wondering, she's about 7 weeks pregnant. Which more or less coincides with when the tournament MC said 'Jones scores, and then he scores!'

I'm not a great believer in old wife's tales and not saying anything until 12 weeks isn't my style so I've been telling everyone I meet! It's pretty exciting if not a little scary. Hanh's had 2 scans so far, and to be honest, I can't really make anything out. We went to the hospital yesterday and the doctor said all was well and we heard the little heart beat. It was a surreal moment and I must admit to being a little overwhelmed. It sounded like mini fireworks going off which is quite fitting coming just after new years. Fingers crossing that all will go well :-)