Vegetarian feast in one of Hue’s many Buddhist pagodas
2016 came to an end, 2017 started and is already speeding up to take me to this point where I realised it’s been a year since I left Poland and moved to Vietnam. Almost 8 months of beautiful chaos of Hanoi, smiling faces of Vietnamese people, conical non la hats wherever I looked, litres of ca phe sua da and pho soup, bowls of bun cha, my first lime scented worms for lunch, trung vit lon (duck embryo) for breakfast and chicken, rubbery legs as a snack… Surprising how many barriers we can cross and how easy it is to do so when we open up to the unknown and let go of all judgements.
Also surprising how life manoeuvres in different ways, as I am writing those words and starting this new year with a totally different perspective and mindset than I had the previous winter. I spent the last 4 months living under the palm trees, close to the water and nature, being 99% of the time at the fresh air, feeling the wind on my skin. Diving deeper and deeper into yoga, meditations and presence in everything I do, thus pretty naturally stayed away from eating meat and kept my diet very clean in general. It is hard not to ask myself a question how will that influence my blog, which was born from a romance with pho bo soup and developed fed by a variety of Vietnamese street foods – meat, dairy and sugar based to the vast extent. I am leaving Goa and arriving into the hustle and bustle of Saigon in a week. On one hand I can’t wait to have a bowl of aromatic, beef broth or a glass of ice cold coffee with sweet, thick condensed milk and I am sure that the pleasure and joy they will give me is much more than sugar, meat or msg (monosodium glutamate) that will sneak in to my body. On the other hand, I know I don’t want to maintain feeding myself this way on a regular basis and that I can’t go crazy with Vietnamese food. My idea is to turn slowly towards the vegetarian and vegan variations of this amazing cuisine, which, being strongly influenced by Buddhism, has a pretty big non-meat scene. And as I had a chance to get to know (and try!) it from the backstage I discovered that there is an exciting and yummy journey ahead and I am happy to start it soon! Feels like 2017 is a good year for it as according to the numerology it’s summarised by a number 1 – new beginnings that are 🙂
By now let me introduce you to some great dishes and places I got to discover while filming vegetarian (“an chay”) episode of Fine Cuisine in Hue.
Young jackfruit and figs – base ingredients of vegetarian cuisine in Vietnam
Hue is a Buddhist capital of the country thus this is the place where I was searching for the vegetarian roots of its culinary tradition
Amazing experience of cooking in the beautiful garden with joyful Co Anh, the owner of an chay restaurant in Saigon. I added my own invention to the long list of delicacies based on young figs, tofu, mushroom and seitan – fried bananas with caramelized, dried figs and roasted sesame seeds.
Real, royal feast during the celebrations in one of the pagodas. Tables laid and ready to welcome hundreds of worshippers with mouth-watering salads, noodles, soups, sticky rice dishes, tofu variations, mushroom, fruits, herbs, desserts. Not a track of meat or fish sauce yet everything flavourful to the maximum!
Popular Thien Tam (Le Ngo Cat 110A, Hue) restaurant serves an chay versions of Hue staple foods and I was happy to discover some of them tastes better than their original.
I spend a lot of time at the Dieu Duc Pagoda accompanied by merry, young nuns. Together we cooked exquisite tofu with chilli and lemongrass, sticky che dessert with aloe vera and amazing young jackfruit salad that I can only wish to recreate back in Poland. And I absolutely fell in love with their huge, raw kitchen with steel tables, steaming fireplace and a well in the middle of it. There was lots of laughter, conversations (they study English every day) and a spontaneous yoga practice 🙂