Tag Archives: food markets

Last supper(s) in Saigon

Our time in Vietnam ended as it began: dashing around a mad, chaotic city filled with history, traffic and tempting food, wishing we had more time.

With less than 48 hours until our flight home after six long months away, we tried to strike the balance between seeing as much as possible in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon and HCMC) and simply enjoying our last days travelling.

While it was tempting to indulge in nothing but eating and drinking, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to go to the War Remnants museum. The images and stories of the Vietnam War, its victims and continuing impact were humbling. I was moved before we even entered at the sight of the vast helicopters, tanks and other killing machines parked outside. Each room of the museum increased the weeping. The photo below is just one of hundreds of harrowing images (mostly taken by Western photojournalists) in the museum. Note the baby in the centre of the image.

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Elsewhere we were able to see evidence of modern Vietnam; an optimistic, dynamic city moving forwards.

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Luxury brands are everywhere; Vietnam is very much an emerging market.

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I love this picture of a typical super chilled xe om moto taxi driver passing the time between jobs while the city whizzes past.

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This kid is practising to be just like that when he grows up.

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Of course we left plenty of time for our favourite pastime: harebrained forays into the depths of a city to find obscure eateries. On a scuba dive in Nha Trang we met a lovely chick who was a HCMC native and fellow food lover who was happy to share her insider knowledge.

I’m convinced our new friend Phuong was our foodie fairy godmother; every place she sent us was exactly what we were after – breathtakingly good food, unpretentious settings and honest prices.

In southern Vietnam and HCMC, pho is served with far more herbs and accompaniments than its northern counterpart. The noodle soup is still the star of the show but in HCMC the supporting cast is just as important.

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Sure enough at Pho Hoa on Pasteur St the tables were laden with abundant thickets of greenery, plus all sorts of other goodies to supplement your meal.

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The cubic banana leaf packages are called “wedding cakes”. The long doughy sticks are Chinese bread, great for dunking in your soup. Home made condiments like pickled garlic and chilli sauce let you personalise your bowl as you eat.

In the middle of one of these life changing meals, I was reminded of a friendly Geordie we met in our Sydney hostel. When he learnt we were heading to Vietnam next, he wrinkled his nose and said that out of everywhere he had been in Asia, Vietnam was his least favourite. Apparently he wasn’t a fan of the cuisine which he described it as “weird meatballs in water”. This comment caused a loud CHANGE THE SUBJECT QUICK klaxon to go off in my head.

The world is a wonderfully diverse place with all kinds of people and points of view, but there is no way I can talk about food with someone who can’t appreciate a heady, fragrant broth of meaty bones, vegetables and spices simmered for hours (and perfected over generations) until the flavours became harmoniously balanced. I stuck to general weather chitchat from then on.

Phuong actually got a little giddy when she told us about Banh mi Huynh Hoa, 26 Le Thi Rieng street.

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Fresh, crunchy, featherlight rice flour baguettes are crammed with pâté, ham, pork floss and innumerable other slices of meat (I was reminded of New York style deep filled deli sandwiches), and finished with a couple of devilishly hot slices of chilli and some token cooling cucumber.

We had such a good time on the cooking course in Hoi An, we decided to sign up for another recommended lesson in HCMC.

Cyclo Resto was much smaller and more personalised than Morning Glory, so we were able to request specific recipes and learn how to make new dishes.

The “cyclo” part of the name refers to their preferred mode of transport between the market and the school…

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We had a go at winter melon and prawn soup…

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spring rolls…

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lemongrass chicken…

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snake head fish cooked in a clay pot with laksa leaves…

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green papaya salad with dried spicy beef…

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There was a ridiculous amount of food between four of us!

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Part of the lesson was fancy garnishes. I doubt I will ever feel the urge to make a kitsch swan out of a tomato but it’s impossible not to admire the chef’s knife skills.

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I may attempt the tomato rosebud however…

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Although seeing my efforts next to a professional’s, I’ll stick to the simple and cheesy cucumber heart.

Thanks Vu for helping us create a wonderful last supper to toast our travels!

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Learning to cook Vietnamese dishes in Hoi An

In the hope of being able to recreate some of the extraordinary food we’ve eaten in Vietnam when we’re back in Blighty (very soon! – sob!), Mark and I signed up for a cookery class in Hoi An.

The lesson at the Morning Glory Cookery School began early at the market – we were given the traditional conical hats to protect us from the fierce sun, and to help our teacher find us more easily in the hustle and bustle.

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This lady wears hers with far more attitude.

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Morning glory (no tittering at the back please; morning glory is a leafy green vegetable also known as water spinach, delicious stir fried with garlic and popular all over Vietnam) has hollow stems which can be split into fine strands for salads etc with this nifty tool.

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It was great having a local guide to answer all my questions in the market and point out details like the many types of noodle available.

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Bean sprout ladies

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Vegetables & fruit

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Different kinds of rice flour pancakes

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It was all too much for some…

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After an hour or so, before we too felt the need for a nap, it was back to the classroom to watch a master demonstration and then try our hand at some recipes. It felt a little like The Generation Game at times but we managed to keep up (modesty aside, we were star pupils…)

First, canh su (cabbage leaf parcels with shrimp mousse in broth)

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Then banh xeo (crispy pancake with pork, prawns and beansprouts rolled up with rice paper, green banana and herbs)

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And goi xoai (spicy green mango salad)

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I hear that the UK has had a bit of a heatwave so I’ll share the recipe for this refreshing mango salad at the end of the post.

We enjoyed the food at Morning Glory so much that we returned to their restaurant that night for their famous pork “roll it” dish.

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This region is known for its good food. Our teacher joked that men who want beautiful wives look in the North or South of Vietnam; those who want to marry a good cook come to central Vietnam to look in Hoi An. I know which I’d choose – looks fade but hunger persists!

Sure enough, outside of Morning Glory’s doors we continued to eat exceptionally well. Even the little shacks on the nearby An Bang beach served gourmet seafood treats like steamed lemongrass clams and tamarind crab. Cheaper than chips too!

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A Hoi An speciality is cau lao, a noodle dish with slices of roast pork, croutons made from deep fried squares of noodle dough, beansprouts and herbs.

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The components of the dish are assembled in little separate piles, which locals are able to mix together deftly with their chopsticks. Our attemps were a bit messier!

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The distinctive cau lao noodles make the dish special: chewy and rough in texture, a bit like a chunky Japanese soba noodle. Unlike the soupy depths of broth in pho, with cau lao you get just a dribble of cooking juices to wet the noodles.

Apparently, the dish is traditionally made using water from specific Cham-era wells in Hoi An which impart a particular flavour – I doubt all of the street stalls selling it abide by that rule these days! Even so, the ancient wells around town are guarded under lock and key for only a few lucky people to access.

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Hoi An lights up at night. The beautiful lanterns and fairy lights hanging from the trees next to the river give the place a dreamy, festival-like feel.

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Children sell candles which you can float down the river in colourful paper boats for good luck.

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As well as food, the other thing Hoi An is known for is good tailoring. I hope our expanding waistlines didn’t cause too much trouble for the tailor we chose!

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Goi Xoai (Vietnamese spicy green mango salad) from Morning Glory Cookery Class
Serves 4 as a starter

200g green mango, sliced finely
1 onion, sliced finely
1.5 cups Vietnamese mint and mint
2tsp sesame seeds, roasted
1tbsp vegetable oil
2tbsp crispy fried shallots
1tbsp lime juice
1tbsp white sugar
1tsp fish sauce
1tsp red chilli and garlic, pounded

4 rice crackers, to serve

In a bowl put mango and onion slices, 1 cup of mint, 1 tsp sesame seeds, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, chilli & garlic mix and vegetable oil.
Mix well.
Serve on 4 small plates and garnish with the remaining mint, sesame seeds and fried shallots. Season to taste and serve with rice crackers.

Hanoi: a city built on street food

I started prepping Mark for our visit to Hanoi months before we actually arrived.

“We will be eating as much as physically possible,” I said matter-of-factly. “I don’t want to hear any ridiculous excuses like ‘we just ate’ or ‘I’m already full’ or ‘we’ve already had four bowls of pho today’. We’ve only got three days there and I have a long list of places where we have to eat. We will probably get a bit fat but so be it; we can diet when we’re back home. We will just have to man up and eat through the pain!”

Mark chuckled at me as I went back to my complex system of cross-referencing recommendations from Vietnamese friends in London, tips from my days working with Pho restaurants, online forums, twitter, guide books and maps.

After that, I reckon I could run a military dictatorship, no problem.

As planned, we arrived and were soon negotiating the famous crazy Vietnamese traffic and the narrow alleys in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where street food glory is found in abundance.

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The tangled electrical wiring is as crazy/dodgy as the traffic.

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Let me give you an idea of our typical schedule over the three days we spent in Hanoi. We would get up at around 7am, have some tea and fresh fruit at our guesthouse before heading out for two or three bowls of pho at different street stalls around town. Then we may have a mid-morning snack of banh mi sandwiches (just to keep our metabolisms ticking over) before it was time for lunch – probably bun cha noodles to have a change from pho.

Sometime mid-afternoon, one of us would point out that it was probably beer o’clock. We would find the nearest bia hoi (fresh beer) joint (25 pence a glass). Inevitably we would be offered a snack like bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves and grilled).

For dinner we would go more upmarket and eat at an actual restaurant rather than perched on tiny plastic stools at the side of the road. We would aid digestion with a stroll around a night market where we would be tempted by snacks like bánh cuốn (barbecued pork wrapped in rice paper), giant prawns or slices of sour green mango dipped in salt and chilli powder (my favourite).

Here are some of the highlights – this is the stuff that made the extra chub around our waists worthwhile.

bun rieu cua (crab noodle soup)

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Pho tai nam (noodle soup with roasted and rare beef) at Pho Gia Truyen. This baby was superlatively good, combining the different flavours and textures of savoury cooked beef and thin slivers of very rare, pink meat in a silky broth. I actually felt sad as I neared the end of my bowl, knowing I would measure all other pho against this one.

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There was a long queue of locals outside; one woman smiled and said “this place, number one!” as if congratulating us on finding it.

Mark queuing patiently

Mark queuing patiently

Giant prawns, grilled over charcoal:

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These guys managed to escape our greed…

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Cha ca at Cha Ca La Vong. The dish is prepared with oodles of green herbs, which are stir fried with fish and other ingredients at your table.

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As the sign says, this is all they serve here. It’s funny how restaurants with only one or two items on the menu have only recently become a trend in London; they’ve been doing it for ages here.

Pho ga (chicken noodle soup) at Pho Hang Dieu

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And around the corner, pho bo (beef noodle soup) at Pho Thin

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At Pho Thin they stir fry the beef before adding it to the stock, which gives an amazing smoky flavour. It’s also served with a thumbs up and a smile!

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Another incarnation of cha ca flavours, this time wrapped in rice paper at Highway 4:

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Also some pork ribs in barbecue sauce, also from Highway 4:

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Check out the crackling on this pork:

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Dinner at Quán Ăn Ngon:

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Believe it or not, we also managed to find time for non-food related sights and activities. I was going to talk about them here but I’ve just made myself hungry with all these pictures; I must go and find sustenance. Toodle pip!

From north to south: Wellington to Nelson, New Zealand

If I had a magic wand, I would have made every day we spent in New Zealand a Saturday or Sunday.

Every day is a holiday for food lovers in this country but weekends are particularly special, with many famers’ markets and specialist food stalls opening all over.

Appetites whetted and hangovers cured courtesy of Napier’s Saturday market, we started the journey down to Wellington, already looking forward to a repeat performance the following day.

Wellington’s food market is every Sunday on the waterfront. Not a bad setting for all the hustle and bustle!

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Repurposed Morgan, now with a charcoal barbecue feature.

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Delicious dumplings:

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Packaging porn:

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Before we arrived in Wellington I pumped Beth from Eat and Greet for top tips and was led to a craft beer and hot dog matching event at a local bar, Golding’s Free Dive. Such a fun idea, would love to see something like this in London.

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Once our bellies were full we spent a couple of hours browsing the excellent Te Papa museum, complete with an earthquake simulation room.

Central Wellington:

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Mark and I stayed with some cousins on my father’s side of the family who were so welcoming and generous, even though I was a little girl the last time we met.

Margaret is a great cook and we ate like kings at her home, which made it hard to leave…next time I will have to stay longer to explore more (both Wellington and her recipes). Thank you Margaret, Peter and family!

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But with time ticking on and a date with the ski slopes down in
Queenstown, we had to push on. The crossing on the ferry from the north to the south island was beautiful – even dolphins came to play.

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Feeling very fortunate to be related to such lovely people down under, we received an equally warm welcome from the Dukes faction on the South Island.

Paul & Nic, thank you for having us, we loved spending time with you and your boys. And what a view you have every morning!

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One of the highlights of the Nelson area is the Abel Tasman national park. We drove there for a day of hiking through the pretty scenery.

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Native bellbirds could be heard overhead (listen here). They sound strangely electronic; the first time I heard them I thought someone’s phone was bleeping.

Split apple rock:

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Even with long walks, not to mention the adrenalin sports and skiing in New Zealand, the country’s fantastic food has definitely had its inevitable effect on our waistlines…

Napier and Hawke’s Bay, NZ – a food and wine mecca

Hawke’s Bay is so saturated with fine wineries, restaurants and natural produce that we barely registered that Napier, its main town, also lays claim to being the art deco capital of the world.

After devastating earthquake damage in the 1930s, the town was completely rebuilt according to the architecture & design fashion of the period. Today the distinctive graphic shapes and pastel colours of the Art Deco style can be seen all over.

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We allowed one morning for a stroll around town for a dutiful dose of culture before we got stuck in to what we had really come for: food and wine. I may not know much about art, but I know what I like…

Mini Yorkshire puddings, bone marrow & horseradish and sardines on toast (love the presentation of a sardine tin for lemon wedges) at hip Napier restaurant Mister D.

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Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s longest established wine growing area. In the 1850s missionaries planted the first vines to make sacramental wine and would sell off the excess. Before long the commercial side of winemaking was thriving and dozens of vineyards and wineries popped up. Today you can tour between them, tasting as you go.

A classic NZ sight – where else in the world would you find the grass between the vines tended by sheep?

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The organised tours which drive you around are quite expensive and often follow a well trodden route so I offered to be the designated driver, much to Mark’s delight. It was quite fun steering Gabby the campervan around the picturesque winding roads while Mark got increasingly sozzled.

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We pootled around wineries including Te Mata, CJ Pask and Craggy Range – many of the Pinot Noirs (the specialty of this region) were first rate and some of the Chardonnays were just as good. Te Mata was a real standout and we invested in a bottle or two.

The view from the top of the “craggy” bit of Craggy Range (Gabby did well to get up here)…

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We couldn’t resist a couple of frivolous purchases from the quirky Crab Farm winery: a map of Hawke’s Bay styled to look like a London Underground map and a bottle of spicy, sweet and interesting port, named “Starboard” (geddit).

We rounded off a fine day with dinner at Mission Estate, the area’s oldest winery whose name honours its ecclesiastical history. We kept hearing it was one of the best restaurants in town and were suitably impressed by the lush grounds and fancy building (it’s also a popular venue for weddings and high profile concerts).

So I was a little embarrassed when Mark asked the manager if he would mind terribly if we could park our big ugly campervan on the grounds and sleep there overnight like a couple of bums. To his credit, the cheeky request was received with true Kiwi laidback charm and hospitality. The fact that this arrangement meant we were likely to order more booze with our bed stumbling distance away may have helped…

The food was indeed lovely. Mission is known for its confit duck and mandarin macaroon starter, which reminded me of the signature dish at London’s Duck & Waffle: the same sweet & savoury, meaty contrasts were going on.

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The other blobs were mandarin jelly, braised red cabbage and duck liver praline.

Wild venison, hazelnut dumplings and feijoa chutney for main course.

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The morning after we cured our hangovers with a trip to Napier’s farmers market. Nothing like a freshly squeezed juice and bacon sandwich to aid recovery…

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This part of the world is known as the fruit bowl of New Zealand; if you’ve ever bought a Braeburn apple in the UK, it may well have been grown here.

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With produce like this, you can see why Kiwis call their land “God’s own country”.

Valparaíso, Chile

When people we met travelling found out we were headed towards Chile, they almost always said “you have to go to Valparaíso”. As we wound our way around South America we heard many descriptions of the coastal city. Some people spoke of its quirky beauty and energy while others lamented its pollution, decrepitude and stray dogs.

Although some people struggle to see past these negative points, the overwhelming impression we pieced together about Valparaíso was that it was not to be missed.

After the good fortune of arriving in Santiago in time for the annual Dia del Patrimonio, our luck changed and the weather was miserable most of the time we were in Valpo. This picture over the bay is in black and white, but the skies were just as grey in reality.

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On this morning it was drizzly and overcast, but not bad enough to thwart our plans to visit Pablo Neruda’s house. Neruda was a Nobel prize winning poet who had a real zest for life; his house in Valparaíso is packed full of character and fun, from the fully equipped bar where he would entertain his friends and dare them to use the exposed loo to one side, to the collections of colourful artwork and curiosities such as an antique carousel horse.

Unfortunately they are very strict about taking pictures inside the house so our camera was locked away before we entered. But do go if you can!

The next day the rainstorm worsened, insistent on forcing keen visitors inside:

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For a while we took refuge in one of the city’s markets, where we warmed up and dried out over chupe, a thick seafood stew topped with bubbling cheese.

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As you would suspect for a port city like Valpo, the seafood is stunningly fresh.

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The city has many stray cats, some of which also found shelter under the market’s roof.

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Before long we admitted defeat to the rain and trudged back to our hostel, through the steep roads which had rapidly turned into gushing waterfalls and fast flowing rivers.

Thankfully the following morning the angry skies had subsided and for our last day, we had glorious sunshine. Valparaíso was transformed and it was easy to see why it was top of so many people’s travel experiences in Chile.

We joined the “Tours 4 Tips” group for a free walking tour around the city, led by people dressed in stripy “Where’s Wally” outfits.

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We explored the main port, still busy although much less so than the former glory years:

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We learned lots about Valparaíso’s chequered history – from the heights of a globally recognised port and a bustling city full of immigrants making their way up to California to seek their fortune during the Gold Rush, to its decline after the Panama Canal provided an alternative and more convenient point of access.

Some buildings were beautiful, while others were crumbling remains of once grand structures.

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While the larger port of San Antonio up the coast now claims the lion’s share of commercial port activity, Valparaíso has become an important centre of art and culture in Chile and worldwide.

The city is decorated with vibrant colours on virtually every surface.

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Knowing our time in South America was coming to an end, we made sure to get our last fix of empanadas…

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Valparaíso does have its problems and may not be for everyone, but we certainly wished we had more time to explore the hilly neighbourhoods and infamous bar scene, or even stick around long enough to find a bare wall to decorate with our own mural… maybe a design of umbrellas to commemorate our first visit!

Food in Ecuador

I’ve said before how much I love checking out food markets in new places. Aside from the eye-catching displays of fruit & veg, in South American countries like Ecuador there are often stalls hawking hot food and cheap set meals made from the market’s best produce. Generally, the prices are astonishingly low because the ingredients are so readily available – and I imagine long standing deals with the produce stall keepers are arranged.

It can work out cheaper to buy a three or four course market almuerzo at $2.50 (typically consisting of a hearty soup, fresh salad, some sort of chicken or meat stew with rice, potatoes and a spicy salsa, with a fresh fruit smoothie or fruit salad to finish) than to make a picnic back at your hostel.

Like the increasingly popular street food scene in London, hot food stalls in Ecuadorian markets are strictly no frills operations: you are given just a single spoon to eat with (forget being shy about using hands and teeth to do what a spoon cannot) and kiddie sized plastic furniture to sit on. The food is always hearty, simple and rustic – nothing fancy.

Some examples of typical almuerzo fare: a plate brimming with sausage, chicken, meat stew, rice, fried egg, salad and lapingachos (fried potato and cheese cakes)…

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Or yagauarlocro (potato soup with toppings of fried black pudding/blood sausage, crunchy onion and avocado). Love all the textures in one bowl…

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But friendly service costs nothing and is often provided with abundance – the stall holders are all jokes and smiles as they motion you to sit down, or invite you to stick your nose into their saucepans to see what they’ve got cooking. Condiments are always interesting – aji (homemade hot salsa) is often on the tables along with freshly cut lime wedges and diced onion.

As well as being a great way to stay within tight backpacking budgets, eating in markets lets you get away from the gringo joints and sample what locals really eat. It’s not unusual to be squashed in at a table where a toothless octogenarian cholita, a suited business professional and a gaggle of uniformed schoolkids are all slurping away at identical set meals.

It was a setting like this where we had one of the most enjoyable and visually memorable meals of our time in Ecuador, on the top floor of a grubby market in Cuenca.

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Pork is a big deal in Cuenca. I don’t know the exact recipe but it probably goes something like this:

  1. Get a bloody great big pig
  2. Blast it with heat until every inch of skin turns into thick, crisp crackling
  3. Plonk the whole thing out on a counter top – the head or a few of the legs will inevitably flop over the edges
  4. The serving lady must always be elbow deep inside the carcass to pull out the juiciest shreds of meat with her fingers
  5. The serving lady must also snap off samples of that insane crackling to lure people to sit at her tables
  6. Serve with potato cakes, maize, salad and a spoon

Markets are also a great place for breakfasts in the morning. In Ecuador, empanadas are not the Cornish pasty-like baked meaty treats you get elsewhere. Here they are more like donuts: fried until puffy, filled with mild creamy cheese and dusted with sugar.

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Great with a coffee, or a cup of morocho, a thick hot drink made of maize simmered in milk with cinnamon, cloves, sugar and raisins – a bit like rice pudding.

Another uniquely Ecuadorian take on the empanada is empanadas verde, made with mashed green plantain. These are uncooked, waiting for a quick flash in a frying pan…

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We kept seeing malta con huevo for sale at various drinks stalls in markets. After confirming that this does in fact mean “malt beer with egg” and is sometimes translated into the English “scrambled beer”, our curiosity was piqued enough to order a couple to try for oursleves. We watched in astonishment as the drinks stall lady filled a blender with an unlikely combination of ingredients. In went a bottle of pilsner, a slurp of alfalfa juice, a bit of borojo pulp from a packet (a sour fruit, pic below) and finally a raw egg to be whizzed together.

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The end result was peculiar but surprisingly drinkable – the earthy taste of beer somehow works with the grassy alfalfa. We both finished our glasses, albeit with looks of confusion on our faces. I think malta con huevo would be a great hangover cure – a filling meal in a glass, gentle on the tummy, with a bit of hair of the dog, vitamins from the fruit and alfalfa and protein from the egg. Only a drunkard could have invented it!

A less challenging drink commonly served in Ecuador’s markets is jugo or thick juices: fresh fruit blended with water or milk and sugar. Ecuador’s diverse ecosystems yield a wealth of native fruit and even the smallest stalls have dozens of options. Mark has developed a taste for tangy tamarino (tamarind) and my favourite is tomate d’arbol (tomatillo), a beautiful fruit with a taste which is hard to pin down – the seeds, internal structure and sharpness are reminiscent of an unripe tomato but there is also a delicate, fruity flavour a bit like melon.

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It seems to grow everywhere in Ecuador but I haven’t come across it before in the UK; I read that you can source the frozen pulp which would work in a blended juice but not sure if you can get the fresh fruits. Tomate d’arbol is also awesome in aji de tomate d’arbol – a punchy salsa made with the fruit and hot chillies. I have bookmarked this recipe to play with later.

Although Quito is miles from the coast, one of the specialities of the capital city’s food market is corvina (sea bass). This meal at Quito’s Mercado Central consisted of a huge slab of the fish served with ceviche (in Ecuador, ceviche is quite soupy, with lots of lime juice), potatoes and popcorn – all for $4!

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After the epic pork at Cuenca’s market, we ate another kind of pig; guinea pig or cuy is a delicacy in Ecuador as well as Peru. The friendly man who made us our Panama hats in Cuenca recommended a local place which specialised in cuy, Tres Estrellas.

It takes at least an hour to cook so you have to call in advance to avoid a long wait; although they are little creatures they are quite fatty so time is needed to get a really crispy skin.

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Ecuadorians think the best bit is the feet so we tried them – they taste like pub pork scratchings. We were slightly more squeamish about the head, which still had teeth intact…

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Ecuador grows some of the best cacao in the world and if you avoid the ubiquitous Nestlé bars, you can find really fine chocolate. We stocked up on some sublime bars at Quito’s Kallari cafe, which is linked to a small artisan producer in the countryside.

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The cafe also makes gorgeous tarts, cakes and brownies – we couldn’t resist sharing this gooey pud.

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Before I came to Ecuador I read this Guardian article which indicated that Ecuador’s food scene was behind Peru’s and eagerly snapping at its neighbour’s heels. Some of the country’s top chefs and foodies seem to be envious and indignant about Peru’s global culinary success and can’t help but compare the two cuisines.

But after a couple of weeks of happy, stimulating eating around Ecuador, I see no need for this anxious “keeping up with the Joneses” attitude – Ecuadorean food deserves to be more than just second fiddle to the popular Peruvian trend. It is hugely underrated and should be recognised in its own right.