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Posts Tagged ‘chinatown’

Cholon, or big market is the area of Saigon where people of Chinese descent traditionally lived.  It is know to them as Dī’àn – or embankment, due to the large embankment built next to the river to stop flooding.

Originally a separate City, it was merged with Saigon to form Saigon-Cholon – The Cholon part of the name being dropped in the 1950’s.  Later many ethnic Chinese left Vietnam, changing the racial makeup of the area, though walking around you can get a feel for the heritage of the area.

The area is blessed with more temples than any other area of the city, dedicated to the many Gods of the Taoist and Buddhist traditions. Each one a place where someone can make an offering to hope that some wish will be fulfilled.

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My favourite part of nearly all Vietnamese Chinese temples are the rockeries or Hòn Non Bô – little miniature worlds where the gods live in a kind of mountainous Island.

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Worship is the main draw of these temples – they see many more worshippers than tourists.

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And these aren’t the only places of worship.

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The Religious sights might be the main draw, but commerce is the main reason the area came to be – Buying and selling is still the heart of the community.

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So here in Vancouver they have the second biggest Chinatown in North America.  Quite a claim to fame.  But this one is a little different.  It’s more functional rather than touristy and the restaurants here are catering pretty much solely to local Asians.  There’s less of the back to back cantonese restos you find elsewhre and more shops selling speciality foods and roast meats.

And being skint, now I’m not living in a tenner a day Thailand, this is where were eating our meals.  And no meal is better – or cheaper – than the $1 BBQ pork bun.  Freshly steamed every morning, and available at one of the many Chinese bakeries, this is my highlight of the day. The sticky,  sweet spiced pork inside gives you a nice warm cosy feeling that makes you forget the never ending rain outside – if only for five minutes.

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So Back in the big BKK.  Munching on the endless supply of street treatson offer on every corner, nook and cranny.  This time we’ve been staying in the city’s Chinatown area, the oldest Chinatown in the world.  Here you can find a great mix of Thai and Chinese cuisines and the ever prevalent noodle Soup by the bucket load.  Theres also BBQ meat and fresh – so fresh it’s still alive – seafood everwhere.  I’m loving it.

Chinatown here has the hectic pace of it’s counterparts all over the world, with open markets, street vendors, traffic, chaos – but somehow, organised and calm chaos.  Is that possible?  Anyway love the vibe you get walking round this historic ghetto.  You can find anything you want in the markets, chill out amongst the incense in Taoist temples,or head down to one of the many restaurants selling sharks fin and birdsnest soup at hundreds of dollars a pop – Or you can just do it like me and eat the cheap stuff with the locals.  Here’s a few of my favourite dishes.

Dim Sum – Actually I don’t even know what was inside this thing.  All I know is it was awesome.  Sticky, sweet, possibly vegetarian and there was lashings of crispy shallotts on top.  The guy was sitting at the side of an insanely busy road, making the wrappers with a rice flour batter and then stuffing them with his magig mix.  Apart from this though the dim sum list is endless – Pork, shrimps, more sweet stuffall wrapped up an steamed, or possibly fried.

Chicken satay -This is a bit of Malaysian Chinese creeping up north of the border, although i’m not sure that Malaysians have the rights to chicken on a stick.  And theres definately a cross cultural thing happening with the yellow South Asian turmeric defining the dish – India and China on a stick!  Don’t forget the peanut sauce.

Fish Ball Soup – An open front restaurant that only does fish balls.  And damn good fish balls too.  Theres not moch else to say about them really.  You’re a fan of fish balld or you’re not.  They’re fishy. Get these amazing ones – they’re made with real fish – at Jiang’s healthy fish balls

Mixed Pork and Braised Eggs over Rice – Right, this is the daddy.   BBQ Meat and rice.  Does it get any better?  Apparently the guys here thought they could improve by adding some sausage and a black egg – they were right.  Some super fatty  pork sausage and the creamy egg went amazingly with the crispy pork belly and the chewy shoulder strips.  Its all about the texture with the chinese.  All Need is some boiled beef tendon and a bit of tripe and we’ve got all the mouthy feelings down.

Fried noodles with Egg and Cured Squid – I really had no idea what this was when i was eating it.  Only after a trip round the local wet market did I find the cured squid that people were queing up to eat at this stall.  I thought it was some sort of chicken at the begining.  The texture is not chewy at all and its not fishy, just kind of nice.  Something anybody could eat.  Fried up with some broad  rice noodles – they are literally making them behind me as i took the photo – and some softly scrambled egg.  What a snack.

Sausage in a crispy crepe – I’ve really no idea about this one.  hot dog sausage, mayo and then wrapped up in a crepe – a strange one but a good one. Only in BKK!

Duck and Rice – When people used to come and visit me and Rich in london this is what we’d take people for – also a side of choi sum in oyster sauce – and it was always a hit.  Sadly the place in London’s Chinatown is gone – replaced by a pretty decent Taiwanese place – but here in BKK’s Ctown its still on man laminated, and badly translated menus.  For me it just says Chinatown, and a good duck rice is one of my ultimate treats.  It could possibly be my last supper.  Here in BKK it is, as i’m leaving first thing tomorrow.  So goodbye to Bangkok, the (culinary) love of my life.  See you in Vancouver.

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