Saturday, November 22, 2008

My First Czech Adventure Was Actually Vietnamese

One of the first things I wanted to do when I came to Prague was meet the two Prague bloggers who encouraged me as I planned my move across the globe. I think I started reading Michael Caroe Andersen's blog either from finding it on Al Tischler's blog (Al is a Minnesotan who worked at Radio Free Europe for a couple years - he wrote a terrific blog about Prague before moving back to America) or when Michael's blog was chosen "Expat Blog of the Month" by Expat Blog Directory in October 2007. I have links to some of my favorite Czech expat blogs on the right margin of my blog. Reading those blogs was really helpful and motivating as I planned my move.

Michael in front of a mysterious
statue meant to ward off evil spirits

Michael, who originally hails from Denmark, has a gift for inclusion and connecting people. He invited me to join a group of his friends who were off to see SAPA, the Vietnamese community that immigrant Vietnamese have created south of Prague. SAPA is famous for it's stalls of wholesale knock-off clothing merchandise for the various Vietnamese retailers around Prague, Asian food stalls, terrific inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants, even their own Vietnamese kindergarten.

Beautiful Bok Choy

Look at those long beans!
I want to experiment with cooking them
The white blocks are fresh tofu.

Vietnamese delicacies

The best part?

Did you know that inside a chicken is a little egg production line with eggs in the making? These egg yolks taken from the inside of a chicken, before they form into full-formed eggs with shells are considered a real delicacy in countries like Vietnam and Russia because of their incredible richness. Who knew this was the best part? Not me.

There were also hundreds of fertilized duck eggs for sale in the stalls. In Vietnam, people enjoy these eggs so much people develop an opinion on when in the gestation they like to eat the egg because the fetus has developed to a certain stage by a certain day that is especially tasty. Some people like it after the tenth day, some the fifteenth, some longer. It’s all up to you.

Carp doesn't get any fresher

Frying fresh tofu

The fish in the bag were
still flopping -
Check out the knife he laid on the cardboard
for chopping off the tails and fins

Dragon fruit

Vietnamese Rice Bread

What do you see? Snakes? Bats? Octopi? Stingrays?

Our meal started with bravery. Dominic, the British organizer of our excursion, shared shots of “snakebite vodka.” I didn’t see the snake but I swear I saw a little hand in that bottle that could only have belonged to a bat! Being new to the country, I abstained. Who would want to chicken out at the last minute and spew bat juice all over one’s newest friends?


During lunch, we had one tasty Vietnamese dish after another, which we shared family style. Nickolai and his Japanese girlfriend taught me how to hold my chopsticks properly. Hold the bottom chopstick firmly. It doesn’t move. The top one is the one that does all the moving and if one grips it like a pen, it’s easy to pick things up with it.

Vietnamese and Chinese chopsticks are longer than Japanese chopsticks because it’s acceptable to reach across and pluck a choice morsel from the serving dish as you eat. No worries about Seinfeld “double dipping!” In Japan, that’s not acceptable to do. Therefore, Japanese chopsticks are shorter. By the end of the meal, my chopstick skills had evolved enough that I could pick up a solitary peanut with grace.

The people that "go"

Michael said, “You know how there are people who stay at home and people who go? These are the people that go.” Around the table we had the following nationalities represented: Danish, British, Czech, American, Dutch, Japanese, El Salvadorian, Albanian, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Many had been expatriates in multiple places.

We ended our meal with Vietnamese coffee
brewed tableside by the individual cup.

I was touched that in a Vietnamese restaurant,
in a Czech city,
there was a bit of American inspiration
in the lobby.

Thank you, Michael and friends,
for my first Czech/Vietnamese adventure!


Mariecel said...

Have you tried the fertilised duck egg? In Tagalog (Filipino) it is called balut. I prefer to eat it when it is around 17 days old. Yum!

I must say, my hubby still has a hard time recalling his first (and only) taste =P

Karen said...

Nooooo, no courage here! I was just getting used to the idea that people eat fetuses of any sort! But we had bravery among us I'm happy to report.

Michael Carøe Andersen said...

It was nice meeting you Karen. And a pleasure having you join.

Sometime last year Rie cooked us the duck egg. There are some photos of that here:

Annuca said...

Hi Karen,
I have heard about you, and visited your blog before, but I wanted to hear your view of this trip I have heard about.
And I must say I agree with you: Michael... has a gift for inclusion and connecting people
Hope you enjoy Prague! I really enjoy it everytime I visit

Karen said...

Hi Anne, congratulations on your PhD studies in London. I love the idea of "sustainable heritage!" I look forward to meeting you when you come to Prague. The pic of you and Michael on his blog this week is terrific.

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