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Vietnam Travel News
Ancient well, new caves discovered

A local resident on Cham Island in Hoi An city has found an ancient well which was built by the Cham people some 500 years ago. Authorities of Quang Nam Province have proposed restoring the well, which is located in a national relic on the island, as a tourist attraction.

During an excavation this month, authorities in Quang Binh Province’s Minh Hoa District have announced the discovery of more new grottoes in a limestone mountainous forest in the To Mo and Tu Lan valleys in Tan Hoa Commune. Archeologists have so far discovered seven grottoes of different sizes.

A treat for everyone

Banh xeo anywhere is characterized by the aroma of the rice and turmeric in the batter, and the taste of the spiced up filling

The overflowing pancake known as banh xeo is as Vietnamese as it gets yet even foreigners rave about it after the first mouthful.

Banh xeo is a delicious concoction that resembles an omelet at first glance but is actually a rice-flour pancake colored yellow by turmeric and filled with pork slivers, shrimp, egg, mung beans and sprouts.

It’s a deceptive dish with an aroma redolent of the countryside and has long been popular in the land of its birth.

Vietnamese can go anywhere in the world yet the thought of banh xeo is never far away.

The name is interesting as it literally means “sizzling cake.” Why is it so?

If you have a chance to see an experienced hand making banh xeo, you will understand all. Its name derives from the loud sizzling sound when the batter hits the hot oil in the pan.

The ingredients and cooking style are not uniform across the land but there’s no mistaking banh xeo whether it’s made in the north, center or south of Vietnam.

In the central region, the pancake is thicker and does not have a crispy edge as it’s cooked in a small round mould.

In the south, banh xeo is fried in a big pan, which allows the batter to spread thinly and gives the edges a crispy finish. Southerners also include mushrooms and vegetables in the filling on occasion.

In the north, they like to add potato beans or yam beans (pachyrrhizus), and the starchy tuber known as taro.

Although the ingredients differ from place to place, banh xeo anywhere is characterized by the aroma of the rice and turmeric in the batter, and the taste of the spiced-up filling.

Whatever the exact recipe, banh xeo is always accompanied by lots of lettuce leaves, leaf mustard and up to 20 kinds of herbs.

The sauce is very important. Southerners usually use a diluted fish sauce with chili and garlic mixed in whereas the people in the central region dip their banh xeo in a combination of hoisin sauce, garlic and liver.

Most importantly, banh xeo must be eaten straight from the pan while it is still hot and hasn’t had a chance to become a soggy mess.

Eat it fresh with a lettuce leaf wrapping and with the hands rather than chopsticks or a fork to get the most out of banh xeo.

In Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City (whatever!), it’s an appetizing food for all the locals and impresses foreign visitors with the appealing batter and wonderful smell.

Travelers from abroad either hear about banh xeo from their new friends and acquaintances in Vietnam, or happen upon it by chance at a local eatery.

Muoi Xiem is a renowned banh xeo cook who has traveled to the United States to demonstrate her art before enthusiastic American audiences.

At her eponymous restaurant in Saigon, there are 30 kinds of banh xeo from the traditional to the exotic.

Xiem likes to experiment with the ingredients and has some imaginative fillings on her menu, like nam kim cham (enoki mushrooms), nam moi (termite mushrooms), and nam bao ngu (abalone mushrooms).

She uses very little oil to fry her big pancake to perfection, and serves it with dozens of forest vegetables.

Another restaurant with a bent toward the exotic is An La Ghien, whose menu lists banh xeo rong Nhat with Japanese seaweed, banh xeo mang with bamboo sprouts, and banh xeo muc sua with baby cuttlefish.

Diners on a tight budget can try Dinh Cong Trang, a restaurant that serves both traditional banh xeo and some adventurous creations like banh xeo bong dien dien. The latter contains flowers of sesbania sesban, also known as Egyptian pea.

The filling can vary in abundance and ingredients, it doesn’t matter. Banh xeo in all its forms is one of the most venerated residents of Vietnam’s culinary village.

2010 – 2011 Promotion Campaign. Free letter of visa on arrival

Facing recent economic crisis, countries all over the world in general and Vietnam in particular, are now carrying out their own comprehensive plans to salvage their economies.

Up to now, Vietnam has been successfully dealing and overcoming the impacts of the global economic crisis under government solutions as first 6 billion stimulus package, credit encouragement and tax reduction.

Aside from the government policies and support, economic bodies and travel companies as well have been actively taking their own plans with the aim at maintaining and developing their businesses.

New road helps tap tourism potential
Rung Sac (Sac Forest) road, a new road linking HCMC with the East Sea through coastal district Can Gio, was inaugurated on Saturday after nine years of construction, feeding eco-tourism potential in the district internationally recognized as a biosphere reserve.
Huynh Cach Mang, chairman of Can Gio District, said local government would continue calling for holiday and environmental tourism investment including restaurant and hotel services. The district now has 31 tourism projects, seven of which are operating.

Construction of the VND1.5 trillion road began in 2002, stretching over 31 kilometers from Binh Khanh ferry to the 30-4 intersection. The road has six lanes and seven bridges across the canals that crisscross Can Gio mangrove forest.

HCMC chairman Le Hoang Quan at the inauguration ceremony urged related units to cooperate with the Transport Ministry to build Binh Khanh Bridge to replace the ferry service. The city would also upgrade roads connecting with Rung Sac road like Ly Nhon, An Thoi Dong, Tam Thon Hiep and Rung Sac parallel road.

“Nha Be District needs to speed up site clearance and hand over land to Saigon Water Corp. (Sawaco) to complete water supply facilities for Can Gio before April 30, as well as water pipes to families in local communes,” Quan was quoted by Phap Luat as saying.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the first phase on January 26, 2010, State President Nguyen Minh Triet said the road was the city’s strategic gateway to the East Sea and would help boost the social and economic development of not only Can Gio District but also the city.

After the first phase, local residents in the most remote district of the city no longer relied solely on Binh Khanh ferry. The road cuts travel time to Can Thanh Township by a third to 40 minutes from an hour.

The road was constructed by Voluntary Youth Public Service Co. Ltd. while Saigon Construction Quality Control Co. was the supervision consultant. The district’s project construction and investment management unit was the investor of the project.

A 600 hectare sea reclamation project in Can Gio will restart in June with 100 hectares  expected to complete this year.

( Source VietNamNet/SGT)
Sate your sweet tooth with bánh bó

tate-banh-boOne of the best things about Tet (Lunar New Year) is all the delicious foods you are allowed to eat without worrying about the calories. Already, bakers and confectioners across the city are beginning to display packaged gift boxes with different breads and sweets that are popular during the country’s biggest festival of a year.

Tet is the time of the year when sweet cakes are in abundance, and none is sweeter than bánh bó, a typical fruit cake from central provinces of Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Thua Thien-Hue.

Bánh bó, which literally means “bundled cake,” is a slice of glutinous rice flour goodness speckled with candied fruits.

In homes in the central region, many people make their own bánh bó. Every one in the house gets involved in the process of chopping fruits, kneading dough and assembling the sweet festive cakes.

To make the cake from scratch, buy a variety of fresh seasonal fruits such as ripe tomatoes, kumquat, carrots, winter melons, ginger and pineapples. The kumquat gives it a little sourness and the ginger adds some spice. Dice all the fruits into tiny pieces.

In a pot of water, add sugar and diced fruits and simmer until the water reduces by half and has the consistency of thick syrup. Now set the candied fruit aside and let cool.

For homemade rice flour, wash, drain and dry the best quality glutinous rice you can find. The better the rice, the silkier the cake will be.

Roast dry rice on low heat until it becomes fragrant, but ensure that it doesn’t brown. Ground this rice into fine milky white flour, and sift it.

In a separate bowl, boil sugar and water with a few drops of vanilla. Don’t reduce the water much or the cake will become too sweet.

Add this sugar syrup to the sifted flour and knead with gentle hands until you have a soft dough.

Flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Put all the candied fruit into the center of the dough, then knead again to mix the fruit well with the dough. Now, shape the dough into a cube and cut one centimeter thick slices. Wrap the cake in cling wrap to store it in a cool and dry place.

The finished bánh bó is fragrant and sweet. The colorful cake brings together a variety of tastes and textures – perfect for the festive season.
( Source Thanh Nien)
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