Red snapper, squid, shrimp ceviche

 Had the fresh odds and ends from making shashimi, so I made a quick ceviche salad out of them. I blanched the shrimp and squid quickly in coconut water. Then use the boiling coconut water to pour on the skin of the cold pieces of red snapper. I think the skin of the red snapper is more delicious than the flesh itself but it needs to be cooked first.

Marinade is a mix of mirin, lime, ad Vietnamese yuzu (tắc)…and a dash of tabasco. Stay true to the South American origin – just salt and pepper, no soy or fish sauce.



Cá Gáy | Emperor Fish.

Cá gáy không biết tại sao có cái tên như vậy, nhưng thịt ăn rất ngon. Còn có tên khác là cá chép biển. Có nhiều ở biển miền Trung, Phan Thiết, Phú Quốc.


Mua thử cá Phú Quốc từ chợ gần nhà. Đi tàu từ PQ xong đi đường xe từ Hà Tiên lên SG. Nên không tươi như mong muốn.
Mua thử cá Phú Quốc từ chợ gần nhà. Đi tàu từ PQ xong đi đường xe từ Hà Tiên lên SG. Nên không tươi như mong muốn..

London-USA-Vietnam, 2003

Notes from the wandering days in 2003 – 3 countries in 3 months. Brief stop in the US involved losing the much-loved BMW, then finding the lost car in a shady ‘hood 2 miles away.

Vietnam. Day 13: The EMZs.

I just realized that I am addicted to the electric mosquitoes zapper
(let’s call it the EMZ). No self-respecting Vietnamese family can live
without a couple of these now. It looks like a little badminton
racquet with three layers of metal net. The outer two layers protect
your fingers from getting electrocuted (but I heard many children and
adults have managed to stick their fingers through and get a nice
jolt), while the fine inner net roasts the vicious mosquitos doing
their usual 5pm/am fly-by. After about 30 mins of non-stop mosquitoes
swatting action, you can just plug it in to recharge.

When the sun comes down over the little park in front of my house, you
can hear the crackling “pzzzing” sounds throughout the neighborhood as
my neighbors make good use of their EMZs arsenal. From afar, it looks
like they are playing badminton with an invisible ball that flies
everywhere. It looks effortless, unless you are a newbie to the trade,
who uses too much force unnecessarily. Come closer, and you can smell
the slight aroma of bugs being BBQed. That cracking sound is now music
to my ears. Only one year ago I still had to swat mosquitoes the
old-fashioned and less digfnifying way: self-slapping. The downside of
slapping oneself in the dark in hope of killing a feeding mosquito is
the very act itself. It is just very sad. Unless you are an expert,
you usually don’t feel the itch until the bug has done sucking its
fill, resulting in a bloody mess when you slap it (and yourself) with
all your might. When I grew up, we had to wear white shirts to school,
and it was rare to see a uniform back in the days without at least one
recognizable mosquito’s bloodstain on it.

Those frustrating days are gone. At dawn I patrol my house with my
trusted EMZ, kicking the shoeracks and shaking the bookshelves so the
mosquitoes come flying out. Then it’s Zaap zaap zaap…joing the
neighborhood’s orchestrar with a vengeance. After I am done inside the
house, I would go to the garden and do a little preventive
mosquito-zapping. My favorite spot is above the little fish pond: the
fish loves the roasted mosquitoes as they come raining down from the
sky. Yup, to these guppies I must be God shooting out thunder bolts
from my left arm.

And lightning stick only costs VND 35,000, or roughly $3.

When my mom takes out the trash or my sister does dishes at night, I
volunteer to be their escort with my EMZ. Earlier I sucessfully
defended my mom as she left the house for a little walk, but I myself
got bitten on the forehead. It was a superficial bite, but it hurt my
feelings because I let that happen while being properly armed.

It’s 8:00 pm. The hood is quiet now, but I know they are just charging
their EMZs, and out there the mosquitoes are still hovering above my
little fish pond. When the raining season comes in a couple of months,
the battle against mosquitoes will get even more intense…too bad I
won’t be there to be part of the action, but I know my little sister
will do me proud.

Happy New Year to my friends near and far. Goodnight and call me if
the bugs do bite.


Vietnam. Day 14: Helmets For Rent.

Here I was sitting in the middle of Saigon and all of its chaos of
an everage Thursday morning, surrounded by almost all of the college
roomates from the States. We were just having coffee and eating up a
storm of mi` and bu’n and che` and really just letting it sink it: the
fact that we are all here, almost all of us.

Tom couldn’t join us. The family’s bamboo factory business is too
far away. But I visited him two days earlier with Aaron. I let out a
happy “What the heo?!!” as I found my roomate of my Sophomore year in
college, a nappy-haired dude chasing down my car on the red-dirted
street of Long Khanh. He was holding a roll of rice straws under one
arm, and a monkey in a green sack on the other. You see he was
supposed to meet me up in a coffee shop, but I got a txt message on my
rented mobile “Sorry I am running late. I am buying a monkey but they
lost the key to the cage.” His USC anthropology professor would be
proud to learn that he’s trying to mate monkeys in this little red,
dusty corner of Vietnam.

I took the car that day, but I like riding the little motorcycles
better. I don’t like wearing the helmet in this hudmity though. The
cops are cracking down on people who don’t protect their noggins, so I
put my helmet on before reaching a police checkpoint (the people
coming from the opposite direction will tell you if there’s one coming
up via hand signal). But not many Vietnamese people can afford
helmets, so along the highways you can see people renting out helmets
right before a police checkpoint. For VND10,000 (roughly 60 cents)
they’d let you borrow a helmet to wear pass the checkpoint, then some
dudes with a big trashbag will collect the helmet from you not too far
down the road. It’s better than paying a fine but not worth it if you
do a lot of highway travelling. The helmets for rent are crappy,
too…and I am sure the cops can kinda tell after a dozen people
passing by wearing the same fricking helmet with the same scratches
and markings.

Muahahahah…it’s like a dark comedy.

Somehow it just feels like home.

Có những cây cổ thụ mà bóng mát che hàng triệu người…

Một buổi chiều mát mẻ trên sân ga Heuston của Dublin,Chuck Feeney, 81 tuổi, run run bước xuống tàu sau chuyến đi thăm ngôi trường ĐH Limerick – một ngôi trường có 12,000 học sinh mà ông đã gầy dựng nên với tầm nhìn, tầm ảnh hưởng, và $170 triệu đô – và đi khập khễnh đến cửa ra trên những đầu gối đã mỏi.

Không có ai trên sân ga nhìn ông già quê gốc New jersey này đến lần thứ hai, một tay cầm tờ báo gói trong ny lông, và tay kia vịn vào lan can sắt để lần từng bước một. Người mà có thể nói đã làm nhiều hơn cho Ireland hơn bất cứ ai trong lịch sử kể từ thánh Saint Patrick, đi qua dòng người mà không ai để ý. Và ông Feeney thích như vậy.

Chuck Feeney là James Bond của từ thiện. 30 năm qua ông đi không mệt mỏi trên khắp thế giới, ngấm ngầm hoạt động để cho đi $7.5 tỉ đô la tài sản cá nhân, làm nên từ kinh doanh các mặt hàng khác nhau từ Cognac đến Nước Hoa trong các cửa hàng Duty Free Shop của mình. Tổ chức của ông, Atlatic Foundation, đã đóng góp $6.2 tỉ đô la vào giáo dục, khoa học, y tế, dưỡng lão, và nhân quyền tại Mỹ, Úc, Việt Nam, Bermuda, Nam Phi, và Ireland.

Ít có ai còn sống đã cho đi nhiều hơn như thế, và chưa có ai cùng cấp tỉ phú như ông đã cho đi một cách hoàn toàn như vậy khi còn sống. Còn $1.6 tỉ nữa sẽ được đóng góp hết trước năm 2016, và Atantic Foundation sẽ đóng cửa 4 năm sau đó.

Trong khi thế giới kinh doanh đam mê tích lũy càng nhiều càng tốt, Feeney đang làm tất cả, làm thêm ngoài giờ, để có thể chết nghèo.
“People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I am happy when what I am doing is helping people and unhappy when what I am doing isn’t helping people”.

(Dịch từ Forbes 30th Anniversary Special Issue, 2012)

Đọc thêm tại:

No beer for Pho in Malaysia

WTF? Beer here costs 9RMB (small) or 19RMB(big) – in dollar term thats $3 for a small beer and close to $7 for a big beer. And that’s just on the street, for street food. I can’t imagine how much it would cost at the airport here.

(actual car license plate hehe)

Last night was Earth hour – they turned off the lights from all the big buildings. But then there was a lot of fireworks…polluting the air. Not sure how that works.

Today I am going to try to find a Arowana shop around Medan Tuanku. Malaysia is where all the RTB (and Golden Crossback arowana are from. I am going stare at them for a while, take a few pictures, then go drink a beer.

Back to Nammer and a word about Yahoo

It took Yahoo exactly 9 months to figure out that I was not a bad person – the bad person who was responsible for whatever spamming/security problem that came from email addresses. Yahoo hosting’s customer service, almost as a direct indication of Yahoo as a slowly-but-surely dying company, was shit.

Yahoo did not admit to any wrong-doing, but they did restore my account. Nevertheless, Yahoo deleted ALL of my posts, settings, and writing…and they said they could not restore my files.

Thank fully, my friend Thao Vuong saved a bunch of my writing when she was still reading them.  So now I have a chance to re-post, re-read, and perhaps reflect on that part of my Vietnam journey, which began some 5 years ago, and figure out what to write about next….

So my Vietnam journey…continues.

This time, I will write about something else. It has been more than 7 years since I came back to Vietnam. Since I can’t write about my work – even though building companies in Vietnam can be very intersting, I am bound by several NDA’s to not disclose a lot of those details, I will write about something else I enjoy and spend much time exploring: the seafood of Vietnam 🙂

Fatty sardines from the pristine water surrounding Phu Quoc island.
Fatty sardines from the pristine water surrounding Phu Quoc island.

Not just any seafood, but local, seasonal seafood. You don’t have to get the deep-sea ocean going big fish to have a tasty meal.

Recent years, I have been saddened by how processing plants near Ba Ria, my home town, polluted our rivers. Like this case of the MSG plant’s releasing untreated sewage into Thi Vai rivers:

This one incident alone has killed off the oyster beds in Long Son island. They are now recuperating, but the Thi Vai water where it meets the sea, is not what it used to be. Even today I can’t eat them Long Son oysters raw anymore.

Oysters from Nha Trang. Central coast VN still has very nice and clean water.
Oysters from Nha Trang. Central coast VN still has very nice and clean water.

I have traveled the world and enjoyed local seafood wherever I go. The water in Japan, US, and Europe are much more protected, its fish industries much more regulated, than they are here in Vietnam.

I am not trying to raise awareness or endeavoring on a social crusade with this blog. I am simply trying to say: if you  love and respect the seafood you eat, you should look for and enjoy the local and sustainable kind simply because they are often the freshest and tastiest, and you should keep the river and ocean clean.

For now, I hope you enjoy these pictures and what I have to say about the local seafood of Vietnam 🙂

Fisherman village, Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Fisherman village, Phan Thiet, Vietnam

USC Taekwondo

To say that USC Taekwondo was a big part of my college life is an understatement.

For 5 straight years since 2001, my office was just a warehouse for TKD gear, posters, and practice schedules. Work was just a space between school (also a space sometimes) and Taekwondo. My lunch break often involved teaching Taekwondo to the neighborhood kids. 5:00 is the beginners class, when I taught. 6:30 is the advanced class, when I was taught. Then there was team practice, referee training, the demonstrations, fund-raising, the tournaments, the roadtrips with the team…

There was a brotherhood…the kind you feel when you are about to go into battles alongside with someone, facing guys who are hell-bent (and trained) to see you knocked down on the floor bleeding through all holes.

Then there were always the old-schoolers…who said the color of the blackbelt was from the blood and sweat drying on it. There were also the kids. There were the fat people from USC who we worked into shape, one push-up at a time. There are still many fat people at USC, but I’d like to think we put at least 500 of them in shape.

I’ve walked far away from that place – that time – that mindset now. But USC Taekwondo – that was home, for a long time.