Friday, May 31, 2013

Scrambled Duck Egg with Maine Lobster and Vegetables (serves 2)

Yesterday I visited my local Farmer's Market in Exeter, NH.  The weather was perfect, warm and sunny.  The market was busy with many locals shopping for food.  I wish I had time to stay longer and talk to each and every farmer.  Fortunately I had time to meet a few and those I met were very inspiring.  There are fewer and fewer farmers in the United States these days.  It's always great to meet young farmers who are very enthusiastic in what they do.  Farm work is not easy.  I remember watching my maternal grandfather and my father farm the land as I was growing up in Vietnam. It was a lot of hard labor. 

I met Sherri, owner of Cracked an Egg Farm in Barrington, NH.  It is a family run farm and she basically raises the farm animals herself.  She makes her job sounds easy but I know it's a lot of hard work.  Her farm offers fresh farm meat, fresh eggs and goat milk products.  The farm meat includes geese, chickens, ducks, turkeys, quails, rabbit, lamb, pork, beef and goat.  All the animals are grass fed and grain fed and free range.  If you have never eaten some of these meats before it is time to visit Sherri. Sherri told me that she will have fresh goat meat available sometime next week!!

Sherri, owner of Cracked an Egg Farm
Josh is a farmer and manager of Meadow's Mirth Farm in Stratham, NH.  You can pretty much guarantee that he will be working on the land almost daily except when he is selling his products at the farmer's market!  He has all sorts of fresh green vegetables.  I purchased the beautiful garlic chives from him. He said in about 2 weeks he will have the garlic capers!  If you have never had this before you should go see Josh in 2 weeks and check them out!!  Thank you Josh and Sherri!  Please support our farmers and buy locally!  

Josh and his coworker--Meadow's Mirth Farm
(the garlic chives are directly in front of Josh's abdomen)
Scrambled Duck Egg with Maine Lobster and Vegetables (serves 2)

(Makes 2 portions)


2 large duck eggs
1/2 C 2 % milk (or any type you have available)
1/8 tsp salt
2 small lobsters, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp chopped Vidalia or sweet onion
1 C chopped garlic chives
2/3 C sliced baby bella mushrooms
10 grape tomatoes, halves
4 Tbsp olive oil


1) In a medium size bowl, whisk the eggs lightly.  Add milk and salt.  Mix until well blended.  Set aside.
2) Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot, add 2 Tbsp of onion and 1/2 C of garlic chives.  Sauté for about 30 seconds.
3) Add 1 lobster meat, 1/3 C mushrooms, and 5 grape tomatoes.  Sauté about 1-2 minutes.  Add 1 Tbsp of oil in the pan.
4) Stir in half of the duck egg/milk/salt mixture into the pan.
5) Take a spatula and gently push the sides in and gently stir the contents.  Once all the egg mixture is just cooked take the pan off the heat.  Serve hot.  Repeat the process for the second batch.  You may serve it with toast if interested.

*Garlic chives are the garlic leaves.  They have a mild garlicky taste.  The leaves are blade-like and are slightly tougher than scallions.  My father grows them in Maine.  He makes a tasty dish by sautéing these garlic chives with Maine lobster.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shark Kebabs (serves 2)

I received an email message from my former co-worker and friend Cathryn saying that she and her husband Ralph have a shark in their refrigerator for me.  When I heard this I was very excited.  As my husband and I drove to their house I started to wonder if it is a piece or a whole shark.  I was very relieved to get a piece of about 2 to 3 pounds of meat in a bag and not a whole fish!  Thank you Cathryn and Ralph for the tasty and juicy shark!!

If you are interested in deep sea fishing with an expert sea captain you can charter a boat out of Seabrook, NH.  Check them out if you are interested in fishing or ever wonder what it's like to own your own boat for a day:  Captain Ralph is a former fisherman here in NH and is an expert in fishing.  He knows the water well and will guide you to your catch on Melanie Jeanne charters.  Be prepared because you may bring home Jaws!!

Shark Kebabs (serves 2)


1 1/3 to 1 1/2 lb shark meat, cut into 2 inch cubes
10 sprigs of young fresh thyme, leaves removed (yield about 1 T of leaves)
5 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more just before grilling)
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp rice wine
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp salt (plus more to sprinkle after grilling)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
1 large bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-2 inch squares
1 Vidalia or any sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
8 Baby bella mushrooms, wiped clean and cut the ends off
8 Grape tomatoes
4 skewers


1) May use any skewers.  If using bamboo skewers be sure to soak them in water for about 1/2 hour.
2) In a small bowl mix thyme, garlic, oil, lime juice, wine, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar together.  Pour this sauce over the shark and mix well.  Marinade for about 10 minutes.
3) In the meantime heat the grill over medium until the temperature is about 350 degrees F.
4) Skewer the meat and vegetables according to your preference.  Drizzle a little olive oil on the completed skewers right before grilling.
5) Grill the skewers for about 12-14 minutes or until the meat is cooked.  Rotate the skewers about every 3 minutes.

*You can use another skewer or toothpick to spear through the meat.  If there is no resistance then the meat is cooked.  Avoid overcooking the shark meat since it will be dry.  The perfectly cooked shark meat will be very moist.  Shark tastes similar to sword fish.

Steamed Red Choy (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)

fresh and tasty!
steamed red choy is excellent with
shark kebabs and garlic bread!!
I went to Exeter Farmer's Market today and the place was full of people shopping for their dinner. At least I know I was!  There was an amazing selection of fresh and organic produce; farm raised duck/chicken eggs, duck, chicken, pork, beef, rabbit, goat, cheese, honey, wine, and all sorts of vegetables and herbs.  Some vendors were selling prepared meals.  Some had flowers and potted herbs and other vegetables.  Many of the vendors present at the market were also farmers.  A great way to learn more about the food you eat is from talking to the farmers who actually grow or raise it!  Please support and buy from your local farmers!

I bought these red choy from Glenn.  He is a farmer originally from Kansas.  He has been farming here in NH for about 2 years.  He grew these organic red choy.  The leaves are red inside and green on the outside.  I have never seen these before and they were just beautiful.  Most of the bok choy that I ate in the past were white and green.  They taste similar to bok choy.  Since they are 100% organic and were just pulled from the ground make sure to wash them well in cold water.  I washed them about 4-5 times and really scrubbed the leaves and stalks well to rid them of all the sand and insect eggs.  Thank you Glenn for the tasty and fresh red choy!!

Glenn, farmer from Willow Pond Community Farm
Exeter Farmer's Market
Steamed Red Choy (serves 2 as part of a shared meal)


5 red choy
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste


1) Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot add the red choy.  Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan.
2) Turn the red choy after about 3 minutes.  Cook about 9-10 minutes or until they are wilted.
3) Sprinkle a few pinches of salt on top once they are done cooking.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sautéed Escargot with Duck Fat (appetizer serves 1 or 2 people)

Irish moss on the lime wedges per
Sarah Redmond, Marine Extension Associate 
sauteed escargot with fat duck on mozzarella cheese and crackers
Today was a beautiful day, warm and sunny.  It was a nice change after a week of cold rainy days.  I have not harvested any periwinkles and sea vegetables this season and today I feel the need to go out to the coast to search for some.  I normally go out on low tide but today my husband and I just drove out to the ocean.  Luckily I was able to harvest a small bag of periwinkles and clipped a few types of sea vegetables.  I boiled the periwinkles in water with the larger seaweed for about 5 minutes.  My husband and I removed the periwinkles from their shells and I sautéed them in duck fat that I had saved from a previous meal.  My husband got the idea to combine the sautéed escargot and mozzarella cheese to the crackers.  They came out delicious!  Great idea Paul!!  I think you should cook with me more often!  :--)

Yesterday I attended the 2013 NH Fresh and Local Seafood Kickoff.  The purpose of the event was to spread the word to the public about underutilized  species such as redfish, soft-shell lobster, hake, pollock and dogfish.  I find that it is unfortunate that some people are not aware of the lesser-known fish and how tasty they really are.  Our ocean is depleting of the popular fish and so it is time for us (consumers) to experiment and try other catch.  Just think when the first Europeans arrived to America lobsters were eaten only by the poor people.  Due to popular demand today lobsters are one of the more expensive food items on the market.  Perhaps snails and the underutilized species listed above are the lobsters of yesteryear!

Sautéed Escargot with Duck Fat (appetizer serves 1 or 2 people)


Meat from 2 1/2 C of whole periwinkles
2-3 tsp duck fat
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 tsp chopped Irish moss (sea vegetable)
1/4 tsp fish sauce
A few pinches of cayenne pepper
A few pinches of sugar
1 wedge of lime


1) Cook the periwinkles in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and let cool before removing the snails using a toothpick. Discard the shells and the thin tough flap. Keep the soft snail body.
2) Heat a small pan with fat over medium high heat.
3) Once the pan is hot add garlic and seaweed. Sauté for about 1 minute.  Avoid burning the garlic.
4) Add the snails and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
5) Add fish sauce, cayenne pepper, and sugar. Sauté for about 1 more minute.
6) Remove the contents and pour onto a plate. Drizzle with some lime juice right before serving.

periwinkles in the wild
*You can serve this dish with slices of toasted baguette, crostini or crackers.  The tiny mozzarella balls came in a container already mixed with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and flat leaf parsley; bought at our local grocer (Market Basket).  My husband cut the balls in half and put them on crackers.  He heated them in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds.
*Harvest snails and sea vegetable in clean water, away from homes.  Avoid harvesting during red tides even though the snails are not filtering sea creatures.  Only harvest what you can eat.  Clip sea vegetables with scissors so they will continue to grow.

Vivian Mae
Captain Damon explains to a group of
seafood enthusiasts all about lobstering
*I met Captain Damon Frampton, lobsterman and founder of Portsmouth Lobster Company.  He has been fishing for 25 years.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge about the fishing industry and for a tour of your boat!!  Please support and buy from our local fishermen and lobstermen!  If you are interested in buying underutilized species please seek them out.  You can also contact Captains Damon Frampton or Mike Anderson from F/V Rimrack.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Maine Lobster Truffle Salad (serves 1)

My mother gave me these cooked Maine lobster meat that I kept in the freezer.  They came in handy when I wanted a quick meal.  Although the lobsters were frozen they still tasted fresh and sweet. 

Maine Lobster Truffle Salad (serves 1)


2 cooked whole lobster meat, deveined and shelled (thawed and drained if frozen)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 chopped scallions
1 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp tartufata--mushrooms, truffles, olives (Tentazioni)
4 grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 handful of baby arugula
1 tsp of white truffle oil


1) Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a small pan over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot add the lobsters.  Turn the heat to medium, heat each side for about 1-2 minutes, partially covering the pan.
2) Remove the lobsters onto a plate.  Add the rest of olive oil, scallion and garlic to the pan.  Sauté for about 1-2 minutes.
3) Add the truffle and fish sauce to taste.  Give the pan a quick stir.  Turn off heat.  Return the lobsters back to the pan and coat the lobsters in the sauce well.
4) Place the arugula and tomatoes in a plate, add the lobsters and sauce.  Drizzle with a teaspoon of truffle oil on top and serve warm.

a perfect day for some beautiful music in the park
--Boston Public Garden, 2013
(Beltrán del Campo on sitar and
Josh Bordelon on accordion)
*Thank you Beltrán and Josh for entertaining us in the park!!
*I came across this tartufata jar when I was walking around in the South End in Boston.  Tartufata has a mixture of mushrooms, truffles, and olives.  It has a wonderful aroma.  If you enjoy eating truffles I am sure you will enjoy this.  Since I bought a jar to try I have used it numerous times for cooking.  The good thing about this is that a little goes a long way!  You can purchase a jar of tartufata at the Formaggio Kitchen South End.  They are located at 268 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, MA.  Phone:  617-350-6996.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stir-Fried Broccoli, Carrots & Sweet Mini Peppers (serves 2)

I have a friend/neighbor who is ill and cannot eat ginger or garlic.  I made this stir fried vegetables dish without these ingredients so she could eat it.  I like to eat my vegetables cooked but still crunchy. I kept the broccoli just cooked so that they will stay crunchy even when reheated.  You can blanch the broccoli in boiling water about 30 seconds to 1 minute prior to stir-frying if interested.  If they are left in the water too long they will become mushy.

Stir-Fried Broccoli, Carrots & Sweet Mini Peppers (serves 2)


1 lb of broccoli heads, cut into bite size pieces
4 oz sweet mini peppers, seeded and julienned
3 carrots, sliced
4 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce (or more if interested)
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 C water


1)  Heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat.  Add scallions and sauté for 1 minute.
2) Stir in carrots and cover the pan or wok for about 2-3 minutes or until the sliced carrots are somewhat soft.
3) Add broccoli and water, cook for about 5 minutes, partially covering the pan.
4) Uncover the pan or wok.  Add peppers, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar to the pan.  Sauté for another 2-3 minutes.

*If you want to thicken your sauce, mix about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with about 1 tablespoon of water until well blended and then add this to the stir-fry at the last minute of cooking time.
*I prefer not to eat a lot of salty food so my recipes tend to have just enough salt for my taste.  If you want your dish to be more salty then you may add more fish sauce or even salt to this. However, eating too much salt can cause many health problems such as high blood pressure.

Razor Clams in Black Bean and Ginger Sauce (serves 2)

This dish does not look so great but it is mighty tasty.  I love the taste of ginger and it adds a little bite to this dish.  You can certainly use less ginger.  

Razor Clams in Black Bean and Ginger Sauce (serves 2)


12 razor clams (about 1 3/4 lbs), scrubed and washed well in cold water
1 1/2 oz finely julienned ginger
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp black bean garlic sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)


1) Heat oil in a large cast iron pan over medium heat.
2) Add ginger and garlic, sauté for 1 minute.
3) Stir in the bean sauce, sugar and mirin until all ingredients are mixed well.
4) Add the razor clams.  Stir and lower the heat to medium low.  Cover the pot for about 5-6 minutes.
5) Uncover and stir the clams.  Cook for another 4 minutes.
6) Remove the clams onto a serving platter.  Cook and reduce the sauce down, about 5 more minutes.
7) Drizzle some of the thickened sauce onto the clams.  Serve hot with rice.

Sautéed Squid in Ginger Black Bean Garlic Sauce (serves 4 as part of a shared meal)

It's squid season again here in New Hampshire!  If you like ginger, black bean and squid then you may enjoy this recipe!  You can serve this with rice and fresh vegetables such as sliced tomato, cucumber and lettuce.

Sautéed Squid in Ginger Black Bean Garlic Sauce (serves 4 as part of a shared meal)


1 1/2 lb of prepared squid
2 oz julienned ginger
2 oz sliced shallot
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp black bean garlic sauce
2 Tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)
1/4 tsp sugar


1) Heat oil in a wok or large pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add ginger, shallot, and garlic.  Sauté for 2 minutes.
3) Stir in squid, black bean garlic sauce, mirin and sugar.  Sauté for about 5 minutes.
4) Scoop out the squid and ginger into a bowl or dish.  Let the sauce reduce for about 4-5 minutes.  Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, drizzle it on top of the squid.  Serve immediately.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Stir-Fried Chinese Chive Flowers (serves 3-4 as part of a shared meal)

I visited a Chinese market today and saw these beautiful Chinese chive flowers. My family usually stir fried these with shrimp or thinly sliced pork. Sometimes they kept it plain without any meat or seafood.  After eating so much meat lately I decided to keep this dish as simple as possible.  I enjoy eating this dish with freshly cooked rice.

Stir-Fried Chinese Chive Flowers (serves 3-4 as part of a shared meal)


12 oz Chinese chive flowers, removed the tough 1-inch base, washed, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
1 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1/2 t grated ginger
1/2 t fish sauce
1/4 t sugar


1) Heat oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat.
2) Add ginger and garlic and saute for about 1 minute.
3) Add chive flowers and saute for about 2 minutes.
4) Stir in fish sauce and sugar, saute for about 30 seconds.

*Here are a few photos that I took of tulips and other flowers that are currently in bloom in the Boston Public Garden (Boston, MA-2013).  There are a variety of tulips every spring and they attract many tourists and locals alike.  Boston Public Garden was the first botanical garden in the United States, established in 1837.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Oasis Bar (part 4)

My husband heard of a newer border crossing (a few years old) between Cambodia and Vietnam.  We had not met anyone who had crossed this border before.  We decided to brave it and gave it a try, crossing the border from Sihanoukville to Hà Tiên via a mini-bus that we arranged ourselves.  When we were half way into our trip, as we arrived in Kampot we came across heavy monsoon-like rain. After several weeks of mid 90s F weather with high humidity we were happy to have some rain, although it was more rain than I prefer.  The streets were flooded to about knee high. The ride on the mini-bus was a trip we will not quick to forget.  My husband and I were the first few passengers to be picked up. When we got in the van I noticed it was quite old, the air conditioner was weak and the seats were small--even for my somewhat small frame.  As our journey continued further the driver started to pick up more passengers and when we thought we could not possibly squeeze more people in this tiny van we were soon mistaken.  We were packed in with all of our back packs like sardines.  By then most of our bags were hanging out of the back door.  Our driver could not close the door.  He had to put a blue tarp over the bags and tied it down with ropes.  I felt as though we just traveled back in time 10 yrs. Traveling in Asia used to be like this or so I thought.  Nowadays the road is better, the vehicles have improved greatly and there is so much more competition so how did we get ourselves in this type of transportation?  Luckily the trip was not too bad--only about 3 hours long.  In the end after the other passengers were dropped off, my husband and I were the only ones left to cross the border into Hà Tiên, Vietnam. 

I was a bit nervous since not many foreigners cross into Vietnam by this border. Our driver told us with limited English that he can drop us off in Cambodia and we would walk to Vietnam and check in at the border.  He said if he does not have to drive into Vietnam he will save $20 USD.  That does not sound much money but it is a lot of money for him.  We pondered at his idea.  I guess while we were thinking he decided to give us $5 USD to help make our decision quicker...for a taxi into Hà Tiên he stated.  He advised me not to speak Vietnamese when I meet the border patrol.  He thought that I may have to pay a higher fee if I speak Vietnamese.  After he dropped us off with our bags, we walked about 20-30 feet, I looked back and he had already disappeared with his van.  We walked past many guards and gates. The interesting thing about this border area is that there were several casinos under construction.  My husband thought this is no-mans land and they have built here outside of either country. We wondered how customers can go in these casinos.  What about visas?  How do these people get back home?  Cash probably works at the border for the gamblers.  During the walk we saw very interesting people packed with loads of items in their vehicles driving into Vietnam.  After we walked quite a long way we reached a small border check.  We gave the man our passports and visas and he told us to go to the another building.  We kept walking and finally we reached a larger more official looking place with x-ray machines.  Outside one of the guards stopped and asked us in English, "do you need to change some Vietnamese money?  I know you have money!'  We smiled and politely told him "no, thank you, we were in Châu Đốc and we had some money left" and walked inside.  Inside we were told to see the men at the desk.  They gave us some forms to fill out and we had to check yes or no for illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis, diarrhea, fever and a big list of diagnoses and symptoms.  I wonder what would happened to us if we checked yes to any of those and do people truly fill these questionnaires honestly?!  After we completed our forms and paid $1 USD each medical fee we were then directed to another window. There we handed over our passports and visas and I still did not say a word.  After what seemed like eternity our passports were stamped and we were free to leave.  Outside the building one of the motorcycle taxi drivers followed us, asked us where we were going and then offered to take us to Oasis Bar in Hà Tiên  for $10. We knew from the Cambodian driver that it should cost $5 for a taxi into the city from the border.  I still did not speak Vietnamese.  I was still a bit shook up and stunned from the border crossing ordeal since I had no idea what to expect.  So I responded in English, "$5 for both of us" and kept walking. He tried to tell us $10 but I kept walking. Finally he said "ok".  Each of us got on the back of a motorcycle and the drivers rode us about 7 km into Hà Tiên.  We gave them extra money since they dropped us off safely at Oasis Bar, and we thought they had charged a fair price.  It is always a bit of an adventure to take a motorcycle taxi since you are never sure how safe the ride can be.  I don't take a motorcycle taxi often but when I don't have any other options and find myself on one I feel the need to be ready to defend my life if needed. After the drivers drove off my husband turned to me and said we were lucky to get a ride when we did since there were no other taxis or public transportation, it was getting late and it would have been a very long walk in the dark!

After we got off the motorcycles we walked into Oasis Bar.  By that time I was relieved that we made it into Vietnam safely.  We had read about this bar in Lonely Planet and thought it would be a good place to learn where to stay and what to do in town.  Oasis Bar is owned by an English expat named Andy and his Vietnamese wife.  We met Andy and learned a great deal about his life, bar and life in Hà Tiên.  He told us he has lived there for a number of years and enjoy the slow pace of village life. Oasis Bar is probably the only place in this region where you can eat an English breakfast with real sausages and English tea!  If you have been traveling in Asia for any length of time and have a craving for an authentic English breakfast and sausages then you should stop in!  I particularly like the fruit juices! Thank you Andy!!

Oasis Bar
(my husband and I met this Aussie (seen on left of photo)
who started back packing in 1971 and finally
settled in Hà Tiên in the last few years)
Andy, owner of Oasis Bar (left)
and my husband Paul (right)
typical street in Hà Tiên
view from hotel balcony
view from Mac Cuu tombs
(Mac Cuu founded Hà Tiên)
our mini-van was not this packed full
in the back but it was pretty darn close!

Phnom Penh (part 3)

Phnom Penh has seen major changes since our last trip in 2007.  There are obvious changes in the city's infrastructure.  The beautiful French colonial hotel on the riverfront we stayed in six years earlier no longer exists. There are definitely more high rises, more cars on the road and more people. We also noticed many more Western tourists and even met a few expats.  The city is growing rapidly and it's very exciting to visit such a place and witness all the development and growth.

By late afternoon we arrived at our hotel.  We quickly checked in, dropped our bags and left the room. We booked our next leg to Sihanoukville from our hotel receptionist.  When I asked the guy booking our trip if the vehicle has an air conditioner, he remarked as though I was being ridiculous to even have asked him this silly question, "Of course!  It's a brand new costing over $40,000 USD German Mercedes Madame!"  After we booked our car trip he asked if we are hungry and handed us their restaurant menu. I looked at the menu, glancing at the food description and food photos which did not appear to be too exciting or appetizing despite my hunger.  I also did not see anyone eating food which is a bad sign. When it comes to eating out I try to eat in places where I see many local people eating. We thanked him and handed him the menu.  We decided to walk to the local market and I made a few purchases.  

view from inside a tuk tuk in the congested city
interesting architecture of the local market
woman selling bananas and leaves in the market
(as a teenager my mother used to cut the leaves
from the banana grove behind
her parents' yard and sold them to the local
neighbors for extra money)
After wandering the busy streets we found a Chinese restaurant serving dim sum.  I was disappointed by the quality of seafood. Perhaps I am a bit spoiled by living on the NH seacoast and with access to plenty of fresh sea life.  

Earlier my husband read about happy hour served at the Elephant Bar located in the historic Raffles Hotel Le Royal.  The hotel was beautiful with elephant art painted on the walls.  We were pleasantly surprised that our drinks came with some tasty light snacks and we were entertained by a lovely live piano performance. Of course prior to visiting the hotel be sure to adhere to the dress code! Fortunately the staff let us in; I had flip flops, t-shirt and jeans.  

After a fabulous time at the Elephant Bar we walked through the Phnom Penh night market.  If you want to see the night crowd that's the place to be. There was a live entertainer, must be a comedian because people were laughing but we could not understanding Khmer.  In one section of the market there were stalls with people selling all sorts of goods; watches, shoes, clothing, accessories, etc. You can shop and haggle for prices until you drop! In the back there were all types of Cambodian eateries. It seemed to be popular among local families and friends; large crowds of people gathered around, sitting on mats and eating their food. There were no tables or chairs but everyone seemed to be comfortable and having a good time.

Later we passed by the Riverhouse Lounge-a restored French building remodeled in 2009 and is currently a stylish restaurant and bar. We were curious about the interior and it appeared that this place is the place to be.  The upstairs had some very loud music with lots of lights.  We made our way inside through the crowd and walked right out again.  Everyone was half our age and the music was loud and not particularly pleasant.  

Next we visited the brand-new Frangipani hotel, and its popular rooftop bar. The temperature was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and to me that was perfect to be sitting outside. We sat next to an expat couple who work for an NGO.  They appeared to be enjoying life in Phnom Penh. They were going clubbing to hear some house music after dinner and had invited us to meet them there later. Maybe 15-20 years earlier I may have re-considered the invitation.  However, I was not in the mood for house music, partly due to the fact that I was clueless to that style of music.  On our walk back to our hotel we came across Memphis Pub.  It is known to have the best Rock 'n Roll in the city. Lucky for us there was a live band and the music was exceptionally good.  Although we were tired we ended up staying longer to watch them.  Who would have thought to hear excellent Rock 'n Roll music in Cambodia?!

a few of the dim sum
dishes we ate
enjoying a drink and light snacks
at the historic hotel
the Elephant Bar
with live piano performance
Phnom Penh night market
an entertainer at the night market
view of The Riverhouse Lounge
view from the rooftop bar at Frangipani hotel
Memphis Pub
with excellent Rock 'n Roll music
The very next day we woke early and searched for breakfast in the neighborhood near our hotel.  We were scoping for local crowds in any eateries. We came across a place where there was some Chinese writing posted on top of the entrance and I recognized the food.  I immediately knew we may have found good home-style Chinese cooking.  I looked in and noticed with relief that most of the tables were taken, which to me is a good indication of good food.  I decided to speak Teochew with her and she responded that she knows a little. Lucky for her and for me, I also know a little!  We found a table with 2 seats and I went over to her and placed our order in my best Teochew.  Fortunately she understood what I wanted and brought the correct food and coffee over to us. The food was typical Chinese and it's the same food I grew up eating.  

entrance of restaurant
woman selling Chinese home-style cooking
We returned to our hotel, grabbed our day pack and sat outside our hotel in cushioned chairs waiting to flag down a tuk tuk to take us the Royal Palace. While we waited I noticed a monk in his bright orange robe and an umbrella walking bare foot down the street, stopping in each home or business to collect his daily alms of food.  This is a very common morning scene for monks in Cambodia.

Our tuk tuk took us to the palace.  We hired an English speaking guide, named Ivenum and he pointed out interesting facts and history of the palace.  The palace was constructed over a century ago and is still used by King Norodom Sihamoni.  Part of the grounds were not open to the public when we visited since the King was visiting that day.  The place has not changed much since our last visit in 2007 and the entire palace is kept amazingly spotless.  It's a beautiful and peaceful place to walk and enjoy all the detailed architecture and sculptures especially when there are few tourists.

tuk tuk
2 monks outside of the Royal Palace

Ramayana Fresco

our guide, Ivenum (wearing a red shirt
because it was Monday--
each day there is a different color)
one of the most ornate doors
on this trip
statues next to a cannonball tree
and flowers

We left the Palace and took a tuk tuk to another market known as the Russian Market that my husband had read about.  Our tuk tuk driver agreed to wait for us while we shopped.  This market has everything you can ever want to buy from food, toys, souvenirs and all sorts of items that you may or may not need!  We ended up buying a few apsara and Buddha statues. Outside the market I smelled pineapple and noticed a young girl selling them from the back of her bicycle. She was cutting the fruits and hanging them in a a clear plastic bags so people walking by can look at her beautiful work and be tempted to purchase them. The fruits looked and smelled amazingly sweet but I had to refrain myself from buying one. When it comes to buying fruits in Southeast Asia I generally buy those that I can peel myself--for sanitary reasons.  

strings of colorful
animal mobiles
indoor food market
meat on the left and vegetables on the right
young girl selling freshly
cut pineapples
beautifully cut pineapple
with amazingly sweet aroma
Once outside we found our driver and his tuk tuk waiting patiently in the crowd in the distance.  We climbed on to the tuk tuk and asked him to take us to a Khmer temple that caught our eye with all its intricate detail while en route to the market.  The temple is typical Khmer-style and we wanted to take a closer look at all the detailed work.  The buildings are very ornate with many beautiful sculptures and carvings.

view from back of the tuk tuk
(our driver was almost hit by the
guy holding some long boards)
another typical view from a tuk tuk
temple entrance

door and flip flops

Next we asked our driver to take us to a restaurant along the water.  He was unable to give us a recommendation since the restaurants there were too expensive for him.  My husband asked him where he goes and he showed him on a map.  We finally asked him to drop us off at Khmer Saravan, one of the busier restaurants.  The food was good but the writing and art from other travelers on the wall was even better!  I ate amok (a popular dish in Cambodia) which was made with curry and fish. My husband had a pad Thai.

our driver showing my husband where he
and the other tuk tuk drivers eat
interesting writing/art on the wall
"Lady!  You want tuk tuk?"
amok-a popular dish in Cambodia
(it seems that all the restaurants in Phnom Penh serve this)
With a full stomach we took a tuk tuk to Phnom Penh Museum before it closed.  We had been there in 2007 but we wanted to visit again.  There are always some history or art pieces that we have missed or had forgotten from the last visit.  My husband is a history buff and he loves to learn more about Cambodia.  I must admit the Cambodian history is quite interesting.  At one point in history Cambodia was this powerful and massive empire with land extended to what is now the Southern part of Vietnam. To this day the Cambodians refer to this region in Vietnam as Kampuchea Krom. As for me I am much more fascinated and intrigued in the architecture, construction, sculptures and gardens.

entrance of museum
beautiful courtyard of museum
apsara sculpture in courtyard

We left the museum at closing and flagged down a tuk tuk to take us to the newly opened Frangipani Royal Palace Hotel & Spa.  My husband read that there is a roof top bar with a nice view.  We were looking forward to a drink and watch the sunset.  We climbed up to the top and by then I was relieved and happy to have any cold drink! There was not much of a sunset due to the haze from burning fields (end of harvesting season) but from the top we could see all of Phnom Penh. The view in 2013 resembles more of a little city than in 2007. Despite the air pollution the view was still beautiful and we enjoyed the cool tropical breeze with our extra cold drinks!

new skyscrapers in distance
Phnom Penh waterfront
Royal Palace
waterfront at night

We left our roof top view and took a tuk tuk to find the eatery that was recommended to us by our previous tuk tuk driver.  After a long day in the tropical humid heat we were happy to sit down for some food and more cold drinks.  I was pleased to see that this place had many customers. The food was home-style, inexpensive and it hit the spot!

The next morning we visited the same little Chinese eatery from the day earlier, and ate our final breakfast in Phnom Penh before heading to Sihanoukville.  We sat in lounge chairs in front of the hotel waiting for our pick up.  I noticed a woman with cart of food coming closer to us.  It was very popular, the woman was slow traveling down the street since she stopped many times and was filling multiple orders.  Even our hotel/restaurant owners ordered food from her.  I decided to go up to cart and inspect the food.  To my surprise I recognized the food, they were Vietnamese sweet snacks!  I was delighted and bought a few containers.

Vietnamese vendors selling food from a portable cart--
typical sight in Southeast Asia
delicious Vietnamese sweet snacks
(thank you Paul for the photos)
Our minivan came to our hotel to pick us up. Our driver stopped a few times to pick up the rest of the passengers.  There were a total of 4 of us heading to Sihanoukville, the Southern coastal village in Cambodia. We had not even got out of Phnom Penh when he was stopped at a stop sign by a police officer.  The police started to make a call and our driver wanted to pay off the police.  It turns out that our driver was driving the wrong way down a one way street.  After some negotiation the police took the money and we continued on our journey.  Later when we stopped for lunch I asked our driver how much he paid for the bribe.  He smiled and responded five USD.  The local people such as our driver do not make a lot of money and paying bribes can get expensive.  Unfortunately, that's a typical way of doing business in Southeast Asia.  Lunch that day was nothing to write home about.  I had beef and noodle soup and it was mostly small pieces of bones with hardly any meat.  I left feeling hungrier than when I first sat down!

We were at about half way into our trip and I started to smell a strange odor that I cannot identify.  I thought it came from outside our vehicle so I did not say anything.  Later our driver sensed something was wrong, pulled over and opened up the van.  We all hopped out of the van and stood by the side of the road.  One of the passengers is a French lady traveling alone.  She waved to a young boy on a bicycle to come to her but he was painfully shy so he stood outside his yard.  She then went over to him and gave him a small white bag.  He put his palms together to thank her for the gift and rode off.  I asked her what was in the bag.  I thought it was candies.  She gets lots of toiletry from the hotels during her travel, toothbrushes, soaps, etc.  She would take all the toiletry given to her and then give them out to the local children.  What an excellent idea!  While we waited on the side of the road the local people looked at us with curiosity and some smiled and waved.  We must looked strange since this brand new looking van stopped on the road with what looked like engine problem. While we were standing looking at the van my husband and I simultaneously noticed that our $40,000 Mercedes is actually a Ford.  So much for being "brand new German".

waiting on the side of the road
French lady giving out toiletry kit to local boy
3 happy and well-behaved boys
in cart pushed by their father
We had no idea what was happening and the reason for stopping in the middle of nowhere.  We decided to ask one of the passengers, a young Khmer college student who to our surprise could speak relatively good English and he told us that the problem is the car battery. Apparently it was getting hot and leaking acid.  The interesting thing is the battery was partly under the driver seat and in front of my seat, next to my feet!  It was inside a black hard plastic case.  After we were waiting on the side of the road for about an hour for it to cool down we finally boarded the van and headed down the road.  I heard some noise down by my feet and my husband thought that I should move away from the battery--good idea Paul! Apparently it was spattering acid inside the case.  The last thing I need is acid eating up my feet!  Our driver was being extra cautious and started driving extremely slow. These drivers usually drive pretty fast.  He was going so slow that the French lady asked if he can speed it up, she was getting sleepy from his driving!  I laughed to myself and I wonder if our driver understood her. By the time we made it to Sihanoukville it was very dark. Our hotel (Orchidee) sent a tuk tuk to pick us up.  We ate a late dinner and sat with the hotel owner (Jan) who is a Dutch expat and had a lovely chat with him.  While we stayed at his hotel we learned more about life in Sihanoukville and Cambodia.  The most disturbing fact that he told us is the poor medical care.  It is possible for someone with no medical background to obtain a paper license to practice with $1500 USD.  It is not surprising that those who can somewhat afford anything will seek their care outside of Cambodia.  When I was in Saigon there were Cambodians who were staying at the same hotel as I was, they were there for medical care and treatments.

the sun going down and we were still far from Sihanoukville
To be continued...