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Friday, October 25: Day 186 – Streets International

StreetsInternational.com is a restaurant training program for students who would never have the opportunity to have skills, a career, and the chance to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

These students are gathering skills to work in hospitality. We are here to go to the fresh market and learn about local fruits and vegetables and herbs and spices. When we return, we will learn how to make rice noodles. Their restaurant is called Oodles of Noodles.

There are five different types of noodles.

And from us, they want to practice their English skills. Our guide is a young man named Fu. We went to three places to try three different types of noodles. Cao lầu is a type of noodle only made in Hoi An.

Planterra, the company started by G Adventures, is partnered with the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE). They are determined to have travel be a force for good.

Streets International (I love the name!) noticed that the English skills of the cooks in the back of the house were not advancing like those who were interacting with the travelers in the front of the house. They decided to have the cooks conduct the tours. Fu, which means king, is a cook.

We were talking about floods, and he did not understand. I figured out that he knew what a flood was but pronounced it like it rhymes with food. I get that!!

The fresh market is a visual and aromatic experience.

Dragon fruit is new to me. There are two types: one is white inside and the other is pink. Both have black seeds that resemble sesame seeds. One can know about the inside from looking at the outside.

White is pink outside with long straight “tongues”. The pink is red outside with many short curvy “tongues”.

A Vietnamese orange is green on the outside and orange on the inside.

Papaya is a vegetable but is sold as a fruit. They eat persimmons by cutting them in half and spoon out the inside.

Next are herbs and spices which they refer to as condiments.

Not only is turmeric a spice related to the ginger family, it can be used to treat acne.

Anchovy fish are important especially for fish sauce. The sauce lasts only six months. The anchovies are first washed with rock salt to clean.

Hoi An chili sauce is a specialty. Lemongrass is used for poultry marinade.

Whenever there is an optional activity, Rob and I are the first to raise our hands. We’re in!!!

Today was a bike ride through the outlying areas of Hoi An. We want to see as much as possible.

Zoom Zoom was our guide and had a great energy. He said that he was like chili – small but spicy. Both Law and Zoom Zoom are extroverts with a serving leadership mentality.

Our first stop was a Buddhist temple and cemetery.

There we saw rock bonzai trees with roots that embrace the rock. The older the bonsai is, the more expensive. Most are the banyon tree.

The latest sold to a Japanese businessman for 1.3 million dollars. This is the most that anyone has paid for a bonsai to date. It is not unusual for a bonsai to be stolen and sold on the black market.

We saw water buffalo in the fields. Law said that people learned from the water buffalo about getting beautiful skin by taking mud baths. Am I missing something here? I sure don’t want my skin to resemble a water buffalo!!

Apparently, they also have a quirky sense of humor…or at least his owner does!

Le Van Se is 97 years old and is living history.

He was in the prison for two years during the French colonial times. He and his wife, who died last year, were featured in National Geographic. The photographer was Réhahn. He is very famous and just finished a project documenting the 54 people groups in Vietnam.

Famous Photograph

Se is a farmer, and he told us that his best crop is Thai Basil. It produces a good smell. He has one great-great-grandchild that is three months old.

The young are kind and respectful to the elderly. They go out of their way to greet them and share some moments and good words.

Here is one of his grandchildren working in his vegetable gardens.

They are immaculate. Each row is about three feet and grows a different crop. This space allows them to get in between to hoe, weed, and water.

All of the crops are organic as they use river water and no chemicals.

Crops that I didn’t know are morning glory and water spinach. Sweet potato is grown, and they even eat the leaves. The leaves of regular potatoes are poisonous.

Lemongrass is planted around the gardens because snakes and mosquitos will stay away.

Tamarind and starfish are used in seafood.

The sky is getting dark so we jumped on our bikes to beat the rain. Too late.

We were soaked and ended our bike ride by boarding a boat. We were wet for so long that my fingers got wrinkled!

It was so Vietnam to experience “the rainy season”.

We went to a very informative folklore museum in Hoi An. Not only did we see fishing, irrigation and calligraphy techniques, we learned about silk production.

The silkworm eats only mulberry leaves.

Here is how one can tell if silk is real…but I wouldn’t try it in the store!!

When real silk is burned, it smells like burned hair. When cotton is burned, it smells like burned wood or paper. And silk scarves made from plastic smell like burned plastic…even though the label said 100% silk.

The first step is to unravel the silk cocoons by boiling one, two or three hours. There are three types of silk that get progressively softer.

This is the first that we have heard about a silk searoad. Here is a map of the Maritime sea routes.

Other things that we saw in the folklore museum were musical instruments called tocsin which is a bell and a monochord, a one stringed instrument. The dan bau or monochord is a unique traditional stringed instrument of Vietnam.

I especially liked this scarecrow!

Many visitors to Hoi An take advantage of getting a tailor-made outfit. They take your measurements and have it ready the following day. Here is Rob picking out his shirt fabric. I told him that he looked like he was dancing…with a very tall woman.

They can even mail your purchase home or anything else that you want to mail. Hmmm. Rob decided that we should mail some items home that we weren’t using.

We signed up for a cooking class. Law was determined that the chef himself be our teacher so he met us at the Green Mango. It was a little intimidating but very informative.

We were to select a menu option that we thought that we could find ingredients to prepare at home. Hmm. We were a group of four and this was our choice. (Doesn’t it make you wonder what we didn’t choose???)

  • Green Mango Salad with Squid
  • Smoked Duck Rolls
  • Smoked Pork in Banana Leaf
  • Coconut Chicken Soup
  • Red Sticky Rice

I wasn’t crazy about making the squid, but he showed us how to make it by “tempering”. It was tender and fabulous!