Canadian Life (Or 350 Years Of Chambly)

So, I have been in Canada now for around two weeks. In this time, I have managed to only post on here once. I know I have the excuse of moving countries but that excuse is wearing thin and I am disappointed in myself for not posting here more regularly. Luckily, Marta’s Mum has decided to become our unofficial tour guide for Chambly and the surrounding areas so I have been on a few adventures already.

The first (and the one I am going to write about today) was an art festival to celebrate 350 years of Chambly being settled. The city of Chambly is located south-east of Montreal and is located in Quebec. It is famous because of the strategic location it holds along the Richelieu River. Chambly has a fort, built to defend this important location against the English, and local tribes. Today, the fort is run by Parks Canada.

Fort Chambly (Photo Courtesy of Marta at Down From The Door)
Fort Chambly (Photo Courtesy of Marta at Down From The Door)

Now our short history lesson is over, I can talk about the art event itself. There were over sixty stalls for artists from the local area (who had been carefully selected) to display their work. These stalls were located just outside of the fort and provided a sensory-overload for the eyes. There was a huge variety of styles, colour and mediums for the thousands of spectators to browse.

As part of the requirements for participating in the show, the artists would have to work on something in their stall. Watching the various artists working on a wide range of pieces was extremely interesting and informative for me (as I know very little about art).

An Artist Working On Her Art (Photo Via Marta)
An Artist Working On Her Art (Photo Via Marta)

Perhaps the most exciting part of the whole event was that Marta’s Mum was in the show. She exhibited a range of different pieces in her fantastic and unique style and seemed to be in her element. I doubt I have ever seen someone so happy.

Some of Marta's Mum's Art. Check more out at Studio Bee.
Some of Marta’s Mum’s Art. Check more out at Studio Bee.
Some Of The Fantastic Artwork On Display
Some Of The Fantastic Artwork On Display
Marta's Mum At Her Stall (Photo's via Marta)
Marta’s Mum At Her Stall (Photo’s via Marta)

If you end up in the Chambly area around late August, the art show (that I am told happens every year) is well worth a visit!

As well as the art, they also featured a large number of historical re-enactors showing the public what life would have been like in the 17th Century. Much of the remainder of this post will be a series of pictures (all taken by Marta) showing the re-enactors with some explanation to what they were doing. Sorry if I don’t provide much information but they were explaining everything in French so I understood basically nothing.

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Finally, with our eyes overwhelmed and minds exhausted, we headed home. But not before Marta got me to try some poutine This is a dish that originated in Quebec and that is deliciously simple. Made up of chips, cheese curds and gravy, this is a dish that you have to try if you get the chance. Bonus points if you can do it in Quebec, where Marta informs me is the best in Canada.

Poutine!
Poutine!

I’ll write again soon,

Ricky.

Going To The Cinema In Korea (Or Shut Up And Take My Money)

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I suppose you might think this a strange subject for me to write about. And it probably is. I mean, after all, who is interested in my trips to the cinema in Korea? Well, hopefully, some people out there are because going to the cinema here is quite the experience.

Continue reading “Going To The Cinema In Korea (Or Shut Up And Take My Money)”

Eating In The Hermit Kingdom: My Top Five Korean Foods You Should Try

From Visit Korea
From Visit Korea

So, you are heading to Korea. Naturally, you’ll be eating Korean food. But, after a few weeks, when the thrill of Korean barbecue has worn off, you might not know what to order. Today’s article is here to help. I am going to detail my top five Korean foods. From the humble kimbap to amazing dak galbi, join me on a culinary adventure through the Hermit Kingdom.

Continue reading “Eating In The Hermit Kingdom: My Top Five Korean Foods You Should Try”

Korean Life: Living On A Budget In Korea

I have to live on how much?
I have to live on how much?

Until recently, I had been spending (or wasting) a lot of my disposable income on…well, many things. Clothes, video games and expensive foods to name but a few. Now, however, I am on a strict budget as I am saving for my (hopeful) working visa break in Canada. But living on a strict budget has proved harder than I thought. Perhaps because I am trying to eat well at the same time. But my article today is going to cover some basic tips for living on a budget in Korea.

Continue reading “Korean Life: Living On A Budget In Korea”

Café Culture Korea: Breakfast at Travel Maker, Hongdae

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Hongdae has many things to entice people in – shops, bars, clubs, great restaurants and the only Taco Bell I have ever seen. But one of it’s lesser known locations is the Travel Maker café, located near Hongik University subway station exit three. Marta and I were first introduced to this place by our wonderful friend Jess last year. Now, we make it a point to visit every time we are in Hongdae. Why? Their amazing American style breakfasts!

Continue reading “Café Culture Korea: Breakfast at Travel Maker, Hongdae”

Don’t You Pho-get About Me (Or Cooking Class/Cu Chi Tunnels Combo Tour) – Part 2

So, in my last article I ended by telling you the menu that Marta and I had picked out (See it here if you missed it). So, without any messing around I will get stuck back into the cooking class with this article.

We started by preparing the pho. Even though it was the third dish we would eat, it took the longest time to prepare for. This was so the chicken bones and spices could simmer to make the perfect stock. Our chef and host told us that pho restaurants in Vietnam keep their spice mix a closely guarded secret.

Our pho stock bubbling away. The spices are wrapped in a towel.
Our pho stock bubbling away. The spices are wrapped in a towel.

Following on from this, we made the bahn mi. This was absolutely amazing to make, and even better to eat. As I mentioned in the last post, both Marta and I were so hungry that we failed in taking any pictures of this particular dish. But let me assure you, dear reader, that it was mouth-watering, succulent and exactly what I needed (even if I didn’t know it ). A combination of cucumber, carrot, mint, chicken (barbecued to perfection) and a sweet sauce, with just a hint of salt.

Next up, we began preparing for the salad. Our pho broth was left to boil away during this whole time so that it would be just right when it came to serving it. The salad consisted of carrots and cucumbers cut with a “fancy knife” as our chef called it. This was, in reality, a knife to give them a nice serrated edge. The dressing was a simple squeezing of cumquat juice. It made the salad equally refreshing and (with chilli) spicy.

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Finally, it was time for us to get back to the pho. We began by removing the bags of spices and the bones. We added a little more water, fish sauce and sugar to get the taste just right. Marta’s was so good, the chef even called it the best.

For the final dish, we dragged our now bloated bodies out of the chairs and back over to the workstations. Using a wok, we barbecued the banana and caramalised it with honey. Adding vanilla powder, coconut milk and salt into the pan, we created a thick sauce with which we would drizzle the banana. As the sauce thickened, we sliced the banana ready for serving. The last thing to be added was a sprinkling of sesame seeds and peanuts – this made the dish ready for serving.

After eating our deserts with now very full stomachs, the chef had one more surprise for us. One by one, he called us up to him and presented us with certificates and the recipes we had used. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start to our day.

Getting our certificates
Getting our certificates

With this done, we paid (and tipped generously – I urge you to do the same. The class is more than worth it) and got ready to go on to the Cu Chi tunnels, rubber tree farm and traditional village where they made rice paper. But, alas, you shall have to wait for my next post to hear about that.

Ricky

All photos from my amazing girlfriend Marta over at Down From The Door.

Don’t You Pho-get About Me (Or Cooking Class/Cu Chi Tunnels Combo Tour) – Part 1

When Marta and I were planning our Vietnam trip, the one thing that we both agreed strongly on (and that was suggested by many, many friends) was that we take a cookery class whilst we were there.

After undertaking some research and carefully examining our remaining money, we became worried that we just wouldn’t have enough money to do the cooking class AND the Cu Chi tunnels tour. The tour of the tunnels alone was around $40 each, and we were worried we just couldn’t justify such an expenditure. But then, our luck changed.

Marta stumbled across the HCM (Ho Chi Minh) Cooking Class. They were offering a cooking class AND a tour of the Cu Chi tunnels in one package for $69. We looked up some reviews on TripAdvisor, which sold us on it even more. A quick email later and we were booked in for the following day (even more impressive, as it was the Lunar New Year).

As the next morning arrived, Marta and I realised that we had slept through the alarms and rushed around to get ready. Luckily, our guide was ten minutes early, giving us both time to make ourselves a little more presentable. Our guide was absolutely amazing. Despite it being early in the morning, she was keen to talk to us both in English and taught us about different Vietnamese traditions.

About 30 minutes later (though it felt shorter), we arrived at the cooking class and were immediately introduced to our chef, Mr. Luong Viet Tan. The cooking class itself took place in an open-walled hut (though it was more like a banquet hall). Immediately, the chef put us at ease. He talked to us whilst lazing back in his chair. He had two restaurants in Melbourne, but his real pleasure was the farm that the hut was surrounded by (and the cooking classes he ran there). Local people had laughed at him when he first set up his organic farm and cookery class. But he knew it would succeed – his time in Melbourne had shown him what people wanted.

Our view.
Our view.

Although he didn’t make any profit here (“We just make enough to get by”, he claimed), the pride and joy in his voice was clear. He had created a little slice of paradise on Earth. The air was beautifully scented from the Thai Basil, soundtrack provided by birds and paddy hats swinging in a light breeze. The view was a simple one but clearly beautiful.

We were soon joined by a German couple and the class began. He began by showing us how he cultivated oyster mushrooms. You fill a large plastic bag with tree mulch and obscure them (in this case, with plastic sheeting) which enables the mushrooms to grow. Following this, he took us on a tour of his farm, allowing us to pick things like cucumber and basil along the way. These would be used for our dishes later.

One of the best things about taking this course was that we were allowed to choose our own menu. Marta and I chose the following:

Entrée: Special Vietnamese bread with BBQ chicken with chilli, lemongrass in special sauce (bánh mì thịt nướng)

[We were too hungry to get a picture of this]

Salad: Papaya salad with prawn (Goi Du Du)

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Main course (soup): Famous beef noodle soup (Phở bò) [We had to substitute beef for chicken to prevent the needless slaughter of animals]

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Dessert: BBQ banana with honey served with coconut milk (chuối nướng mật ong nước cốt dừa).

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Well, that is all I have time for today. Check back Wednesday for the next post in this series, in which I will finish talking about the cooking course and introduce you all to the Cu Chi tunnels.

Ricky

Note: All photos in this were taken by my girlfriend. See them and more over on her blog at Down From The Door.