Sunday, March 15, 2009

Noodle soup

I'm afraid I'm not like some people who travel to Asia and are sick of rice and noodle soup within two weeks. I rarely craved western food during my 6 months away, in fact I got so used to having a bowl of noodle soup almost every day that I'm craving it back home.

The ingredients that go into a good noodle soup are a mystery, as every establishment is different. Recreating that in my home kitchen has been an exercise in creativity. I do have a good few Asian cookbooks, most with authentic recipes, but I haven't quite got around to making up my own stock yet. So in true fusion style, I've taken a hint from each of the different recipes and had a go at my own.

First step is a good vege stock, salt free. Then add salt in the form of shrimp paste, that disgusting smelling stuff that definitely adds a certain distinctive taste to asian dishes. A bit of ginger, some chilli (that's a no brainer) and then some chopped up vegetable. I started with Chinese radish but progressed to sweet potato as the stock got low and then topped up again over a number of days. I should have added lemon grass, but forgot.

Each time I added just a little bit more of this and that, some coriander, bit more shrimp paste, some fish sauce, to try and get that taste. Some chopped up tomato seems to work well. The first few times it was somewhat bland, but I think I almost got it by the final attempt, and now I have to start from scratch again as the stock is all gone. No matter, it's now a challenge!!

What I really love about noodle soup is choosing the noodles (two minute noodles are a very poor substitute for rice noodles) and throwing in all the other greens and veges that are part of the experience when eating in a local restaurant or market. I've been using tofu as my protein, but occasionally it's a small piece of beef that I'll grill then chop up to garnish. Top with spring onion and a bit of coriander, add a bit more fish sauce or chilli depending on your personal taste, and chow in. Chopsticks and ladle of course!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Avoiding inertia

Returning home is like some amazing letdown. Nothing much has changed, someone drowned, a murder happened in the house behind mine which I blissfully slept through, but otherwise it's back to the job and the small town gossip.

"Over there" you are always on the go: packing, travelling, unpacking, packing etc, always new experiences just around the corner. But once you've done that final unpack, found somewhere to put all those purchases, handed over the gifts to loved ones and referred them back to the blog if they want to know about your trip (I'm sure there was a reason I laboured over this for 7 months?), it's then what next?? Curiously prescient with the title hey?

Well for me it's about the photography, something I've become increasingly passionate about. I'm spending my time ploughing through the 7000 plus images from this trip, finding the occasional gem amongst them and learning how to edit them. Then what to do with them?

The best way to show off your work is to display it on the internet, on a site that respects your copyright (unlike facebook) and demands a certain level of quality control. I've put the happy snaps on my picasa album, but I've now another site for selected edited works that are also available for sale. These ones are high quality - the Picasa ones are much lower quality and have all sorts of blemishes etc on them due to some pretty dirty lenses. The cards are particularly good value, and I might even do a calendar for 2010!

You can find it here

I'll be adding to the gallery as I edit more photos, so keep an eye out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Looking back

It's been a week since I returned home and it may as well be a year. I've been out windsurfing twice, with another high wind big surf day on for this afternoon, promises to be wild but fun!! I've been to the hairdresser, been to a yoga class, am back to my regular massages and have mended the tyre on the bicycle so I can start commuting.

I begin work again in a week or so, just waiting for a phone call on that one - not all that eagerly I must admit, though will only be working half time for the near future. Hazel has settled down, though it still looks suspiciously like she is guarding the door from my imminent escape, just which one of us is the more paranoid??

I've downloaded over 7000 images onto my computer and am going through the agonising job of cataloguing them into keepers and chuckers, as well as those I might do something more with. Thank goodness for good photo editting software and my friends at Pantip Plaza in Bangkok!!

I've replaced my visa card, the number of which was used fraudulently by someone somewhere in my travels. The bank picked it up straight away, so no-one has lost money, just me a bit of inconvenience. Luckily I'm a multiple card carrying member of the credit variety so a different piece of plastic got flexed for a while.

I've even looked at my finances, and reckon I spent on average $500 a week. This included air fares, visas, trekking fees, tours, souvenir purchases, as well as some topend accommodation here and there. I'd bought some USD cash back when the AUD was almost one to one, but I'd lost the advantage 3 months later when I paid for my Vietnam tours with a credit card and effectively paid 30% more than if I'd paid up in August. That's life!!

All my posted boxes have arrived safely, bar one from Laos which should be here within the next month. I am sitting looking at all that silk and wondering what the hell I'm going to make with all of it? The blanket from Sapa looks fabulous on my daybed, as do the cushion covers also bought there. The Tibetan prayer flags have been artfully hung around the verandah, all I need now is an orange robed monk and I'll be set!

The bag is unpacked and I can happily say that everything in it (aside from the medical kit) was used at least once. However some stuff was only used once, so I'd have to think carefully about whether I'd take it again. If I hadn't gone trekking, and hadn't been madly into photography, I could easily have travelled with less than five kilograms of luggage. I often wondered at what the hell some of my fellow travellers actually had in their heavy bags.

It's now time to look forwards, earn some money, get back in the black, restock the pantry, paint the house, plant some veges, and psych myself up to doing a forward loop. I've heard it hurts less if you don't wear a helmet!!!

So stay tuned for what's next!!!!