Traveling Well By Doing Good
Young urbanites, allow me to ask you something before you continue reading this article.What do you like to do the most while you are traveling?
A. Scout for Michelin stars restaurants
B. Hunt breath taking photos
C. Visit hip historical places and museums
D. Shop till you drop
E. Promote Indonesia
If your answer is E, never mind reading this article till the end..You know the best, already! But if you never thought that traveling could be so profound enough to inspire yourself and others, keep reading it. I will take your tongue tasting the genuine flavors of Vietnam, a country where motorcycles are street kings and Ca Phe Sua Da* is their Teh Botol!
I suffer a lot knowing that there are not many positive images of Indonesia coming from random friends whom I met during my travel experiences around the globe. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and terrorists in Indonesia are three main issues that were aroused during our talks. So sad, no? I swear by the name of Rendang Padang**, my country is DOPE! I want to tell as many people as I can about this, so I took a leap of faith when I decided to travel with friends to Vietnam, not only to conduct a food pilgrimage, but also to introduce the beautiful Indonesia to local residents of Hanoi. I asked my local friend about this idea, and she was really excited.
So here we were..Summer time, 70 km away from Hanoi, in a suburb neighborhood. A small alley with convoluted electricity cables hanging 50 cm just above your head, dusty road, and stray dogs welcoming us. I saw a beautiful fence made from beige bricks resemble like bee hives pattern, and fortunately, we will be having lunch there. The house resembles a traditional house with teakwood pillars, beautiful carving, and intricate ornaments. Awesome!
Our local host is a warm hearted couple. He used to be one of respectable general during Vietnam War and his wife is a beautiful school teacher who cooked the most authentic northern Vietnam cuisines for all of us. I never seen or ate those foods before, even though it was my third time visiting Vietnam. I guess, home-made cooking is simply the best of all. With attendance from several members of Hanoi Kids Tour, we sat on the floor covered by old newspaper, somehow I wonder why they didn’t use banana leaves like we always use in Indonesia, but well..different culture defines how we sit on the floor, right?
Foods were served starting from appetizers, main course, and desserts. Simple, yet provocative!
For appetizer, there was Banh Duc, a rice cake with peanut, served with sugar cane sauce. Rice is soaked in water for 2-3 days, it was dried well, then milled to become powder. A small amount of lime water was poured into rice powder to make it gristly and sticky. The texture was kind of crisp chewy but not sticky, with a sweet after taste. Then, we had Nom Bo Kho, a mixed salad of chopped carrot, green papaya with a perfect concoction of lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, lemongrass and chili.
Thin sliced dried-beef tossed over the mixture. The taste balanced so well in my mouth, with a mixture of crispy and soft textures of vegetables with a meaty taste.
We moved on to main courses, starting from Oc Chuoi Dau: a kind of food that is considered as tonic, with a mixture of some special fresh vegetables which is good for health. This combination of snails, tofu and green banana with a subtle yellow broth really did taste great with rice noodles or hot steam rice. My favorite, already – somehow the green banana did an overwhelming pairing with snails. Brilliant! Besides the snails, we had Pho Cuon: rice paper to roll the sautéed beef, bean sprouts and fresh vegetables. dip it in fish sauce which we enjoyed so much. It was so refreshing to consume lots of greenies in our Vietnamese diet. Vietnam has enormous collection of vegetables with distinctive fragrances that after you eat all of those, you feel like you want to kiss 1.000 men with confidence!
For dessert, we had this simple Banh Tro, a soaked sticky rice in fresh ash water for 1 day. Banh tro is un-salted so it is necessary to dip in honey or sugar-cane sauce for a divine taste.After completing a slow lunch, it was our show time! 3 groups presented different theme of Indonesia, starting from the food, textile, and tourism site. The first group presented fermented soy bean cake, called Tempeh and they also brought several samples of edible tempeh product for tasting. It was incredible to see local audience’s face when they listened how tempeh was made and its nutritional facts. The next group also did a magnificent presentation about Indonesian textile, batik. They brought several batik fabrics with different patterns to elaborate the philosophical meaning and its function. Our batik is so stunning even our audience was in deep awe when they touched the fabric material.Last but not least, another group presented Bangka and Belitung island as one of Indonesian main tourism attractions. These islands which located in Sumatra, have attracted so many travelers because of their white sand beaches, gorgeous rocks formation, and delectable cuisine.We were so proud to introduce a glimpse of Indonesia to these locals, exchanging local values and cultures over good foods. It was a small informal gathering made of genuine heart, sincerity, and curiosity through acquired taste of food yet we managed to embrace wisdom in traveling.
We did an amazing travel by enjoying great foods but at the same time we did good and we felt good too.You can do the same way like I did! I challenge you to be a participatory traveler by not only enjoying sightseeing or consuming heavy dose of hedonism during your travel. Bring postcards of Indonesia, Indonesian CD music, or even Indonesian small snacks. Hand it over to random people whom you have met during your travel, it can be your concierge, hotel reception, taxi driver, tour guide, waiter, or your holiday romance partner..You might be surprised how small actions can bring big impact towards your life.
Ca Phe Sua Da = Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk
Rendang Padang= West Sumatra spicy caramelized beef