Monday, September 5, 2016

Bien manger à Montréal (deuxième partie)...

It was that time again-- brushing the end of summer vacation with our now annual drive à Montreal to see my husband's family and relatives for the long weekend. See here for last year's visit. Like it is every time, the few days stay is never short of great eats. And when I say great I am mainly talking about great home-style Vietnamese cuisine! I swear I was Vietnamese in my past life-- my bestie, close friends, current husband and past relationships have been Vietnam bound and shall I say I absolutely hunger for Vietnamese food!! As my mind also swirl with bagels and French patisseries, it was my sister-in-law's lovely fruitful purple plum tree I was looking forward to ambush. And this year the firm purply beauties were abundant and super ripe for the picking! 

I just love the beautiful shapes, sizes and colours of fresh fruit displayed together!

Ultra-sweet muscat grapes cascading my sis-in-law's wired fence and up their wall.

Oh purple plums, how much do I love thee! Wait 'til I get my hot hands on you and what I'll do!

My mind is set on baking some of these lovelies.

Boxes of plump ripe plum and vine tomatoes picked up at the farmer's market for preserving and canning! Boiled whole and skinned, plum tomatoes are packed whole while the larger tomatoes are diced, packed and sealed in sterilized glass jars. A family affair for my other sis-in-law Veronique and her side of the family. Second year in the making, I am told it is a joyous time to get together, sleeves rolled up and preserving tomatoes and time together!

Noodles! Vermicelli (bun) to be exact-- is Vietnam's answer to steamed rice! Meals often replace white Jasmine rice with white thin rice noodles as the staple and swirled with several spoonfuls of nuoc mam (seasoned fish sauce). Over two and a half days we had bun (pronounced boon) at every single meal- lunch and dinner served with an assortment of meats, herbs and veggies. I'm not complaining- I love noodles and prefer it over rice any day!

One of the first meals was Vietnam's equivalent to Western chicken noodle soup. Prepared for lunch, chicken thighs were boiled to make the broth, and then its meat raked with a fork to shreds and topped in the noodle soup along with Vietnamese pork loaf (cha lua) and shredded egg omelet. It is really comforting and nourishing- simplicity at its best! It is a nice delicate alternative to the more strongly seasoned Vietnamese beef soups, and is a great soup to have on a day you don't want to eat heavy. I would say pretty light on the preparations and in your belly, but satisfying nonetheless. See my post for the recipe.

All heads down, picking up, blowing and slurping away!

A little douse of fish sauce goes a long way to elevate the natural chicken broth's flavour!

Pennywort is a grassy water loving plant that is favoured by the Vietnamese to make a refreshing herbal drink. Blended with a little honey and served cold, it is delicious as it is nutritious. Known to purify blood, relieve arthritis and cure nervous conditions. I love it!

My sis-in-law's home brew with a bunch of fresh organic pennywort
picked up at the farmer's market grown by a Vietnamese family.

Dinner with more rice vermicelli (bun), grilled beef, chicken wings and ribs, and sauteed shrimps, cauliflower and shiitakes with a side of mixed greens. We didn't forget that seasoned fish sauce to tie the flavours together.

Shredded carrots is often added in the nuoc mam for extra flavour and crunch.

Lunch the following day with a more traditional bun bowl of noodles (what you would order in a restaurant)-- meat and crunchy bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce and herbs. Sauteed shrimps in garlic along with spicy lemongrass pork were the meat offerings. Crispy golden homemade taro and meat spring rolls capped off the individual DIY dish. That's what I love about bun bowls-- take a little of this, a lot of that and make it to customize your own taste!

I was so happy that we were able to get out and about, enjoy the sun and the beautiful belle de provence in a stroll through Old Montreal (vieux Montréal).

Alas, our fourth and final meal of our Vietnamese-eating weekend and yes more bun!! My husband's cousin's extra large family (over 30 people) were celebrating the anniversary passing of their father, and we were invited! Dinner looked like this with lots of Chinese deli roasted meat, thinly sliced to be wrapped with thin pan-fried clusters of vermicelli noodles and lettuce/herbs. And served with nuoc mam but of course.

Usually noodles are served as the base of a meal or wrapped in rice paper such as in Shrimp and Pork Salad Fresh Rolls. In this meal, the thin cluster of pan-fried vermicelli topped with green onion oil serves as the exterior wrapper!

There is never enough time. Of course family comes first and our stay is always too short. I wanted to stroll down St.Catherine's street, pay a shopping visit to Simons and slowly savour a beautifully crafted patisserie. But nothing :(. Leaving on Labour Day, with five dozen sesame bagels in the trunk picked up the day before, I was trying my luck for an opened boulangerie/patisserie to make my great weekend, even greater! Just as we were about to hit the highway, I caught a glimpse of Première Moisson, an artisanal bakery chain I recognized also as I used to know a Chef who helmed one of their numerous shops. I happily grabbed a couple of muffins, croissant au amandes and an apricot danish pour moi! YUM! Jusqu'à la prochaine fois...Je reviendrai!

Première Moisson

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