Need a Guide in Burma (Myanmar)? – Look No Further

Steve and Mr. Han (in his signature hat) outside a Kachin restaurant in Bhamo, Myanmar

Steve and Mr. Han (in his signature hat) outside a Kachin restaurant in Bhamo, Myanmar

My husband and I just completed a 16-night trip to Burma. It was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime. On planes, trains, boats and cars from Yangon to Mandalay, to Mogok and Began; we experienced the beautiful people and rich culture of this land. Only because of our guide, Mr. Han, were we able to see and experience so much. It is fair to say that Mr. Han might be the most well-traveled guide for his age in all of Burma. As a child, he spent his summer holidays travelling with his father who was a lorry driver for the military. With his father, they covered every road in Burma transporting goods in every direction. For fun, Mr. Han memorized the names of all the villages they were in, in the order they visited and made note of the uniqueness of each place. With these experiences and his pride in his country, he is able to put together terrific itineraries based on personal requests and interests.
One of the things that sticks with me most about our trip is a memory of the request we made when starting to plan. I told him that I wanted to see the country and not just the touristy sites. He said to me, “I see, you don’t want to see a tourist, but you want to be one.” I loved the frankness and he was correct! I can say that, in several places on the trip, we were definitely the only western or European tourists for miles. We were told at the gem market in Mogok that we were the first Americans one man had ever seen there. We had lunch and cooking lessons in private homes and saw the relics of one of the most famous Buddhist monks in Burma.
From hiking the ice mountain outside Patao to river cruises on the Irrawaddy or Chindwin rivers to the dry lands of the temple-rich Began, Mr. Han can arrange it all for you. You will meet and support local enterprises, and villages, spread the wealth to the people in this emerging tourist destination.
One more thing to note, Mr. Han is a dedicated supporter of the National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi. If you are lucky and it is your wish, he might even be able to arrange a sighting of Burma’s most famous and dedicated servant. Mr. Han is amazing and so is the tours he provides!

Jennifer with a brief interaction wiht Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Jennifer having a brief interaction wiht Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Mr. Han Travels & Tours.
Address:No.162 /164 ,3rd Floor,Mahabandoola Road,Pazuntaung Tsp,Yangon,Myanmar.
Hot Line:+95 9 42102 3653,Tel / Fax: +95 1 9010403.
Email: mrhantravel@gmail.com or mr.han1000@gmail.com
Website: www.mrhantravels.com
www.vacationmyanmartour.com,www.myanmartravelservices.com

Wok Wednesdays: Stir-Fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions.

Stir-fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions

Stir-fried Mongolian Lamb with Scallions

This recipe comes from Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge page 90 and is part of the Wok Wednesday’s online cooking project that can be found on Facebook.
Wok Wednesdays just celebrated the 500-member mark. Congratulations!Keep on Wokkin!

Last month, I finished reading “On The Noodle Road from Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta” by Jen Lin-Liu. It was an excellent read, and I so wanted to set out on her path to expereince all the noodle. I also was intrigued with the use of lamb in the northern part of China chronicled in the book. It makes sense that lamb would be used in this region, but you don’t find lamb in a stir-fry here in Hong Kong. So, I was pleased to try this recipe.

This turned out to be such an effortless dish for me. Not always able to find things like lamb or beef in the markets here, I found it within 15 minutes and less then 1 km from my house. I also had all the ingredients for the sauce on hand, and I quickly found spring onions (which also is not always easy).

I used the Cantonese-style wok for this dish because I love how it sears meat, and it did not let me down. The sear was great on the bits of lamb. I marinated the meat about three hours with the garlic and the sauce. And, using my handy-dandy micro shredder made quick work of the spring onions.

I am pleased with just about everything that I make from SFTTSE, but this was truely an outstanding dish. The flavors of the sauce complimented the lamb. It had a bit of spice to it and the sauce was great. I served with just steamed green beans and some rice. I don’t think I want lamb any other way, except for maybe in a gyro!

Simple ingredients for Mongolian lamb prepped and ready to go!

Simple ingredients for Mongolian lamb prepped and ready to go!

Wok Wednesdays- BBQ Pork Lo Mein and Catch Up

BBQ Pork Lo Mein...Delicious!

BBQ Pork Lo Mein…Delicious!

It has been a while since I have been able to get back to my wok in Hong Kong, but this last weekend I made up some time and tackled three recent recipes from the Wok Wednesdays schedule.

Barbeque Pork Lo Mein was a quick and easy dish that delivered great taste. This recipe comes from Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge page 273 and is part of the Wok Wednesday’s online cooking project that can be found on Facebook.

I purchased my BBQ pork at the barbeques stall near my house in the Central wet market. I also made BBQ pork from Grace’s recips in SFSE page 285. My version was not quite as good as that purchased, but not back for a first attempt. This is a simple stir-fry and a quick meal.

Choi Sum

Choi Sum


Choi Sum is a dark leafy green available all year in Hong Kong wet markets. I have always prepared choi sum steamed and with a little bit of vinegar, just like a spinach. This recipe from SSFE page 196 is excellent. The oyster sauce really enhances the flavor. You may find choi sum in US markets named Yau Choi. Same vegetable.
fresh Choi Sum

fresh Choi Sum

Southwest Roadtrip

My Driver

My Driver

Being confined in a boot, unable to drive and directed to stay off my feet is frustrating. I am trying my best but by the end of the week, a girl has to get out of the house. So, I got my driver to take me on a Southwest road trip.

Southwest desert straight roads

Southwest desert straight roads

Phoenix to Las Cruces, New Mexican was the plan. Getting out on roads that we have not traveled before and eating really good New Mexican food…red and green chile. Also experienced the best pozole I have ever eaten!

Possibly the best pozole I have ever eaten from

Possibly the best pozole I have ever eaten from Luchador in Las Cruces, NM. Also, cool invention of “holey” plate to serve the soup!

Luchador food truck at Las Cruces Saturday Farmer's Market

Luchador food truck at Las Cruces Saturday Farmer’s Market

We arrived in Las Cruces late in the day and took a quick trip to Mesilla. Light was beautiful and the public square is very sweet with the Basilica and Mary watching over all.

Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla, NM

Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla, NM


Mary against a beautiful sky.

Mary against a beautiful sky.

The Kitchen God

Kitchen God for the Year of the Horse

Kitchen God for the Year of the Horse


As the year of the snake comes to a close, and preparations for the new year are in full swing, it is time to pay special attention to a very important member of the Chinese home, the Kitchen God.

The Kitchen God lives close to the stove or hearth in each home. Usually in the form of red and gold sign of his name or in a photo, his purpose is to observe the health of the family throughout the year and return to the Jade Emperor to report what has been said and done in the household over the past year. He is one of the most worshiped and respected of all gods that protect the home and family. Additionally, he can inspire the cook to make healthy and flavorful food for the family throughout the year.

Before the Kitchen God returns to heaven to make his report, offerings of liquor and delectable foods are offered to make him happy and maybe a bit tipsy. Additionally just prior to his return on New Year’s eve, his lips are smeared with honey to “sweeten” his words or to stick his lips together so he cannot report. The effigy is then burned, and a new one is put in its place. If you are lucky enough to have a statue of the Kitchen God, it is removed and cleaned to begin a new cycle.

My kitchen god is in Hong Kong awaiting my return. He oversaw my purchase and seasoning of two good and trusty woks that prepared many a delicious dish. He also inspired my cooking and kept all who entered our home well-fed and happy.

The Kitchen God has been invited into our Phoenix home, and he will preside over the health and happiness if this place. Also, a new flat-bottomed wok found is way here just in time to cook for the beginning of the year of the horse.

When Life Gives You Lemons…….

AZ Lemon Tree

AZ Lemon Tree

Life is rough here in Arizona. We are enjoying a beautiful stretch of weather with crisp mornings, warm days and cool evenings and a bounty of citrus. Citrus in the form of grapefruit, oranges and a plethora of lemons. The lemons came in two forms; actual lemons and a stubborn foot injury.
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I am nursing an injury that I sustained in Hong Kong in October. All those hills and stairs and exercise resulted in a stress fracture turned full-on fracture in my right foot; second metatarsal fracture to be exact. Being tough and not believing that there could be anything wrong exacerbated the situation. So now I am sporting a lovely boot and a bone stimulating device for the next several months. This injury has put a wrench in my plans. No driving, no walking and no running (maybe ever again).

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We extended our stay in the U.S. for a month to deal with doctors and insurance companies. Both Steve and I will return to Hong Kong the first week of February. Until then, I am making lemon bars, preserved lemons, whiskey sours, lemon creams, candied lemon rind, lemon dressing, lemon chicken AND a whole lot of lemonade.

Wok Wednesdays- Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms

Some of the ingredients for Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge page 212

Some of the ingredients for Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge page 212

I’ve mentioned my friend, Ari, in Minneapolis that makes us sambal bajek and sends it to us so we will never be out of supply. She is a wonderful cook, and we were regularly treated to her Indonesian specialties while we were neighbors. Sometimes these dishes awaited us, hot on the counter, when we arrived home from work or a long trip. Long beans was one of our favorite dishes.

I looked forward to making this dish from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. You can find the recipe on page 212. If you have not bought this book and you are interested in the techniques of stir-frying, go get the book!

I see long beans year round in the wet makets of Hong Kong. Long beans grow well in southern China. Not exactly a green bean as we know it in the US. It does grow to about 18 inches which is a little short of the other name we know, yard-long beans. It has a softer texture than a more common green bean.

One other intriguing ingredient in this dish is the Chinese sausages. They are plentiful in the dry markets in Hong Kong. They come in a variety of textures. Some are made from duck liver and have a blue color. Some are very dry and there are also fresh varieties. I chose a dried, smoked but not-too-dry option.

Chinese sausage ready for the wok

Chinese sausage ready for the wok

Wow! Talk about comfort food! The sausage was so flavorful. Just a little sweet but tender and moist. The pork mince is very satisfying. We both just loved this. All the flavor and the crunch. I could not find Sichuan preserved vegetables, just preserved vegetables. So, I added sichuan pepper corns with the pork mince. It added the spicy flavor that we like.

Yummy! This was a great tummy satisfying dish!
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Yummy! This is a tummy satisfying dish!

This is a winner of a recipe, but maybe just once a year in our house. Definately not in the Weight Watchers recipe category.

A Long, Hot and Sticky Summer With A Fun End That Was Still Hot and Sticky

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThings have finally returned to what is now normal for us in Hong Kong. After five weeks of geographical separation (for Steve and me), three weeks of touring Kam around China, Vietnam and Hong Kong and typhoon Usagi, Steve left for his regular commute to Shenzhen and I settled down to plow through the hundres of photos taken over the summer.

It has been a very hot summer. During the month of August andwhile I was in the US, Steve reported very wet and humid weather. It continued to be hot and humid in September, but we did not have near the reported rain. As much as I wanted to, we had headed out every morning only to return sweat-drenched and thankful for air conditioning.

We did not waste any time when Kam arrived and set out to tackle a fairly long list of activites:¬†Disneyland; Danang, Vietnam; egg tarts; Hue, Vietnam; Celestial Lady Pagoda on the picturesque Perfume River in Hue; vegetarian lunch with the monk; ghost city of Vietnam; visit to schools in Vietnam; sunrise at China Beach; Long’s coffee; a visit to “my school” for Lantern Festival; Ocean Park roller coasters; pandas, egg tarts; monkeys; Sham Shui Po; the Great Wall; Forbidden City; the best breakfast ever in Vietnam for $1.75 USD; Lama Temple; egg tarts; planes; trains; taxis; great Chinese food in Beijing; watching a “foreigner” eat a roasted spider;shopping in Lo Wu; Dum Sum lunch; meeting the all the ladies; mahjong; winning in Macau; eating as much as we could; a trip to The Peak; Star Ferry; hydro ferry ;Fernando’s; really bad air in Beijing; Ozone bar on the 118th floor; Peking Duck; Tiananmen Square; the gate of heavely peace; finding Kam’s “favorite restaurant in the world”.

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Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees

Near Sham Shui Po in Kowloon Monkeys in the trees

 

Panda at Ocean Park

Panda at Ocean Park

By the way, egg tarts were a hugh hit with Kam. She ate them in several places, including the elevator. Her verdict on who has the best…..Tai Cheong Bakery on Lyndhurst Terrace in Hong Kong. She picked them for the buttery crust. I prefer the egg tarts from Macau at Margaret e Nata alley cafe. I love the flaky crust and the carmelized custard top.

Kam's favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery

Kam’s favorite egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery

Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau

Enjoying egg tarts and OJ at Margaret e Nata cafe in Macau

On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam

On the 7th Level of Celestial Lady Pagoda, Vietnam

The photo above shows Kam in the window of the 7th Level at the Celestial Lady Pagoda. This was a rare treat for a vistor. We were allowed to climb all seven levels of the pagoda. the top was about 2X3 feet with this small window. It was a very lucky experience for us thanks to our friend Duong in Vietnam and the kindness and interest of the senior monk. We also were invited to lunch.

 

 

Snakes and Dengue Fever….Oh My!

City, clouds and jungle

City, clouds and jungle

We have lived in Hong Kong now for 10 months. A day rarely passes that I don’t marvel at the reality of living here. With social media and FaceTime, my bouts of homesickness are infrequent and mostly centers around the missing of my daughter. Otherwise, I am very happy living in Hong Kong and having this experience.

When you make a move like this to a place that is so very different from where you have ever lived, I think you block out the things that have the potential to scare you or make you worry. Seeing unpleasant sights in the markets, the reality of getting shots for dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and large spiders top my list.

Last week I had a dose of reality. While playing mahjong with friends that have lived in Hong Kong for many years the subject of snakes, specifically cobras, came up. I balked at the idea of a cobra being outside a zoo and within a hundred miles of me. I had seen a snake or two, three or four in the markets, but not a cobra and not outside of a cage. Of course I am not in denile of the fact that jungles do contain snakes, I just did not want to think about them. Yet,my friends insisted that there were cobras in Hong Kong and several other deadly snakes.

The next morning, I did a search of the South China Morning Post archives and low and behol,d I found many and recent articles on the numbers of snakes living in and around Hong Kong. And yes, cobras topped the list. The only comfort that I found was that most of the snakes that are dangerous don’t live in the dense jungle and hilly area that I frequent. They like the flats and near the water.

The second reality for me was also delivered by the South China Morning Post last week. Because we have had  well-above-average rainfall this year, there is a major outbreak of Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis due to the high numbers of misquitos.

Even though these diseases seemed so very out of reach for me, I am glad I got the entire series of recommended shots for living in Hong Kong, which included Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis. Now I guess I better start carrying a snake-bite kit! Do they make those for cobras?