Saturday, February 28

On the run to Vietnam! Well almost for a day!

'And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.' - Paul Coelho

For me, this quote always seemed way too far-fetched, unimaginable and almost too corny to be true. Until, something intriguing happened to me this month.

Here, I was at the crack dawn of yet another New Year, trying so hard to keep up my motivation levels with regard to my fitness routine. I knew I had to fit in a dedicated time all for my own well-being. But the problem you see is that post motherhood (add to that, the luxury of being a SAHM), you tend to take yourself for granted and slip into a 'comfort zone'. I wanted to escape that uncomfortable 'comfort' zone and focus on myself too (A-Ha!) this year.

Well, January flew by pretty satisfactorily. I was doing pretty okay with the resolutions I had in my mind for the year. The problem with the fitness resolution was that I wasn't really motivated about it as I was in the past. And I was cheating myself a couple of days here and there. But I so badly wanted to stay on track and run on as many days I could.

And then something wonderful happened. As a mother of a kindergarten child, its pretty normal to be surrounded by a circle of fellow mommies. Nea's best friend is a Vietnamese girl. And they just click so well with an amazingly smooth chemistry. Their friendship is maddeningly sweet, endearing and loving. 100% BFF material. Needless to add, the Mums in question were curious to know one another. One day, Nea's BFF's Mum walked up to me and quipped - 'Oh you are Nadine's Mum?' And I replied 'Yes'. Together, we were delighted to meet another as well. She added, 'We should meet more often - maybe the kids can play after school'. I was happy that we both were on the same page.

We catch up at the park after school some days or at each other's place at times. We bonded as well as our kids did. For a nearing 50 year old, I admired her youthful and independent spirit. She dressed in shorts, sexy dresses and drove her car like a dude. I admired and related to her unmistakable Oriental brand of practical wisdom. I admired how she tackled her home duties (she lives with her husband and 4 kids) and still made time to volunteer at church. She is a part of  the church choir and goes for regular practice 2-3 times a week.  I found her every bit as endearing as much as my daughter found hers. While she would hang out so fabulously with an 'early thirties-something' me, the 'nearly 50' in her would sneak in stealthily, in-between with motherly advice galore. It's an irresistibly delicious combination.

One fine February day this year, she asked me if there was a gym in my community. And I answered in the affirmative. She asked me if we could go together. And here I was standing right in front of my 'Universe's conspiracy'. To our pride and delight, we have been super regular with our workout routine. All of a sudden, running like sweaty pigs is a delightful thing to do... again. What a joyous feeling for both of us!

Another joyous thing was the very novel (for me atleast) Vietnamese style lunch which she whipped up in her kitchen and served me. It was my first experience and it was exceptional on many levels.

The first entrée was Bánh cuốn - a refreshingly light, sweet and tangy medley of  steamed rolled rice wanton stuffed with ground pork and mushrooms, pork meatloaf, crispy fritters stuffed with bean sprouts served with a side of veggies and dipping sauce.










The next entrée, Bún riêu  was way more complex and fiercely intense in its taste. While I lapped up readily and relished every forkful of Bánh cuốn, this soup preparation, Bún riêu  took me a few concentrated and mindful spoons to acquire taste.  What made the whole experience exhilarating was that this soup was prepared right from the scratch in front of my eyes. Talk of a free specialty cooking class! Hmm ...


Now,  Bún riêu  is essentially a tomato and pork neck broth simmered for hours, infused in various fresh herbs, minimal spices and a generous dollop of ground pork, crab paste, shrimp paste and fish sauce. Add to that some sugar and salt and serve it on a bed of serenely-sparkly white steamed vermicelli rice noodles. And  Voila, you have one 'blast of crazy flavors in your mouth' dish ready to be gulped down. As I write this, I find myself yearning for crazily complex Bún riêu  even more.

She tells me these two preparations  are very popular signature Vietnamese dishes. I do not doubt her there one bit. My tongue and belly approve and stand as testifying witnesses.

So, there I've been or rather gone from running on the threadmill burning away calories to running on a gastronomical journey to Vietnam.

Worth it? You bet!

'Universe's conspiracy! I humbly bow down and salute you!'

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