Monthly Archives: June 2018

Pho Flavoured Beer

Category : Food

I know, it sounds diabolical, but there it was on the menu and I could not resist.

Pho is of course the noodle soup which is possibly the signature dish of Vietnam, and according to the label, this craft beer, made in Hanoi by Furbrew, uses light roasted malts to get the umami flavour of broth before adding the five big spices together with an infusion of red chilli.

To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this, but was pleasantly surprised. Not that I was completely convinced that it tasted of pho, which I’d already had for breakfast that day, so the flavour was fresh in my mind.

I was at a small place run by someone who’d got his big break on the Vietnamese version of MasterChef, and was eating a very interesting deconstructed banh mi. This beer, with its tagline:  ‘Untraditional. Unconventional. Unexpected.’, matched the concept behind the food very well. Although at 110,000 Vietnamese dong it cost twice the price of regular Hanoi beer, the chilli kick was great and it really complimented the herbs and pickles in the banh mi. One was enough, but I would definitely consider ordering it again.


Bamboo Straws

In these days of environmental awareness and sustainable living, there are all kinds of easy and interesting ways that anyone can make a difference.

Take these straws, handcrafted from bamboo by Vietnamese and Cambodian villagers – they not only offer a way to stop the ocean filling up with the discarded plastic version, but buying them gives new economic opportunities to women in rural backwaters. It’s a win-win situation.

Bamboo grows ridiculously quickly, so this is a source of raw material that will not run out any time soon. It is also fully biodegradable and compostable when you can’t use the straw any longer, so it will help something new to grow.

I can see that keeping the straws clean might be a problem, but the instructions are to wash with warm soapy water and leave to dry, and I expect it will be obvious when they have reached the end of their useful life.

The idea is great, and at about $1 a straw they are perfectly affordable. They do feel slightly strange in use, though, perhaps because after all this time sipping through the thin and delicate plastic version, they seem bulky and over-long. I feel sure, however, that in the interests of saving the planet this is something you can quickly get used to.


Ginseng Skin Tonic

Just a few kilometres away from the DMZ is the North Korean town of Kaesong, which is famous not only for being the sole place that switched from South to North Korea after the armistice was signed, but also for its ginseng. Something about the soil and the water supply there means that it produces a high quality crop which is much sought after.

You can buy this special ginseng and the various products made from it in other places, notably Pyongyang, but Kaesong itself is the best place to go shopping.

Face packs, candy and natural roots aside, the item which particularly caught my eye was this skin tonic, mostly because it comes with an actual ginseng root suspended in the bottle. (Spoiler alert for family members: I brought several of these home to stash away as quirky Christmas presents…)

The Koreans call ginseng the ‘elixir of life’ and make many claims as to its properties if you eat it. I can’t say I agree with any of them, as eating ginseng tends to make my nose bleed, but this skin tonic was irresistible.

Not only does it claim to maintain the moisture balance of your skin, keeping it smooth and elastic, it also apparently improves the colour and prevents your skin from aging. The product is unisex, and the instructions say to massage it into your skin with your fingers after washing or shaving.

I actually found it quite drying, although it would probably work very well for oily skin. The jury is still out on the anti-aging, so one can but hope.

At the moment, the only way of getting more seems to be to go back to North Korea. Unless of course there is a breakthrough at the summit in Singapore next week….


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