Weir Hill and Bánh Xèo

What I didn’t mention in the previous post is what we did after we finished our outings: we ate bánh cuốn. This is one of Yen’s favorite dishes (he has a lot of “favorites” generally depending on what’s in front of him at the moment). The joke with bánh cuốn in particular is that when his mom was pregnant with him, she craved it when she lay down to sleep at night. You could say, then, that it’s inherently part of him to want this dish.

It’s not a dish that people make at home. Basically it’s a very light, stretchy, chewy rice crepe that’s filled with ground  meat and wood ear mushrooms, then eaten with a particular type of Vietnamese ham and vegetables – and dipped in nước mắm pha, of course. The crepes are actually made by stretching fabric over a special pot, and then steaming the thin batter on the fabric. You’ve got to have a special pot, a special implement for placing and then removing the crepe, and just the right touch. So you can imagine that these aren’t made at home. Mostly we buy them from shops in Dorchester, but you can also find adorable old Vietnamese ladies who make them in their homes and sell them generally about $6/pound – if you know where to look and if you can order from them in Vietnamese.

Anyway, we got to talking about Yen’s other favorites, things we actually could make at home. And bánh xèo came up. The more we talked about it, the more I got it into my head that I need to learn to make it. I read some recipes (such as the one linked above), and decided that it wasn’t going to be impossible. I woke Yen up in the morning and announced I was going to H-Mart (Korean grocery store nearby) early to beat the crowd. He rubbed his eyes and offered to come along to make sure I got everything right.

It was a production making these! We made some adjustments, including using ground turkey instead of pork butt. We both agreed that this is a permanent change now, because not only does it make the whole thing lower calorie, but it also means the meat chunks are smaller and easier to deal with while eating. We also added in some squid slices to make Yen happy, as well as a few mushrooms we had on hand. One recipe suggested only putting the fillings on one side of the pan in order to make flipping easier, and we also decided that technique is a keeper. And so see below, one of the beautiful bánh xèo we made.

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What’s next to it? That’s the nước mắm pha with pickled leeks, which Yen absolutely loves. He slipped them into the basket along with grass jelly (which I’ve decided I’m not ever eating again, at least not until we get into a post-apocalyptic future and we’re all living on seaweed).

Why does the pancake have lettuce and herbs next to it? Well, how you eat these crepes is you cut them into chunks (“strips” might be a better word), then roll them up in a big lettuce leaf with mint, Thai basil (if you have some, which we didn’t), and tia to, and then dip it all in the nước mắm pha.

Whew.

And then, full to the brim, we decided we had better get some exercise. We got in the car and I promptly fell asleep. I woke up to find myself in Andover, where Yen was getting out of the car in order to photograph Philips Andover Academy.

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He got back in the car and I shook myself awake, and we headed on up to the oldie but goodie, Weir Hill. Of course, along the way we stopped for one more photo. Quickly.

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Here I am doing Kate Pose, which is a hiking pose, not a yoga pose. Check out my bare arms and Yen’s jacket tied around my waist. Beautiful, beautiful early Fall weather.

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Here’s Yen quickly checking out the reservoir while there are no dogs around. Even though it’s a reservoir, the place is always crawling with dogs going for a quick little dip. They always look so happy.

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New since my last visit is this nice fence running along much of the trail. I imagine it’s to cut down on erosion and the aforementioned doggie paddling.

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Here’s the fence without any humans. Loads of fence photos, eh?

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This photo is Yen showing me a technique for the bokeh effect, of which I’m a huge fan.

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I’ve always admired this house perched on the edge of the reservoir.

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I tried to get Yen to climb out onto this branch, and he just wasn’t interested. So off I went. Slowly, slowly.

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Mini boardwalk!

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This photo was a mistake, I think, but when we looked at it after, we both really liked the colors. Fall is definitely coming, people. Get your hiking boots ready.

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More bokeh! I think he’s got it down.

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