Eating Saigon 2.0: So much crab, I got hives + one of my favorite street foods in Vietnam

Following my early July 2014 trip to Vietnam where I attended the KOTO fundraising gala, I returned to Saigon just a few weeks later to do another guest appearance on MasterChef Vietnam season 2 and work with the show’s sponsor, Knorr Vietnam. You know I can’t go to Vietnam without eating Saigon, so here’s what I had this time around.
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Reflections on the 2014 KOTO Taste the Stories gala in Vietnam

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about eating Saigon. I love coming to Vietnam, if not to eat, then to at least see my pops and get hella cheap spa treatments. (A 60-minute full-body massage runs about $25 USD, and that’s some of the nicer places.)

I also love coming to Vietnam and meeting interesting people. From the locals to the ex-pats, everyone’s got a story.
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Blind Life episode 8: How the Blind Snowboard

We took a trip to Colorado in January where I snowboarded and rode on a snowmobile (as a passenger, not a driver–don’t worry!). I strapped a GoPro to my helmet when I took to the slopes, and the hubs wore the camera on the snowmobile.
Here’s footage from our snowy adventures from Peak 9 and the Continental Divide in Blind Life episode 8: How the Blind Snowboard.
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Eating Saigon 1.0: 3 different regions, 1 city in Vietnam

Happy new year (again)! In continuing the closer look we’re taking at Vietnamese traditions, like those of lunar new year, today I’m actually taking you back to Vietnam.

I was born in California and didn’t visit the country of my heritage until I was 18. It would be another 16 years after that first pilgrimage before I’d returned to Vietnam again. Consequently, this second trip was after MasterChef, and I was going to Vietnam to appear in the inaugural season of “MasterChef” Vietnam as a celebrity guest judge. Since then, I’ve been back to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City an additional three times, and on each trip, I eat to my stomach’s content.

Food in Vietnam, especially the “street food,”* is delicious and inexpensive—it’s my absolute favorite stuff to eat over there.

And so in the spirit of street food’s no frills, no nonsense attitude, I’ll get right down to business and deliver the goods.
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Happy year of the goat!

**Please excuse the many misspelled Vietnamese words in the following entry, as I don’t have the software to write proper Vietnamese, accents and all.

This Thursday marks the lunar new year, or Tê’t, as we call it in Vietnamese. Growing up, the red envelopes containing minted bills (or—like xì—were my most anticipated new year tradition. It meant I was that much closer to that Super Mario game or, when I was in high school, that Green Day CD.

Another fond memory of Tê’t was the banh chung my grandmother made not only for us but all the extended family members that visited over the week-long holiday. Bánh chung (or banh Tê’t as they’re known in the Vietnamese South) are glutinous rice cakes filled with pork and mung bean and wrapped in banana leaves prior to steaming. The leaves impart a hint of green and earthiness on to the rice, which is why it’s no surprise they are meant to symbolize the earth. My grandmother and aunt made dozens of them, and sometimes I would help tie the red decorative ribbons around the massive cakes before stacking them on to the dining table. There they rested like stacks of sandbags, waiting to be gifted to our relatives.
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Help! I’m a blind Mac user in search of accessibility assistance with Apple’s Yosemite OS X.

I can’t be the only one shouting those words into cyberspace, can I?

At the urging of the hubs, I upgraded the operating system on my Macbook last week to Yosemite, also known as OS X. While software upgrades are intended to make user experiences more efficient, they also often come with frustrating learning curves. This is especially true for the blind user, as so much of today’s technological innovations are focused on vamping up visuals. Sure, this is awesome for sighted users, but what about the rest of us blind folk?

My recent OS upgrade has put me in such a sour mood lately that I’m inclined to believe Yosemite was named after Yosemite Sam, the raging red-bearded cartoon tyrant of the Wild West (pictured below) because that’s exactly how I feel about the latest OS X.
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Adaptive Ski & Ride School: How the blind snowboard

**This blog post is largely excerpted from last week’s entry at NMO Diaries.

If you read last week’s blog post on what to cook/eat on a ski trip, or if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you would’ve known I was in Breckenridge, Colorado, two weekends ago to work on my snowboarding skills. And yes, the blind can snowboard.

The hubs picked up snowboarding after he went on his first trip for his bachelor party five years ago. He was subsequently bitten by the boarding bug, and I’d since gifted him a nice board, and he goes at least once a season. Because I don’t believe in limiting myself with my vision loss, I decided to try my own hand (feet?) at snowboarding, if only to have a common enjoyable pastime with the hubs.
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What to cook/eat on a ski trip

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you would know I spent last weekend in Breckenridge, Colorado, on a ski/snowboard trip with friends and family (more on this to come in a later post). Today, we’re going to focus on food.

It’s an unwelcome dilemma every time: what will be filling enough to satiate 8 to 12 hungry folks but easy enough to prepare when everyone’s exhausted from all the physical activity? And don’t forget that nearby markets may be limited in ingredient selection so no Sichuan, no sushi, and no soufflés.
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Blind Life episode 7: Four Senses season 2

Season 2 of my cooking show with Carl Heinrich, Four Senses, premieres this Friday, January 23, at 7 PM on AMI!

It’s still kind of surreal to think I have my own TV show. Sometimes, the hubs pauses and goes, “Can you believe you won ‘MasterChef’?” And then I go, “Nope.”

But there it is: my cooking show I co-host with winner of “Top Chef” Canada season 2 and chef extraordinaire of Richmond Station, Carl Heinrich. And we didn’t get canceled after one season!
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Honey poached pears

My mama-in-law likes to gift us Asian pears. They are large and juicy with sweet, crispy flesh. I’ve made them into pear, blueberry, and banana juice, and we’ve eaten many of them purely sliced as a snack. But they are quite sizable, so we often can’t go through them as quickly as we receive them.

I don’t like to waste food, so poaching them allows me to prolong their refrigerator shelf life and, more selfishly, my own enjoyment of their unique succulence.
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