Since last weekend, Hà Nội has been under a strict lockdown. But what does this mean for your average man and woman on the street?
Households must distance from other households, communities must distance from other communities, and so it follows for wards, villages, districts and provinces. People must stay in one place, but necessities such as food and medication can be transported by drivers who test negative for the virus and thus can travel in the country's "green lane".
With all this in mind, it is good to know that the website Amoza still delivers. It is an online pastry shop that used to simply sell puff pastry for people to bake their own goodies — I used to order boxes of 30 rolls to make breakfast meat-pies , pâte chaud and, last but not least, apple tart.
If you are attempting to bake your first tart or pie, or if you have made so many you cannot even remember, you will know, or soon know, that nothing quite beats the warm, comforting and mood-lifting aroma of a home-baked apple tart. The golden glaze of honey on the apple slices, the fragrance of the cinnamon and the white powdered sugar sprinkled on top will have your mouthwatering in no time and be sure to melt even the iciest of hearts.
Amoza has recently expanded its range of products to frozen croissants, pain aux raisins, aux chocolat, pate chaud and more. But the most popular products are frozen pizzas. The website offers more than ten types of topping, including a top selling margherita (VNĐ79,000) as well as a five cheese (VNĐ129,000) covered with smoked cheese, brie, mozzarella, cream cheese and blue cheese.
The five cheeses here is a little different from your regular Italian four or five cheese pizza, which would usually include parmesan, provolone and asiago, but if you are a cheese lover it is nice to try a new combination.
Customers praise the pizzas, saying they are similar to the pricier ones made by popular restaurant chain 4Ps, though coming at a lower cost and with less fanfare, ideal for these difficult times.
During tough times people veer towards familiar comfort foods, and pizzas, cakes and pastries are surely among those comforting for your average expats living in Việt Nam. You do not even need an oven, as many of these can be heated in a hot pan with the lid on.
Last week was chaotic for food supply for people under lockdown in Hồ Chí Minh City. Many of my friends and colleagues were provided with vegetables from Đà Lạt, but each had to buy 10-kilo packages of vegetables at a time. Even if you were to eat vegetables all day, non-stop, you would be hard pushed to eat this much, and some could end up in the trash bin, which is surely a waste of money.
In all the chaotic ordering and stockpiling online, I was not just a bystander and ordered some marinated fish and shrimps from Huế. They came intact in the mail, without spillage or leakage, and will keep me going for a couple of weeks alongside my steamed rice.
I ordered them from Mắm Duy Minh, an online shop based in Huế, which offers a variety of products made from chilli: sautéed chilli, salted chilli powder, chilli sauce, fresh green chilli and pickled chilli. If you like your chilli, then a tiny bit of this spicy condiment can lift your food to a hotter level and make a boring dish delicious.
It is hard to convince expats living in Việt Nam to try marinated fish and shrimps because in most cases these pungent tidbits turn off foreigners, especially when trying them for the first time, but what happened to my order from Duy Minh prompted me to recommend them to everyone, with a glowing five-star review.
My dried shrimps package was initially stolen while being delivered, but when I complained, the owner called me to solve it immediately. He sent me another package and it arrived on Wednesday, just two days later.
The seller does not know that his produce will appear in the national English language paper. Perhaps he does not speak English or has not even heard of this paper, but it matters not, as long as he keeps up with his kindly, professional service and excellent produce.
To make food last longer, you can make your own sprouts or pickles. Such skills were once employed by our parents in the age before refrigerators. Today, these skills can prove useful once again. And if you do not know how to do it, there are a host of online home-cooking community groups on social media that will give you the know-how.
You can make bean sprouts from mung beans in just a couple of days. Making your own food can help release the stress of being in one place for too long, or can be a joy to teach your children.
Since Wednesday, we have received two stamped tickets to go to our neighbourhood market. Each family has four tickets to the market over two weeks. Later, slots for neighbourhood minimarts will also be issued.
“What if you are in middle of cooking, and find out you are missing an ingredient?" is something I daresay is asked by those who are not used to being able to do a food shop only twice a week.
Well, in difficult times, you just learn how to do things as you go along. Make better preparation, and your creativity will cover the rest. Try making three meals at a time, and freezing whatever is not used. Such skills can be grasped in no time.
Whatever happens, we will survive this pandemic through a little comfort food, good preparation and picking up some new skills, alongside showing more compassion and treasuring people's kindness. Be well, people. Be strong! VNS.
Online pastry shop: http://amoza.net/
Puff pastry, frozen pizza dough, frozen croissants, brioche …
Mắm Duy Minh
Online marinated shrimp and fish shop based in Huế
Good fish sauce and assorted shrimp sauce of Huế (not the shrimp sauce to have with grilled fish, or chả cá Hà Nội)
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