Whilst I don’t celebrate Christmas, I always enjoy the festive period. The music, the cheer, the parties and of course, the food! Christmas dinner is something I really miss about home at this time of year. Every year, I look forward to deciding the Christmas dinner menu with my family. I am always ridiculously impressed by the incredible feast my Mum effortlessly puts together.
Having spent the majority of December in Thailand, I didn’t really feel the classic build up of Christmas spirit. While its cities were sprinkled with Christmas trees, lights and other festive decorations, the fake snow and Santas can’t help but look a bit out of place in the 30°C heat!
This year, far from the comforts of a home cooked Christmas meal, I am currently in Hanoi, Vietnam, training for my new job as an English teacher. Since the major religion in Vietnam is Buddhism, Christmas isn’t a holiday that is largely celebrated around these parts. Bearing this in mind, I can’t say I expected much for Christmas 2017. Luckily, by some sort of Christmas magic, the whole day fell into place perfectly.
My priority for the day being a slap up meal, I went to Hanoi Food Culture for their impressive three course Christmas tasting menu.
For starters we were treated to a trio of papaya salad with grilled beef, Hanoi beef spring rolls and creamy chestnut soup.
Being a very Vietnamese inspired course, the chefs certainly knew what they were doing as it was all absolutely delicious. The chestnut soup added a tasty hit of Christmas to the ensemble
The main course was a piece of art.
Take a look at that!
This masterpiece consisted of peppered tuna with pea purée, grilled duck breast with tamarind sauce on a potato rosti and lastly chicken roulade with sugared ginger sauce and mashed potato. I know, right. Ridiculously impressive! Each was absolutely phenomenal and provided a delicious marriage of both Christmas and Vietnamese flavours. The best part had to be the grilled duck which was perfectly complemented by the sweet, tangy tamarind sauce. It actually reminded me a bit of marmalade, subtly accentuating the Christmas and Vietnamese combination.
Finally, I was very lucky to get one of my most favourite desserts: crème brûlée!
In my opinion, it is very difficult to beat a crème brûlée for dessert. The caramelised sugar work on top was a delicious, crunchy addition.
While I would have loved to join my family for turkey, roast potatoes, roast carrots and parsnips, brussel sprouts, stuffing, dauphinoise potatoes and lashings of gravy (and much, much more I expect), this wasn’t too bad a runner up option.
Extremely satisfied after a delicious meal, I went to the cinema. Not the most typical Christmas activity but I was intrigued to see the newfangled Jumanji remake. As a big fan of the original, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had a lot to live up to. It would never be as good in my eyes but it was definitely very entertaining and provided a lot of laughs.
In the evening I headed out to a Christmas party, hosted by friends made through my training course. I was lucky enough to have another delicious meal. This time we had roast chicken and an extremely impressive selection of roasted, sautéed, mashed and steamed veggies. Dinner was followed by some good old Christmas games. After a few rounds of What Do You Meme (a difficult game to play with 12 people!), we played In The Bowl. This is essentially a ramped up version of charades complete with three different rounds. No better way to get to know new people like making a fool of yourself! It was incredibly kind of them to include me in their Christmas plans, especially as I am new to Vietnam and still finding my feet. Among new friends and full of delicious food, it was the perfect way to draw a close to a happy Hanoi Christmas!
I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! How did you celebrate?