Vietspices Search

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dự Án Nguồn Sống (Living Water Project in Ca Mau, Vietnam) - Part II

Within a year, our collective effort has transformed two remote villages of Ca Mau and Vinh Long Province, Vietnam. There are 250 families now have clean potable water. It may not sound like much to us, but it's essential to their existence. The Living Water Project (click here) was a massive undertaking and the result was nothing short of amazing. 

Our work, however, is perhaps just beginning. We're witnessing more villagers in remote regions with no direct access to clean drinking water and sanitation. We can imaging the morbid consequences of this dire situation.

While The Spices Of Life was working on the water project in Ca Mau, the people from a nearby village desperately came asking for a community water well. We couldn't promise them anything at that time because we only had enough funding for the initial project. It was heartbroken to see their stress and anxiety, but we didn't want to promise and not deliver. Now that we have accomplished Living Water Project #1, we have learned a great deal from our initial experience that we can extend this work to build additional wells. 

This month, anh Ba - our unofficial ambassador of good will - took a couple trips to the remote village of Hop Tac Xa, Ca Mau Province to understand their needs and concerns, research the region, and pull together the logistics.

anh Ba taking a boat ride to cross the river

anh Ba visiting the villagers

having a meeting with the villagers

This village is located in the Cai Nuoc District of Ca Mau. Here, most of the children can't afford to attend school, there's no electricity and clean water is scarce. Due to saltwater intrusion, they rely on rain water to survive. When they run out of rain water, they have to travel far across the river to trade or buy clean water and not everyone can afford it. In the past, a few charities came here with the intention of building a community water well but they couldn't see themselves going through the laborious yet important process of locating the well site, researching the appropriate depth and transporting the building supplies from the mainland to the village to accomplish the project.

Ca Mau is surrounded by sea on 3 sides

So here's where we come in. There is a nearby temple that sits on a piece of land where a well can be built. The temple has an existing well but one that was not dug deep enough to supply both the temple and the nearby village. The temple has graciously agreed for The Spices Of Life to build one community water well system on their land to serve 30 remote families. The difficulty lies in the fact that the water table is quite low which means we have to dig very deep to depths of 280-300 meters - up to 900 feet - to access potable water. 

The estimated total cost for the water well system is $7000. This includes the powerful motor/pumper, a 2000 liters tank, a 6-meter high platform to house the tank, and large main pipes - 1,200 meters long - that are installed underground along the path right in front of the villagers' houses. These pipes alone costs about $2000. The water will be pumped automatically, continuously to the tank when the water in the tank becomes low.  Each household will then need to connect to the main pipe to access the water. We will also install a meter for each house to measure consumption and ensure that no one family is overusing the supply.

Above is a video clip of anh Ba and the well builder measuring the length of the main pipe.

our 6-meter high platform to house the tank will look similar to this 

The estimated time for completing this project is one month if weather permits and things go smoothly according to our plans. I am hopeful that we will obtain the funding by the end of July so that we can break ground on the 1st of August. 

Anh Ba will be spending his time at this village of Hop Tac Xa to work with the water well builder to ensure that things go as planned and that the villagers get the quality building materials for the community water well system. 

Below is a list of our estimated cost and current funding:

Estimated Cost: $7000

Our Current Funding:
   Tony and Kayla - Portland, OR: $4000
   Quyen Pham -  Happy Valley, OR: $2100
   Tuan Nguyen: $200
   Tran Tran - San Jose, CA: $100
   Linh Nguyen, Australia: $100
   Nguyen M: $100
   Kristine Oclarino - Elk Grove, CA: $300
   Thuyet Ziyalan - El Dorado Hills, CA: $100
   Anh Do: $100
   Amy Nguyen: $100
   Duyen Tang - Elk Grove, CA: $100
   Tonhi - Elk Grove, CA: $500
   Thao Vo Family - $50

TOTAL Current Funding: $7850

You can send your contribution via Paypal. If you use a smartphone, it will take you to a mobile version, scroll down and click on "view web version". You will see the DONATION button on the next screen at the far right column.

Please send me a message if you would like to send your contribution via check.

I'm grateful for each and everyone of our readers, their families, and friends who have partake in this work and whose donations will provide a source of living water and thereby hope and life. Thank you!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Phở Gà Khô Hai Tô (Vietnamese Dry Chicken Noodle)

If you have a chance to visit the mountainous region of Pleiku where I was born, you must try the dry noodle dish (phở khô) - the pride of Pleiku.  When ordering your food, you just called out: "cho một tô phở khô" (give me a bowl of dry noodle) - and automatically they will bring you two bowls.  How's that for service?

Phở khô known as 'phở hai tô' (two bowls of phở). The first bowl consists of noodle and toppings.  The second bowl consists of delicious broth, meatballs, or rare beef. Then served with a plate of bean sprouts, lettuce, and herbs.

Every phở khô place has its own way of preparing a bowl of dry noodle. My favorite place for phở khô gà (dry chicken noodle) was Á Đông (now renamed to Ngọc Sơn). Their dried noodle bowl consists of noodle, shredded chicken, chicken gizzard, heart, liver, and fried pork fat and serve with another bowl of beef broth.

Phở khô Hồng is another of my favorite place.  Her noodle bowl is full of goodness ground pork, fried pork fat, and fried shallots, served with your choice of a bowl of broth with thin slices of beef or beef meatballs.

When eaten, squeeze a bit of lime juice, toss in the vegetables and herbs, a few slices of red chili pepper, and mix them up. Then take your time to enjoy the noodle and sip a spoon of broth at a time. "phở two bowls" is not meant for you to combine into one bowl. You will lose the taste and essence of the noodle flavor and the natural sweetness of the broth.

It's has been over 25 years and yet the aroma of their phở khô and the broth have not faded from my mind. It has definitely left an indelible mark in my food memory band.  I introduced phở gà khô (dry chicken noodle) to my husband and instantly it's become one of his favorite phở.  Here's your chance to try them. 
RECIPE: Phở Gà Khô
for broth
1 hen (available at Asian market)
1 large piece ginger, peeled, cut into 3 slices
1 onion, peeled, cut into half or
a handful of shallots, peeled
a handful of garlic cloves, peeled
1 rock sugar, about 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 packet phở spice
for sauce
3 shallots, thinly slices
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 white and light green parts of green onion
1 tablespoon olive oil or annatto oil (recipe here)
1/2 cup Maggi Europe soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika, optional
other ingredients
fried pork fat, click here for recipe
2 bags phở noodle
bean sprouts
lettuces, optional
basil leaves
culantro leaves (ngò gai), finely chopped, optional
cilantro, finely chopped
chili peppers, thinly sliced, optional
lime or lemon, cut into wedges
black pepper

Cooking the Chicken and Broth

Discard any excess fat from a hen. Rinse hen with cold water and place in a stockpot. Add the water (just enough to submerge the hen), ginger slices, onion or shallots, garlic, rock sugar, salt, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let the chicken sits for another 10-15 minutes.

Remove the chicken, let cool, and shred or cut the meat. You can also cool down the chicken quickly by placing in ice and water.

Reserve the chicken bones to put back into the broth pot.  Add a tablespoon of fish sauce, and a bag of phở spice.

any brand you pick would be fine

Simmer the broth for another 15-20 minutes. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  If you like beef meatballs, cut each meatball into half, and add them into the pot. 
Preparing Pork Fat

click here for the recipe

Preparing the Sauce

Heat olive oil or annatto oil in a sauce pan over medium. The purpose of using annatto oil is to give the sauce its distinctive red color. You can skip the annatto seeds if preferred.  Cook shallots, green onion, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant. Add sugar, paprika if used, and chicken broth from the broth pot, stirring, until sugar dissolved. Turn the heat off. Add soy sauce last.

First Bowl - Blanch phở noodle in a pot of boiling water for a couple seconds. If you don't like eating raw bean sprouts, blanch both pho noodle and bean sprouts together. Don't blanch it too long as the noodle will be mushy.

Place noodle into a bowl.  Top with shredded chicken, fried pork fat, fried shallots, chopped herbs, and sprinkle some black pepper.

shredded chicken with egg yolks inside the chicken

Second Bowl - If you like to have steak in your broth, add thin slices or chopped steak into the bowl, then ladle the boiling broth into the bowl.

I prefer serving phở with chopped steak over sliced steak

Otherwise, ladle broth, with or without meatballs into the bowl. Garnish with cilantro and a dash of black pepper.

Serve  'phở hai tô' with a side of  sauce, bean sprouts, lettuces, basil, lime wedges, hoisin sauce, sriracha hot sauce, or chili peppers for each person to garnish their own noodle as desired.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Loaves and Fishes - July 2017

Once a year when the children are off school for the summer, I like to create an opportunity for them to learn about giving back and serving others. July of last year, a dozen of kids were eager to help and excited to get involved which speaks volume about their generous hearts. As parents, we hope this will inspire and motivate them to do well and become great successes so that they will be in a position to give back to the community.

Last Wednesday it was hard to get up at 5:00 in the early morning to cook up pots of oatmeal but I couldn't complain when these children were getting up at 6:00 am to get ready to feed over 200 homeless guests. What an amazing sight it is to see our spirited, caring youth stepping up to serve our community. 

Thank you everyone for being a part of The Spices Of Life and sharing your good fortune, time and love. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Grace Community Presbyterian Church in Elk Grove, Ca for donating $430 toward this event as well. It means a great deal! 

Below are some pictures from the recent breakfast at Friendship Park located inside Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento.

prepping team

making sandwiches

he's enjoying a cup of warm oatmeal

couldn't get shopping done without the help of my daughter

dropping off the eggs for Dan

Dan delivering hard boiled eggs the next day

he's enjoying hard boiled eggs

early morning at Friendship Park