Order Tara's Bicycle Touring Cookbook Today!

Cooking with Ba Noi

by Tara

Life with ba noi is good.


She is a kind-hearted grandmother who enjoys growing orchids and pedaling away on her miniature stationary bicycle, among many other things. She also loves to watch Korean soap operas (dubbed in Vietnamese). Occasionally, I sit with her to see if I can understand the obscenely cheesy story lines.

In this shot, the leading lady is forced to meet an awful suitor (whom her parents adore) when she is actually dating/in love with a really goofy guy her family doesn't know about. At least, I think that is what was happening.

Korean Soap Opera

Ba noi feeds us a LOT of delicious, authentic, Vietnamese food. Predictably, the meals all involve a large portion of rice which has been cooked to perfection (a far cry from the requisite boiling over, under/over cookedness and general mess which occurs every time I do it at camp).

Maybe it has something to do with the exacting proportions she uses. Check out her gigantic rice dispenser! There's enough rice in there to feed an army!

Giant Rice Dispenser

Yesterday I asked if she would teach me the next time she cooked. Today, she obliged.

"Kata!" she yelled (she calls me Kata) as she poked her head out of the kitchen, and motioned with her hand, her fingers flapping up and down like a little kid learning to say "bye bye". I smiled, confused, and she did it again, with a glint in her eye. I quickly realized gesture meant "come here." So, I scurried to the kitchen, and to my delight she explained, step by step, how to make her curried chicken.

Though we didn't speak the same language, we were still able to communicate, and as a result, I now have her recipe for this:

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

It has secretly been my lifelong dream to learn to cook from an elderly Asian woman, so I can now check one thing off of my life list! Thank you ba noi!

Ba Noi Frying Tofu

Ba noi's Curried Chicken Recipe

  • 1 kilo of chicken, cut into pieces

  • some potatoes, peeled, halved, and cooked

  • 1 head of garlic (cloves peeled)

  • 2 hot peppers

  • 2 inches ginger root

  • 2 tsp curry paste

  • 1 tsp curry powder

  • 3 tbs sugar

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • 2 tbs fish sauce

  • salt to taste (approximately 1 Tbs)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1.5 cups milk

In a food processor, blend the garlic, hot peppers, and ginger. Cut up the chicken, and coat the pieces in this blended mixture. Marinate overnight in the fridge. The next day, dip the chicken pieces in flour and then fry them in oil. Put chicken in a pot along with potatoes, curry paste, curry powder, sugar, pepper, fish sauce, and salt. Cook the chicken. Add one cup of water, then add 1.5 cups milk.

I hope I got this right, but it'll be awhile before I can try it!

Previous Entry
In Years Past and Future
2009 - Return of the Sun
Next Entry


Greetings! I have been following your journal since reading about you in the St. Cloud Times. I have cancer and it's one of the most enjoyable parts of my day! Forty years ago, I traveled freely throughout the British Isles and your adventure is making me horrifically jealous!! Thanks for sharing your story. Looking forward to your Russian adventures!
Posted by Jayne Piehl on June 16th, 2010 at 12:48 PM
Thanks for posting the recipe Tara! Once things calm down here I promised Dan I would make it for him. He is hopping around the living room already in excitement. :) I am sure you have a great mental image of that now!
Miss you!
Julia and DAN
Posted by Julia Hartman on June 16th, 2010 at 3:44 PM
Hey kids!!! Keep it up you arfe doing so well. Best of luck on your continued journey. Miss u lots.
--maestro kurt
Posted by maestro kurt on June 17th, 2010 at 2:49 AM
We'll definitely be trying this! What do you do once you've put in the water and milk - do you let it cook gently for a little while? Sounds delish. Thanks so much for posting it.
Posted by Friedel on June 17th, 2010 at 6:16 AM
Hi Guys,
that was a funny and nice article. Hope you had a great time here in Berlin.
Have fun in East Europe and be careful! ;)

Ba Noi's grandson
Posted by Maurice on June 22nd, 2010 at 5:28 PM
Jayne - Thank you for your comment, and for taking the time to say hello. We are touched that our journey is having such a positive impact in your life. Whenever we don't feel like journaling, we'll think of it brightening your day somewhere in Minnesota, and I'm sure that will get us inspired to write again. We'll be sending you healing thoughts from around the world!

Julia - LOL yes, I have a crystal clear mental picture, and I laughed so hard! I didn't know Danny liked curry so much! Anyway, when you try it, let me know how it goes. Miss you guys! Sending hugs from Poland now.

Maestro - Hi! It is wonderful to hear from you! Thanks for the kind words. We think of you guys often, and miss you too! All our best to you, Maestro Jim, and our classmates!

Friedel - It was delicious. If you try it, please let me know how it goes. About the cooking gently -- I'm not sure what ba noi does, but I would assume that you let it simmer for awhile. Like a soup, the longer it slow-cooks, the more the flavors come out? I'm not sure, let me know how it goes? Good luck!

Maurice - It was so nice to meet you and your family! Please thank your grandmother again for us. We had a great time with her in Berlin! Hopefully she enjoyed her birthday surprise trip to Paris. :-)

Posted by Tara on June 23rd, 2010 at 3:01 AM