My first taste of Makrut leaves...

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Last Saturday Oct 31, '15 I rode home on my motobike with my wife as usual to my village garden to spend weekend labor hours, as usual (since I got this garden, most of my free times are spent here, for weeding, planting, growing fish, shrimp or even... medicinal plants!)
 
Having owned this for nearly three years, some of my “symbolic” garden harvests are the drum stick leaves (Moringa oleifera) from some trees that I got the seeds from a man in the Central Highland (Tây Nguyên) by post, and with these sometimes my wife use for one or two soups for our meals (a practical result!); sweet sop or sugar apple fruits (Annonna spamosa L.) or mãng cầu ta, now and then. Some other trees such as Neem trees (Azadirachta indica) or Sầu đâu although grow well but not old enough for any fruits or flowers (the most used product from this tree is its young leaves, which I can use now, and flowers, used as foods in Thailand, Cambodia and in Chau Doc areas),  and the sour sop (Annona muricata) - two trees reach flowering age but without any fruits so far… My wife always asks me to plant useful trees, and to her, like parents-in-law, useful trees mean some fruit trees that you can sell them at the local market. With this idea in mind, they feel nearly shocked when see that I plant some wild tree such as  Apple Blossom tree (Cassiva javanica), and another common local pink shower tree  (Cassia grandis L.f.) called cây ô-môi.

This Saturday, I noted that one of my makrut trees, or also called caffir tree (Citrus hystrix) is getting taller, and I think that I can use for the first time some of its leaves for one or two common dishes. But what are these easy dishes that I can prepare myself some day? I did some Google search for them, and I listed 3 dishes, one from my Vietnam fellows in That Son areas, called chicken cooked (or steamed) with makrut (gà hầm lá trúc); a Thai dish called tom yam koong ต้มยำกุ้ง, a type of sour soup made with shrimp and makrut leaves; and a Khmer dish called Sngor jruk sach mon  (ស្ងោរជ្រក់សាច់ម៉ាន់) which is a kind of sour soup with chicken meat (I guess that sngor jruk in Khmer mean steamed), but none of these (Thai dish and Khmer dish) are  similar to Viet Nam's sour soup for particular reason(s), the presence of makrut leaves used to make them. The one from the Khmer is the easiest, and most similar to Vietnam food, I think, while the Thai dish need some more particular seasoning that one can only get from Thai food- ingredients stores.

Up to now I cannot prepare any of these 3 dishes, but I did try the leaves yesterday (Sunday Oct 1, 2015) by putting it into my usual Vietnamese fish sour soup, and next day breakfast- a noodle soup with makrut leaves. The smell is wonderful, a citrix species special smell. I wonder if I use the lemon leaves instead of the makrut then what will the smell like?  (I will try some day.)

My makrut tree


Late on Saturday work, my wife told me that we would go back a little early for she had to go to a neighbor whose relative died to share condolences with them. The old man who died used to do the morning exercise by walking with cane with his wife, a tall woman, my wife said. His wife usually greets my wife and her friends when they meet, so they think it's time to share their condolences to their family. My wife also said that he died of prostate cancer. He had just had an operation to open the blocked ureter probably caused by late prostate cancer. No direct operation to the main cause, they said it's too late for his age (82 years old). They just opened the ureter for the flow of urine to go directly outside his body through a pipe, then hold it a a plastic bag for the rest of his days. I met this old couple several times while doing the morning excercise. He's a hunchback thin old man, while his wife thin and tall, making a contrast look. I have not seen him for some time, may be half a year, and it's might be due to disease resulted in his death now.

It looks like the dry season is coming. Some cooler winds arrive now and then, and the air seems not so humidity as previous days. The rains however still happen oftenly. I feel like the North wind is coming, and know that the best ray (rẫy) season is realy coming. Ray is the vegetable planting grounds, and làm rẫy means the preparation for the ground ready for planting, and the planting of vegetable crops itself. Ray season signals a coming Tet to Vietnamese farmers (as parents are), where we can see many fruits (especially water melons), flowers, vegetables grown in the fields in preparation for Vietnamese traditional holiday called Tet.

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