You know what? I love a good slick of lipstick and killer swipes of nail polish (insert nail emoji).

The lovely team at Debenhams has introduced me to Guerlain, and I’m addicted.

There’s a new range of lippies and pollies in town: Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire. The lipsticks are light-weight, comfortable, luminous, buildable and delicious. The nail polishes are highly pigmented, ultra-shiny and scented.

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Inspired by signature La Petite Robe Noire fragrance, the delicately flavoured lipstick formula has a surprising taste on your lips. It’s designed to reveal the lips’ natural radiance to keep lips conditioned and kissably soft.

I’m wearing the shade Pink Tie. Over bare lips; this one adds a moisturised and hydrated look while adding a buildable pink tone.

The great thing about these bad boys is that they aren’t sticky or uncomfortable which is ideal for windy days. I topped up throughout the day for a sheer balm finish. The packaging is gorgeous; pop off the heart-shaped handle and twist the bottom to lift. If you wear Dior Addict or Yves Saint Laurent Volupté Sheer, then you’ll love these. The full range of shades suits everyone and should be a ‘go-to’ for a hydrating summer lipstick.
I’m also wearing Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire deliciously shiny nail colour in shade Black Perfecto. There’re two reasons why I’m in love with these polishes, 1. I love the flat brush, all nail varnishes should have one. 2. You end up smelling your hands throughout the day from the floral fruity scent. If you were a kid who had those smelly gel pens, then these will become only the nail polish you’ll ever buy.

Have you tried these yet? Let me know what you think of the scent.

Location: Richmond Park, London
Photographer: Hattie Day at Wild Young Minds (FB here)

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Range | La Petite Robe Noire Fragrance | Guerain La Petite Noire Lipstick | Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Nail Range | Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire in Black Perfecto

 

 

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My parents were Made In C̶h̶i̶n̶a̶ Hanoi, so I knew I would remember this trip forever.

If you can, visit the destinations of where your parents lived, everything about your upbringing will unravel during your journey.

My background originates in China; both sets of my grandparents packed up their bags (and their kids) to begin a new chapter in Vietnam.

Okay, Hanoi, the first thing I recommend to you: Eat. Bun Cha. Immediately.

Chargrilled pork & lettuce on a bed of rice noodles splashed with fish sauce. Mouthwatering and gratifying, there’s also a spring rolls version (Bun Chao Gio), sometimes I can’t decide between which I like best.

Head to a street-side cafe, go for the sort of establishment which has makeshift tables & plastic chairs. It’s fast food at its best.

The first place we explored around was Hoan Kiem Lake, located right in the centre of the capital. Look out for the Tortoise Pagoda, the shrine to giant turtles.

The lake calms the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s the only place where you can escape the noise. It reminds me of Central Park in NYC. If you go early in the morning, you can go and watch the locals perform Tai Chi.

Since having my first sip of Vietnamese iced coffee on the Mekong River, I had to grab one of my own.

We discovered a cute French-like riverside cafe. I opted for a chocolate iced coffee; I always have time for chocolate.

There’re lots of things to do in the capital.

One must bargain their ass off at The Old Quarter. Head to Dong Xuan Market. You’ll spot a lot of naughty fake goods like (Mulberry & Burberry) and ‘Folex’ (Fendi and Rolex). I think we can all agree that they’re novelties and that we prefer the real deal so put your feet up, I’ve added a cheeky widget below for you to shop in your PJ’s.

ShopStyle


 

Head to the temples to imitate a magpie and admire all the shiny things.

I would recommend a visit to the Women’s History Museum; learn about the daily lives of struggling women in Vietnam.

We went to watch a Water Puppet show; the puppets are carved from wood and performed in a waist-deep pool. Mind the loud opera singing, it’s all in Vietnamese, so if you don’t know the language, you won’t have a clue what they’re chanting. It was probably one of the most bizarre shows I’ve seen, but it’s a unique experience.

For our last night in Hanoi, we treated ourselves in a rooftop restaurant which overlooked the lake.

The sights are incredible.

Escaping the crowds + eating your weight in food = bliss.

I had the seafood fried rice, fragrant & hearty rice with squishy yet crunchy seafood married in a tangy sauce.


Hanoi, I’ll never forget you.

If you’re ever in my parent’s hood, remember to eat the Bun Cha.

Location: Vietnam – Hanoi

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I often get asked ( — and always when I’m scoffing my face in), “you eat so much, how are you not fat?”.

It’s a stereotype that East Asians are naturally ‘skinny’. Some say that we’re lucky; we’re mysterious creatures who possess magical genes that aid metabolism. While genes are a contributing determinant, I’ve been doing some digging and besides being Maybelline (‘Maybe She’s Born With It’), there are the lifestyle and cultural factors that help us maintain a healthy weight.

I’m going to share them with you.

No. I’m not going to give you some lame faddy diet. All that maple syrup, air, baby food & no-carbs-after-six bullocks, is not good for you.

I don’t want to shock your body drastically because any weight you lose temporarily, will just creep back up on you — like that creepy stalker that just won’t take the hint.

These nuggets (not the chicken kind, soz) of wisdom have been passed down generation to generation.

It’s about the facts, nutrition, science and food coming together. I’m going to split this post into three sections: food, mentality and fitness.

Food

Welcome to the secret eating tips of Asia.

First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that I don’t want you to eat because you have to; I want you to eat because it’s delicious. If you don’t know how to cook, then there’s your starting point. Learn how to prepare food from scratch — then maintaining weight will become a lot easier.

Soup

Soup is essential in the Asian diet. We drink it either before or after our meal. Our soup is essentially bone broth (made with boiling meat bones in water). It’s packed with vegetables, beans and natural Chinese herbs (you should see mummy Wong’s cupboard). Broth takes hours to boil but is super easy to make. Why bones, you ask? The gelatin from the bone marrow contains glycine that is anti-inflammatory and helps to regulate metabolism, maintain lean muscle mass, preserve bone strength and control cellular health. The vitamins, proteins, and minerals from the ingredients dissolve in the water — giving you a balanced supply of nutrition which helps to keep you full. The Chinese love to poach chicken feet in the soup because it has a lot of collagen that is good for the skin. It’s not uncommon to see an old Asian woman ask the local butcher for meat bones (I totally see myself doing that in thirty years). Centuries ago, we needed to make use of limited resources to their full potential. These days we boil our veg to death and then chuck away the mineral water containing all the good bits. If you’re vegetarian, veg broth works just as well (don’t forget the spinach for iron). If you’re not brave enough for trotter soup, don’t worry, there’s always Pho (Vietnamese rice noodles).

The most traditional soup from Hong Kong is Pork Bone Vegetable Soup:

Pork bones 1.5-2 lb
2 potatoes
2 tomatoes
2 carrots
1 onion
1 tbsp salt
2 bay leaves (optional)

Wash the bones and chop all the veggies.
In a stock pot, fill up with water almost halfway up the pot (around 2.5 litres).
Throw in the pork bones and bring to boil. Once it starts to bubble, reduce heat to low-medium and stew for 1.5 hours.
Turn heat to high and pop in all the veggies, salt, and bay leaves.
Reduce heat back to low-medium and boil for another hour.

Ceramics

The size of your plates and bowls determine (unconsciously) how much food you eat. If you buy small plates and bowls, you’ll eat smaller portions. Without thinking about it, lighter servings give you time to enjoy your food, and you reflect on whether you want to grab a second helping.

I love the Japanese bento box; It’s like picking things from a sweet shop (I’m like a child). Speaking of picking things up, you eat smaller portions with chopsticks.

The slower you eat, the faster you’ll be full. East Asians feast with a bowl of rice in hand and select from a selection of entrees. They pick one piece at a time from the middle of the table and tend to eat how much they want rather than finishing everything that’s on a plate.


H2O

Drink lots of hot water. I know it’s not the most fun of activities but it cleanses and boosts your immune system. If you’re not keen on hot water, try adding a lemon. Herbal teas contain antioxidants, and they’re best mates with your metabolism. My favourite green tea is Jasmine tea. I love the blossoming flower ones; I always end up staring at my cup & I have the same reaction every time “Oooh, so pretty!”.

Not a fan of the hot beverage? Make a homemade tea cordial. Experiment & mix different tea leaves: Lemon & Ginger, Raspberry Blaster, Baked Apple & Sticky Toffee, they could help you steer away from those naughty processed sugary soft drinks. When I went to Thailand, I had lots of fresh coconut water. It suppresses your appetite, the fat content is low and makes you feel full because it’s rich in taste. It also made my skin glow; I couldn’t stop touching my face! I also drink lots of almond & soy milk which have lots of iron and calcium.

Sometimes, your body will tell you, ‘Yo, give me food!’, But actually, you just need a refreshing beverage, so drink lots of cold water too. H2O helps us distinguish between being hungry and being thirsty so always stay hydrated.


Fish

East Asians eat a lot of fish; there are endless benefits, the fresher, the better. (Fish fingers don’t count, don’t let Captain Birdseye try and flirt with you in frozen aisles). Always eat fish off the bone because natural fatty fish contains the highest source of natural Omega 3.

Brown rice 

I’ve already mentioned that Asians eat a lot of rice, in fact, they eat white rice every day. I’m going to talk about a healthier alternative: brown rice. I don’t get it when people say they don’t like it — I honestly can’t taste the difference! Brown rice = fibre. Genuine quote from my mummy who told me when I was six, “fibre helps you poo”. Err thanks, mum. We need fibre for digestion, and it reduces high cholesterol levels. Fibre helps out by keeping blood sugar levels under control, so brown rice is an excellent grain choice for people with diabetes.

Vegetables

To state the obvious, eating a lot of vegetables keeps you slim. The Chinese, Japanese and Korean diet is predominately rice and vegetables. Korean people consume a lot of raw cabbage -i.e., Bimibap. The Chinese eat a lot of greens like Pak Choi, lettuce, radish and spinach. I hated vegetables as a kid. I hated it so much that when I got to University, I got carried away and ate everything that looked beige, speaking of beige, there’s food out there that isn’t green and is good for you. If you’ve realised that you’ve over done it with the meat treats that week, why not replace it with tofu? It gives me lots of energy and is high in protein, vitamins and fibre. It’s all about learning how to balance. I missed my parent’s cooking so much at University, when I graduated, I ended up naturally eating 70% good food and 30% junk. Find your method of balance.

Steam

In the same way, that the Chicken Korma is not native Indian, foods like Sweet & Sour Chicken is not authentic Chinese, it’s British. Yes, I agree with you, it’s delicious, but we can’t eat that shiz every day. Authentic Asian cuisine is steam every-thang. I remember when my sister was born, my daddy made a Chinese hot pot and popped it in an old Carte D’Or tub (hi Asian parents). It has everything you need nutritionally for a baby: fresh meats, vegetables, tofu and seafood. The origins of the Chinese hotpot has been around for over 1,000 years. Packed with flavour, I love a good hearty hot pot. My favourite one is on this blog.

Fruit

You know what? I’m not going to lie to you; I love a sweet treat. My Instagram is a collage of cake. I’m addicted to cake and breakfast tea. One day, I substituted my breakfast muffin for a banana and realised that the satisfaction I got out of both were similar — it helps if the texture is comparable. If you crave sugar, you can get it from the healthier sugars in fruit. Asians have either soup or fruit after dinner. The way I balance it out now is by having dessert for breakfast or as a dessert after dinner, never both.


Diet food

When I went travelling in Southeast Asia, I rarely saw any diet food. ‘Light’ options in the supermarket annoy the s**t out of me. Like ‘no added sugar’ yoghurt, or ‘low fat’ cereal, or ‘light’ mayonnaise. If there’s less fat in there, it usually has to be replaced with something else to keep the flavour. Dear food brands, you can’t fool us with your extra sugar, sweetie. Diet Coke is one of the worst offenders, less sugar but more Aspartame. I’ll leave you to research and make up your own mind on that one.

I’ll end the food section with a poem from Japan called Hara Hachi Bu which is the Confucian philosophy for ‘eat until you’re 8/10 full’. Derived from Okinawa, the Japanese leave that little bit on their plate.

Hara Hachi Bu

‘The Okinawa Diet‘:
Fill your plate with plants.
Consider the sweet potato.
Eat soy every day.
Learn some recipes that call for turmeric.
Make meat a rare treat.
Drink green tea like it’s going out of style.
Forgo the “all-you-can-eat buffet” mentality.

Mentality

In the Asian culture, there is no liability for eating. Guilt leads to anxiety and stress leads to overeating. Eating brings people together; it’s supposed to be a joyous occasion.

(Vs. Western culture) Asians talk so openly about weight which eliminates guilt. If I’ve gained or lost weight, my mum will tell me. I don’t get offended. If I’ve gained weight, I’ve gained weight. If I’ve lost weight, I’ve lost weight. Who gives a f**k if we’re chubby this week?

Counting calories is not fun. Fixating on measurements can lead to a reverse effect on your objective. We all know the type, ‘Oh I had 300 calories today, so according to this fitness app, I can have this chocolate bar to meet the recommended daily allowance’. You could argue that you’re the person who’s more like, ‘Ah s**t I’ve gone over my daily allowance so I won’t eat any more’, but that’s so tiring, isn’t it? Question your mindset, you know what works for you.

Mentality and way of thinking determine your diet. It’s about feeling comfortable with yourself as a person. Accept yourself, for what you are. The aim is to have a healthy relationship with yourself (and food).

Fitness

Okay, so you need motivation. You know your body & mind more than anyone else. You know what motivates you. What motivates me is to refer to an image that is the end goal.

You need to get off your ass. If you work in an office, you need to get off your bum even more.

I’m not going to tell you to join a martial arts class and become a ninja (unless you want to).

The best way to lose weight without realising is to find a sport / active activity that you’ll fall in love with. Asian parents take their kids to sports classes when they’re young, I mean the culture in China is a bit extreme because they want their kid to be the next Olympian, but as an adult, sweating it out in the gym is not fun.

Martial Arts, Basketball, Football, Netball, Rugby, Swimming, Cycling, Running, Boxing, Yoga, Zumba, Ballet, Ariel Silks — the list is endless.

Once you’re addicted to your competitive sport, you’ll be fit and you’ll feel good about yourself.

And that’s that!

Quit weighing yourself. It’s not a reflection on how you’re doing & you’ll feel crap one day and then endure short-lived happiness the next. Go on how you feel.

Don’t stress about your weight. Food is for enjoying, not for worrying about. East Asians tend to eat little and often. That’s why people think we eat all the time.

Start looking up sports classes that you’ve always wanted to join. Trial some on Groupon and let me know which ones you like.

Decide to love yourself today.

Zen

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Once upon a time, I wanted to be a Food Presenter.

I’d watch a foodie channel, interrupt the show with my mouth full of spag bol’ and I’d vent “…you lucky sods, I want to travel the world and eat all the foods!”.

When our tour guide mentioned the option of taking a cooking class in Hoi An, I instantly jumped up with my best oh-pick-me-pick-me-please face.

Welcome to the Lantern, a cafe/restaurant charged with fuschia flower trees. We were guided upstairs, where the fun begins.

Our teachers introduced themselves (a brother and sister, from a wonderful family business) and guided us to the local bustling fresh food market.

After our educational food tour, we were taken to our cooking station.

I apologise in advance for my s**t quality photos, my iPhone just didn’t agree with the lighting.

Because I love that you’re reading my Blog, I’m going share Hoi An’s authentic recipes with you.

Ok, let’s begin.

First dish: Bánh Xèo. A thin, crispy, very light pancake filled with pork, prawn and veggies. Roll over to my homestay post for juicy details of my love affair with this dish. “Xèo” refers to the sizzling sound it makes when you fry it. The name loosely means “sizzling cake.”

To make enough for four hungry friends, you’ll need:

0.6kg pork belly
180g jumbo king prawns
400g pancake flour
4 cups water
1 cup of coconut cream
10g spring onion – sliced
Half of an onion – sliced into thins
200g shrimps
500g bean sprouts
1tsp Turmeric
1 Handful of fresh mint
1 Handful of fresh coriander
1 Handful of fresh bean sprouts
1 Handful of lettuce
2tsp vegetable oil
(20) Vietnamese soft rice paper (optional)

Pop the pork belly in boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Slice thinly and set aside. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water. Set that aside too.

Prepare the batter by mixing the flour with water, coconut cream, turmeric and spring onions.

You’re going to fry one pancake at a time, so don’t go crazy and throw all the meat in the pan (I was hungry and keen).

In a frying pan, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Toss in the onions and then a portion of pork belly and king prawns. (For one pancake, I put in about a tablespoonful of pork and prawns). Fry until cooked.

Pour a cup full of the batter mixture into the pan over the meat, quickly tilt the pan, so the mixture spreads thinly.

Add a spoonful of bean sprouts on the pancake.

Here’s a little tip, to stop the edges from sticking to the pan, brush a little oil around the edge of the pancake.

Once the mixture is clear over the edges, fold one-half the pancake over and slip it onto a plate.

Get your greens in and fill up the pancake with a lettuce and chopped up cucumber.

It’s not mandatory but wrap it up in rice paper if you wish to give it that extra crunch.

Taa-dah! Can you just feel that concentration?

Hands down, best roll I’ve ever, ever, eaten. I promise you, I’m not just saying that because I made it.

The Vietnamese Dipping Sauce can also be whipped up ahead; it’s easy to make, so while you’re on a roll (ha) why not get started?!

Fish Sauce 100ml
Rice Vinegar 100ml
Brown Sugar 100ml
Water 170ml

Mix all above in a bowl (preferably in the above order) and stir well. Optional: add chopped garlic, chilli, basil and crispy onions to taste.

Best of all, the sauce goes with all of the dishes in this post.

Next dish: Papaya Salad, who’s best friend is Vietnamese spring rolls (I’ll get to those bad boys later).

Recipe:
1 large green papaya
1 large carrot
2 shallots
2 chillies
A packet of basil leaves
Handful of roasted peanuts
Shred the green papaya and carrot finely into strips. Use your Spiralizer to make lovely swirls (or a knife will do).

Cut the shallots into little cubes.

Add it to a mixing bowl.

Add finely cut chillies to taste.

Drizzle with the Vietnamese dipping sauce and mix well.

Top with basil leaves and roasted peanuts.

I just wanted to stick my head into it. When a dish is bursting with colour, you know it’s good.

Hoi An, Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls. These spring rolls are different to Chinese spring rolls; the coating is netted — so they’re the ultimate level of crispy.

You’ll need:
Vietnamese netted rice paper
100g glass noodles
200g minced pork
Handful of Wood Ear mushrooms
1 carrot
1 onion
Handful of spring onions
1 garlic bulb
Salt & pepper to taste

Shred the carrots, Wood Ear mushrooms, onions and spring onions into thin strips. Brine and then cut up the glass noodles into 2cm pieces.

Throw all of the cut-up veggies into mixing bowl and add the pork mince.

Squash garlic cloves and pop that into the bowl.

Get your hands dirty and mix well.

Remove rice papers from its packaging. If the papers are dry or hard, use a damp cloth or place a wet paper towel beneath them.

Fold one edge about 3cm, put about 1 tbsp of filling on top of the closed area. Then roll up to create a tube.

Heat up some oil (I use sunflower) for the spring rolls to be deep fried. Fry for about 2-3 minutes.

Enjoy and let me know how utterly satisfied you feel.

Vietnamese Grilled Fish — a dish wrapped up cosy in banana leaf.

You’ll need:
200g fresh tuna steak
Green banana leaf (3 x 30cm pieces)
1 egg
Handful of Wood Ear mushrooms
Handful of shallots
1/4 of an onion
Handful of spring onions
1 carrot
10g glass (vermicelli) noodles (soak in warm water and cut the pieces so they are about 1.5 inches)
Chopped fresh garlic (1 bulb)
1 fresh turmeric
2tsp turmeric oil
1 fresh chilli (or more to taste)
Salt & pepper to taste

Slice the tuna into bite size pieces.

Slice the Wood Ear mushrooms, shallots, spring onions, carrots, garlic, turmeric and chilli into thin pieces.

Pop all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl

Mix it up and form a flat paste.

Grab the patty and place it onto three layers of banana leaf (to avoid burning our fishy dishy)

Pop it under the grill on a low setting for 15 minutes.

Take it out and devour. This dish is regularly served with rice. I warn you, once you take that first bite, you won’t be able to stop.

As a class, we demolished our delicious banquet, which, of course, tastes better when you made it yourself.

Incredibly fresh, authentic Vietnamese flavours, hugely rich in protein, antioxidants and Vitamin C.

I have no doubt that all three dishes will fill you up.

I dare you to give them a try and let me know what you think.

The cooking class was exactly how I dreamt it to be, even better perhaps.

If you’ve at any point yelled ‘ah, I would love to do that’, then Real Food Adventure – Vietnam is the one for you.

I would also point you in the direction of Mexico Food & Culture or Real Food Adventure – India (because they are basically on my list). If you fancy somewhere closer to home: Local Living Italy looks like fun. Can’t decide? A full list is here.

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Location: Vietnam – Hoi An

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We hopped onto our bikes to explore Hoi An’s picturesque countryside.

Excuse the outfit, when you live out of a backpack you can easily achieve the dishevelled ‘gap yah’ style.

I would recommend hopping onto a organised bike tour because part of the money from your fare goes to the local people that you visit.

And you get to do this:

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

Just watering my crops and going back to my roots, (ha, get it?).

Our tour guide announced, “Girls, it’s time to ride a buffalo!”.

Yes, a buffalo.

I have a story to share with you about my buffalo experience. This one is a charmer.

I perch my bum onto this buffalo’s back.

I stared into the distance — into layers of rice fields as they gathered over the horizon. I was content. Then out of nowhere, Mr Buffalo Man stands up and starts chanting some Vietnamese opera song.

Then the buffalo starts pooping in the water, whilst I’m still on it.

Then the buffalo man (somehow) encouraged me sing along to his song!

Everything happened so fast that when it was time to get off, I was like, what…what just happened?
I survived!


We love you buffalo & buffalo man!

Our last stop on the bike ride was this beautiful beach.

The perfect place to reflect on our wonderful tour.

If that wasn’t enough, we were taken onto a boat back to Hoi An: Old Town. This was our view whilst we floated across layers of black silk.

Before heading to the land of nod, we were absolutely staving!

The food in Hoi An is beyond ridiculous. We ordered a three-course meal and this was the starter. Who gives you three plates for a starter?!

 

Like seriously, Hoi An, you’re spoiling me!

My main man dish arrived: chicken in banana leaf. I needed someone to roll me out when the banana and chocolate pancake made an appearance.

Stuffed and a bit tipsy, it was time to head back to our hotel to visit the land of nod.

By this point, I thought I was a giddy fairy and flew under this pretty gateshead outside of the hotel.

Goodnight, Hoi An, you light up my heart.

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Location: Vietnam – Hoi An

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