Carrots, Moroccan Style
Grocery shopping in Hanoi requires determination, smarts and discipline. Meat, fruits and vegetables are best bought fresh at markets that dot the city. Unfortunately I have to cross a highway to get to my closest market (insane traffic) but in a side street near my school a ladies set stalls up morning and night. Eggs, freshly pressed tofu, pork and chickens sit side by side with all manner of vegetables from ruby ripe tomatoes to stunningly fresh green onions. On the other side of the street you can buy processed meats roasted pork with crackling that lives up to its name and other pre-prepared food.
All this is stupidly fresh but difficult to buy with little language, but what about grocery items? Well in my area there are a bunch of delis, mini marts and the Fivimart. But don’t expect a western supermarket experience, oh no. All these shops stock different products, so to complete a shopping list you may need to stop at 3 or 4 different shops. Butter is from France or New Zealand. Most of the dairy is UHT. If the dairy is fresh, it is imported, expensive with an inconsistent supply. UHT cream is weird. Apples and pears from America. Australian wine is expensive. Beer and spirits are cheap. Spices can be spankingly fresh or dusty. Chicken stock is called broth, imported from America and comes in a can. You can buy chillies in a can, too. The rule here is, if you see it buy as much as you can carry because tomorrow it might be gone.
Nearby there is a shop famous for imported products. Two coolrooms are filled with Australian lamb and veal, French Cheese, stonefruit, blood oranges, artichokes. I try not to buy vegetables from here, support the local economy and all that but I couldn’t resist these round baby carrots. Fiddly to peel, but when cooked turn into sweet bite sized chunks but retain their clean ever-so carroty flavour. Inspired by the endless incarnations of raw Moroccan carrot salads I imagined softened orbs, spiced and browned, warming in this suddenly frigid Hanoi winter.
Doused in spices, drizzled with lemon juice and sprinkled with course sea salt these carrot balls became flavour bombs, sweet, hot, sour and salty. Only some of the spices stick to the vegetable, but don’t let the leftover spiced oil go to waste. Mop it up with some bread, yes great bread is available here and savour the flavours of somewhere different. I’ll be here, giving myself a pat on the back for being about to find all the ingredients necessary. It sure is an adventure!
Moroccan Style Carrots
If you can’t find these orb-like delicious carrots, don’t worry. Substitute baby carrots or even regular sized ones cut into chunks.
500g carrots, trimmed, washed and peeled.
2T olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 t ground ginger
2 t lemon juice.
If your carrots are round like these blanch them for a few minutes in salted boiling water to get them started. This stage won’t be necessary if you are using slices of regular carrots, or thin fingers of baby carrots.
Heat oil and butter in a small pan over medium low heat until butter has melted and is bubbling. Add carrots and cook, until softened and browned. You may need to adjust the heat or add a touch more oil. When carrots are almost done stir spices through, you want them to heat up and toast to release their flavours, but don’t burn them. Stir through lemon juice then remove from heat. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve. Don’t forget the spicy sludge at the bottom of the pan, divine.