Around this time last year, Sam and I were travelling together in Hanoi. Sam had been feeling a little under the weather and had settled into our hotel for the night, while I had gone out to explore one of the city’s many night markets. It was a chilly, damp evening, but the streets were bright with lanterns and music, impromptu hawkers’ stalls, and lively, chattering crowds.
And then a particular smell caught my attention–roasted and nutty and rich–and I followed it until my eyes landed on a trio of ladies sitting on plastic stools, bent in concentration over their portable charcoal grills, scooping handfuls of what looked like enormous black beads into takeaway bags. As I got closer, I realized that the heavenly smell was coming from the chestnuts they were roasting: the fattest, most gorgeous chestnuts I’d ever seen. A pound of them cost about five cents, and I practically danced away with my little bag full. I stuck my nose in first and inhaled deeply, before plucking out one of the little gems, cracking the thin shell apart with my fingers and sinking my teeth into that first sweet bite of perfection.
Sam is about to start travelling again in earnest, so yesterday afternoon he came over for a little goodbye lunch. When he arrived, I was in the middle of making this toasty, sweet chestnut spread I’d found the recipe for a few days back. He sat down and helped me shell the chestnuts while we chatted about adventures past and adventures to come. Of course, I’m a little nervous for him and I’m more than a little envious, but I can’t wait to hear what he’s going to get up to in South America. Moreover, he’ll be revving up the ol’ Canadaschmanada beast, in case you want to read about his travels, too!
And our chestnut spread turned out beautifully. The vanilla and the touch of sugar give it just enough of a sweetness, and the mellow flavour reminds me of the bean pastes used as fillings in my favourite Asian sweets. The recipe for the spread, and a beautiful video to boot, can be found on the incredibly lovely blog happy yolks.