Cambodia Shares Its Secrets

In Joseph Conrad’s short story, “The Secret Sharer,” a tall ship eases her way through the warm night, towards the coast of an exotic tropical kingdom. The captain secretly assists a mysterious man over the side and he swims to the lee-ward shore of “The Cambogee.” Nowadays we call that land Cambodia. Many years ago, as a sailor plying the “China Coast,” I often slipped past that spot where Conrad’s... Read More

Miss Ba’s Old Saigon Pho

When I first came to Saigon in the early 1990s I found a charming and slow moving little low-rise city whose tallest building was the then 10 storey Caravelle hotel. Clerks in the then few banks spoke French and closed up shop from noon to two for “le dejuner.” But soon the leisurely lady bestirred herself and began to rise. Office and hotel towers shot up like bamboo and sugar cane, seemingly overnight. In a twinkling of history’s eye the... Read More

An Tet Viet TV Show

The annual Tet cultural-show-with-foreign-guests, broadcast from Hanoi. I appear with the Irish ambassador, a Japanese laquer artist, a Viet Kieu adventurer and a Korean musical couple. There is Vietnamese voice-over, but you can still hear the English. My main contribution starts at about minute 40. Though if you want to see me sing (shudder), watch the begining.  Read More

Saigon Rooftop View a la Proust

I saw the most startling thing not long ago. Not long ago I saw a view of Saigon for the first time. Now this was not the Saigon I used to know when she was a callow girl from a far-away province on the far side of the world. No. I saw the new Saigon, and I saw her with new eyes. I saw the ultra-modern, international lady who still wears the Ao Dai and limpet hat of her past. I saw Saigon for the second first time from the same kind of vantage point... Read More

Cha Ca La Vong of Hanoi & Saigon

Do you want to taste history? Do you want to send your senses back more than a hundred years? It’s easy to do. You can do it in Hanoi, or here in Saigon in District 1 or District 3. The oldest restaurant in this country is Cha Ca La Vong of Hanoi. And they have two outlets in Saigon these days. So if you’d like to have exactly the same “businessman’s lunch” (or dinner) enjoyed by folks a century ago, betake your hungry self to... Read More

Sinh To, the Smoothie

There was one bright candle in the dark night of the gastronomic Bad Old Days before the mid 1990s. A little beacon of cool relief that you could count on finding at any given street corner or roadside rest any time of day or night. It was the most beguiling combination of Vietnamese artifice and natural goodness: the fruit smoothie, known here as sinh to. Now I’m not talking about the smoothies you get in the States in some coffee-cum-juice... Read More

Clark Gable and Nachos in Vietnam

What in the great wide world could Hollywood heart-throb Clark Gable, nachos, and Vietnam ever have in common? Hey, this is Vietnam. Never be surprised at anything! In 1932, Gable, the then reigning “King of Hollywood,” and Jean Harlow made a flick called Red Dust. Gable played a rubber planter and Harlow a hooker. And the red dust referred to in the title was the soil of southern Vietnam. Yeah, you got that right. The action took place in the... Read More

Cobra’s Beating Heart

Cobra as Fresh as It Gets I’ve eaten and drunk many a strange thing around the world. And I’ll continue to do so, for your delectation as well as mine. So I was at the 3T restaurant, on the rooftop above Temple Club in Saigon, recently, entertaining a friend from the States. And I want to tell you that I had the freshest shrimp I’ve ever eaten. Oh, so sweet and succulent were they! Truly, I’ve never tasted shrimp so divine.... Read More

Dog Meat Days in Saigon

Okay. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that it would sooner or later come to this. To that seemingly dark side of Vietnamese gastronomy, wherein people commit acts so shocking that to many a Western wayfarer they seem to constitute a sin without a name.  Yes, it’s time to talk about thit cho (dog meat). Also known as cay to or as thit cay nam dinh. Here in Saigon you can go down to the Pham and take a short... Read More

Sterling Nonfiction Books

Sterling’s writing is like spitfire, foursquare and jazzy with crackle, and his behavior is just scary enough to make you glad you’re not approaching a touchy border crossing in his company. —  Kirkus Reviews   You can see reviews of one book at the bottom of this page. If you would like to see all books written by me, and reviews, just click here and check Good Reads BOOK REVIEW The... Read More

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