Bánh giò – Boiled pork rice pie

Vietnamese Instead of choosing among a few dozen types and brands of cereal, the traditional Vietnamese children choose among a few dozen kinds of stuff made of rice flour and often containing meat for the morning energizer. Meat and rice in the morning, what? You must be be kidding… Well… we have breakfast croissant, breakfast burrito, breakfast sausage and cheese biscuit, sausage and cheese kolache, pancake with sausage and/or bacon and definitely butter, and probably more things out there with meat and dairy. The only difference is rice and wheat, but unless you count your calorie intakes and all, grain is grain. Banh cuon certainly doesn’t have any cheese or butter in it. I’m still waiting for the day McDonald comes up with MacBanhCuon (MaCuon, maybe?), then banh cuon will have cheese, egg, sausage, and bacon, probably pickles too, but I think the flour sheet is too delicate to be mass produced like the buns. Anyway, I digress. My schooldays back then often started with pho, hu tiu (a noodle soup with pork instead of beef and slightly sweet broth), banh cuon, and occasionally when I was young we had […]

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The texturous wonder of stewed pig feet

Today has been good to me, and despite the common attitude of Americans toward anything but “common meats,” I think it’s time to talk about one of the most tasteworthy albeit shunned part of a pig. They package and sell it at the Super Walmart in Humble, they’ve been eating it with banh canh (a Southwestern Vietnamese udon-like rice noodle soup) probably since the Southwestern delta became part of Vietnam. (And no, it is not because meat was rare that they had to eat everything, the Southwestern delta region is the most prosperous piece of land of the country.) It takes some work to cook, a strong hand to rub salt and wash, many hours of stewing on a stove, but the result never fails your satisfaction. Yes, it’s the foot of a pig. It looks chubby, but if it’s cooked well, it takes almost no effort to rip the edible part off the bone, and even less to chew. It is a layer of thick skin with tendon and very little fat, extremely tender, but not too tender to lose the firm texture. It’s good because it’s firm and tender. It’s not dry and fibrous […]

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The most delicate is the most tempting

My roommate is eating dinner, I haven’t had anything since 9am, and I’ve vowed to stay on this chair until I get a plot to show my advisor, so I can’t grab anything to eat yet (except the cookies within reach). The best solution to satisfy the saddened tummy is to blog about food. Above is a bottle of nuoc mam pha, and a jar of chilly sauce if you’re in the mood for crying. We come here frequently when I’m in Houston. It’s Banh Cuon Tay Ho #18, belonging to the franchise Banh Cuon Tay Ho (but apparently not on the website, which is good, because the website, oddly enough, is quite Chinese influenced, when banh cuon is as Vietnamese as it can get). I’ve blogged about this chain before, in San Jose, but the restaurant in Houston is quite different. It’s a lot more spacious (you don’t have to worry about accidentally flicking your chopstick, or worse, nuoc mam, over to the other table). In all fairness, it’s Texas. You can’t blame California for being mostly inhabitable. It’s also a lot […]

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At Shokolaat, dine slowly the French way


I was going to name this post “Dark dining,” but thought I should continue the French theme. We had French lunch, and here’s French dinner on the same day (we should have gotten a croissant for breakfast that morning for completeness, but oh well…). Sorry for the invisible pictures, didn’t want to disturb other customers around with the flash, and like an idiot I didn’t remember to switch my camera to candle light mode. I don’t know if that would have helped any though, the candle you see in the picture above is the only light source on the table. They meant to make a dreamy romantic setting, not one for inspection. Let’s go straight to the food: 1. they were tasty, 2. they were small. Actually the girl next to our table couldn’t help but cried out the second remark when the food was brought to her, she also made a quick approximation that you could get 20 cheeseburgers from McDonald for the price of one of these dishes. That is true, but I don’t think I would enjoy 20 cheeseburgers as much as I enjoyed my pate chaud stuffed with quail (pictured), which […]

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Crêpes Café – another home for the French curl

With vision unstoppable by foliage, Mudpie saw the sign above hidden behind rows of trees as we were roaming Menlo Park for a lunch spot on a Friday afternoon one month ago. Question asked, “should we go there or keep looking for something else?”, as we drove past another block. It should be noted that we missed a turn once, chose direction by random illogical preference (as I had no idea where which direction led to). We also passed a bunch of places with clarity and apparent popularity, or places that Mudpie has tried before. But we were out for a food hunt, not chicken shopping at grocery stores, and this place fits the adventure. Answer made, “let’s go there.” So turn we did, a parking spot was not too hard to find on the side of the place, passing by the nonchalant gaze of customers sitting outdoor and in we went. I can’t quite call it a restaurant. Some call every eating stop with chairs and tables a restaurant, but this is an example of one that doesn’t fit into the category. A restaurant is brisk. […]

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French flakie

It’s a Sunday night and I have a little more than 12 hours until my first class of a new week. If I make sure I have 8 hours of sleep as they recommend for everyone, and an hour of scurrying around to get ready in the morning, then I’d have only 3 hours left to tend my homework, make a plot to show my advisor, write my thesis (and hope one day I will finish), study for the GRE, and blog. (One would say blogging is a waste of time, but I personally think it’s a better use of time than hanging out at clubs and bars. Anyway, maybe that’s just me.) Of those activities blogging isn’t the easiest one, I kid you not. You got bored from working, took out a piece of pastry your mom got you from Lee’s Sandwiches. You thought, since it’s not popular where you live and you haven’t had it since donkeys ago and couldn’t find it on Wikipedia, maybe you should blog about it. Then you took pictures of it. You even took out a knife to cut it up nicely. […]

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Remember, Blue Danube Cafe

Vietnamese Let me say this before I forget: chocolates need to have simpler, more absentminded-friendly names. Back to my introduction. As much as I enjoy reading the menu ahead to know what I’m getting into before stepping into a place and stepping out in silent indifference, I have a thing for places I just happen to find. Actually I don’t remember how I found this place. Was it a short walk from one of our dinner spots? Was it online? I doubt it was online because it doesn’t quite exist online yet (not to be confused with restaurants of similar names in San Francisco and all). Anyway, we went there, we saw a guy sitting at one of the coffee tables with his laptop who informed us “She’s busy but she’ll be out in a minute,” we did some sightseeing along the glass cabinets of chocolate. I did marvel at their collections of chocolate truffles and the like, but perhaps my stomach has grown bigger so it prefers something bigger than little bitty truffles. My gaze stopped at the cakes. Chocolate cakes of course. (I don’t know how old Penhryn […]

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Omnivorous posting

This seems like a cop-out first post after several days of inactivity (due to my main profession of doing homework and all), but I just can’t resist. Very Good Taste (via Sean Carroll‘s post on Cosmic Variance) has a list of food items, plus the following instructions: 1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results. The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred: Continue reading Omnivorous posting

Nola – Weaken the hurricane, not the crawfish

Vietnamese It’s amazing how Wikipedia updates its stuff so efficiently, there is no way we could have read our encyclopedia about a hurricane the same day it is hitting the coast of Louisiana if we were trying to 10 years ago (or if we’re in New Orleans right now, as there’s no power anyway). On my flight back to Houston, I remember how happy I felt to see the plane streak through thick fluffs of cloud, as I was too filled with sunshine in California any small shade of tree was a blessing. For a whole week after that Houston was soaked. It rained and rained and rained. And now Louisiana too is getting a bath. How about California? As dry as a frying pan. As we waved goodbye to our friendly hostess at Cafe Renaissance, we still had some room for dessert (or so we thought, little did we know the Persian food had a surprisingly delayed effect), so we set out for Nola a stone’s throw away, hoping to get some beignet. This was not my first attempt to […]

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