Food of childhood – memories revived by Tran Van Chi

One of my retirement plans is to translate these books into English. This one is about Southern Vietnamese food. Most of these dishes are still there, some hidden behind coconut trees and around small branches of the river net, some popularized in Saigon’s expensive menus, national tour, and exported oversea. Some have vanished as the species of the land died out or became unfavorable, as time is too short to make good treats, as the abundance of resource and imagination is replaced by the greedy fight over benefits, and as people simply forget. I remember bắp nấu. It’s corn kernels without the peel, cooked like rice, white, soft, and gently sweet, eaten hot with a sprinkle of salt and sesame mix. Mmmmm… I remember thịt kho nước dừa. “Kho” is to simmer meat or fish with water and nước mắm, preferably in a clay pot, believe it or not, earthenware gives a flavor to the dish. My mom used to kho pork and eggs with fresh coconut water (according to Tran Van Chi, and many Southern ladies, kho with coconut milk – the juice from the dried shredded coconut meat, is untraditional, […]

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Hot soups for the cold winter at Bún bò Huế Cố Đô

It was a warm, cloudy day. Few cars were on the road and every store was closed. So were restaurants, but not Vietnamese restaurants. We drove all the way down FM 1960 to Veteran Memorial, and pulled in the parking lot of Phở Danh (with the helpful hand signal of a Vietnamese gentleman, who just happened to stand there for no reason and apparently noticed my clumsy parking skill). But we went next door for Bún Bò Huế Cố Đô, since my mom spotted it out and we were in adventurous mood. There were as few people inside as cars on the road today. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to go to Phở Danh, cuz it’s bigger and more noticeable. We weren’t deterred. So how is Cố Đô? My dad got the house specialty: bún bò Huế (Hue beef noodle). Rice noodle, beef, beef broth, (sounds like phở so far, isn’t it?), congealed blood, cha lua, a thick side cut of pig leg (not foot), and some good spicy hot pepper. I suppose it wasn’t spicy enough for my dad, so he put in some […]

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Cha lua – Snow White of the Sausages

Today it snows…… in Texas. Yep, College Station… It was 70°F yesterday, and this morning I went outside at 10:30, seeing shrubs, lawns, cars, and the roof of the All Faiths Chapel covered in white. But I didn’t have my camera with me then. And it is snowing outside my window right now, for hours, but little Kodak can’t capture this momentous event through 2mm thick and dirty glass, so that I have no hope of disproving people who laugh at Texas for not having snow. Not that it will be long. AccuWeather says Sunday may reach record high of 82°F set in 1921. Aw… you mean I can wear my gloves only one day a year? That’s what you get for living in the South your whole life (so far). Have some snow white food instead. (Presented to you by Eistube with limited commercials, production of Gio Cha Duc Huong, Houston, TX.) I have faith in sausages. I’ll try haggis when I find a place in America that has it. Meaty, seasoned, high in calorie, compact, preservable, easy for cooking, efficient, what more can you expect from a […]

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Garden Fresh

My mother keeps a strict Buddhist habit of eating vegan twice a month, once on new moon day and once on full moon day. It’s a good way of practicing self control, especially when those vegan days fall on party days. Such as Thanksgiving dinner. While everyone was feasting away at the fat 20lb turkey, my mom watched the Dallas Cowboys and the Seahawks with a bowl of vegan instant pho. I thought of a PhD comic in which Tajel and Cecilia prepared “tofurkey” for Thanksgiving and wondered if she would have preferred that to the pho. Then over the phone Mudpie brought up the likelihood of being a complete vegan in the future, possibly due to californianization. So I was reminded of a place we ate in Mountain View. A vegan place, surprised, no? How about some (tofu) crab soup for starter? Continue reading Garden Fresh