100 years a nation’s soul food

Eight interesting facts about pho: (picked and translated from source) 1. During 1908-1909, steam boats were a popular means of transportation from Hanoi to other cities in the North, and pho started out as a vendor food sold in numbers at river ports. From 1930, pho was popular in the cities, some pho restaurant in Hanoi served until 4 AM. 2. Originally there was only pho with well-done beef. Rare beef was a latter innovation, and only became dominant after 1954. Continue reading 100 years a nation’s soul food

Li xi*

Wellsfargo has always been my favorite bank, for small reasons. Very recently I have one more small reason to like it. I usually go to this Wellsfargo bank on University Dr. Last Saturday morning, I saw these red envelopes (well, not as decorated as the one on the right, but still nice red ones) on the teller’s counter. I asked her how much they cost, and she said they’re free to take. I also overheard the tellers’ chatting about eating opossums. Now that is new. The teller who helped me said her grandfather ate them (but personally she wouldn’t want to find out how they taste). I wonder how they taste, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get barbecued opossum with mushroom sauteed in melted mozarella cheese topped with grounded peanuts or whatever. Anyway, cultural thoughtfulness, generosity, friendly tellers, interesting conversations to gossip, what else can you expect from a bank? *Red envelope is called “bao li xi” in Vietnamese.

Linh Son Pagoda’s banh for the Lunar New Year

Linh Son pagoda, Houston, click on the image to see more pictures of the pagoda. Linh Son pagoda, Houston. Click on the image to see more pictures of the pagoda. Although not all Vietnamese living oversea can take a day off to go to the pagodas on the first day of Tet, many manage to keep the tradition. Of course there is no strict requirement that one has to be looking at and praying to the Buddha at a certain day, for a certain amount of time, or with a certain prayer. Tet is not a religious based tradition. But many Buddhist and even non-Buddhists like to go to the pagodas on the first day of Tet to have a peaceful start of the new year, to feel spiritually lightened (hopefully enlightened as well) and pure on the important day. Many also choose to eat no animal product on this day, as it’s the new spring and every creature deserves to be happy and live in peace. Nonetheless, vegan restaurants are somewhat scarce in the conservative town, places with banh chung banh tet for sale don’t generally make the vegan version, and to deprive […]

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L’approche du Tet*

There are several things to do during Tet in Saigon. It’s not a one-day holiday, it’s a season, similar to Christmas in form and Thanksgiving in spirit. The holiday is lunar-calendar based. It starts on the 23rd of the 12th month, the day to “cung dua ong Tao“, a ceremonious dinner to see off the Household God as he takes his annual trip to heaven. It ends on the 7th day of the 1st month of the new lunar year. In the first week, there are spring flower markets on Nguyen Hue Street and water melon markets in Dakao. Water melon used to be available during Tet only, and there used to be only one kind – the green outside, red inside kind. Now there are yellow, striped, even cubic watermelon! There’s the sound of the gongs and the drums of mua lan (lion dance) in the neighborhood. There are thousands of crimson red Chinese sausages packaged, displayed not so far from deep green banh chung and banh tet. Hmm… it just crossed my mind that the main colors of Tet are also red and green, like Christmas… There is orange from the […]

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Afterschool treats

First day of school is exciting. After a long break, we got up early again, felt motivated, felt ready to be hardworking. This may be the only day in the semester we get up early by choice, but let us not stress that. We checked our emails to see if the professor is in town and will hold class. Yes he is. He even came on time and commented on the president’s inauguration speech, not that there is much to comment. We hung around the undergraduate lounge, tried to read, but we were still in web-surfing mode. Our friends saw us for the first time after 5 weeks, some said they built a fence over the break, some said some said they shouldn’t have drunk so much the night before, some expected this to be an easy last semester. The usual day, the usual bunch. Our professor asked us what on earth is going on with our other professor, from whom we hadn’t heard since our last email 2 weeks ago, so we truthfully said we have no idea. We heard, but couldn’t focus during the lecture, mind wandering what should […]

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Multitaste soup – canh chua ca at Kim Son

They never blink. They never wag their tails. They never mutter a sound. I can never tell what they are thinking or feeling when I look at them. I like them deep-fried, or pan-charred with salt, lemongrass, and pepper, but that’s mostly because of the seasoning mix they’re fried with. By themselves, they are cold-blooded creatures with a distinctive smell, tiny bones resembling oversized needles, very little fat, and worst of all, flaky meat. They’re quite abundant in Vietnam, both alive and cooked. I even like the dipping sauce made out of them. I just don’t like them. Something about their meat freaks me out, or perhaps it’s the childhood memory of having a bone of them stuck in my throat that damages my feeling for those footless fellas. I would have never done it, but my mom, craving for some motherland’s taste, ordered canh chua cá (fish sour-soup) when we went to Kim Son the other day. How could she… fish and soup? Well, it turned out to be the best dish on the table. Canh is soup. Usually the vegetables in canh are leafy greens, and because canh came about before the French and […]

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Sleeky banh soup

Almost every Sunday we make a trip to Bellaire to get the usual supply of patechaud, cha lua, banh gio, and the like. Almost every Sunday the question’s asked: where will we eat today? Well, there are two choices: the all-too-familiar Kim Son, and the more adventurous find which can be anything Little Mother saw in the local Vietnamese newspaper ads. We’ve had our handfuls of adventurous finds, all are good, but as usual smaller places don’t have a big selection, the menus are either common banh mi and pho, or grandiose names we don’t particularly care for. Mother is also easily shy away by the appearance of a restaurant: if the setting doesn’t look good, the food won’t taste good. So back we headed to Kim Son today… We opted for the popular choice of a lunch buffet. We got there early enough, meaning at 11, when it’s just opened and there was banh canh. 15 minutes later and it was all gone. Out of banh canh noodle they said. The soup is not left unattended like the rest of the food trays known and visited by many. No, […]

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Sweet New Year began with chè

We heard dapples of fireworks last night, other than that, everything was normal. TV had the usual shows, roads had the usual cars, the usual air, the feeling of a usual day. Isn’t that strange? New Year came quietly in this town, but with all the bombing and protesting around the world, I suppose a quiet peaceful New Year’s Eve is a nice New Year’s Eve. No champagne, no confetti, no wishes, no counting down. We slept. But how about some black eyed pea? 🙂 Not only is it a traditional American New Year’s food, it always appears in a baby’s first (and most important) birthday in Vietnam (quite a connection, I know… but a good bean, isn’t it?). The word “đậu” for bean, or pea, has the same spelling with the word for passing (an examination), chè is a dessert, so chè đậu trắng is a sweet food of good luck for the beginning of something. Cooked until soft, washed with cold water, the hard “black eye” part of the testa taken off, then cooked again with sticky rice and preferably brown sugar, the beans melt in your mouth. In an average pot of che […]

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