Better than banh mi thit nuong

Isn’t she a fine beauty? Stuffed to the brim. Peppery chunky crunchy meatloaf. Cucumber strips, cilantro twigs, carrot and daikon strings. And beneath it all, a layer of (possibly homemade) velvety vietnamesischer Braunschweiger, als ob es jeglichen Sinn ergibt. Ja, der Sandwich ist so explosiv gut it induces a spontaneous breakout of German. Bánh mì pâté thịt nướng*. Not the usual chargrilled pork banh mi I’ve had elsewhere, this one has some kind of briny rich meatloaf. I ordered only two miserable loaves. Shoulda got 20! Continue reading Better than banh mi thit nuong

Sandwich Shop Goodies 16 – Nước rau má (pennywort drink)

Emerald green. Chilled. Clear. Leafy. Mildly sweet (sugar is added). Every time I pass by a patch of fuzzy spring grass, I dream of munching a tuft and inhaling the lush, youthful aroma of those dew- and rain-soaked blades. This two-dollar drink in this plastic cup is my dream come liquefied. Lately I have been slacking on the blogging front, mainly because I took on an editing job to compensate for my unwillingness to cook. Ironically, now my eating out budget has increased but I have neither time to eat nor to write about the stuff that I eat. On top of that, the last few weeks of the semester are, naturally, the time to sprint at the end of the marathon and the professors make sure that slacking means death (no joke). But sometimes it backfires when you’re too stressed, you ditch your homework, set out on an hour bus ride to your Vietnamese sandwich shop, order a cup of pennywort drink, and drown your sleep deprivation in eavesdropping others’ conversations. Little Mom used to make pennywort soup, the best remedy for hot weather and rising body temperature […]

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Some more chả talk – The refined tastes and textures of Vietnamese sausages

– QUYNHCHI, aka Little Mom – Translator: Mai Most Vietnamese like chả, and I like chả even more than most people, because it tastes good, it’s good for you, and it’s good with everything. Chả appears subtly but unmistakably in noodle soups like bún bò, bún mộc, bún thang… Chả fares well with the lustrous steamed rolls of bánh cuốn, with bland white rice, topping sweet sticky rice, inside a crusty loaf of bánh mì… You can also eat chả by itself as a cold cut, then it tastes even better. Why is chả good for you? Because of what comes into it and how people make it. Vegan chả aside, all chả are pure meat. Take chả lụa (silk sausage) for instance, the pork must be lean, the fresher it is from the slaughter house the higher quality the sausage has. Traditional chả makers don’t wash the pork with water but use instead a clean cloth to wipe off its excess moisture before the pasting process. These days the meat is most likely ground by machines(*), but a good log of chả used to be […]

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Down the Aisle 8: Abba crab paté

Found in a furniture store. Refrigerated. In a tube, a tad bigger than a Colgate container. Cuz I haven’t seen any edible paste in a tube at Safeway or Walmart, I say The Swedes rule in design, again. But does the paste sing, too? The band ABBA had four member, but the paté has at least four times as many ingredients, as the label says, and I quote: “canola oil, crab meat, cod roe, saithe roe, salt, sugar, tomato purée, dill, aromas (this isn’t exactly an ingredient, but whatev), vinegar, potato flakes, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, spices, yeast extract”. I’ll cut the chase and tell you now that the only thing I could taste… … was the salt. In hindsight saltine crackers probably contributed in blinding my tongue, but I don’t regret. It’s pleasantly salty, like French fries and chips. It’s the other background stuff that make the scene. The smoothness melts the instant the tongue reaches it, a fishy moment whips through the air, and you sink to the bottom of the ocean watching two crabs clapping claws. If you […]

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A Haiku in College Station

Afternoon leaves fall, family of three gathers by hot noodle soups. How d’ya like my first ever haiku, inspired by a linner (lunch/dinner) at Haiku? 😀 5-7-5 syllables (not on, though), with kigo (seasonal reference) and kireji (cutting word) too… You can’t say I didn’t try. This was the easiest Japanese/Korean restaurant we could get to while driving on University. It’s more Japanese than Korean, evident from the short section of bibimbaps and whutnot among everything sushi. Seeing how this weather cries for soups, Mom decides on some piping kalbi tang (갈비탕). It’s not as oomphing good as the one I had at Bi Won in Santa Clara, just how many Koreans live in College station after all (*), but it sure is satisfying with loads of egg in a beef bone stock. Continue reading A Haiku in College Station

Thiên Hương makes the best broken rice

I like those restaurants that specialize. You go there and you know exactly what you’re gonna get: the one thing that the chefs make and that everyone else gets. Cơm Tấm Thiên Hương uses two full pages to write all different combinations of their one dish: cơm tấm (broken rice) with meats, egg, and tofu. If they just list the “toppings” and their corresponding price, like for a pizza, the menu would condense down to the size of a calculator. Common toppings for broken rice are grilled pork (or chicken, or beef), chả trứng (egg loaf), tàu hủ ki (flaky fried tofu), bì (shredded pork skin), and fancier, chạo tôm (shrimp sausage on sugarcane). If you can choose up to 4 toppings on your plate, combinatorics tells us that’s 98 possible combinations. If you read Thiên Hương’s two-page menu and don’t see your perfect fit, just tell the waiter what you’d like. Broken rice can be custom-made, so to speak. What makes broken rice superior to normal rice is its broken nature. Through milling, the germs, which are about 1/10 of a rice grain, break away […]

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