Mai’s Restaurant – 35 years and counting

banh-hoi-on-rice-paper

My junior year of high school was my first year ever in America, and I was still learning the rope of living here, high school dance among other things. A friend invited me to Homecoming. For the pre-dance dinner, he talked about going to a Vietnamese restaurant named Mai in Houston. I didn’t know exactly where it was or what it was (this was 2002, Google Maps and Yelp didn’t exist), but I thought that was considerate of him. In the end, we went to a steakhouse instead, I thought it was because Mai was a bit too far away, and I was left wondering what Mai was like. A few years later, my host parents mentioned Mai again in passing conversation, and suggested we went together sometime. The place, dated back to 1978, is known as the very first Vietnamese restaurant in Houston, and pretty much every Houstonian knows at least its name. My parents and I were interested, but again, days passed and we forgot. One day in early 2010, news came that the restaurant had been destroyed by a fire. We sighed, somewhat regretful. Luckily, it reopened. I forget how and when we […]

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Mom’s cooking #4 – Beef porridge

– Guest post by Mom, loosely translated by me – There are mornings, even on weekends, when I wake up feeling like a stone (Mai: she means it figuratively, the supermodel BMI runs in our family ) and still have to get out of bed because of the mountain of work waiting. Not work at work, but work around the house. Laundry, cleaning the bathrooms, tidying the bedrooms, grocery, and especially cooking even when I have no appetite. When those mornings happen, I think of something easy to make and easy to eat. Naturally, porridge comes to mind. My daughter doesn’t like porridge, but when she’s not home I can prepare it for her dad and me for lunch and maybe dinner, too. I like porridge: mung bean porridge, fish porridge, chicken porridge, pork porridge… and beef porridge for today. Beef Porridge (serving 3) – 1 cup cooked rice – 2 lb pork bone – 1 lb ground beef – 8 oz champignon mushroom – 1/2 sweet onion, minced – 1 tbs minced garlic – salt and sugar to taste (e.g., 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar) – a pinch of ground black pepper – green […]

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Mung bean porridge

Rice porridge was my enemy. In elementary years, I got a fever about once every month. Aside from feeling tired and having weird dreams when the fever got high, I didn’t really mind that, but my mom did. She was so worried she wouldn’t sleep for days, not until my temperature went back to normal. And she made sure that I ate my rice porridge. She made rice porridge with ground pork and rice porridge with fish, she added vegetable, she seasoned it perfectly, and I still hated every spoon of it. I hated the texture of rice porridge: mushy and textureless. I hated both thick porridge and watery porridge(*). Every porridge meal was a battle between Mom and me, and I always lost, which deepened my aversion to porridge even more. But there were happy days when I actually liked my fever porridge and didn’t need my mom to prod: it was mung bean porridge on those days. Actually, there’s rice in mung bean porridge, too, but the mung bean skin makes the porridge all nuttier and better. Then it’s a sweet porridge (just rice, mung bean and sugar, no meat), so that’s doubly better. […]

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