Banh tet, sweet and savory


Bánh chưng and bánh tét to the Vietnamese Tết are like turkey and ham to the American Thanksgiving. The holiday feast just wouldn’t feel right without them. Although I have blogged about these sticky rice squares and logs before, the lunar new year has come back, and so are they. Sticky rice can be uberfilling in large quantity, and like all festive food, it’s not recommended that you feast on these dense beasts day after day, as satisfaction would turn into tiresomeness. But once a year, or maybe twice, a couple slices of banh tet sound so much more interesting than cereal, rice, even noodle soup. Banh chung and banh tet have rather similar ingredients, especially when they’re made by Vietnamese Southerners. Both are wrapped in leaves (although slightly different kinds of leaves), and boiled for hours in water that is sometimes spiced with lemongrass. After cooking, a heavy weight is put on banh chung to drain the water, while banh tet are rolled around to perfect the cylindrical shape. I remember we used to hang pairs of banh tet in my grandfather’s kitchen, taking one down everyday during the week of Tet to whip out a nice […]

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Roasted quail at Thảo Tiên


It must have been at least 4 months since we last went to Thao Tien, and I’ve been telling myself to blog about this place ever since, but for some reason every record of our visit had mysteriously disappeared. Did I not take picture? What happened to the receipt? I have no idea. But the amazing taste of roasted quails haunts me in my sleep. We just had to go back to take pictures again, and it’s only appropriate to complete this last hour of the Ox year with the best of birdies. Thao Tien actually specializes in hủ tíu, a noodle soup with slightly sweet broth, chewy noodle, fried shallot, usually accompanied by pork and shrimp (I blogged about it before at Bún Bò Huế Cố Đô). With the southern Vietnamese theme, the house not only has their waiters dress in áo bà ba but also extends its menu to include the less commonly seen savories like chim cút rô-ti (roasted quail) and cá kèo kho tiêu (a kind of freshwater fish – the “elongate mudskipper“, if you absolutely must know – simmered in fish sauce and caramel sauce much like cá […]

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