Went home to eat

    Been one measly week since I got back to the West Coast, and my stomach is already shifting in discomfort with the regular irregular dining pattern of a student, or perhaps of just someone living alone.

    At home, on weekdays, we have dinner at 5 while watching TV. For lunch there are banh bao that Mom made, each as big as a small fist with a pork ball and a half an egg inside, refrigerated. I just need to microwave it for 1 minute. On Saturday or Sunday, I’m in charge of choosing a restaurant for lunch, preferably somewhere near Bellaire, where Mom buys a couple of banh gio, which I can also have for lunch during the week, and a pound of cha lua. For dinner, usually something small, since we are already too full from lunch. This time home, my favorite dinner has been toasted french bread with pâté and cha lua. (Mom tucked 2 cans of pâté into my backpack before the flight. Airport security didn’t like the look of them on screen so they had to do a bag check. The lady asked me, “what is this?” I said, “pâté”. “What is it?” “Pâté…” Her quizzical look… “Um… you know… like… a paste?” “When you open it, is it liquid or a chunk?” “It’s a chunk” – well, this is liver pâté, it’s not exactly a chunk, but I know what answer would give me my pâté in tact – “Ok… cuz if it’s like guacamole then we can’t let it pass…” “No no it’s not like guacamole.” I got to keep my cans. I’m still not entirely sure if pâté is like guacamole.)

    Anyway, the meals at home…

    It goes without saying that the meals at “home” home were Vietnamese. Rice, rice paper rolls with slow-cooked pork and pickles, mung bean xoi with sesame mix, pho, mi Quang, homemade jam from fruits in the garden. But when we went out, somehow it all turned to Japanese(*). Hibachi in Port Arthur, shabu on Christmas Eve, and sort-of-izakaya on the Sunday before I flew out because Red Lantern, a Vietnamese restaurant downtown, closes on Sundays. (I don’t understand restaurants that close on Sundays.)

    At Shabu House, we asked for desserts. The girl pulled out a pot from under the bar counter where we sat, a fading aluminum pot that looks like something you would see grandma uses to boil eggs. She ladled a soupy mung-bean-and-rice pudding into three bowls.

    – Oh? Is this Japanese?! We have something just like this too.
    – No, it’s Taiwanese…
    – Oh… are you… Taiwanese?
    – No, I’m Korean. *grin*

    The dessert was too bland in Mom’s and Dad’s standard. Actually, yeah, it was bland, maybe 10 sugar grains per bowl or something. But I thought it was the perfect cooling end to a hot pot lunch. I also like that pot. So homey.

    Or maybe it’s just because I was eating with my parents that I was more forgiving of the food. Company matters. 😉

    (*) Ach no, I lied. There was one Korean lunch. The mandu was too oily, the grilled fish too charred, the seafood jeongol too spicy. But there was one very good thing about Seoul House: the banchan cart next to the wall where you can get as much and whatever kind of kimchi and other side dishes as you want. And I like their sweet soy sauce potato (gamja jorim). In fact, I like all gamja jorim. 😉

    Shabu House
    9889 Bellaire Blvd
    Houston, TX 77036
    (713) 995-5428
    Lunch for three with dessert: $33.51

    Seoul House
    10603 Bellaire #107
    Houston, TX 77072
    (281) 575-8077
    Lunch for three: $51.80

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