Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Home Cooked Meals

With Tet New Year's Eve near not many businesses were open, but honestly we didn't even notice. For one, everything is literally only a scooter ride away. Batteries? Bam! Scooter ride away. Superglue? Bam! Scooter ride away. Beer? Bam! Scooter ride away. Baguettes? Bam! Scooter ride away....you get the picture. It was as if you asked for something and go brush your hair and bam! There it was.

Meals were very simple, fresh, eaten together and at a leisurely pace. It was wonderfully relaxing.After not being able to find something good to eat in the market for breakfast, the next morning we decided on a simple breakfast of crispy pork and threaded rice noodles.Served at room temperature, the crispy skin pork was salty and fatty, matching well with chewy, light & cool noodles. So simple and refreshing.Just grab a bowl and pile up the fixing, creating your perfect bite each time.And of course we were spoiled with a dinner of Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa, a specialty cured and grilled pork. With all the fixings for personalized rolls.We were even treated to leftovers from our Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa meal a couple of days later. Just grilled up, complete with char marks to add fatty smokey flavor.Shrimp used for the rolls were wrapped in rice paper with a bunch of chives and deep fried. Along with these tasty bites, our aunt made a delicious stewed pork, carmalized in sweet soy sauce and served with a hard boiled duck egg that was creamier than any chicken egg we've ever had. And to lighten the meal up - spare rib soup with carrots and potatoes. Seriously good. And again, so simple and memorable with unbelievable tender pork in a tangy broth studded with perfectly cooked carrots and potatoes which have soaked up just enough of the tangy broth, but still have a starchy bite to them.So far the meals we have eaten have been comfort home cooking dishes and not much special foods made/eaten during Tet. That's until New Year's Eve Day we were treated to sticky rice rolled in a banana leaf filled with rice, salty pork and yellow beans. Our favorite way to eat them is fried, so the rice melts together, like the cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich, but the rice on the outside remains crispy holding everything together.The starchy rice with just a little bit of salty pork and creamy sweet yellow bean goes excellently with sour crunchy pickled items.We were warned not to fill up on the sticky rice because New Year's Day (Tet) would mean a vegetarian meals with more vegetarian sticky rice. Other vegetarian dishes during our down-to-earth celebration included fermented tofu with soy sauce and lemon grass. Mainly for refresher between bites and added texture.There was a stir fried green beans, mushrooms, and tofu dish. The vegetables and tofu was light and refreshing and had enough bite to them, but tasted oily and of each other's subtle favor from the stir frying.And a vegetarian soup with broccoli, carrots, and clear rice noodles that had just enough spice to it to add an extra kick to the crunchy vegetables.And to add a little filler due to the lack of meat, our little cousins quickly fried up some battered cauliflower with a little tumeric in the coating to add another interesting flavor the dish.And because there never is a truly vegetarian meal when there are guests, a Vietnamese style cold cut plate was provided. A pressed pork patty topped with sauteed tomatoes and onions and garnished with cilantro and various herbs.And of course cold vegetables or greens, used mainly to cleanse your palette and prepare your mouth for another salty, bitter, sweet, spicy, sour, crunchy, soft, chewy bite.This visit we did have one meal that was fairly unique and new to us - fresh seafood steamed right on the beach. Including the creepy looking mantas shrimp, which are rarely served in the US.And steamed snails, a national obsession in Vietnam due to the sweet, tender, sea tasting morsels that makes the amount of effort needed to pry the meat from the shell questionable if its worth it.That is until someone has meticulously done it for you and stir fried it in green onions, garlic and chilis. Done this way the tender salty snail meat mixed well and added texture to the pungent onions, garlic and chilis. We greedily topped our wonderfully cooked chao (porridge) with the snail mixture for a seriously dynamite dish. The salty and pungent flavors, coupled with the soft cooked green onions and steamed snail meat added extra kick to the thick rice porridge that was heavy in black pepper and fresh ginger. Our bellies never had it so good.

1 comment:

Ravenous Couple said...

what an amazing home meal for the Tet holiday!!