Let’s talk about food

Published: May 17, 2005
Updated: May 17, 2005

While I’m in the blogging mood let me tell you about the meal that Mimi and I ate last night. I mentioned in the previous article that there is a huge variety of tiny restaurants close to our house in Nguyen Thuong Hien St serving an equally huge variety of delicious foods. I have kind of dedicated myself to try every possible variety of each of these types of food, if that is at all possible. Don’t for one minute get the idea that I am going to become an overweight gourmand licking stale gravy off my whiskers and staving off sever bouts of gout. This food is very simple and I believe that it is the simplicity that makes it satisfying and (I hesitate to use this word but I will anyway) addictive.

I write too little about food on this blog as it is one of the delights of living in this city and I will write more as time goes on but for now I will simply describe the meal that Mimi and I ate last night. This meal was very ordinary by Vietnamese standards. We ordered it from a stall on the street in front of the ground level section of the 4 metre wide house that serves as the restaurant and made our selection from the variety of food that is pre-cooked and instantly available. We ate sitting on the usual ubiquitous plastic stools at a stainless steel table using very lightweight aluminium spoons and forks as cutlery. The meal was served to us on chipped plastic plates accompanied by grimy shallow plastic bowls that contained our fish sauce and chilli. The floor of the restaurant was dirty with the residue of the evenings trade as it is the habit here for tables to be cleaned by sweeping any leftovers directly onto it and there they stay until the hardworking staff get a chance to clean up.

Despite the above description, or perhaps because of it, I am as happy to eat here as I would be in a five star hotel. In fact, I am happier to eat here because the staff are friendly and not pretentious in any way whatsoever. They know me well now and go out of their way to help me with my food selection if I happen to be by myself and they continually have good natured jokes with me as they go about their work. In a word, eating here feels “comfortable”.

Our meal last night was steamed rice or “com” and I selected some Tuna which had been cooked in a spicy tomato sauce to have with mine. Mimi decided to have the barbecued pork which is usually my favourite but remember, I did say that I wanted to try everything. The meal came with our selection served over the bed of steamed rice with a liberal amount of the sauce spread on top. My meal had sliced cucumber and sliced green mango on the side and it was delicious. Mimi and I also shared a dish that contains pork minced with mushrooms that has been stuffed into a bitter melon and is served in a bowl of thin soup. This is another of my favourite dishes and it also was very good. I used my chilli fish sauce to spice up the leftover rice on my plate and that rounded off the meal very nicely.

We could have eaten our choice of two soups as well, but I couldn’t possibly have managed to eat another thing as the helpings here are very “adequate”. The whole exercise took less than 25 minutes from placing the order to paying the bill and what was the total cost for this mini feast I hear you ask? A massive VND23,000 which is approximately US$1.45 or Aust$1.91. Hard to believe I know but true, and just another reason why I am going to find it difficult to adjust when I decide to return home to Australia.

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