A Lesson in Lunch – Vietnamese Style

 

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Try this place for bánh bão in Quy Nhon

 

khổ qua
mủổn dăng
sủổn non thit heo
cà tim
cà tim, nậm mèo, tộm
bánh bão
bánh xaò
sinh tớ
kim dình

These are the kinds of letters and symbols that have been floating by food stalls, bill boards, and menus for the past 3 weeks and I still can’t begin to make sense of them. (Well, actually that’s not entirely true. I just used Google to find a Vietnamese typing program so I could at least type the symbols so they now make more sense than they did 20 minutes ago). I can’t pronounce the words so I just ignore the accent marks and say them phonetically which really does not work so then I revert to clucking like a chicken.

So when a chance encounter at the cinema led to a date for lunch to eat some local foods, I did a little mental dance for joy at the potential to fill the void in my stomach. I slept well in anticipation of learning some more survival vocabulary AND getting to hang out with some friendly local Vietnamese.

Today’s delicious lunch and non-stop conversation far exceeded our expectations. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon and confirm that we made the right decision by staying here in Quy Nhon an extra day.

To help me remember what we ate and to practice the new words that I learned, I’ve prepared this handy picture dictionary for foodies:

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khổ qua

 

We started with khổ qua which is a shrimp and mushroom soup. The soup also has a fower-shaped green vegetable (we were unable to translate it) with a very distinct bitter, yet delicious flavor. If I understood correctly, our host told us that her family eats this soup on the first day of Tet (Vietnamese New Year).

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sủổn non thit heo

 

The next course was sủổn non thit heo or pork spare ribs with a delicious sauce and greens. These were melt-in-your-mouth tasty and I could have eaten an entire plate by myself.

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cà tim, nậm mèo, tộm

 

Another dish was cà tim, nậm mèo, tộm or eggplant(aubergine) with young shrimp. This dish also included a dark purple/black strip of vegetable that was also delicious but I have no idea what it might be called in English.

 

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bánh bão

We then left this restaurant and taxied to a kim dình (food stall) where we each ate a plate of bánh bão which is best described as little rice flour pancakes (like little Dutch pancakes) that has been steamed in a mold and covered with ground peanuts, crushed dried fish, and bread crumbs. Fish sauce and red chili are poured over the top to taste. These are delicious.

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sinh tớ

 

We finished off the progressive lunch with sinh tớ. This looks like a parfait or ice cream float but it’s made with mango, watermelon, kiwi, sapota (we couldn’t translate this but it might be a plum), green jello, milk, sugar and ice. This is something I never would have ordered on my own but, now that I’ve had it, will definitely add it to my “must eat/drink” list on a regular basis. The taste was delicious and the texture was satisfying.

Not only was this lunch a great culinary experience, it has also provided us with the tools to not order what we did last night. (chicken feet and gizzards).

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This is what we get ordering on our own. We were soooo glad to have help today.

 

N.B. Eric gets the medal for eating a chicken foot last night. I, on the other hand,  took my role as food photographer very seriously. Thank goodness for lunch today!!!