Aug 2007

Saigon River Dinner Cruise

During our year-long stay in Vietnam, The Astronomer and I are working for a humanitarian organization called East Meets West. We reported to our first day of work on August 1st. In my brief employment history, my first day at East Meets West goes down as the best. We started off by talking to our boss Rad for an hour or two, then we wrote one-pagers about our interests and skills, and then we went on a site visit to two hospitals (one public and one semi-private). At the hospitals, we met some children who are benefiting from East Meets West’s program, “Operation Healthy Heart.” As if that weren’t exciting enough, later that evening we went out to dinner with Rad’s family and a visiting doctor from the states.

At around 7 PM we boarded a boat resembling a giant fish on the Saigon River for an evening of fine dining and entertainment. We relaxed and left the ordering to Mrs. Rad. The Astronomer and I both opted for Soda Chanh (lime juice, sugar, soda water) to start. Even though I avoid drinking my calories in America, I’m branching out while in Vietnam because the water quality is poor.

We started off with a crab and white asparagus soup that reminded me of Aunt Tina’s seafood soup served at my family’s Christmas gatherings. Following the soup were some wonderful cha gio (egg rolls), which I dipped in fish sauce to add a little zing. The Astronomer consumed six egg rolls and would have eaten more, but he didn’t want to look too piggish in front of our hosts. Our final appetizer was goi tom thit (salad with pork and shrimp) served with shrimp chips. The salad was especially delicious this evening because I had gone through so many days without fresh vegetables.

Our main dishes included steamed giant prawns, bo luc lac (steak with French Fries), chicken with oyster mushrooms, fried rice, and rau (greens). The prawns were a bitch to peel and sorta tasteless; the cost to benefit ratio was low to negative. The steak and fries were a garlicky treat, especially dipped in some catsup. The steak was the tastiest well-done meat I’ve had in ages. I was completely stuffed by the time the chicken arrived, so I only ate some mushrooms. The fried rice was seasoned to perfection and the greens were good as well, but both arrived a little late in the game. All in all, the food on the boat was top-notch. We’re looking forward to taking The Astronomer’s family on board when they visit in December.

A meal on a fish-shaped boat would not be complete without some hip gyration and pyrotechnics. How does she do that?

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