When I first started gas•tron•o•my, I blogged each meal and recipe in chronological order. Although I’m not a scientist, I admittedly like things neat and orderly—just take a look at my CD rack. I kept up this ‘eat then write’ routine for quite a while, but it all came to an end when I began penning food reviews for a magazine and couldn’t publish on gas•tron•o•my until the piece was published in hard copy form. Now that posts are completely out of order, to decide what to write about each day, I scan my pictures and pick out something that strikes my fancy.
This post is dedicated to all the foods that I have neglected and passed over for months on end. The one quality that all of these foods share is that they’re not great. In a sea of amazing Saigon eats, it’s tough being only so-so.
First up, xoi chien—this late night bite dates back to February. Xoi chien, which goes for 1,000 VND a piece, is comprised of rounds of sticky rice (xoi) fried (chien) to a crisp and stuffed with a beef and mushroom mixture. If this sounds like your kinda thing, check out CMT8 after the sun has gone down.
I don’t remember what the exact name of this dessert is, but it had the words “che” and “dau hu” (tofu) in it. I am mad for sweet tofu with ginger, but this stuff tasted like chunky sweetened soy milk with way too much ice. The copious amount of ice really ruined a fabulous soy party. Binh Thanh District was the site of this soy mess.
This is another one of Binh Thanh’s meh offerings. The green layers of the cake are made of sticky pandan flavored tapioca that’s similar to banh da lon, while the yellow layers are plain cake. The entire creation is sprinkled with coconut flakes. There was nothing intrinsically terrible about this dessert, it just struck me as dry and not very flavorful. Yawn-city.
We purchased these Japanese Imagawa-yaki in District 3. Unlike the ones we tried in Thailand that were filled with custard and taro paste, these ones were filled mostly with shredded coconut. Once again, too many dry ingredients paired together, and not enough oomph!
I bought this little ice cream cone impulsively on a super-hot day in District 4 on Ton That Thuyet Street. It tasted sweet, funny and not much else. Although I like having funny friends, I cannot appreciate funny ice cream in the same way. For really super fantastic ice cream, visit Cong Truong for their kem trai dua.
After gorging on dozens of delicious egg tarts in Hong Kong, The Astronomer was curious if the ones in Vietnam were any good. While picking up a couple of pastries for himself at Pham Nguyen Bakery, he grabbed an egg tart for me to try. The verdict? Lame crust, lamer filling. B+ for effort.
This is xoi vi. Cubular portions of sweet xoi sold at bakeries and by street vendors who go through a middle man to procure it. Other than its somewhat interesting shape, there’s nothing really special about xoi vi. My chief beef with xoi vi is that it costs twice as much as regular xoi. Boooo. Gimme back my dong.
While I love bo bia (fresh spring rolls stuffed with a jicama and carrot slaw, sweet Chinese sausages and scrabled eggs that’s dipped in hoisin sauce), I ain’t got no love for bo bia ngot—a sweet spin on the original comprised of coconut shavings, sugar sticks and sesame seeds. Bo bia ngot is too dry and could really benefit from a sauce. A sweet and salty coconut milk sauce would spruce bo bia ngot up nicely.
Examined alone, bun ca (vermicelli rice noodles in a tamarind and fish broth) is pretty darn awesome. The broth is tangy, while the hunks of fish are hearty and moist. But pitted against rock star noodle/broth combinations like bo kho, bun bo and mi ga tiem, it just pales in comparison. That’s pretty much the story with all of the above dishes—they’re good, but not great. And who wants good when you can have GR8? Not me.