Friday, January 16, 2009


Vietnamese hot pot.  My favorite dining experience thus far.  Each time I partake in this wonderful ritualistic gathering for a meal over the simmering pot of broth, I can look around at all the faces who make Vietnam special.  Sitting crossed legged on the floor, I feel more than an honored guest but accepted as a local while my neighbors plop bits of cooked beef, tofu, or pan-fried duck embryo in my ceramic bowl.  Heaps of freshly cut herbs are added to the fragrant communal bowl along with fresh oysters, squid, pig's heart, sheep intestine (tripe), and small balls of pounded pork.  Enough to satisfy variety a gourmet craves.  While a discussion of lau automatically may lead to a further in-depth report of Vietnamese gastronomy, I shall leave that for another post.  For the sake of a treasured national cuisine, I must do it some justice.  And I haven't even been to Hue yet, the ancient capital and home to Vietnam's finest delicacies (dog meat excluded).  

Hot pot is a celebration in itself yet creates lasting memories of special occasions.  My 23rd birthday being one of them.  Sprawled out on the floor, sharing from this single pot brings people together in a way that transcends eating "family style" at a table and chairs.  I watch the gray shrimp turn a mouth-watering pink while picking up some Vietnamese words or two.  Ngon qua.  So delicious.  And it's even tastes better dipped in chili sauce as ubiquitous on the Vietnamese table (or floor) as ketchup in an American diner.  Let's not also forget nuoc mam, or fish sauce, the pungent hazel liquid, the traditional staple condiment in Vietnamese cooking.  By itself, I still have yet to acquire its taste but mixed with a little vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and chilies, it is quite a wonderfully delicate burst of flavor.

At the end of the hot pot meal enters noodles, varying from the wispy-like rice noodles to packaged instant noodles added to each bowl along with the nutrient-rich broth.  Best enjoyed slurping from your bowl to your heart's delight.  

1 comment:

Eric said...

I love your writing! I look forward to reading your blog as your adventure continues. Enjoy the experience; it will leave you with wonderful memories.

(a friend of your mom)