Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wait, what?? A boat, you say?

Got some knowledge dropped on me!! Got back from my cousin's house not too long ago. My aunt, Cô Dân, (#5 of 9) was over here earlier and wanted me to get out of the house with her. We walked towards my uncle's, Chú Hỏa, (#6 of 9) house and stopped by his son's, Công, place with his sort-of-recent wife, Vân. I thought we were going to just visit a bit, but they decided when I arrived that we should all "nhậu." I won't try to explain to y'all what this means, because my head's not all that right to get into teaching mode, so I'll link an article my buddy Patrick wrote for De-Bug magazine about the cultural meaning behind it and the places Vietnamese often find themselves in to go about it: Quán Nhậu. Not necessarily the type of nhậu...-ing we did, but similar idearrrr.


Nothing too fancy. Just some garlic fried chicken wings & legs, battered & fried calamari, veggies and of course, 333 bia off to the side (4 for me!). Mmmm, I sure do miss me some good fried chicken right about nows. Not to say that tonight's fare wasn't great, but boy oh boy...got me thinking about some Clucks or 99 for sure!

Anywho, the night started off with just us hanging out and grubbin', watching In the Line of Fire with good ol' Clint & John Malcovich. Once that ended and some rom-com with Uma Thurman started, the talking commenced! The conversation went back and forth between talking about my family here in VN and life in the States. They asked about Vietnamese people in CA, how far away Texas was, house prices, things about Las Vegas, and on and on and on. They then told me about how my dad's younger brothers, Chú Hỏa and Chú Thuận, loved to drink...finish a bottle of whiskey betweens the two of 'ems they say. They told me about how my brother, while living here as a youngster, was a trouble-maker. He would chọc, or tease, his two-year old cousin and would mimic people in the village who would go around picking up/collecting leaves in the village. Yeah, he would actually grab plastic bags and go around picking up leaves to bring home for I don't even know what. 

Then, we go to the story of my parents fleeing VN. I was always under the impression that my father was sponsored by someone in the states and subsequently flown over. But, now that I think about it, things make sense. Considering the time they left and the city in which they arrived, I don't see how being sponsored could fit in. I should have realized this all before, but I guess some things just didn't click. I mean, this is something my brother had to have known since he was about 9 when they fled VN. My sister was a few months old when they left the Philippines to the states as well. So, there you have it: We be boat refugees, yo! I mean, knowing that doesn't really change much of anything. Regardless of how they arrived, they still arrived. And of course, then came Me! So, I guess it just makes me so extremely grateful that they made it safely. Being an AAS major, studying the different waves of VN refugees, I read about several different stories of boat people traversing the ocean and putting up with such horrifying conditions (pirates, robberies, rape & abuse, capsizing, death, etc...) to make it to America. So, actually, I guess that does change things quite a bit. Thanks for being such troopers, fam! I am forever indebted to you for what you have gone through to escape that life and to give us this opportunity for a better life in America. 

Boy of boy, that was quite a bit of info. Let's dial things down a bit, jeess? So, yesterday consisted of what I've mostly been doing here: eating. I haven't had the chance to go out and explore much so far. But, I have been getting to try lots of new foods, including this:

Bánh bột chiên (Fried rice flour cake)

Apparently a Chinese-influenced dish, it consists of a cake-like mixture made with rice flour or rice & flour, then fried on a pan. Throw in a fried egg, some greens, pickled papaya and a seasoning sauce made with soy sauce and chili and bam! You got yourself a meal. This has been one of the tastiest dishes I've enjoyed thus far. My aunt, cousins, and I drove to some random cart in a neighborhood about 10 minutes from ours for it. My aunt claims of all the places she has tried, this is the best because of the sauce. According to her, the sauce really makes the dish. And you know what? I have to agree. Now, I know I have no other experiences to base my opinion on, but I don't care. Shit was delish, yo! So delish, actually, that I ordered another one to-go for a late-night snack, Holla!

The to-go order, re-fried a few hours later. Not as good as fresh, but still yummss nonetheless!

After thass, we drove to the small fruit market down the street

to get me some of these:

Mận, otherwise known as a PLUM, or a "green wax apple" or "water apple"
 as I've read some places. 

Not the usual plum I'm used to. It looks like a cross between a bell pepper and uhh, a very smooth strawberry? But it tasted like a guava to me, but not as tough. Yeah, texture of a bell pepper for sure but taste of a guava. Also picked up some of this:

I have no idea what this fruit was. It resembled a longan, but a google search has me thinking it might be a Sapodilla or somethang. But, fast forward to night time and look what I got to do:

This if one of my favorite little dudes that I've met so far. He's my cousin, Chị Phụng's, little kid Quốc Minh. He's about 14 months old and he's a giant cry baby. This was actually the first time he actually let me hold him without crying or pushing away. And yes, that's us on the back of my cousin's moped. Before you get all worked up over how dangerous this may be, it's quite the common practice here in VN. The way he's sitting is one of the safer arrangements, I believe. I've seen people with wooden chairs seated in the open area, between the driver and the steering, where children are commonly placed. The record I've seen so far has been 1 (presumed) mother and 4 kids/toddlers/adolescents seated all around (1 in a wooden chair and 3 behind her on the seat).

We didn't go out in the main streets; just around the neighborhood until he started crying for mama, then we headed home. I was nervous, of course, taking him around. Even though I'd seen so many people do it, I just was a bit scared trying it myself. Obviously, we made it out okay, else I'd be posting some horrible photos, right?

Crap, this is beginning to be a long post. Anyway, to finish it up, my lunch yesterday!

Bún vịt xáo măng - duck noodle with bamboo! 

No photo of the actual dish on arrival as I just jumped in to eat. It happens. 

Anyway, that's enough for now. Expect many more posts of just food I eat. I think that'll be a lot easier and more common than recounting such stories as above. I'll throw those in every once in a while, I guess.


PS - Oh yeah, while at my cousin's place nhậu-ing, the next-door neighbors were also nhậu-ing and things started getting heated. I couldn't understand what exactly was going on, but they started throwing bows! 

I doubt y'all will be able to tell from these crappy photos, but apparently, one dude wanted to leave, but couldn't find his keys. And no one would take him, so he grabbed someone's moped and pulled out the fuel line and drained it around the alley and somehow it got lit. So yeah, you know those scenes in the movie where someone pours a line of gasoline and lights it up until something blows up? Yeah, it was kinda like that, only except no blowing up. But dude, all these cats were brothers, like, blood brothers. Homeboys be getting knocked down, picking up bricks to threaten one another and all sorts of stuff. My other cousin (whom I've yet to meet) was partaking in the festivities with them and got caught up in the heat of the moment and went into his house (right across from where I was) to get a kitchen knife, haha. VIETNAMEEEEEEEEESE!!!


  1. What the heo Tin! I'm at work on Monday morning and you've been eating for a straight two weeks! Gah.

  2. dude, not cool that you use the same username as i do on many sites. get your own!

  3. I love reading about your adventures!

  4. yum banh bot chien in vietnam!! still some of the best i have ever eaten. im pretty sure e.t. and i stayed in that area for a good 2 hours just eating it