Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We Made It! Hoi An Day 1

(Please excuse any misspellings and awkward formatting. I'm writing all this at 4am on my iPad with spotty wifi)

After two car trips, four flights and an eight hour layover, we are finally here! And in good spirits which is pretty remarkable. People watching, alcohol and inappropriately-shaped travel pillows got us through it. 
Hoi An is an old trade port town in the south central coastal region of Vietnam. It's considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO meaning its old trading port culture/style is exceptionally well-preserved. 

Let's get straight to it - the food! Hoi An's local specialty cao lau noodles are very well known. I mean literally. It's made from the town's special well water, which supposedly gives the thick rice noodles their delicious flavor and texture. 

That's cao lau on the bottom there. The noodles are coated in a thick brown, savory broth. Their tossed with some crunchy local vegetables and topped with sliced pork. It's so good. Very light and 100% satisfying. Perfect for lunch on a hot and humid day. My favorite part of it is the extra spoonful of broth at the bottom you dip the noodles in right before every bite. 

The dish above the cao lau noodles is another local specialty. It's called My Quang noodles that originated from the Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. This broth is strong too, so only a little is used to coat the thick rice noodles. It's usually topped with pork, shrimp, crunchy things and local veggies. We got lucky. Our bowl had quail eggs, which are the size of a big marble. What is it about quail eggs? They taste just like chicken eggs but are so much more amazing. I think it's because you can eat them and pretend to be a giant. 

(With Eli. I have my "I'm-so-happy-I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-eating-face" on)

If you're like me and love everything Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, you know the place to go in a town like this is the main market. I don't know how to say this exactly and I risk sounding cheesy, but I've wanted to visit these markets SO BAD. Like life bucket list bad. Like Marshmallow wanting to break into a room full of Chuck-It balls bad. Like tween girl wanting Zayne to come back to One Direction bad. I'm someone who finds the fish section of 99 Ranch exciting for goodness sake!

(seafood section of Hoi An's Central Market)

The smells, the shouting, the food, the constant hustling...I love it! The two hours we spent here I sort of just went around asking "Can I eat that?" "How about that?" "Is that edible" "okay, can I eat it?" One market lady taught me how to eat an Asian custard apple. It tastes like a really sticky version of a pear. We're laughing in this picture because she told me her name means "crazy lady." Sort of true. She had a review book and one person wrote "Do what she says and no one gets hurt."

If you're wondering, I did eat a bug. Or, at least, I think it was a bug. It looked like these except not fried, plumper and soaked in water. 

It tasted a lot better than it a fat mushy nut.

Coming up, our trip to Cham Island which is off the coast of Hoi An. We chow down on some seafood I've never even seen before. Top it off with chili, scallions and some oil....*drool*

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hang on Tummy, Momma's Taking You on an Adventure!

I'd like to apologize to my stomach ahead of time for what I will put you through during this upcoming East Asia trip. You will have to deal with things you've never dealt with before. I will try my best to stay within the category of "edible."
I'd also like to say "you're welcome!" to my taste buds and inner fat girl. Oh lawdy lawd! You will be so happy! You won't be able to even comprehend the deliciousness and adventure surrounding you. You'll go places you've never been, experience things you've never experienced!
You and tummy be in constant conflict. I'm confident taste buds will prevail and stomach will hang on like a monkey white knucklin' a tree limb during a lively storm. You can do it monkey...I mean tummy. I believe in you. We need this.

To be continued...obviously. T minus 50 hours to take off! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Little Baskets of Deliciousness & BYOB

You haven't lived until you've tried xiao long bao (pronounced show-lung-bow), the Chinese soup dumpling. If you translate it literally, it means "little basket steamed bun." And that's what they are! They're little cute baskets of steamed deliciousness. The only place I've been able to find them in San Diego is at Dumpling Inn on Convoy in Kearny Mesa.

Plus, you KNOW a place is good when there are regularly more people waiting outside than there are people eating inside. Exhibit A:

Let me set the scene for you folks. You finally sit down, starving. Nice waiters and waitresses bring you out plates of little baskets of heavenly goodness. The dishes are really cheap ($6-$7 each). And it's BYOB.


How do you eat it if it's filled with soup, you ask. Trick is, you place it on a soup spoon (twisty side up), nibble off the top, sip a little of the soup, pour some of the vinegar/soy sauce/chili oil/ginger sauce over the top and then gobble. The flavors will blow your mind. You'll experience savory, tangy, and spicy components. Then the ginger will sort of harmonize those different intensities together really well. 

Dumpling Inn has a bunch of other great dishes and dumplings. Xiao long bao is just my favorite. Plus, it's always a good time when you're able to share the love with dynamite people. In this case, my hunky honey and two love birds who are currently eating tarantulas in Cambodia. Ha, that's a whole different story for a different day. #jorgan

Did I mention this place is BYOB? Yup. Bring your own beer and they'll actually bring you a bottle opener. We don't know exactly, but our group believes the restaurant must do so well with food-wise they don't need/want to bother with liquor license headache stuff. So, they just started letting people bring their own booze. #NotLiable

With something this good though there's usually a catch. This Dumpling Inn will be no more in the next few weeks. It's moving to a bigger location literally a few dozen feet away. Good news: not as long as a wait to get a seat. Bad news: No BYOB, if I had to guess. I saw inside. They're building a bar. 

Funny, growing up I hated Chinese food. Not so much because it wasn't good, but because my family ate it all...the...time. Not only did we eat it all the time, we ate at the same Chinese restaurant all...the...time. Where are we eating for Christmas? Mayflower. Where are we eating for Grandma's birthday? Mayflower. Where are we eating for Chinese New Year? Olive Garden. a million years. Mayflower. I know, I sound like I was an ungrateful, well fed brat. I was. Still am, just not as well fed. 

Next bloggity: from the steamed to the fried, my favorite place to get my nom nom on with Vietnamese fried egg rolls.