Roger W. Moeller
This is a highly personalized and biased account of Vietnamese cuisine. I love it, prefer it over almost any American foods, and am constantly finding new taste treats. I had had a few Vietnamese dishes in restaurants labelled "Vietnamese". The food could have been mistaken for generic mall Chinese with added ginger and lemongrass.
I was introduced to real, traditional Vietnamese food by a Viet Kieu.
She was amazed that I liked everything that I ate and that the food was
never too spicy. I always asked about the ingredients after I ate it. Only
once did she refuse to tell me what something was. I pressed the question
and she still refused, ("it is too disgusting for Americans to consider").
We went to a traditional market with chicken feet and animal hooves, heart,
lung, stomach and intestines. I looked at everything, but nothing was quite
like what I had seen in the dish. After an hour of me asking what it was
in a variety of ways, she finally relented and told me: the skin of the
pig. When I introduced her to pork rinds, she changed her mind and always
told me what I was eating.
Finding one in your area can be difficult. I have tried Switchboard.com, Anywho.com, and Smartpages.com and even the yellow pages on paper with varying success. Restaurants I know are Vietnamese are not included, but ones I know are not Vietnamese or even Chinese are included. If in doubt, call and ask.
I have been to two very good ones in Connecticut. Pho Boston, 144 Shield St, West Hartford, CT (860-953-8678) is open every day for lunch and dinner. Very traditional, few Americans come not accompanied by an Asian, but the waiters and waitresses speak English very well and are very helpful. Wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks including shakes made from green bean, avocado, pineapple, or durian; che ba mau, sam bo luong, and salty lemonade. Try them.
The second is Thang Long Vietnamese Cuisine, 56 Padanaram Rd (Route 37), Danbury, CT 06811 (203-743-6049) open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Traditional cooking with some allowances made for American tastes. You must speak to the owner and chef. In my second visit he spoke to us for almost 90 minutes! He is really interested in his patrons and wants his patrons to know how interested he is in them. He is Viet Kieu, very outspoken in his opinions, and a completely fascinating person.
The best I have found in Connecticut is A Dong Supermarket (Sieu Thi-A Dong), 160 Shield St, West Hartford, CT (860-953-3838). A huge selection of fresh, canned, frozen, and dried fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits from China, Thailand, Vietnam, and the rest of Asia. Live fish and crabs are an added treat. Deli and bakery with freshly prepared drinks, spring rolls, desserts, rolls, muffins, fresh rice cakes, and lunches. Baked tapioca, yucca root, bean drinks and pudding, "doughnuts", fruit gels, tofu (fresh and smoked), and too many other things to mention. If you enjoy Asian cuisine of any kind, they have the appropriate condiments and noodles.
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