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Posts Tagged ‘Bourdain’

Saigon. It’s hot (thanks Captain Obvious!)… I wouldn’t even dare to venture out in the open between 10am and 3pm anymore. The first two days were ok b/c we were hanging out somewhere indoors at a restaurant, the pool, or the War Remnant Museum. The third day however, I was completely exposed out in the sun on my way to “The Lunch Lady” a la Bourdain. My shirt was completely drenched and it took me forever to cool down once I get into an AC environment.

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I flew down from Hanoi to Saigon (about 2hrs) to meet up w/ my friends Margaret and Barry who flew in from the US. My flight got there a little late and theirs got there a little early, plus the hoards of people waiting to pick up passengers outside the international terminal was really intimidating and I was worried at first I wouldn’t be able to find them.

Margaret used her points and we stayed at the Renaissance Riverside, where we had super nice breakfast, pedicure (first time ever), or just hang out at the pool. Definitely not roughing it. The 2nd part of our time there I checked into a budget hotel on the southwest part of District 1 near Ben Thanh Market.

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We met up an acquaintance of Margaret, Troy, an expat working in Saigon who gave us quite a few good recommendations (I love recommendations from locals!). We went out to eat at nicer restaurants and drank a lot more than I had planned (which is my nice way of saying I didn’t plan for it at all). I think I blew through my budget for the week my first night. We went to Zan Bar, a really nice middle eastern restaurant w/ hookahs for dinner, some random bar called Xu, the roof top bar at The Rex Hotel, and Apocalypse Now.

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Apocalypse Now was not what I expected. Troy had described it as “good clean fun” but it was pretty weird. There are a lot of expats of course, but judging by the amount of security guards in there and the fact they told me to turn my camera off while I was taking a short video, I wouldn’t be surprised if prostitution, drugs and other funny business go on there.

Blew through the sights in Saigon pretty quickly. Opera House, Notre Dame, Post Office (really cool w/ the French influenced iron work and architecture), Ben Thanh Market, War Remnant Museum, walked by the Reunification Palace but didn’t really go in because we had enough of anti-America kool-aid by that point.

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(Whoever recommended Pho 24 to me owes me an apology. This is the worst bowl of pho I’ve had in Vietnam. Never eat at franchised restaurants even in Vietnam. The broth was bland b/c they don’t take the time to let it develop flavor and just churn it out to the customers. My spring rolls were dry to the point the wrapper was hard… seriously… it was probably some gwailo friend that was too scared to eat anything other than Pho 24 while he was here in Saigon)

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(I love the fruits in Southeast Asia. Normally I’d punch myself in the face for ordering a drink like this, but it’s lychee!!)

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(Jaspas for brunch one day, another one of Troy’s recommendations. Sit out on the balcony with some eggs benedict and iced vietnamese coffee to take Saigon in slowly)

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(Pho 2000, right across from the Ben Thanh market on the southwest side. Famous because Bill Clinton visited there. It was good, but the best pho I have is still in Hanoi)

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(First banh my in Vietnam. It’s more of a southern Vietnam thing. Saw bunch of people lining up across from Ben Thanh, grabbed one for 20,000d and bunch of other drinks from a convenient store for another 40,000d)

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(Banh xeo and pork dumplings at Wrap & Roll. Haven’t had banh xeo until now. This one was way too oily.)

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My Last Meal

Sometimes Bourdain ask people what their last meal would be.  I think he’s said he’s own would be warthog ass bone marrow of some kind.

I was gonna ask Kim this the other day, but when I thought of the possibility of her asking me the same question in return and I didn’t know what my response would be I held it back.

What would I want my last meal to be?  It’s either something unassuming, a childhood favorite, or a really over the top dish.  I really like to eat, to limit to just a few dishes is hard for me, but I suppose your stomach is only so big.

To me, food is associated w/ love.  My mother was never big on verbally expressing how much she loves my sister and me.  The only and best way she knew how was the same way my grandmother did, through food.  At least people out on the street wouldn’t say anything if they see that your kids are well fed and well dressed.  But as we know, physiological factors like food is on the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.  We didn’t have a whole lot when I was a kid.  A well fed kid is quite the accomplishment already.

I feel like Asians enjoy food a lot more than Westerners.  And more adventurous, too… albeit not necessarily by choice.  Some of it probably has to do with what I just mentioned, too.  Pig knuckles were served not because it was special but it was cheaper.  For a poor family, a nice meal can bring a whole world of joy.  Also, due to space restrictions, houses and therefore kitchens are not big so we eat out a lot more.

Anyway, enough talking.  Here’s my list:

  • Oysters.  Either charbroiled like Drago’s in New Orleans or the street food version like an omelet (not sure if there’s even an English name for it)
  • Xiao long bao, dumplings, wontons (holy shit, Mak’s in Hong Kong has one of the best wonton I’ve ever tasted), or any kind of juicy soupy meat wrapped in dough
  • There’s a restaurant near by the air base my uncle was stationed at when were growing up.  They make this cow stomach dish that is just perfect combination of spicy and tangy
  • There’s an indigenous tribe in Taiwan that likes to cook w/ vinegar a lot.  There’s a pig intestine dish that every time I talk about I can taste that light sour flavor in my mouth
  • Cantonese style roast pig – crispy skin while keeping the meat soft and juicy
  • Milk tea w/ tapioca to wash it all down

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My Bourdain

About a month ago Anthony Bourdain was in Austin to do a little Q&A and signing for his new book, Medium Raw.  I went with, I don’t know if you can call it a date, but a very lovely girl Kim.  I was pretty ill-prepared because I didn’t have any books for him to sign.  They were selling all his books at full retail prices at Paramount Theater where the event was held.  I took the plunge after my trusted foodie friend told me he has it and I should get it, too.

So I did.

In fact, I got two. (I hope you appreciate that I’m helping to pay for your 3-yr-old daughter’s college, Tony)  I got one for Kim, who was a bit hesitant about the whole full retail thing as well and another for me, at least originallfy.  At the last minute I called an audible and had him made it out to my said foodie friend whose birthday is coming up in a month and a half who would LOVE this book.  A whole lot more than I would.  Maybe I should’ve gotten three?

The reason was that I thought he had sold out, which is a subject he talks about and I thought he was gonna go deeper in his book.  I was personally pretty upset when these ads and product placements start popping up in his show.  First it was the Microsoft Bing bit they would do, the producers and Bourdain acting as if they were researching locations for the next shoot.  It would come up right before or right after the regular commercials so even if you use your oh-so-wonderful DVR device you’re sure to catch snippets of it.  Microsoft? Man… c’mon.  It might as well have been McDonald’s he was endorsing.  And Bing isn’t even that good.

Then comes the god awful Chase Sapphire credit card.  There are a lot of eating scenes on No Reservations.  Once in a while you’ll see Tony go: “Here, I’ll get this one guys… w/ my Chase Sapphire card” as seen in the Harbin episode.  Aside from the fact that JP Morgan Chase is filled w/ Goldman rejects, it’s just not even believable.  I think they even showed that shot at a street food stand once, in an episode and Asian country I can’t recall right now.  Who, and I mean seriously, what street vendor would take your credit card, much less a FUCKING Chase Saphire card?

I can only imagine the response I would get if I actually tried to do that myself.

“Cash only, gweilo!”

However, I think he did win me over by the end of the book.  The first half of the book was a surprising tone-down, I-now-have-a-three-yr-old Tony.  Having a kid changes your perspective a bit.  He seems to say that selling out was the unavoidable responsible thing to do.  Selling out is at least still better the bum that cries such foul.

Bourdain’s a little dark, a little angry, which is what I like, because I’m a little dark, a little angry.  Haven’t seen some of these just overly positive people? Makes you wonder if they’ve truly lived a day of their lives, you know, suffered a little bit.  At least I feel a little bit of sympathy for them in that way, right after I smack the grin off their faces.

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