Is it just me or as anyone else disturbed by hearing cheesy 1980s Wham ballads belting out of a coffee shop’s sidewalk speakers? Perhaps the owners should use this as a clue as to why their joint was empty. That noise sure did propel me further on down the road, and I took solace in the ever present symphony of construction racket mixed with putt-putting motorbikes and constant honking that eventually drowned out George Michael telling us about careless whispers.
I was trying to show a friend parts of Saigon far removed from the tourist trail and along comes Wham to derail my plans. That’s ok though since lunch more than made up for this one minor hiccup. Today’s menu at Hoang Ty (70-72 Vo Van Tan in District 3) dished up a variation on rice fully new to me, and I must say it left me wanting more. And at $3 this was one of the more expensive street foods to cross my path and could be considered quite the splurge. This goes to show how cheap eating with the locals truly is when a paltry $3 shocks my wallet.
Cháo sò long is a very soft porridge packed with natural flavors. The gruel shimmers in its small porcelain bowl with a consistency much like a loose oatmeal if that helps build a visual image. Mussels with a faint hint of the sea, diced mushrooms, sliced scallions, and cracked black pepper float around in the thick white base, and I got to thinking where have I eaten this before? That’s it…New England clam chowder. Believe it or not tastewise this stuff is reminiscent of Campbell’s canned “chowda” right down to the aroma.
Tossing in some vinegary mashed up chili peppers kicked this one a few rungs up the heat ladder. This is one of the best pepper condiments I have ever had and so much so that I just might have to sneak some home in a container next time. This red hot stuff burns like a 1,000 degree inferno going in and I prayed it would cool down to more benign levels of scorch as it wound its way deep into my stomach.
Cháo sò long…So long other boring foods. This one is great.