Ever been in a rush but still need something decent to eat? With my afternoon airport pick up looming in about an hour and nothing even remotely interesting in the refrigerator, I needed something quick and filling. I know you’ve been there, too. Well, maybe minus the airport pick up, but you know what I mean. Café 91 right next to my apartment tower always proves the perfect place where I can get in, get out and within minutes be feasting on some odd surprise in the comfort of my air conditioned perch high above Binh Thanh District.
This time the overall choices were unusually good, and I just couldn’t make up my mind. Actually now that I think about it, the once more “exotic” choices in that food case are becoming more normal as my tastes expand and inhibitions drop. After all, I did eat a fertile duck egg, feathered fetus and all, so a chunk of pig ear floating in sauce seems such a benign mainstream offering now. This doesn’t mean I am even remotely close to eating that sort of mess, but you get what I am saying. Each passing day brings fewer and fewer mealtime shocks to my western sensibilities.
As always, the line behind me was building and I know they were thinking, “get this foreign dude out of here. What the [insert your expletive of choice] is he doing in here anyhow! Go to the Domino’s Pizza on the corner where you belong!” Now it wasn’t that vocal, but I do recognize a stink eye when several are aimed right at me with laserbeam precision.
The poor lunch lady was trying in vain to box up something, anything really, for me so progress would once again grind into motion, and she spied me eyeing a pan of leafy herbs, peanuts and an unidentifiable white meat. She rolled her eyes while rocking the styrofoam container of rice back and forth and called out, “ếch, ếch” which I repeated back. I could feel those stink eyes burning even deeper holes in the back of my head so I just committed to the “ếch” much to the relief of the line bobbing impatiently around me.
On the way home I suddenly remembered ếch is frog, and got to thinking maybe I should have just picked the tofu. In the past frog has been just fine, but only under the calming effects of a beer and then only in great moderation. No beer courage was needed here though as I soon discovered ếch really is good eating.
This meal was full on delicious with cumin like rice paddy herb, red chile pepper slices, chopped scallion, peanuts, black pepper, saw-leaf herb and a curry like undertone. I’ve actually had curry frog before but that version was ready to float away in a watery sauce. This was more pan fried and spiced without an overly sloppy sauce, almost like a moistened dry rub if that makes any sense. Frog meat is soft and tender, though very little of it clings to the matchstick thick bones. In any case I chose wisely and will look forward too this one again.