My friend Allie is in town from Hanoi and admits to not being the greatest of street food fans. Come to think of it, she isn’t really all that great of a connoisseur of most Vietnamese foods. That’s ok though. Having different tastes is what makes the world an interesting place for us all, and of course Saigon offers a little something something for everyone.
Our something this particular dinner turned out to be the Com Tam Cali on Hai Ba Trung Street since Allie was interested in trying some local food in a very controlled, air conditioned environment. Does this restaurant sound familiar? Why yes, indeed you are quite correct. We have eaten here before. This is the same joint that brought us that most interesting, and for me largely inedible, plate of “seven flavors” in meal 233. Of course I will give a place another shot, and the menu at Com Tam Cali has a new item that piqued my interest.
A product called tấm kẹp ngũ vị held some promise. The English translation of “broken rice burger bites” caused me to marvel at how cool the Vietnamese are to have invented their own golf ball sized takes on a slider. And yes, once again you are correct. We sampled a large rice burger from Lotteria with meal 191. That one was the two rice patties acting as buns to hold a piece of meat that came with the side of “penis.” Yes, that was a strange offering that caught me woefully off guard.
Of course with this one I had expected ground beef stuffed inside the rice balls of varying shapes including a heart. I bit into the first specimen, and tiny bits of sweet pork greeted my tongue. OK, so it wasn’t bad but far from my expectations. The second one tasted of full on fish, and I am sitting there thinking what the hell is this foolishness?
The third turned out to be pork floss, a food I could definitely do without. You know how when you brush your German shepherd or yellow lab you are left with a clump of coarse hair? Pork floss reminds me of dog hair that has been soaked in some sort of saline bath of steroidal proportions. By now I was scared to bite into the fourth golf ball size morsel as each was taking me down a road better left unexplored.
This meal was like unwrapping Christmas presents. Some are exciting like money, and some turn out to be duds like a sweater from grandma. Against my better judgment I bit into the fourth and mercy prevailed as it was edible. In fact it was highly ingestible with another round of that sweet pork.
I saved the heart shaped rice ball for last and its contents of some sort of cinnamon tasting pork left me fully underwhelmed. Two out of five was the final score. And oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the dip. Now usually something billed as a burger would come with ketchup or mustard though I would hesitate using either on rice. Of course something was needed to boost the already curious flavors, and what we have here was a dry mixture of salt, sugar, sesame seeds and what I swear was smashed bacon.
This is definitely from a burger experience in the American sense but interesting enough to have added a colorful element to this already crazy food journey. Even if some of the tastes were highly suspect, I don’t think I could find this one in America so all in all this meal was a success.