Gummichicken – 21 of 365

My hope…Succulent medallions of braised free range chicken pan seared with a savory blend of herbs and spices carefully paired with the freshest locally sourced Dalat vegetables.   Accompanied by a bed of the freshest steamed Mekong Delta rice.

My Reality…Never before seen cuts of the bird wrapped in fatty, spongy, gelatinous skin swimming in a sticky brown sauce.   Plopped atop a bed of cold rice along with some rubbery mushroom caps.


Dammit, why didn’t I just go for the Pork on a Plane instead since that one is some tried and tested enjoyment at 37,000 feet?   The taste of gummichicken, especially the sweet and sour sauce, really isn’t all that bad once I make that mental leap past the skin, bones and fat.  Chicken is chicken after all no matter how we eat it.  But I just don’t have time to dissect a meal out of a tiny serving dish precariously balanced on my lap when I am in the flight deck hurtling towards Hanoi at 550 miles per hour.  Having now seen chicken served up in its rustic Vietnamese state more than once, I am beginning to wonder how in the hell they mechanically produce those smooth skinless boneless breasts in American grocery stores.   What an eye opening process that must be.

For sure a Vietnamese person flying from Los Angeles right now is questioning the thought process that brought American style airplane food to his tray table…Assembly line sanitized pieces of chicken breast floating front and center in a pool of starchy brown gravy must look strange indeed.   He is wondering where’s the skin?  Where are the cartilage and marrow filled bones?  What the hell is this food they are serving me?  It’s no different than my questioning the locally sourced meal flying right up against my western expectations here.   I am learning more and more to check all my American tastes at the door and to try enjoying the cuisine through different eyes.

I must say to my eyes though,  a live chicken looks the same in either Vietnam or the US.  But once that same bird meets its street market demise, the plated up remains are open to such diversely different interpretations.   This goes to show one man’s junk is another’s treasure.   What our American palates wouldn’t dare consume is relished over here…chicken heads, chicken feet, gizzards and more.  Oh my.   Did you know that in 2010 chicken feet even created a trade war when China accused American poultry companies of supposedly price dumping these lowly parts of the bird overseas since the feet have no use other than scratching barnyard dirt back in America?

Skin, Cartilage and Fat All In One Convenient Bite

How did a dish of airplane food segway us to the price of chicken feet anyway?   And by the way, I have eaten them in Hanoi.  How do they taste you ask?  If I can muster up enough vodka fueled courage to try them again, I will certainly give you the answer in due time.  Not that gummichicken eaten miles above Vietnam has any of these bits and pieces in it…far from it.  This is a mainstream airplane dish though catered to the local tastes.   I know, I know…when in Vietnam do as the Vietnamese do.  I really am trying.  Give me a few more meals for practice before really sliding off the beaten path.  The chicken feet may be waiting a while though.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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