Lunch Lady on Wednesday – 27 of 365

Before: Chicken Noodle Soup

Two German tourists I recently met had their appetites set on a food experience that is well known, tasty and memorable.  In a city as colorful and vibrant as Saigon, filling this trifecta should be easy enough.  The Lunch Lady perhaps?  I explained how each day of the week brings a different dish, and off we went on foot through the chaos and noise of the narrow crowded streets behind my apartment building.  As we walked past tables of raw meat taking their final heat fueled bacteria baths, I could see the discomfort seeping into my friends’ faces.   To be sure, Saigon away from touristy District 1 is not for the faint of heart, but Anne and Uwe remained committed to seeing what afternoon delights the Lunch Lady would dish at the end of our 20 minute walk.

When dining at her tiny metal sidewalk tables scattered under the trees, you can have whatever you want as long as your choice is whatever Lunch Lady boils up at her gas powered metal food cart.   Chicken and noodles appears to be the weekly Wednesday meal d’jour.  Damn my bad luck!  You already know how much I dislike the chicken over here since it’s parts of the bird not lending themselves to easy identification.  The broth was an oily star anise and soy sauce based chicken stock with bok choy and yellow ramen type noodles rounding out the generous portion.  This definitely isn’t the benign Campbell’s version poured from a can.

After: Livers, Kidneys and Other Assorted Crap

The sour salty taste was decent, the thin stringy noodles mainstream enough, one of the chicken legs ok, but the rest left much to be desired for my American tastes.  There was no way in hell what I believe to be kidneys and livers were going to even think about leaving that bowl.  Hell no.  Someone please, please, make this lunch stop.  If only we could hit a reset button when a meal goes careening off the tracks.

What happened here?  Last week the Lunch Lady’s Monday seafood soup was so delicious and full of meaty surprises I could actually eat.   This week I am staring at parts of a bird dissected right out of some biology class carcass.   Anne and Uwe seemed to care not one bit, and I watched as their clumsily held chopsticks shoveled offal into their mouths and flicked broth all over their shirts.  Actually all the diners around me seemed to be some of the most enthusiastic consumers of this stuff.

Have you ever dared try kidneys or liver?   I’ll keep this brief.   Kidneys are smooth and have the consistency of a jelly bean.  Liver looks like how I would imagine Jello made of thick pasty blood.   And as far as how either tastes, I am pleased to report I still don’t know.  After this bowl of soup, I fully realize I am far from ready to compete in the Vietnamese Food Olympics.  I now understand vegetarianism.

A giant pile of left behind chicken parts announced that I had once sat at that table for twenty minutes wondering why people eagerly consume the same ingredients vacuum packed into a can of cat food.  As I went to pay, the Lunch Lady looked towards my bowl and gave me a sad look.  I smiled in return and gave her two thumbs up.  I didn’t want her to think I didn’t like it, for I am sure by Vietnamese standards this was one heck of a meal.   Anne and Uwe raved about the chicken so perhaps this is indeed gourmet dining on a $1.50 shoestring.   I will say the food is fresh, tastes good (minus the chicken innards), and the Lunch Lady puts some major effort into her meals.  My chopsticks just aren’t yet primed for the chicken soup but I will be back other days of the week to sample something else hopefully closer to my comfort zone.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

One Comment on “Lunch Lady on Wednesday – 27 of 365”

  1. John
    January 19, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    That made me sick to my stomach…… I am having chicken soup for lunch, No lunch lady but a Panera bread employee will serve me….Thank God!

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