Some Ham Foodjacked My Lunch – 41 of 365

Ham and Rice

Down a side alley across from the Bitexco Tower’s Hog’s Breath Saloon, a traditional lunch spot serves up rice and small entrees from the standard metal display cart.    Some pieces of what looked like fish in a sweet and sour glaze on the top shelf started my process of assessing the risks of food poisoning versus how it might taste.   Yes, that is how my mind works here.  I thought here is my chance to try something a little more exotic than the same ole same ole I’ve been eating.  I pointed to it to place my order and prayed for the best.  Eating over here is like that.  I always wonder is this the meal to do me in, but so far I’ve had a good run of some dumb luck.  Well, either that or living here just gives us all an iron stomach.

I watched a guy cut my fish with a pair of scissors and thought what the hell is he doing with those nasty scissors that were just seconds before laying atop a dishrag.  This minor detail became the least of my worries…you can imagine my surprise when a plate of ham pieces arrived with a bed of rice.  Ok.  Is this another case of a Vietnamese person bringing me what he thinks I want rather than what I really want?   Upon further examination I realized this indeed was the “sweet and sour fish” I had only moments before selected.  The only difference cutting one piece into many and revealed the true identity.   Damn.  So much for trying to be a little more adventurous.  I wanted fish and some barnyard pig foodjacked lunch.

Ham.   The same thick slab of ham right at home on an American dinner table. Ôi Chúa ơi as the Vietnamese say to express surprise or lament.   I don’t think I could ever be accused of being a fan of ham back home so you can imagine my disappointment when I stared at that plate.  Ôi Chúa ơi for sure.  Just damn.  This innocuous plate of food transported me back in time once again to when I was a kid and my mom wouldn’t let me leave the table until I took at least one bite of the offending food.  How is it even possible those dinner table battles of the wills could manifest themselves as some post traumatic food disorder 30 something years later in Vietnam?  Sitting at the dinner table staring at food seems to be a recurring thought as of late.

No Idea What The Name Of It Is

I am not a picky eater back home, but some foods such as thick pieces of ham just don’t make my menu.  Now oddly enough I will eat ham sandwiches all day since bread, cheese and mayo mask the thin slices…But just not this thick stuff laid out in the open unmasked by other foods.   I took a deep breath, speared a piece with a fork and ate it.   Ôi Chúa ơi.   Same fatty texture of ham back home.  Same salty taste, too.   Where’s mom when we need her to coax us into taking just one more bite so we can leave the table?

Ladling fish sauce of all things over the ham elevated its taste to something a little more palatable.  What does this tell you about how much I dislike ham when only some fermented nuoc mam can manipulate the reddish chunks into something edible?  I actually ate all 7 or 8 pieces of ham.  Does this give me a future credit to leave the table early without having to take at least one bite?  Maybe moms everywhere are onto something when they force us to eat as it turns out ham is growing on me.   I kinda like it.  This meat is about as close tastewise to Honey Baked Ham as Vietnam can get.   Broth with bok choy, sautéed bitter melon, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and of course rice rounded out my $1.50 meal.   How do you say good value for the Dong in Vietnamese?  OK, get your minds out of the gutter.  Dong is the currency, not something that will cause our description of lunch to derail and go off the cliff.

Something tells me this place will one day, too, succumb to the bulldozer since the surrounding blocks are all falling one by one to new skyscrapers.   Get food like this downtown while you can.  Somehow I don’t think the lobby level of the next new highrise will have a metal serving cart and kiddie size tables just inside the entrance.   I see the scene now…people are asking each other over bland sandwiches at Subway, “remember when we used to get that tasty ham across the street at that small food stand…”

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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