Vietnamese Fast Food Chicken – 49 of 365

Sweet Chili Chicken

My highest level of achievement after almost two years here is being able to count to three.   As long as life transpires in multiples of three, all is good.   While out exploring Hanoi on foot during a work overnight, I passed a place on Thanh Nien Road just south of Truc Bach Lake called BBQ Chicken that had my curiosity piqued the whole time I had lived in Hanoi.  A snack for later sounded good so for the first time I walked into the tiny, hot storefront to order some takeaway junk food.

The entire wall mounted menu is displayed floor to ceiling in both English and Vietnamese but was meaningless fifteen feet away for me and the girl taking my order.  I asked for the #9 rice syrup chicken (that looked a lot like General Tso’s) in both English and evidently mispronounced Vietnamese.   Her response was a blank look.  So I typed “nine” into my Iphone’s Google translator and got “9” in return.   Thanks Google, I need how to say it, not how it looks.   Showing the girl the “9” did momentarily perk her up but she ultimately said, “no.”  Either they were out of it, or she just wasn’t getting it.  I am guessing the latter.  Obviously ordering anything four and higher is sending me into uncharted territory.

Real American Style Chicken Strips

Necessity is the mother of all invention and I wasn’t leaving this chicken joint empty handed.  So I walked over to the wall and wedged myself behind a woman and her two kids eating.   I pointed to #9 and got a hand wave from my food concierge possibly meaning either “I am so sorry sir.  We apologize we are out of the requested item” or “I have no idea what the hell you are doing wasting my time.  Just order some damn food so I can get back to texting my friends.”  I am again guessing the latter based on her once again blank stare.

OK, so that didn’t work but I still had a whole wall of pretty pictures to work through.  Pointing to #11 solicited a smiling thumbs up.  OK, This is easy.  I got caught up in the moment and next thing I knew I had two thumbs up and a side of #8.  More progress!  I luckily checked myself before winding up with the #33 family meal deal.   I walked back over to pay for my chicken in both strip and sweet chili varieties and the conversation unfolded like this:

Cashier:  You wait some minutes.

Me:  How many?

Cashier:  Some

Me:  How many is some?

The cashier held up ten fingers and flexed them three times.

Me:  Ten minutes or thirty minutes?

Cashier:  Five wait some minutes.

Me:  Five minutes?

Cashier:  No, You wait some minutes.

“Some minutes” turned out to be 15.   Back at my hotel room some minutes later, unwrapping the takeaway container revealed these were not just Vietnamese “same same but different” knockoffs.   No, this stuff with the same arterial clogging powers as its American cousins could have been passed out of a drive through window in middle America.   But I think a chicken strip is more deadly over here since Vietnamese constitutions aren’t as finely tuned as ours to handle fast food deep fried goodness.

Before anyone goes off accusing me of dabbling in a culinary wasteland at a takeaway chicken stand, I never said I am a food critic or chef.   I’m just an average guy from the ultimate fast food nation.   I know what tastes good to a deprived western palate that sometimes just needs a piece of chicken minus the gizzards, skin and fat rather than the endless portions of rice, rice and more rice here.   The sweet chili chicken actually tasted a lot like Chik-Fil-A’s Polynesian Sauce smeared on a breaded wing from Hooters, and the strips were no different than anything we’ve ever tasted at the food court.  Transport this bright red takeaway box with its cartoon chicken 8,000 miles eastward, and I could easily imagine someone asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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