Fried Blood Cockles – 55 of 365

Blood cockles in the street market

The metal and glass case filled with bowls of mollusks and shells at Cô Bảy 3 on Nguyen Huu Canh screams “try me, try me.”  The waitress’ face screams something else though.  Yes, we all know that look of rolling eyes and almost imperceptible head shaking.  This girl didn’t care about my dining needs.  No, that look meant “Oh for the love of Buddha what the hell is this fool doing back in my food joint.  Quick, hide the furniture.”  Who could forget the guy who turned a chair into plastic shrapnel and then had another stick to his butt right there in that very concrete shack?

Don’t worry folks…Just give me a takeaway so I can eat it on the comfort of my own furniture load tested for us full size westerners.  Your flimsy plastic stools are safe today.  Menu charades is sometimes the only way to get that very point across, and she finally seemed comfortable enough this order of some white shell looking things was destined for a styrofoam container.  I’ve noticed many times in Vietnam pointing to a menu selection only leads to the waitress processing some sort of thoughts only known to her.  Can they not read and need the item verbally spoken?   Or are they just confused why a westerner would ingest such a food and are thinking up a more appropriate substitute?  Who knows, I was just pleased I had successfully ordered some sò huyết xào me for home consumption.

“Take Away” Fried Blood Cockles, Tamarind and Fish Mint

Waiting “some minutes” as they say over here in these parts gave Google Translator ample minutes to advise “fried blood cockles” were frying up only feet away on the hot plate.  Fried…Blood…Cockles?  What the heck is this joint selling?  Finally the answer to a once rhetorical question arrived in the form of a plate of shells in a thick brown sauce with green herbs.   No, no, no.  Didn’t she seem to have understood this was takeaway.  She had even watched me walk over to some containers, point to them and then make a motion of said flimsy white box marching out into the unknown.

OK, I am reading your mind…yes, I did at one point learn how to ask for “food to go” and have actually tried putting the phrase to use numerous times.  Evidently such a foul bastardization of the proper pronunciation rises out of my voicebox that each time this string of tonal abominations is met with either a look of disbelief or the process just grinds to a sudden halt.  No one has been polite enough to clue me in as to what I am actually saying.  Charades is safer.

Another game of Mime Your Intentions later, the plate of blood cockles eventually journeyed home in a leaky plastic bag.  My buddy Graeme asked me recently if I’ve been gastronomically violated.  Yes, Graeme, I can now say I have.  This pile of tightly closed clams was a total violation of any culinary well being.   Note to Google Translator…Sò huyết xào me should mean “taste of the Mekong” as biting into the rubbery meat releases a spritz of muddy, slimy liquid.  This has got to be how laying face down in a rice paddy tastes.

Gastronomical violation didn’t stop with the actual meat.   The thick tamarind pulp complete with hard inedible seeds did nothing but cover my tastebuds in sour sticky nastiness.   Fish mint may garnish the dish with pretty green flair but imagine biting into a leaf looking like spinach, smelling like goldfish food, and tasting like three day old anchovies.

Well, I guess on a journey to try 365 meals, some speedbumps are bound to pop up along the way.   I’ve had two nice dinners already at this restaurant with a large menu to eat through yet.   We’ll just stay away from blood cockles and anything with fish mint.  And maybe actually  writing down the word for takeaway will save a trip into that linguistic blackhole where no one is understanding the other.  Fried blood cockles with fish mint and tamarind…All in all it’s the perfect dish to take us off the normal food trail into the unknown.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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