Squid Blimps (A Winner!) – 61 of 365

mực nhồi thịt - stuffed squid

Visions of that soda can giving birth to Black Chicken still run vivid in my imagination.  He proved my culinary journey is still relegated to the farm teams and just not ready for the prime time major leagues.  For sure going off the trail in a country where tip to tail cooking is a way of life can prove provoking to western palates and sensibilities alike.   But just a few home runs and this adventure in its infancy should again point in the right direction.

A four hour urban trek through Saigon normally whets the appetite but leave it to the street market behind my apartment tower to shove a diet pill deep down in me.   Something about pig hooves and chicken feet festering in the midday sun does so little to instill hunger.   Stopping by Cafe 91 on Nguyen Huu Canh in my building’s shadow usually yields a good selection or two for a dollar lunch but not today.  Things looked about as enticing as the congealed pigs blood loaves floating in buckets just blocks away.

Choosing lunch sometimes is a game of eenie meenie minie moe, and some shiny miniature Goodyear Blimp looking things seemed a proper compromise between the wild wild west of the street and the sanity of the mainstream food trail.  Are they squid perhaps?   Is this what calamari looks like before it becomes a $12 appetizer with marinara dipping sauce?  Have you ever eaten calamari?  It’s pretty decent with some crunchy fried batter concealing rubbery rings.  Even the scary tentacle end of the squid is edible enough when fried to golden perfection.  The texture just gets me though when this particular oceangoer looks like itself.  Well, why not try something new and extreme (for me at least)?  What’s a buck down the drain and a quick trip to the trash if this batch of takeaway craps out?

Once two of these Goodyears were nestled on top of a bed of steamed rice, the lady, much to my shock, grabbed a pair of scissors to snip each in half.  Come on lady…where all have those scissors been besides just resting on a table?   I told myself over and over, “Stop being a health inspector.  You’ve eaten worse for sure.  Suck it up.”   And just to verify this was indeed a squid product, I emailed Anthony a picture I hoped was worth a thousand words since I was at a loss how to describe a piece of rubber stuffed with brown meat.

He replied, “It’s mực nhồi thịt.  A very delicious one”   Yes, I agree.  We do have a winner here with stuffed squid.   The amazing stuffing is chopped tentacles, minced pork, sugar, mushrooms, fish sauce, garlic, green onion, salt and pepper.  But things aren’t done here…The meat stuffed squid is then poached in caramelized sugar, stock, and fish sauce among other flavors and drizzling some of this piquant sauce over steamed rice adds some class to otherwise plain kernels.

Two squid blimps simply are not enough.   Next time I am buying out the entire tray and hoarding these things much like a few weeks ago when AP bought out Saigon’s entire supply of jalapeno peppers for her delicious homemade poppers.  We just never know when items here will ever make another appearance so better to have a few on hand.  Mực nhồi thịt goes to show most food deserves at least a try.  Never in a million years would I have imagined squid blimps would become one of my favorites.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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