Mắm Chưng Mystery Meat – 69 of 365

Fish Loaf

In addition to some sensory overload, Saigon offers an endless array of food choices as well.  Before heading home from my several hour walk, I happened to walk past Com 37 which consistently provides  my diet interesting diversity.  Fresh dishes of food, some more identifiable than others, lined the metal serving cart and table.   Nothing was really popping until the owner brought out a pan looking a lot like meatloaf and laid it out front and center.

This interesting orange hued casserole screamed “pick me, pick me!”   The other choices looked interesting enough but a helping of mystery meat seemed the perfect ticket for some takeaway adventure.   The lady mumbled something sounding like “mum” as she spooned a portion into a plastic bag.  her contorted facial features should have tipped me off for the impending culinary journey as she studied me, glanced at the takeaway bag and then stared at me again .   Look, I hear you, lady.  I know this orange meat is not meant for the untrained western palate but load me up anyhow.

Some Of The Other Choices

Anxious to try this new food, I skipped the last two miles home on foot and opted for a taxi ride.  Whatever sort of furry friend this had been in a former life, it was stinking up the taxi to high heaven.  Oh man this is going to be something else.   Now if I could just figure out which barnyard sound this meat had been making before ending up in a pan…

Hold up…I just thought of something.   One of our cabin crew, Ms. Anh, had explained chicken and fish dishes will include chili peppers for heat but a dish such as pork or beef will use plain ground pepper.  Food in Vietnam is all about harmony and ingredients working with rather than against each other.  Flecks of red chili peppers in this crazy casserole must mean it orginated in the ocean.  Well that explains the dog squeeze smell.

A few turns inside the microwave nuked this paste to an even higher level of buttstink and vented foul exhaust everywhere.   Maybe this is why food is served outdoors on the sidewalk in Vietnam.  Yes, that’s it!  We’ve uncovered the mysterious origins of street food.   No, don’t take this hypothesis too seriously.  But this dish really is one that should be banned from indoor consumption.

Our good friend and food conneisseur, Anthony, confirmed this as indeed a seafood dish and quickly identified this concoction as mắm chưng based on an emailed picture.  Well, that explains the “mum” sound as the lady prepped the takeaway container.  I have actually seen little tins of mắm chưng at Vietnamese delis in the US but never knew what it was.  Vietnamese fish loaf careful pairs ground pork with brined snakehead fish along with other goodies such as egg, onion and cilantro.  Crab even makes an appearance in a proper mắm chưng, and salty fish sauce is the condiment of choice.

I sadly report this mess was quickly dispatched to the trash bin down the hall so my apartment could begin the process of destinking.   Perhaps some proper meatloaf minus the rank salted fish lurks deep in Saigon.   Oh well, we never know unless we try, right?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Vietnamese Food

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: