Chả Ngan Nướng Grilled Goose and Fermented Shrimp – 77 of 365

chả ngan nướng

chả ngan nướng

The only sound of birds in Vietnam seems to be a nice sizzle as they meet their final resting place in some greasy wok.   So where are all the birds over here?   Actually where are all the stray animals for that matter?   Now that I think about it, perhaps we are better served keeping the latter question rhetorical and just examining our winged friends.  Besides the roosters whose morning noise rises up 14 floors to my apartment a few hours earlier than I’d prefer, I’ve never lived anywhere so inexplicably devoid of avian life beyond a dinner plate.

My friend Phuc invited me to eat in Hanoi and off we went via motorbike in search of something beyond the mainstream.  The wet and dreary streets finally spit us out in front of a place called Pho Cuon Huong Mai (25 Ngu Xa Street in the Truc Bach Lake neighborhood) and what do you know…the wall mounted menu featured bird.   And this isn’t just any bird.  This joint far beyond any guidebook’s reach does goose.  In fact, over 100 geese a day meet their demise in this one restaurant, and I just can’t help but wonder where in the heck do they find enough poultry product to keep the crowds sated?

Beyond Any Guidebook

Just under four bucks buys a giant platter of chả ngan nướng or grilled goose chunks served with a basil tasting herb and stir fry onions.   How does a bird just so downright angry and mean in real life end up tasting so good?  Goose is good eating, and much to my surprise some of the more charred pieces even tasted suspiciously like a flame grilled Whopper meat patty.

And this being Vietnam, nothing can ever be served without a dipping liquid.   Normally we just splash away to our heart’s content into a sauce combining salt, sweet, sour and spice.   Somewhere along the line a food genius so decreed goose shall be paired with a purplish fermented shrimp sauce exhibiting rather bad taste.  You do realize “fermented” is just a polite label designed to distract the unsuspecting into ingesting something having undergone a period of putrefication, right?  Imagine a thick bubbly paste exuding dog squeeze aroma and sour milk bite.  After sampling this rancid mess complete with searing chili peppers and a splash of orange juice, all I can say is oh hell no.   From now on the only time I ever want to ingest a combination of seafood and poultry again is processed strips deep fried into oblivion on a Captain D’s combo platter.

I get the impression few tourists dare soil the bottoms of their feet in the street outside the goose joint which is their loss.  Eating with a locals only crowd is very much the experience I seek, and Phuc always leads me deep into a version of Hanoi much richer and tastier than anything I could possibly uncover on my own.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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