Cơm Gà Chicken and Rice – 126 of 365

Cơm Gà

A city of 300,000 in the central highlands called Buôn Ma Thuột is the coffee producing capital of Vietnam.  It is also home to a most interesting poultry lunch.  This food journey began early in the morning when my purser asked our crew if she could order chicken for planeside delivery when we passed through Buon Ma three flights later.  Can you imagine the TSA’s reaction if flight crews were ordering food delivery to some airport in the US?  They’d spin out of control, and the FBI would blow up these suspicious containers curbside after evacuating a 15 mile radius of the terminal.

Our purser sensed my hesitation and began the hard sell, “It is delicious!  I like very much.  I order for you!”  With such a glowing recommendation of course I bit, and at 35,000 VND ($1.75) the price was right.  Several hours later we had four Styrofoam containers in the galley exuding such wonderful smells compared to some of the noxious odors sometimes otherwise emanating from the cabin.  It was like walking into a KFC and basking in all that greasy aroma.

Yes, I sensed good things to come.   Not knowing what the proper protocol was here, I asked our purser when we could eat.  She told us, “Not now.  I prepare for you and serve during flight.”  What in the world does she have to do to this stuff?  I’m hungry.  I pictured her back there with a meat cleaver skinning a bird and putting on the final touches.  In any case, you just don’t even know how eager I was to get that fasten seat belt sign turned off so she could deliver our Buon Ma bird brunch to the flight deck.

Chicken Skin

Finally, while climbing through 24,000 feet, my first officer and I had our lunches sprawled out on blue plastic trays.  The wonderful smell rising from the soup caused me to take a spoonful without thinking.   Well, ever heard the old adage look before you leap?   What prescient advice this is.  Though some wonderfully spicy liquid bathed my tongue with its cilantro undertones, I chewed down on a soft meat chunk I’d rather forget.   It felt pasty with a slightly bitter taste.   Just at the moment where spitting out the offending piece was a millisecond too late, I glanced into the cup and noticed a healthy portion of chopped chicken livers.   Enough said.

Thin shredded chicken strips mixed with cilantro and cooked onion littered a heap of steamed rice inside the takeaway container.  Upon closer inspection though, I noticed these slivers of rubber were firmly attached to a layer of gelatinous fat the texture of a cat’s tongue.  Now I am not expecting some sort of KFC Flavaroast chicken here, but come on now.  The nastiness some barnyard poultry can produce is awe inspiring.

“It’s delicious!  I like very much.  I order for you!”  These words from 5 hours earlier swam around in my head as I attempted in vain to separate fat from flesh.   Delicious my butt.   Now this begs the question do Vietnamese look at a boneless, skinless chicken breast and wonder how in the world can the chicken factory cull something so shiny and impossibly clean from our feathered friends?  Do they bite into it with some sort of trepidation and wonder where is all that fat and chewy sinew to slow down their chewing progress?  They must think we Americans have lost our minds paying extra for sanitized bird parts.

Minus the liver chunks, the soup was good.  The very decent nuoc cham mixed well with the steamed rice.   Screwing up rice would actually take some work here in the rice paddy to the world.  I just don’t get that inedible chicken that makes an overly processed McDonald’s Chicken McNugget seem like a highly palatable delicacy.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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