You may remember the recent chicken and rice meal from Buon Me Thuot in all its fat, gristle and slimy skin glory (#126). We journey back to Buon Me for another sampling of its fine cuisine, and once again an interesting meal has been delivered planeside for my crew. This fried rice and spring roll sample platter is part of a customer buffet in the gate, and thankfully we didn’t have to give them any Dong in exchange for a free meal. OK…minds out of the gutter everyone! That’s the currency here.
The cabin crew had been so excited enroute from Saigon since a styrofoam container of cơm rang is like their pot of gold at the end of the flight rainbow. The air was just charged with anticipation as we all readied ourselves for this five star feast when the station manager delivered a plastic bag wafting suspect odors all over the galley. Any misplaced delusions of gourmet taste quickly evaporated though as I got to wondering how in the world do they crap up rice in Vietnam? The loose, rubbery dried out grains nestled in that white box seemed so out of sorts in this country that overall produces fairly decent fried rice products. And just how does something cooked in water turn into a such a parched culinary Sahara Desert? I mean come on now. The airport definitely burped this stuff up from its deepest depths.
You know that soft, delicate steamed rice that comes in one giant lump with your Chinese takeaway? Well banish that pleasant image from your mind because these rice grains were not even up to food court Panda Express standards. This would be akin to Wrigley Field screwing up a hot dog or a movie theater burning the popcorn. OK…I just thought of a comparison. These grains were like that really bad rice accompanying the refried beans in the #1 Speedy Gonzales combination plate at some suburban strip mall Mexican joint or that rice product smashed into a Taco Bell 7 Layer Burrito.
This boxed collection of cooking gone horribly awry was crying out for a healthy dose of moisture but not in the way this one went down. A trio of cold, fried spring rolls wallowing in their slow slide into the clutches of e. coli moistened the adjacent rice with a glossy oil sheen. Against my better judgment I pressed a bit too hard on one and within seconds a squirt of oil shot out of the newly burst seam in the soggy shell. Yes, moms everywhere are right. There is a reason they told us to not play with our food.
They also tell us to eat fried foods in moderation if it all or at least mine does. This stuff is no picture of moderation though. Let’s not even pretend it’s within mom’s tolerances. Why not just shove one of these grease sticks directly into an artery and save our bodies the trouble of digesting it. Better yet, just attack the heart directly. Stick it in there like some wok fried stint and dare the left ventricle to beat down on it.
If anyone knows what imparts the lovely yellow sheen strong enough to stain even styrofoam, I am all ears. Maybe some things are best left in the dark though, and speaking of the dark, that is where this stuff wound up…right in a dark trash can. That’s a shame, too because I really do not wish to waste food. I could see the wheels turning in one of my cabin crew’s eyes as he tried to explain away this food mishap with, “Terrible! Maybe rice in Buon Me grows no good in the field.” Yeah, we’ll just stick with his carefully thought out reasoning as we put this one to bed.