Hands down this sidewalk delight may go down as one of the greasiest foods I have ever encountered in my life. Forget everything McDonald’s, KFC and their ilk may have ever taught tastebuds the world over. This fried square even beats fried Twinkies, fried candy bars and anything else gestating in a vat of oil at an American state fair. When I spotted four of these golden squares riding the lard waves in a streetside wok, I just knew I had to bite into this one. Yes, that which repulses me to no end such as grease also does a fairly good job of drawing in my morbid curiosity.
Its outward appearance is that of a large hash brown or potato pancake but nestled in a banana leaf wrapper. I suppose only these waxy green sheets are strong enough to withstand the grease assault as these items are carried onward to their final eating place. My arteries groaned in protest as the guy plucked one from the wok, shook off the oil and then sprinkled it with enough salt to bring an elephant to its knees from high blood pressure.
Asking the guy at my apartment’s front desk just made this food adventure even more interesting. He told me this is “xôi chiên” which I dutifully repeated back. Several people laughed as I said it again. He told me, “no, not fry baby hole, xôi chiên, chiên” with the emphasis on the chiên. Evidently mispronouncing the word for “fried” slides the meaning right into the gutter with slang for the female anatomical part where babies are conceived. Fried baby hole…what a linguistical mishap. Well, at least I can provide the Vietnamese some entertainment at six thirty in the morning.
So how does this taste you must be asking? The rubbery outer shell is reminiscent of a super greasy Frito with that slightly sour hit to the tongue, and the soft grains inside are how I would imagine marinating steamed rice in a tub of cooking oil. I am all about eating foods in moderation, but this is one that probably for me and my personal dietary guidelines is best skipped.
Perhaps the oil just wasn’t hot enough. Isn’t that what supersizes the greasiness of a raw food undergoing its molecular transformation from somewhat healthy to a horror of new proportions? I do believe in moderation and moderation in this case was a tiny, tiny bite. However it’s pronounced, this one was an all around interesting addition to the food journey.