Chả Cá Khổ Braised Fish Sticks – 315 of 365

Chả Cá Khổ

Some of my more interesting meals come from delayed flights at the Saigon airport when a trip to the employee canteen fills my belly up.  Today was no different and a coworker was kind enough to retrieve some food while I babysat the plane.  My instructions were simple…just surprise me and surprise me he did.

A bag of unidentifiable meat parts arrived alongside a Styrofoam box stuffed with rice and cabbage.  And with all the food came his observation that the canteen is not the cleanest joint on Earth.  That is true, but please do remember where we are.  This entire country unfortunately would never win an award for good housekeeping and proper sanitation.  I really don’t even notice it much anymore, so I just dug into my food without a care in the world.

These unidentified “meat” sticks had the same texture as that fake crab meat sold at any American grocery store.  At the time I still had no clue this was indeed fish.  I carried lunch back to the galley and asked our purser to identify this mystery meal.  Without even missing a beat, he wrote down chả cá khổ and said “very delicious.”  Yes indeed, this was a fish product of some sort.  What kind though I have no idea and I really do not care to find out.  Some things in Vietnam are best left fully unexplored.

Inside of the Fish Stick

I stared at this box of fish and couldn’t help but think it all looked like a pile of stinky cat turd.  Yes, sometimes Vietnamese tastes better than it actually looks.  That image of cat squeeze just wouldn’t leave my head as I tasted the sauce slightly sweet with a bit of spice.  The outer layer seemed pan fried with insides nice and soft.  The litter box visuals forced me to drop my chopsticks.  In the end though I somewhat liked it, and ate the entire helping.  Admittedly, having some deep hunger probably helped increase my appetite.  I don’t know how this would have gone down were I not famished.

Having someone else pick out lunch turned out the best choice of all.  I would have never chosen this for myself based on appearances alone.  Just when I was wondering how many more dishes Vietnam could possibly produce, along came another unexpected yet interesting stop on this journey.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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