Mực Xào Xả Ớt Stir Fry Squid and Chili – 323 of 365

Mực Xào Xả Ớt

This simple lunch showed me how far I have come on this food journey.  Somehow by osmosis I seem to have picked up a few things along the way about Vietnamese cuisine.  An entire serving cart of food confronted me and oh how I wish this were some sort of buffet where I could just take one of each.  When I finally honed in on the sliced squid in its metal serving pan right there at Café 91, I recognized not only the preparation style but the ingredients as well.  OK, I will even brag some here…I was actually able to order it in Vietnamese by stringing together the words for squid, stir fry, and chili, mực xào xả ớt.

Yeah, I was feeling quite smug standing there knowing exactly what the drill was.  Finally, a little bit of success with the language.  Usually spoken Vietnamese is about as confusing to me as some of the food choices confronting me.   An office worker carefully studied me as I asked for my food as if to say, “oh no that western dude didn’t just order his lunch in Vietnamese.”

She kept staring and staring and I thought to myself, ok, lady, anytime now you can avert your eyes.  Her gaze was relentless so I decided ok, I’ll play ball here.  As I ladled some dipping sauce into a small bowl while announcing loudly to her, “nuoc cham,” my new friend incredulously squinted her eyes.

Purple Yam Soup

I dug into lunch and decided then and there that lemongrass and hot chili peppers seem naturals for squid.  The spicy tangy taste infused the oily sauce with just enough heat to perk up my tastebuds.  I smeared some of this amazing nectar all over the steamed rice and ate enough carbs to make a mockery of the Atkins Diet.  The cool cucumber slices were perfect for dipping into the sweet sour fish sauce nuoc cham concoction.

What I believe to be a purple yam based soup got my interest most of all though.  This one I don’t know how to say in Vietnamese but in English I can tell you it is creamy and I couldn’t place the taste.  Where have I had this cumin taste before?  Finally, it hit me.  Rice paddy herb.  The flavor sensation comes from an herb I have used for chicken noodle soup.

Lunch was great and I really enjoyed marveling at how my knowledge of all things Vietnamese is starting to come together.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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