Thịt Kho Tàu Braised Pork Belly – 354 of 365

Thịt Kho Tàu

Since I had ordered the braised pork sticky rice this week, and my sidewalk chef failed to deliver exactly what I wished for, I decided to actually seek out this highly scary, to me at least, pork product.

Many moons ago we sampled a vegetarian dish of braised pork made of faux meat.  I marveled at how non-animal products could be factory manipulated into foods resembling the real deal but without all the inherent icky factors.  Braised pork is far from my favorite as its layers of thick, globby, shimmering interspersed with some tiny bits of actually edible meat.  The slabs of meat remind me of a pork tiramisu gone bad with all those alternating layers, some dark brown, some a yellowed fatty white.

I remember so smugly thinking how I had outsmarted the Vietnamese at their own game of serving meats wholly unappetizing to my particular tastes by eating the vegetarian versions.  Today, however, I realized I just can’t leave Vietnam without sampling the real think, so in the name of research I hunkered down and steeled my taste buds for what lay ahead.

Our crew hotel provides a free breakfast buffet which I normally give a wide berth in favor of the street delicacies so close by.  But I got to thinking…why not just eat this braised pork here where it’s free so as not to waste a buck or two.  Besides, a buffet is a controlled environment with other choices should one crap out.

Now keep in mind I am not a huge fan of buffets so this dip into the mass produced foot arts was going against every fiber of my being.  I fished a healthy size portion of these fat strands out of their chafing dish and could only mutter oi zoi oi la za oi which is Hanoian for oh my freaking God what have I just done here.

I closed my eyes and popped a piece in my nervously awaiting mouth.  Biting down just proved to be a dichotomy of good versus evil.  The sweet, slightly salty sauce definitely made of fish and soy sauces left a nice first impression.  Biting down though the skin, fat and muscle was another story.  Have you ever eaten that fat attached to a steak?  It was much like that and tasteless.  So what is the point of eating something with little to stimulate the taste buds but a lot to clog the arteries?

A few minutes later I had dissected all the fat away much to the amusement of the coffee and tea girl.  I am thinking come on now, you’ve never seen a westerner perform emergency surgery on this food before?  What meat remained was quite good, and in the end I am glad I finally worked up the nerve to give this on a try.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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