Sunday, August 3, 2008

Quảng Ngãi - Part I (Aug 3-4)

Although I did not do much in Quảng Ngãi, I sure took a lot of pictures. Mainly of food, which was very entertaining to my family. But they really got into it and would help make the plate look better. My own food stylists! So I will break down my Quảng Ngãi post into two.

After an awful, sleepless night in Quy Nhơn (I had to sleep in the living room with my cousin and my uncle who is a very LOUD snorer while I am a very LIGHT sleeper), my cousin and I decided to leave a day early and go to Quảng Ngãi. Luckily, her boyfriend and his colleagues were driving home that day so we got to go back in a nice air conditioned car.

After about an hour driving, we stopped for lunch. Note I already had breakfast and coffee by now. I’m not used to eating three full meals a day but all this was about to change. We stopped for cơm gà, but this was not the typical cơm gà that I know (similar to Hainese chicken rice I think). It’s funny because as I was discussing cơm gà with my four lunch mates, everyone had an opinion on where the best was made and how the rice had to be sautéed first. Vietnamese are very passionate about food!

Interestingly, the Quảng Ngãi entry in Lonely Planet states that the province is “famous for a local delicacy called cơm gàm, which actually originates further north at Tam Ky. It consists of boiled chicken over yellow rice (the colour comes from being steamed with chicken broth)”. I saw a lot of cơm gà offered in Quảng Ngãi; unfortunately, I did not get a chance to eat it since I always seemed to be full.

We started lunch with canh cải – soup with greens.

This cơm gà consisted of plain white rice with a well seasoned chicken thigh. It was very good and there was a great dipping sauce. The green onion topping was cooked in oil and was yummy!

We continued our way back to Quảng Ngãi. My cousin made the driver stop in Sa Huỳnh so I could take pictures of the beach. I was also intrigued to see piles of salt nearby from salt marshes.

Beach in Sa Huỳnh.

I found this picture of the salt marsh in Sa Huỳnh on the internet that is much more representative than my pictures.

Pardon the blurry picture - this was taken from the train.

We got to my uncle's in Quảng Ngãi, relaxed a bit and then it was dinner time! Of course! My cousins asked whether I preferred seafood or meat. I said seafood so we went to a seafood restaurant (Hai Long Vien). The group included my cousin D and his fiancée, my cousin V and her boyfriend and my cousin K.

Bánh tráng dipped in nước mắm seemed to be the complimentary snack at many restaurants.

Gỏi bắp chuối (banana flower salad), not as flavourful as my aunt’s on the previous night.

I asked to have the crab in a tamarind sauce since I had really enjoyed it with The Gastronomer. It was good but not as good as the soft shell crabs at Quán 94, and it’s much messier and much harder work!

Gói ốc (snails salad). As my dinner companions said, it was more of an onion salad with snails rather than a snail salad. The snails didn’t particularly do it for me either…

Tôm Mũ Ni. These funny-looking fellows are some type of shrimp-cross-with-lobsters that are fished nearby. We picked them alive from the tank. I should have taken a picture when they were alive. They were excellent – like little lobsters!

What else do my cousins (and I’m guessing people in Quảng Ngãi) do other than eat? Drink! Or a term that encompasses both: ăn nhậu. Vietnamese men seem to drink like frat boys: they binge! I was a bit nervous having to ride with my cousin afer I witnessed the number of beers he drank in a short amount of time. Their drink of choice is Heinekken and we also had to order more food to drink with!

My two male cousins are hidden. In the middle is my cousin and her boyfriend, and on the right is my cousin’s fiancée.

On my left is my cousin K.

Roasted eggplants.

Grilled pork ribs.

Another day, many other meals. In the morning, we met up with my cousin’s friend (who happens to be my mom’s childhood friend’s daughter) at a restaurant right across the street from my uncle's. The day started out with cháo vịt (duck porridge or congee) for breakfast.

Cháo vịt.

Vịt (Duck). My cousin’s friend T asked about me not eating the skin. No, I’m a bad Vietnamese. I don’t eat fat. I only eat skin when it’s crispy!

My cousin V and her friend T. Notice they have their cell phones ready, a must for a Vietnamese!

To walk off some of the food I ate, I went for a short walk and took some pictures, some of which are a bit amusing.

Chickens just walk on the sidewalk like the rest of us.

No need for words. Too funny!

Quảng Ngãi may be small but it has a Gucci…!

This field was just behind a main street. I love the green!

I still think it’s cool to see bamboo “in the wild”.

Within the same block there were two ram bap (corn spring roll) vendors!!

I couldn’t resist buying half a portion of ram bap (8000 dong for a portion of 10) even though I knew my aunt was making some. You have to compare…

They also sell banh xeo. I realize that my mother’s unusual habit of adding beef to banh xeo stems from Quảng Ngãi!

This street was rather flooded after a rainstorm.

Pictures I liked around town.

Another funny picture…!

Dinner was a mishmosh of all sorts of things that we rolled in bánh tráng (rice paper). One thing about my family: we like to roll EVERYTHING in bánh tráng!! My aunt made ram bap probably because I mentioned it. She adds taro which makes it different. I really dug her peanut sauce. When I asked her how to make it, she said that for me it’s easy because I can buy peanut butter. I’m pretty sure hers, made out of actual peanuts, is better!

My aunt’s ram bap.

Nem chua (fermented pork) from Quy Nhon that has been stir fried.

Cha ca (fish patties).

You need some greens and herbs with your rolls!

After dinner, my cousin invited me to go have sinh tố (fruit shake) or coffee. I picked sinh tố. It was funny because we literally went out by a field and sat down in the dark. Lawns chairs and plastic tables were set up. There was minimal lighting.

My cousin and her boyfriend.

I got a sinh tố mãng cầu xiêm (sour sop). My favourite part was the toasted coconut on top; I’ve never had anything like it! It was crunchy and sweet! Hmm!!


Wandering Chopsticks said...

It's funny b/c I don't really think about it, but Central food is really quite distinct. Not so much that other regions don't eat what we eat, although sometimes that's the case, but our presentation or preferences are quite different.

Miss.Adventure said...

WC: Good observation! Sometimes I make the incorrect assumption that what all Vietnamese eat what I eat to realize it's a central dish.

Gastronomer said...

Corn egg rolls! I guess your mom didn't make it up afterall!

annienina said...

Great pictures about Quang Ngai city and the yummy local foods ! Please can you post some more interesting one such as the Beauty spa "Tham my vien My Le" -the famous one in town.