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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Nuong BBQ, Meaty Kinds

My absolute favorite: octopus with spring onions
and green chili sauce!
You can't walk far in HCMC without tripping over a restaurant full of people sitting around tables, open flames lighting up the cluster of beer bottles. It's a magical thing.

Roasting meats and vegetables over a flame evokes some of our most base food instincts. It's comforting... it smells like survival. (Check out this great Smithsonian article "Why Fire Makes Us Human"). It also just plain smells AWESOME.

I have always been a bit of a pyromaniac. I love building fires, cooking, and gathering around them in the cool evening.

Evenings aren't so cool here in Vietnam... but the principle is the same! They're a way to gather with family, share the kill, and mingle over an invention that literally changed our very nature, in rich communion with our fellow humans.

Also, of course, BBQ is just plain great!


Vietnamese will put anything over a flame, from sparrows to octopus to pork belly. (Sides of veggies to roast is also common, but I'll cover those in a different post.) Here are some that I've tried...


AIR 

What: The tiniest little grilled sparrows (so tiny)
Personal rating: 🔥🔥 2 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

So many tiny bones! (really, really tiny bones)

I didn't really like these. But Neko had fun playing with the leftovers, so... extra points?

Also, I've never eaten anything in this shape, so, bucket list. Boom







SURF

What: Some kind of fish?, chili salt
Personal rating: 🔥🔥🔥 3 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

I don't really care for fish, but it was ok I guess.

I know, a ringing endorsement! Haha! But honestly, for fish it was pretty good.










What: Marinated Prawns
Personal rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 4 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

So, SO good. However, I can't have much shrimp anymore because of my gout. It is a HUGE BUMMER.

Such sadness when friends order these... they smell divine!







What: Octopus
Personal rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 5 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

Fun fact: when you eat an octopus you gain it's intelligence! This is 100% true, trust me.

This is MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE NUONG*.

*(Nuong = BBQ in VN) 

There's this green chili sauce that I'm obsessed with. It's a match made in heaven.





TURF

What: Goat Breast, Best Breast
Personal rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 5 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

Goat was a meat that I never really thought about eating before I moved to Vietnam. It's very, very common here. The ribs can be a bit tough, but the breast is generally juicy and tender. A excellent meal!









What: Pork Belly
Personal rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 5 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

Fun fact: when you eat pork belly, you gain the pig's natural ability to have a huge belly! IT'S TRUE.

This is second favorite nuong (sorry, bacon, you lose to the octopus)









BUFFET-STYLE

Joao and I at a buffet place in D8 with some friends.
What: Nuong Buffet
Personal rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 5 out of 5 Flames

Notes: 

Usually, at a BBQ place, you order a meat, and they bring out a big plate of raw, marinated, seasoned meat, and then you cook it, and then you pay. 

Buuuut...! Some places prepare batches of everything, and present it buffet style! You pick out what you want, as many as you want, pay, and then take it back to your table to cook on your little fires. 

This is a great way to try a wide style of weird things (including what I call "Vietnamese fair food," which is just regular everyday foods that have been deep fried or breaded or whatever - so great), including meats stuffed with cheeses (not all that common).

OLD RELIABLE

As far as food goes, BBQ is generally pretty good here... that being said, there's definitely places I return to.

Number one is 5KU station on Le Thanh Ton. There are a lot of these pop-up stations around the city, and they're 1) always crowded, and 2) reliably good, 3) relatively inexpensive. (However, parking can be terrible at certain locations). Call ahead for a 10% discount, I believe.



Thanks for tuning in! Lots and lots more to come. Do say hi in the comments if you have a moment, I'd love to know who's reading!

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