Back when NewWifey(tm) and I were just fuck buddies we’d sometimes pop down to Lower Manhattan after a particularly draining boink-a-thon and order up a feast at her favorite Vietnamese restaurant – creatively named “Vietnam Restaurant” – so she could both replenish spent energy, and get any hideous tastes out of her mouth. The place was great, and cheap. For twenty bucks total we could fill the table with more food than it would take to satisfy one of those starving Somali kids with the distended bellies for a year.
Quick sappy side story:
NewWifey(tm) and I met in an online motorcycle racing chat room. She had a question about jetting carburetors, and I answered. But she was using an ambiguous handle, and I didn’t catch on that she was a chick. Until I made a horrible, sexist joke and she called me out on it. And then asked if we could meet. I said “Sure, as long as we can fuck”, and that was that. She flew out from Cowtown Trailerville, Missouri, and we spent the next two weeks fucking and eating. Often at once.
The very first restaurant I took her to was that self same Vietnam Restaurant. I ordered my favorites: Shrimp Paste Grilled on Sugar Cane (“Chou Tom”), Vietnamese Crepe (“Banh Xeo”) and Fried Banana in Coconut Cream with Tapioca (“Chuoi Chien“). To a girl who’s diet up until that point consisted almost entirely of BBQ pork sandwiches, pimento cheese, Cream of Something Casserole, and Miller Lite, this was a revelation. Sad to say, but I think that was the very first orgasm I ever gave her.
Anyway, and I’m not making this up, for the next dozen years or so until they went out of business, whenever we went there SHE ORDERED THOSE SAME THREE DISHES AND NOTHING ELSE. To this day those are her three favorite dishes in all the world, and god help me if we’re ever on a road trip and she spots a Vietnamese restaurant on the horizon. She’ll literally reach over from the passenger seat and wrestle the steering wheel out of my hand and aim us towards their parking lot. And once we’re inside she’ll order Chou Tom, Banh Xeo, and Chuoi Chien. I have tried and tried and tried to get her to order one of the many other wonders of that most amazing cuisine, like their world famous caramel sauce dishes, or for gods sake, at least a bowl of pho once in a while. But nope. “I am not messing with perfection” she says. And that’s that. Another round of Chou Tom, Banh Xeo, and Chuoi Chien gets set before us.
“Are you sure this is just a quick side story, Danger? And where’s the sappy you promised?”
Shut up. Here:
When I finally decided to pull the trigger I dragged NewWifey(tm) back downtown to Vietnam Restaurant for lunch. We had, surprise surprise, Chou Tom, Banh Xeo, and Chuoi Chien. But this time, just before the Chuoi Chien was served I got down on one knee next to her seat and proffered a small hinged box towards her. Just then the waitress showed up with our flaming banana, and she squealed and stepped back a few paces to watch. I opened the box and inside, set in the ring slot, was a rubber O-ring from my motorcycle’s carburetor.
NewWifey(tm)’s reaction? To quote her, verbatim: “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…”
See, I had picked her up from work where she’d just finished an overnight shift. What was “lunch” to me was “midnight raid the fridge in pajamas while half asleep” to her.
Ok, she wasn’t totally out of it. But the reaction was certainly muted. In actual fact, it was more like, “You’re kidding, right? Whatever, fine, let’s get married. Now can I go home and get some sleep?”
BTW, she wore that rubber O-ring as her engagement ring right up until I replaced it with a more traditional (if stodgier) diamond model. She loved it, and bored to tears with the full story anyone who asked about it. Sorta like what I’m doing here.
Ok, enough stupid side story sap. Suffice it to say, that restaurant and those dishes hold a special place in our synchronized hearts. Or what passes for one in my case.
Now over the years I’ve made, and continue to make, Chou Tom and Chuoi Chien. I’ve got those bad boys down. My version of each rivals anything we’ve had out, with the exception of the original Vietnam Restaurant ones. Those are still the gold standard, and I feel no shame admitting I haven’t reached that pinnacle yet. But I blow all the others out of the water. At least according to NewWifey(tm), since I’m way too modest to make such a claim myself.
Anyway, for some reason in all these years I’ve never ventured on making Banh Xeo. And that’s probably the easiest one to make. It’s an egg-less crepe that LOOKS like an egg crepe. It’s filled with stuff – usually shrimp, bean sprouts, sometimes pork, chicken, etc. – and eaten the usual Viet way: sandwiched into a lettuce leaf with handfuls of fresh herbs and dunked into any number of sauces.
I don’t know why I never made it. I really can’t think of any reason other than sloth, or maybe Alzheimer’s. But I never made it.
Of course, following my usual M.O. of refusing to use recipe, measurements, or sense, I didn’t use a recipe. So while the banh xeo tasted great, I dumped in too much turmeric which turned it a bright and cheery Halloween pumpkin color instead of egg crepe color. Oh well. Now I know what to make for Halloween.
BTW, one of the reasons I decided to make this today was because I’d just made a batch of rice flour in my 35 year old Vitamix. As far as other details, the crepes were stuffed with shrimp, scallion, mushroom, chicken, and bean sprouts. I also made fish sauce dip (little white bowl with carrot shreds floating around) and Viet peanut dip (smaller bowl) with peanut butter I also made in the Vitamix.
Oh, and BEEEEER! Gotta have beer.That’s apparently the law in Vietnam. Don’t wanna break the law.
Chúc Ngủ Ngon!