A week of vegetarianism in the books. Oh, you betta believe it. Not even a drop a fish sauce. Although I must admit, one vendor's dirty mayo knife might have spread a touch of Patê reside on my fried egg bánh mì. I'm just an honest, humble blue collar dude like that. You forgive me, right?
Let's take a look at some of the week's offerings:
Hủ Tiếu Xào. The thing about going meatless in Việt Nam is that it's almost impossible to get full in one sitting. 15 minutes after one meal the bowels would be growling again. By the third night I was getting B-12 deficiency headaches. I needed more protein for strength and fiber for fullness. I needed a new gameplan.
In stepped Chè Trôi Nước . A pair of sticky rice balls stuffed with đậu xanh [mung beans] in a bath of coconut milk. An afternoon glass of Chè usually helped hold me over and keep the tummy happy..for a few minutes at least.
I also made sure to hit up the Soy Bar™, where old Absolut Vodka bottles are filled with freshly simmered, pandan infused Soymilk. Warm or on ice. I couldn't resist a couple glasses a day, despite Vietnamese warning me I'd turn into a girl if I kept enjoying this testosterone-suppressing beverage. MYTH.
Bánh Bột Chiên. Is that cooking oil or pork fat they're frying with? You gotta stay on your toes as a vegetarian. These rice cakes were griddle-fried up nice and crisp, with a soy dipping sauce. Chinese origins, no doubt.
Fresh Bánh Mì. Nothing wrong with that. I treated myself to a couple 'laughing cow' cheese bánh mì's for shats and goggles. They like to sprinkle some sugar on the cheese..which is beyond me. Don't ask 'why' in Việt Nam. They do how they do. Roll with it.
Đậu hủ nước đường. Mmm. Another addition to the slew of soy snacks. This one's silken tofu with a stupendously sweet ginger sauce and coconut milk. Slurp-it-up. Afternoons around 2-4 in my hood. Like clockwork, she'll be there.
My best discovery of the week. Straight NARnia. I noshed at a few veggie rice shops throughout the week but the top spot is no doubt 'Đóa Sen Vàng', 154 Bắc Hải st. [Tân Bình District]. This place actually takes that jump all the way to veganville- and they turn out all sorts of imitation meat dishes from roasted pork to fish cakes to sausages to omelettes. Cheap as bark. Funky fresh staff. Feel good after grubbin' as well. I even returned- AFTER THE CHALLENGE HAD ENDED. I'm telling you it's gravy like that.
You know that glass of cà phê sữa đá is still patiently waiting for you. Sip on this eye-opener.
I'm not changing to a meat-free diet, but dammit I learned some things so listen. You can get full on a vegetarian diet. You won't necessarily lose weight- especially if they deep fry all the veggies - but your arteries won't complain from the monounsaturated fats. You don't need to eat a 24 ounce steak to certify your masculinity, although who am I to stop you. 70% of U.S. grain production is feed to livestock! Even in the poorest Asian countries it's the same trend. The poor folks who lose their land to new developments of feedlots can't even afford the beef that's being produced.
Is it really healthier to be vegetarian? Either way, I wouldn't mind a few days a month of veggies to cleanse the mind, body and soul like that. That is, except when getting global in a new land..