Categories
Culture

Why I Hide My Favorite Restaurants From Others

Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#107: Becoming A Foodie Influencer at 50 Years Old,” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and all major platforms where podcasts are heard.

Working in food media, I get asked for restaurant recommendations fairly often, but even as I’ve enjoyed and have had the privilege to enjoy various type of food in Southern California, I’ve caught myself hesitating to recommend Mexican taco shops and trucks, in particular.

It’s not that I don’t want you to enjoy these places, but more so that I fear you won’t understand or connect with the experience in the same way I would, and therefore not enjoy it as much as I do.

Growing up in a Mexican household, with Mexican food, and Mexican traditions, it can be heartbreaking for someone to put down an eating experience you cherish.

Sure, everyone loves tacos, but even then, my favorite trucks will be sprinkled with Yelp reviews that hit you with the, “It’s good, but they cook all the meats in the same griddle,” or “They had some weird meats, and we had to eat standing up.”

I kind of get it, but that’s just how we eat tacos, baby girl!

Turns out, I’m not alone in withholding eats that I hold close to my heart.

On the Foodbeast Katchup podcast, Connie Aboubakare, AKA @OCcomestibles, brought up the subject of keeping a restaurant secret, for cultural reasons.

“I don’t want any negative reaction or comments from people who don’t know what it is,” Aboubakare said. “It’s not what you’re accustomed to, so it can have backlash on that place.”

 

It brought up an interesting conversation about “protecting” cultural restaurants that might not fit the mold of your everyday Yelp Elite.

If your favorite Oaxacan restaurant serves crickets or your favorite Laotian restaurant serves the pungent Thum Mak Hoong dish, they might not sit well with the everyday person, leading to unfavorable reviews, simply for them being unfamiliar with the cuisine.

That similar sentiment had been powerfully shared by our own Foodbeast staffer Peter Pham, who had often shared meals with us at a traditional Southeast Asian restaurant he loves, but with preconditions.

We agree to not check in on Yelp, tag the location on social media, or even post photos of the place. We all respect his wishes, enjoy the little mom-and-pop restaurant, and appreciate the traditional dishes from an often overlooked Asian region.

Further in the Katchup podcast conversation, host Elie Ayrouth expressed that he had a Lebanese restaurant he is often terrified to tell people about, as Middle Eastern dishes aren’t exactly American mainstays.

Tripa taco from Tacos El Venado/Peter Pham

Withholding our favorite restaurants from others is a real thing, and it intensifies with restaurants of other cultures that are unfamiliar to the masses.

You probably know some people like this. You probably are someone like this, but just know: Yelp reviews don’t always tell the whole story, but if you open your mind, the dishes will.

Categories
Culture Features

12 Vietnamese Dishes That Everyone Should Try In Their Lifetime

You may remember Connie Bang-Co Aboubakare, also known as @occomestibles, the influencer who took us on a trip to Southern California’s Little Saigon and all the amazing Vietnamese restaurant foods highlighted during the tour of her Chomping Grounds.

Connie was a recent guest on the Foodbeast Katchup podcast and spoke about her origins as an influencer and how she had to learn to cook Vietnamese food once she got married. What set her apart from many food bloggers is that she photographs the Vietnamese meals she would make for her husband and sons and fills her feed with them.

Vietnamese food has always been a beloved cuisine here at the Foodbeast office and while many of us have tried it, there are always those few dishes that not too many know about, but wish they had sooner. Towards the end of the episode, host Geoffrey Kutnick asks Connie what were some essential dishes she could not live without, to which she replied with quite a few Vietnamese options.

Looking at all the different dishes in her feed really inspired us to dive into Vietnam’s rich cuisine.

Thanks to her Katchup visit, we’ve compiled a comprehensive Foodbeast list of all the amazing Vietnamese dishes everyone should try at least once in their life.


Cá Kho Tộ (Braised Claypot Fish)

 

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One of the first dishes Connie mentions, that she can’t live without, is a braised claypot fish dish called Cá Kho Tộ. Catfish is cooked in a braising liquid of sugar and fish sauce within a clay pot in a process referred to as “kho.” Because the dish is so rich in flavor, it’s typically served with plain white rice and vegetables. It’s one of the more common dishes she would make for her family, and looking back, my mom would make this about once a week as well.

Bánh Xèo (Savory Crepes)

 

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A while back, Connie also hosted a Foodbeast Kitchen live stream that highlighted her love of Bánh Xèo, another item she mentions in the podcast. Essentially, Bánh Xèo are thin Vietnamese crepes that are cooked with flour and turmeric powder and filled with fresh meats such as shrimp, chicken, or pork, as well as fresh vegetables. You can eat them directly with fish sauce, or rip them up and roll them into a spring roll.

Cơm Tấm (Broken Rice)

An inexpensive comfort dish, Cơm Tấm translates to “broken rice.” What originated as a street food item, you would typically find grilled meats on top of broken white rice, a steamed egg cake, julienne pork, and pickled greens.

Bánh Bột Chiên (Fried Flour Cake)

A hearty breakfast dish, Bánh Bột Chiên translates to fried flour cakes. Cooked with fried eggs and green onions, the dish is popular in both Vietnam and China. The flour is cut into thick rectagular strips, and served with a tangy soy sauce that the cakes can be dipped into. There is also a turnip cake and radish cake variation that can be cooked in the same way.

Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm (Fish Sauce Fried Chicken Wings)

One of my personal favorite Vietnamese dishes, Cánh Gà Chiên Nước Mắm is mores an appetizer than a meal — unless you’re me and double up on orders. Not too different from how Cá Kho is made, the chicken wings are fried and coated in a glaze made from sugar and fish sauce. Sometimes, fried garlic is also added to the mix.

What I love most about fish sauce chicken wings are that every restaurant has their own take on them, and you can easily get yourself a few wings for relatively cheap.

Bánh Bột Lọc (Savory Tapioca Dumplings)

 

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Made with tapioca flour, the dumplings are stuffed with shrimp and pork, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed. Once cooked, Bánh Bột Lọc is served with a sweet and spicy fish sauce and fried shallots. From Central Vietnam, the dish is eaten as an appetizer to a full meal. Foodbeast producer Theresa Tran mentions this as one of her favorite Vietnamese dishes, although it will take about 15 of them to fill her up.

Bún Riêu (Pork and Crab Soup)

 

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One of the more popularized Vietnamese dishes, Bún Riêu is a soup made with pork, crab, shrimp paste, dried shrimp, egg, rice vermicelli and lots of tomatoes. This leads to a super robust and umami flavor compared to the more classic Pho dish. After pho, this is one of the more popular Vietnamese soup dishes around.

Bánh Khọt (Savory Pancake Bites)

 

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Bánh Khọt, mini savory pancakes, feature pretty much the same exact ingredients as the more popular Banh Xeo, but comes in a sort of cupcake form. Because of this cooking method, the texture comes out much more different giving it a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. Unlike Banh Xeo, the proteins of Bánh Khọt are cooked on top of the dish rather than inside. Not unlike a gourmet cupcake.

Gỏi Cuốn (Spring Rolls)

 

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One of the lighter Vietnamese dishes, spring rolls are served cold with fresh greens, prawns, pork, and rolled together with rice paper. Gỏi Cuốn can typically be enjoyed with a peanut flavored dipping sauce, or a simple fish sauce that’s mixed together with chilis. Easy to eat either as a snack or even for a long road trip in the car. Just make sure not to spill any fish sauce.

Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)

 

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Tart and savory, this Vietnamese dish is typically served with rice. Made with a catfish base as well as tomatoes, pineapple, okra, beansprouts, and Vietnamese herbs. This is one of the dishes you wouldn’t typically find at a Vietnamese restaurant, but rather from the kitchen of a Vietnamese household. During the podcast Connie also mentions that this is one of her essential dishes that she likes to make at home.

Ốc Len Xào Dừa (Stir Fried Snails w/ Coconut Milk)

 

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A common street food in Vietnam, Ốc Len Xào Dừa roughly translates to stir fried snails in coconut milk. While the dish itself sounds pretty intimidating, the flavors that go into this dish make it a top contender for Foodbeast producer Theresa Tran. Made with coconut milk, lemongrass, Vietnamese coriander, chilies, and sea snails, you would find the Ốc Len Xào Dừa at street food carts throughout many Vietnamese cities.

“You can give me a cup of that broth and I’d drink it,” Tran says. “Also trying to get the snails out is pretty fun too.”

Phở (Rice Noodle Soup)

 

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One of the most iconic Vietnamese dishes, you can’t go wrong with phở. An elegant broth made from either chicken or beef, phở utilizes the flavors of charred ginger, onions, and other vegetables over a long period of time. Sure it’s on everyone’s list, but phở is so prolific to Vietnamese culture that you kind of just have to add it to the fold. Both Connie and myself enjoy beef pho, with strips of brisket that you can dip into a mixture of sriracha and hoisin sauce.

Categories
Culture

Culinary Acculturation With 23andMe

“You might not be as Hungarian as you think you are.” These are the words that started the journey of exploring not only my cultural identity, but also the effects that genetic testing has on my ability to make more informed decisions about my health. One 23andMe test and a bespoke pop-up dinner later, I might have discovered I have a gluten intolerance. I say might because, simply put, the thought of removing gluten from my diet saddens me tremendously. I don’t picture Oprah professing her love for bread, outstretching her arms as far as they can go, for one of the Udi’s varieties. I’d like to think Oprah is talking about rustic loaves of sourdough, the kind that has a starter story dating back several generations of artisan bread makers. I digress.

So I’m at home, spitting into a 23andMe home-based saliva collection kit, and I’m thinking this test will answer so many unanswered questions regarding my health and ancestry. What is my cultural identity? What health concerns do I have that can be addressed behaviorally? Am I related to Attila the Hun? If so, do I have an undiscovered talent for horseback riding and archery? And, more importantly, what does the food taste like from the regions I’ll soon claim? I knew I wasn’t 100 percent Hungarian, but considering my mom immigrated to the United States from Hungary I thought at least 50, right?! In about six weeks, all these questions would be pondered over a 10-course pop-up dinner, curated by Adia, a revolving pop-up dining experience by the insanely talented Karlo Evaristo, Jared Ventura, Brad Fry and Ian Whitney.

I thought: How cool would it be if after receiving my 23andMe results, I gave them to Adia to curate a bespoke pop-up dining experience? Each course would highlight or be inspired by the native cuisine of the regions that my DNA represented. Additionally, if anything popped up on the health component of the testing, we’d incorporate any newly discovered dietary restrictions.

The results were in, and the jig was up. Spoiler alert, not that Hungarian — about 17.7 percent to be exact. Turns out the largest representation from the gene pool is German, showing up at 41.7 percent. Another surprise was that I’m 22.5 percent Irish, even though I was told by family members that we were Scottish — I mean, we also have a family kilt that was supposed to be from Scotland! I felt I had even less of a grasp of my cultural identity after this test. On top of it all, I have one of the two genetic variants that were tested in the HLA-DQB1 gene, meaning, I have a slightly increased risk of developing celiac disease. What?! No bread?! My genetics also make me unlikely to detect specific bitter tastes and to have a preference for salty versus sweet. I’m also not really supposed to like cilantro, but considering the number of tacos I eat living in Southern California, my lifestyle was able to offset that result. Hopefully the same can be said for gluten? A scheduled follow-up with my doctor will confirm.

Not defeated, but excited to take a deep dive, I gave my results to Adia, and I couldn’t wait to see what the menu would look like — talk about putting myself out there, on a plate to be exact. Not only was I excited to explore these regions through cuisine, but the opportunity to explore self-identity in such a culinarily creative way meant that this would be one of the most It didn’t take long for me to connect with what was happening on the plate, and at that moment, I had never felt more proud of my identity, not as Hungarian, Scottish or German, but as an American. It’s more transparent now than it had been in other times of self-discovery that everything I was looking for was right in front of me. My identity and connection to my culture is as unique as my 23 pairs of chromosomes. All of this made me, me — even without bread on the menu.

The first course, sundried tomato goulash with crudité and rosemary soil, was the most interesting rendition of goulash that I had ever tasted — the familiar flavors would have made grandma proud. It was easy to spot the geographic origin of some courses, like the scallop with eggplant schnitzel and citrus soy beurre blanc. Other courses felt ambiguous, like the corn cremeux, featuring foie gras gel, masa tuile and blackberry jam, while others quietly left me speechless, like the squid ink chip with burrata tomato gel and maple sherry.

It didn’t take long for me to connect with what was happening on the plate, and at that moment, I had never felt more proud of my identity, not as Hungarian, Scottish or German, but as an American. It’s more transparent now than it had been in other times of self-discovery that everything I was looking for was right in front of me. My identity and connection to my culture is as unique as my 23 pairs of chromosomes. All of this made me, me — even without bread on the menu.


Menu by Adia

sundried tomato goulash, crudité, rosemary soil

oyster with passion fruit beurre blanc, cucumber mignonette + soubise, ipa vinaigrette, asian pear

sunchoke shell, gooseberry, marinated tomato, basil squid ink chip, burrata tomato gel, maple sherry

corn cremeux, foie gras gel, masa tuile, blackberry jam

uni hashbrown, coconut foam, finger lime, onion blossom

melon spruce gazpacho, charred cara cara, stone fruit, compressed melon

scallop, eggplant schnitzel, citrus soy beurre blanc

beef rib, shiitake gnocchi, shallot agrodolce, demi-glace

Related Links:

Tales from the Kitchen: A Love of Gastronomy With Michelin Stars

10 Grilling Mistakes You Should Never Make

7 Atypical Gadgets From Uncommon Goods We Love


Article by Michelle Grow for Sauté Magazine. Photography by Molly Goodman. Read the original article here.

Categories
Cravings Culture Restaurants Video

A Half Kangaroo, Half Emu Pizza Is A Unique and Delicious Reality In Australia

I’ve tried many flavors of pizza in my life, even ones with toppings from all over the world. Because pizza is such a vesatile medium for countries and cultures to put their flavors onto a slice, I don’t think there will ever be a day where we try every pizza this planet to offer… and that’s a wonderful thing.

Take this half emu, half kangaroo pizza for example.

Called the Coat of Arms Pizza, the pie is a 50/50 tribute to the two iconic animals of Australia and can be found at the Austrian Heritage Hotel in Sydney.

One half is topped with kangaroo steak and capsicum peppers. The other half is topped with marinated emu meat and juicy whole bush tomatoes. Once out of the oven, the Coat of Arms Pizza is finished with a drizzle of lemon myrtle mayo, a native ingredient to Australia.

Together, the two meats form one formidable pizza pie that attracts both tourists and locals alike.

Reuben Mourad, our Foodbeast correspondent on the other side of the world, says the pie packs the flavor of the lean meats while being able to stay juicy throughout.

Pizza aficionados, you may want to put this on your bucket list.

Categories
Culture Features Nightlife Opinion Restaurants

How This San Antonio Dive Bar Is Rejuvenating The City’s Culture

Regardless of where I travel, most conversations seem to include the same standard question: Where are you from? With the pride my home state is known for, I answer “San Antonio, Texas,“ and wait. Nine times out of ten, the response complements the NBA’s Spurs organization, or comments on the city’s love for tacos. However, under the surface lies a growing culture that was not only once shunned, but systematically repressed.

While many were still processing the change from Mexican rule to an independent state, Texas joined the union in 1845, and every Texan technically became an American citizen.

Over the next 73 years, tensions amongst citizens and settlers grew, and in 1918, Texas, along with several other states, created a law making any language other than English illegal to speak in public schools. In 1968, the US congress passed the Bilingual Education Act, allowing its citizens to no longer speak native tongues in fear.
Problem solved right? Well… nah. Fifty years of this practice completely changed the perception of cultural pride and language amongst many cultures, including Spanish-speaking Mexican-Americans. Many families chose to ignore heritage, never teaching the new generations the beauty of their roots and culture.

Fast forward on Life’s remote a few generations and you find a very interesting blend of San Antonio residents. Still a 62% Hispanic town, the influence of Mexican culture is undeniable. A new sense of pride seems to be on the rise. Previous generations who feared ridicule met a crossroads with the youth of modern times. Wanting to be proud of their culture and language while balancing individuality, a new kind of Chicano is emerging. No longer held by the constraints of being a cholo or some kind of stereotypical Mexican caricature, this new generation is blending old practices with a new swell of pride.

Traces of this are evident throughout San Antonio, but none more obvious than at N. St. Mary’s Squeezebox.

Throughout the week you can see Latinos mingling with non-judgmental Caucasians, holding their heads high, and sprinkling in a few words of Spanish in the conversation. You’ll even see Chicanos in modern day zoot suits, feather and all, Mexican soccer jerseys being sported while trap music and Selena is being sung by the youth — with all enjoying a craft cocktail.


The city’s own musical creation, conjunto (a unique blend of Mexico’s Norteno music with German influenced accordion rhythms), was created a few blocks away, and is proudly played any given time.

What brings them here? What draws various aspects of Latino culture to this location? The answer is simple. It has everything you want and need as an avid bar attendee.

With combinations including a beer and tequila shot for $5, the most budgeted drinker can visit and enjoy themselves. If you want to flex your diverse palate, you can order the most complex craft cocktail and have it served perfectly at a reasonable price.
Upon entry, a big neon guitar welcomes all with the phrase ‘Puro pinche blues (pure fucking blues)‘. Chicano artists have blessed the walls with paintings that truly reflect the city’s attitude and emotional connection to its Mexican history.

“Sundays are my favorite, I just want to drink and listen to some oldies,“ says co-owner Aaron Pena. Chicano soul records, trap music, conjunto, and even 90s freestyle music blare through the speakers while the enchanting aroma of brick oven pizza fills the air.

Following the scent of roasting garlic to the outside patio, I expected it to morph into hints of cigarette smoke, but was appreciatively wrong. My senses are more partial to fresh dough and melting cheese. This wasn’t just some national chain pizza, this was a pie.

Kitchen veteran and pizza enthusiast John Winkler and his pizza truck Sulla Strada provide fresh, made to order pies that perfectly compliment any cocktail or beer. With a variety of toppings and combinations, there’s flavor for everyone. Personally, I prefer the white pie, a sauce-less creation of mozzarella, ricotta, caramelized garlic and a garnish of fresh basil leaf.

The memory of my 8th grade art teacher telling the class “art needs texture“ kept repeating in my mind. Every bite was an experience full of texture. The brick oven created a crisp in the crust that matched perfectly with the flocculent ricotta. And the mozzarella had a slight sponginess complimented by the silky roasted garlic.

When I observe the crowd I see people of various cultures doing the same exact thing: Communicating over a drink, eating, and laughing. Through cultural differences, these are the things that make us all humans.

Such eateries serving as cultural havens provide a magical level of comfort for any visitor. Next time you’re in San Antonio, get lost in the sauce of distinct cultural pride. First places to start? The SqueezeBox and Sulla Strada.

Categories
Culture Drinks Humor

10 Tips From a Former Barista That Will Ensure The Best Coffee Experience Ever

Listen, I get that the empire that is Starbucks has been crumbling in the past few weeks. With closures due to public outrage, the coffee conglomerate has seen better days.

However, it doesn’t mean that one bad egg ruins the bunch. The bunch is human, the bunch gets that what happened is abhorred, the bunch still has to go into work the next day and deal with the hundreds of people yelling and screaming at their faces for something so insignificant like coffee being too bitter.

So show the bunch some humanity.

I’m not asking for sympathy, just decency towards the people that have been up since 4 A.M. trying to give you a little pep in your step.

I’ve been a barista for five years, give or take. I’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see when it comes to inept customers not getting the simple and relatively easy to understand ins and outs about coffee.

I see how this complaint could be petty, but petty turns to torture when it’s hammered into my head every day. The fact that I have nightmares of my face melting off from someone angrily throwing coffee at my face, telling me it tastes “like dirt,” is a problem.

Instead of getting angry for not getting what you want like a child, there are steps you can take to  keep your latte from being spat into, and make your experience a little more pleasant at your local coffee shop

If You’re in Line, Decide

Figure out what you want before you get to the register. I can’t tell you how many times someone will mess around on their phone until they get to the register and still not know what they want. I’m not your mom, I’m your barista, I will help you if you know what you want. If not, at least lead with that.

Caffeine ≠ Coffee

Too many times people will walk in and say they want coffee, but aren’t down to drink a 16 oz cup of dark roast, or squeal when their cup is full of espresso. If you want coffee, say coffee; if you want caffeine, that’s a different story.  There’s so much more for you if you want caffeine. You can have espresso, iced coffee, cold brew, tea, or a mix.

There’s More Than One Type

Not all beans are equal. Certain coffee beans produce a different flavor profile and complexity. Even Starbucks, with their unicorn bs, still has three different types of coffee brewing in the morning. Ask the difference and taste it too, you’ll have a better morning if you have the coffee you like best.

Hot is Different From Burnt

Extra hot milk is just burned milk. Anything over 200 degrees is just burned. If you’re trying to save it for later just get a stopper to keep the heat from escaping, or get it later, I doubt there isn’t a starbucks around wherever you are.

Ethnocentricism is no Excuse

Cold brew has been around for a long time. Just because Starbucks recently began doling out the new drink doesn’t mean they created it. According to historical records, cold brew finds its origins in Japan, specifically in Kyoto. It used to be referred to as Kyoto-style coffee, and only recently has been proliferate amongst US markets. See, pretty interesting huh? Ask a barista, and if they’ve got an ounce of intelligence and care, they’ll gladly tell you any further information or tidbits.

Don’t Play Yourself

Milk/cream and sugar are not needed. Sometimes the reason your coffee tastes so bad is because it’s just not the right type. Not all black coffee is a bitter charcoal pit. This isn’t a one size fits all type of situation. Just like there are different flavors of tea, there are different roasts with varying characteristics. Experiment a little, baristas are there to help you with that. Don’t just say it’s gross and expect us to read your mind, tell us what flavors you’re into.

This is Not That

If you order a Caramel Frappuccino with extra caramel because you want “coffee,” I will slap you. In my mind, at least.

There Are Actual Sizes

“Regular” is not and has never been a size. I assume you mean medium, which is mostly correct, but for those special folks that think I’m being dumb when I ask what exactly they mean, regular is not real.

Seek Within

If you really don’t know what you want, just ask yourself these three questions: 1. Do I want something hot or cold? 2. Do I want caffeine? 3. Do I want sugar? If you just tell your barista these three things and give them free reign to do whatever, they’ll have a blast and you’ll probably find a new favorite drink.

Enjoy

Overall, enjoy the experience that the barista is trying to impart. We genuinely care about the coffee, it’s what’s keeping us from throwing a bagel in your face at 5 in the morning. So take a minute, soak in the environment and know this isn’t a vending machine, it’s a cafe and we have real beans with real hot water and real people, not a robot.

Categories
Cravings Culture Features FOODBEAST Opinion

The Unsung Vietnamese Dish That Everyone Needs To Try ONCE

When I hear people talk about Vietnamese food, it’s usually pho or banh mi. The occasional spring roll or savory crepe may also be mentioned. Each item is delicious, by all means, but far too hyped. It bums me out that there is one dish that hardly anyone ever talks about: com tam.

Com tam, translates to broken rice in Vietnamese. At its core, the broken grains of rice are served with a grilled protein and fish sauce, accompanied by a plethora of flavorful additions. A popular dish in Vietnam, broken rice is very cheap (undesirable leftovers from the rice milling process) making it a favored street food item.

Like Filpino silog dishes, there are different ways you can enjoy the broken rice dish. You can order it with thit nuong (grilled pork), ga nuong (grilled chicken), or tau hu ky (fried shrimp wrapped in bean curd skin). Other tasty additions like trung hap (a steamed egg cake), bi (thinly shredded pork), or a fried egg are possible. Nearly every version of the dish is garnished with mo hanh (scallions in oil), dua chua (pickled greens) and served with canh (broth to cleanse the palate).

Com tam can be enjoyed by its separate components, or mixed together in a euphoric spoonful of flavors and textures.

When I think of Vietnamese comfort food, my mind instantaneously goes to com tam rather than other popular dishes of my culture like pho or banh mi. Again, still delicious.

My First Time

My earliest memory of the dish was at my grandparents’ house, in a time before I reached double digits in age. I was watching an episode of The Busy World of Richard Scarry, when my grandmother came into the living room. She handed me a plate of rice and meat and told me to eat.

Not wanting to take my eyes off whatever shenanigans Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm got into that week, I grabbed a spoonful and ate without a glance. Immediately, the first thing I noticed was that the rice tasted sweeter than usual. I asked my grandma what I was eating and she replied, “Com tam.”

“What’s that?” I asked, in Vietnamese.

She explained that it was a dish made with broken rice, served with different kinds of meat. She had marinated some pork chops and grilled them earlier that day to serve with the rice. Combined with the sweet fish sauce (and the fried egg my grandfather shortly threw on), com tam cemented itself as a dish I’ve loved since the very first bite.

Decades later, there’s still yet to be a Vietnamese dish that comforts me so easily.

com tam

Here’s my go-to com tam dish:

A bed of broken rice, grilled pork, and a fried egg topped with tons of scallions in oil. I could take or leave the pickled greens.

First, I pop the egg – the white-hot yolk smothering rice like molten steel over a reformed T-800. Next, it’s a spoonful of fish sauce over the golden rice. I fix myself a bite piled with as many components I can fit onto a spoon and brace myself for what comes next. Rice, egg, meat, sauce, and onions come together like multicolored lions forming a veritable Voltron of flavor in my mouth.

I feel like I can take on the entire galaxy after crushing a plate. Or take a really long nap. Probably the latter.

Here’s a little secret: my favorite com tam joint is only a few miles from the Foodbeast office. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and I fear it may also be the reason I eagerly took a job here, being so close to such a wondrous place and all. I guess we’ll never really know though.

com tam

Costa’s First Time

Fellow Foodbeast, Constantine Spyrou (Costa for short), had never experienced broken rice before. Hearing me talk so lovingly about the dish, he decided to visit a food truck on campus that served broken rice. His experience at the food truck, although delicious, was pretty different from the traditional dish.

Letting my initial disappointment that this was his first broken rice experience subside, I messaged Costa that I was taking him to my secret spot for lunch.

Here are his thoughts after trying the real thing:

While [the food truck] was good and I enjoyed the texture, it was nothing compared to going to an authentic broken rice spot. You need the full experience there to fully enjoy it. You need the broth to entice your tastebuds, the toothsomeness of the rice mixing with the fish sauce and the egg yolk, the different types of meats, and the pickled cabbage to cleanse the palate. With the truck, I just got rice and meat. Having that fish sauce to soak up is paramount to getting the most out of your experience. To me, the food truck was a solid introduction, but going to an authentic spot was the full immersion I needed to really fall in love with com tam.

As we drove back to work, a sheepish smile rested on my coworker’s face. The normally chatty Costa was a quiet and full. He was happy.

Where to find com tam?

Most pho restaurants usually offer a similar dish, albeit with regular rice instead of broken. The key is finding the word “Tam” next to the rice. I highly recommend going to a restaurant that specializes in com tam, rather than one that specializes in another Vietnamese dish but carries it on the menu. Being the flawed, selfish human that I am, I can’t empart my favorite spot just yet. Eagle-eyed lovers of Vietnamese food in Orange County, however, may be able to recognize the plates from the photos.

Perhaps in a few years, when someone shouts “Let’s get Vietnamese food!” the first thing that comes to mind will be my favorite broken rice dish. Until that day, I’ll do my best to laud this lesser known comfort dish to anyone and everyone asking me for recommendations.


Other Vietnamese foods to try

If I haven’t already lost your attention at this point, there are tons of other amazing Vietnamese dishes out there. My friend and food blogger Connie (@occomestibles) recently did a tour of all the best Vietnamese eats in Orange County. If you have some time, I highly recommend you checking out that video.

Categories
Culture

This Is What Hospital Food Looks Like Around The World

Hospital foods have a reputation for being subpar. The media almost always depicts hospice cuisine as colorless vegetables, mushy meat, or luminescent Jell-O. However, hospital food can be more than what we see on TV. In fact, one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had came from a hospital cafeteria.

Have you ever wondered what types of foods different hospital foods serve around the world?

Sunbelt Staffing compiled some research from different hospital menus around the world and created this delicious look at all the different menu offerings one would find.

Here are some gorgeous examples of the foods served in hospitals around the world.


Switzerland

Menu: Quiche, fig and walnut salad, an eclair, and apple juice.

Spain

Menu: Chorizo and pepper rice, fruit salad, and orange juice.

Russia

Menu: Buckwheat pudding, cottage cheese, and coffee.

Mexico

Menu: An omelette with tomato and pepper salsa, chopped papaya, and a glass of water.

Germany

Menu: Creamed beef, peas and corn, strudel, and bread.

Italy

Menu: Gnocchi with tomato sauce, an apple and a plum, and a glass of water.

United States

Menu: Chicken pot pie, broccoli, a chocolate chip cookie, and coffee.

United Kingdom

Menu: A cornish pastry, savoy cabbage, rice pudding, and a cup of tea.

Canada

Menu: Baked salmon, peas and carrots, corn, and a glass of water.

Australia

Menu: Plum chicken, rice, a chopped apple, and a glass of cranberry juice.


Photos: Sunbelt Staffing