Sunday, March 25, 2007

an ode to che

no, not THAT che, silly, i mean the indescribably perfect beverage/meal popular in vietnam. i've decided to become its amabassador of goodwill to the united states. boba tea be damned, if you want something sticky and sweet, hot or cold, chewy and filling, che is for you. the key is the sweetened coconut milk. what do they put in it? um, lots of things. beans, tapioca balls, mochi, lychee jelly, other types of jelly, and my favorite is bits of corn and sweet glutinous rice, which is apparently called che bap. don't bother to learn what the words mean, just track down the woman with the cart that has the word 'CHE' on it, or trawl the local market (not the grocery store, the market, enclosed or open, where pigs feet and dried squid compete with cheap aluminium pots and yards and yards of silk) for the che stall. often there's more than one, and the women (always women, never men. they're too busy sleeping on their motorbikes or drinking coffee...) fiercely compete for your attention. my method is to keep patronizing the same stall, that way i can exhaust my options over the course of a few days. the stall that i go to in the Ben Thanh market, which is a Saigon landmark but not as 'authentic' as the others, it's been cleaned up as much as possible for the tourists but is still pretty stinky, serves all the hearty savoury stuff, like the corn. most places model themselves more after the boba stalls, more fruits and sweet dessert-y things. Che for dessert? why not? but for me, Che is more like an afternoon snack, something just rich and hearty enough to tide you over til your second bowl of pho for the day.

the other thing i learned is that coconut juice is rich in electrolytes. i was feeling pretty sunbeat and after sipping from a freshly hacked open coconut, i felt much revived.

oh, and i thought i could avoid getting a suntan, but it looks like saigon is going to win out. what will all the vietnamese girls think? they admire white skin because it's almost impossible to maintain here, and four new england winters finally eradicated all of my proudly attained tan lines, so lots of salesgirls have complimented me on my fair skin. but now i have a sun burn and frankly, i've stopped caring or feeling proud of being white skinned. there's nothing wrong with a little vitamin d, maybe it'll fix whatever's been ailing me since i stepped foot in cambridge.

7 full days left, 1 day on the plane, and i'm back in wonderful, lovely, adorable southern california where i can check out the new stores at south coast plaza. marni's opening a branch there. could there be a more perfect mall than scp? i think not.

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