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On the Hunt for Lau Thai

12 Apr

The joy of cooking Vietnamese food at home is that we can enjoy what we want any time and without having to travel to Eden Center or elsewhere. And the service is pretty good, too. There are a few dishes, however, that aren’t quite ready for their in-home debut.  Lau Thai (L-ow Thai), or Thai-style hot pot, is one of those dishes. I don’t have the equipment and haven’t yet looked in to the broth.

The future Mr. had a craving for hotpot so after my bootcamp we drove out to Eden Center. We were shocked to see our go-to hotpot spot Viet Bistro shuttered and empty. Such are the woes of business in Eden Center. Many of the restaurants close after several years (or months) for whatever reason. I hear rent is pretty high and competition is fierce. We turned to another favorite restaurant to give their hotpot a try.

Nha Trang is located in the Saigon East section of interior stores – it is Store #8 in the inner corridor through the doors to the left of Princess Diamonds and to the right of Cho Eden grocery store. This restaurant has our favorite Nem Nuong (rice paper rolls with grilled pork patties, crunchy eggroll wrapper and the delectable orange dipping sauce). I tried these at home, and they were tasty, but nowhere near as good as Nha Trang.

Rice paper rolls with grilled pork patties

Nem Nuong Cuon

Their Lau Thai comes in either nhỏ (nyaw) small,  or large. The small is $35, which is cheaper than Viet Bistro’s, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Small is plenty for two even without other dishes. Their version comes with squid, several types of fish cakes, these weird-wormlike shrimp cake things, fish, shrimp, snail, okra and the other usual veggies. Mussels were missing, which we usually enjoy, but there was plenty else.

Lau Thai seafood hotpot

Nha Trang serves their hotpot with both rice and egg noodles. I was a good girl and asked for watercress to eat instead of the noodles. I’m sure the broth has more sugar and salt than I’ve had all week, but making all of the changes and choices I can!

Watercress, Egg and Rice noodles

Check out this beautiful bowl of tasty bites. The broth is tangy, sweet, sour, and rich. Perfect flavor balance with the peppery watercress, napa cabbage, as well as the strong okra and tomato flavors.

Thai Style Hotpot

 

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Battle of the Banh Mi, SXSW Style

9 Mar

SXSW is as much about technology, innovation, and inspiration as it is about food and local culture.

Last night we went to a Food + Tech happy hour at El Naranjo on Rainey St – a very cool section of town with shanty houses converted to bars and restaurants. On the way out, we passed a food truck with a Hannibal-wrapped Peached Tortilla food truck that drew us in.

Not to make a snap decision, we made a loop around to see what other goods may be available. Having consumed Peached Tortilla over the past few SXSWs, to I settled on Phamily Bites (truck from Houston).

I still can’t get over paying $8 for a pork banh mi, but for you, my readers, I bit the bullet. Oh, and throw and egg on that sucker for another dollar.

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Half way through.

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The verdict? Sadly not worth it. They don’t use or forgot the mayo and the bread was tough and dry. The meat, egg and veggies were great but dragged down by the poor foundation.

As SXSW serendipity goes, the next event we went to at Midnight Cowboy had the good people at Peached Tortilla serving their best. Redemption came in the form of their mouthwatering Pork Belly Banh Mi Slider. On the right is a squash taco with apple sauce – seriously so good.

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If you’re ever I’m Austin, find them. Eat all the tacos and the Banh Mi Slider. Everything is better with pork belly.

They win. No contest.

Drinking Food – Surf and Turf Extravaganza

1 Mar

This has been quite the week. First crawfish, then came the lobsters. What crustacean comes next?  Apparently Claude, the Tasmanian Monster Crab. Seriously, folks.

Last night we met some friends at Eden Center, once again, club slash restaurant slash karaoke bar slash bar V3 Lounge. Known as the “Gem of Virginia” according to one web search. Interesting. They don’t seem to separate their many identities, regardless the time of day or day of week. The appropriate invitation to dinner may be: Yo shawty, let’s go to da club and our grub on. Thursday night is all of the above, but they also have $10 lobsters.

V3 is a great spot for đồ ăn nhậu, or (loosely translated) drinking food or literally (according to Google Translate) it is “drink, food“. These are dishes that may not make a great meal all at once, but are served while drinking over a long period of time that you pick at with a group of friends. Think football games, warm days on the deck and long nights under the stars. These are some of my favorite foods.

These aren’t sad, wimpy Lobsterfest lobsters. They’re pretty hefty week after week. Meet our first course buddies: these bad boys were grilled and topped with Scallion Oil, or Mỡ Hành.

Grilled lobster

We also started with these amazing grilled clams, topped with the same Scallion Oil, fried scallions and peanuts.

Grilled clams Continue reading

Seaside’s Eden

28 Feb

Since we moved to Alexandria and I’ve been cooking more at home, we haven’t been making as many trips to Eden Center. I don’t miss it now that I’m generally able to make our Vietnamese cravings. But after another killer day at the office (wait, it’s only Wednesday?!), I was craving crawfish to make everything better and we made the trip to Seaside Crab House.

They’ve changed their recipes a few times over the past year and have more recently added soup and noodle dishes to the menu. We go for the crawfish. I order medium, he gets hot, and we both ask for less garlic. One pound each. So rich and tasty (you know, like the other place – Hot N Juicy – only much easier to get to for Virginia folk).

1 pound bag of medium heat crawfish

1 pound bag of medium heat crawfish

The conch salad, grilled clams and boiled snails with ginger are in our regular rotation, but today was a soft shell crab kind of night. I think the breading has lemongrass, which is an instant winner in my book.

Fried soft shell crab with green peppers, onions and tomatoes on a bed of crispy lettuce.

Fried soft shell crab with green peppers, onions and tomatoes on a bed of crispy lettuce.

I know it isn’t the healthiest cooking method, but I really do need to learn how to fry better. It’s so damn good – from time to time. Everything seems to burn and not cook through, or get soggy. Any tips?

You can’t have a full meal without rice. This time we opted for the combination version, but think we’ll stick with old faithful crab fried rice in the future.  Theirs is tasty but not as fluffy – too much oil. I prefer Thuan’s.

Combination Fried Rice

Combination Fried Rice – see the orange bits? That’s tasty roe.

After one pound of crawfish, fried soft shell crab and rice, the work week got better. And look Ma, no chips!

Nailpolish

Here’s the info:

Eden Center

6799 Wilson Blvd, Ste 5

Falls Church, VA 22044

(703) 241-2722

The restaurant is towards the front of Eden Center, between the two arches. Great place to hang out in warmer weather on the outdoor patio with buckets of Heineken’s and multiple rounds of food. Check out their lau thai (Thai style Vietnamese hot pot) on cooler days. More reviews on Yelp.

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