On a recent trip to the countryside, we ran into an unexpected problem.Â Come dinnertime, we couldn’t find anything to eat! There were no restaurants in the area, just farm houses and small towns.Â Even the stores closed up early.
We finally found one “restaurant” that I wouldn’t want to eat at, if I had a choice.Â Picture a concrete barn.Â But we didn’t have any other options, so we went in and ordered their “specialty” (the only thing the restaurant sells): glutinous rice and duck meat.Â The owner of the restaurant looked at us like we were stupid and said: “we’re all out of food.” I guess by 6:00pm or so, restaurants in the area have sold all of the food that they prepared for the day, and that’s it.Â And we were stupid for not knowing that.Â The owner said she still had a glob of glutinous rice, but no more duck meat.
Better than nothing, we figured.Â We asked her to split up the glob into three portions, one for each of us.Â I’m not a fan of glutinous rice in the first place, and wasn’t looking forward to eating that for dinner, but I was hungry, and so mentally prepared myself for the worst dinner of the year.
As we walked back to our car, by chance, we saw someone across the street making little “banh xeo” (Vietnamese savory pancakes).Â They’re usually much bigger, the side ofÂ large dinner plate.Â I’d never seen them made this way before.Â We got some of those to add to our feast of lukewarm leftover glutinous rice.
Banh Xeo: shrimp, batter, bean sprouts, “served” with a handful of fresh herbs (mint, basil, lettuce) and fish sauce.
This was a dinner that I won’t forget, at least not for a long time.Â At least it was cheap.