Sunday, July 30, 2006

How life is unfair

Best Friend recently got married, so husband and I went out to Cali for a few days to celebrate our little hineys off.

Of course, our visit included a trip down to Cicero's.

Actually, in her infinite wisdom, Best Friend organized a group trip to Cicero's as one of the prenuptial family dinners. Needless to say, I was in heaven and ate like a pig, even though I was surrounded by people I had just met the day before, and I probably should have still been in polite mode. Apparently it is physically impossible for me to be in polite mode when in close proximity to a Cicero's pie. I will grudgingly admit that I was put to shame by Best Friend's neice-in-law. She ate seven and a half pieces of pizza. I only managed six and a half. (In my defense, she is twelve years old and I am... not.)

But this post is really not about Cicero's.

This post is about how life is unfair (not because I lost the pizza eating contest, either).

Our first night in San Mateo, husband and I were on our own for dinner. Vietnamese food is my favorite type of cuisine, so I took husband to the tasty Saigon City, where I had dined with Best Friend and BF's wife (then girlfriend) on my last trip out to Cali.

Saigon City is a simple, no frills restaurant. Good food, reasonable prices. The spring rolls there are good, though a bit too greasy. Since Vietnamese spring rolls are truly my most favorite thing in the entire world, this does not stop me from ordering them first as an appetizer and then in my bun (a vermicelli dish with lettuce, pickled carrots and cucumbers, bean sprouts and fish sauce) as well.

Husband looks over the huge menu, unsure as to what to order. He decides to try the "Saigon Style Potstickers." I pay very little attention to this decision, as I am drunk with anticipation for my spring rolls.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Vietnamese spring rolls (Cha Gio), well, I feel great sadness for you. Do not be fooled into thinking that these are the same as what you get from your local chinese takeout. Those are simply an assortment of vegetables (mostly cabbage) wrapped in wonton skins and then deep fried. They are pretty flat, in both appearance and taste.

Vietnamese spring rolls have a multi dimensional taste. There are variations on the ingredients, but you will usually find minced pork and shrimp (sometimes crab) combined with wood ear mushrooms, garlic, onion and pepper with vermicelli noodles all wrapped in rice paper and deep fried. When executed correctly they are not greasy at all and are delicately crispy and beautifully golden on the outside. I sincerely urge you all to run out right now and try some.

The waitress brought our appetizers to the table.

The Saigon Style Potstickers looked like no potsticker I have ever seen before. Instead of a usual filled wonton or dumpling skin that I associate with a potsticker, these looked like rather large balls of rice that had been deep fried. Weird.

Husband looked at his dish, warily. Then he took his first bite and the skepticism quickly became bliss.

"You have GOT to try one of these," he tells me.

I am not so sure. I do not like to try new things. I prefer to stick with the standards that I love where I am almost always guaranteed success. But, today this strategy has failed me - my spring rolls are not really up to snuff. They are a bit bland and whatever flavor exists is bogged down in a heavy oil taste. I am disappointed, so I accept husband's challenge.

How am I to describe such happiness? The divine secret of the Saigon Style Potsticker is that it is simply a variation on my beloved spring rolls! They are not just a solid ball of rice at all! They are actually a ball of that intoxicatingly delicious spring roll filling (the pork, shrimp, mushroom, garlic, onion and pepper) which is then rolled in rice and deep fried. For some reason, the filling of these potstickers is extremely flavorful, unlike my poor, abandoned spring rolls. And somehow the rice does not absorb as much of the frying oil, and thus they are not greasy or oily tasting. They are light, crunchy and marvelous! They are accompanied by the an amazing hoisin sauce which nicely accents the flavors.

For the rest of the weekend, I rave about my new discovery (ok, so it is husband's discovery... let's not get too tied up in technicalities, ok?). Has anyone ever heard of such a thing? Ever had the chance to taste one? No one knows what the hell I am talking about. I am thrilled to tell anyone who will listen about these little balls of heaven.

The weekend passes in the blink of an eye. Husband and I had a wonderful time. The wedding was amazing, the best I have ever attended. Sooner than it seems possible, the wedding is over and we are back on a plane to NYC.

When we get home, I am haunted by the memory of the Saigon Style Potstickers. I spend two days looking up the menus of every Vietnamese restaurant in NYC online, hoping that I will find at least one place that can supply me with my newest drug.

I searched over sixty restaurants. Not one of them has Saigon Style Potstickers on their menu or anything that fits its description.

It is with great sadness that I realize that this is really just the whole Cicero's fiasco all over again. I will never find what I am looking for in NYC.

So, it seems that my favorite person (other than husband, of course), my favorite pizza, and now my favorite vietnamese dish are all 3,000 miles away.

That is what I call unfair.

I guess I'd better start racking up the frequent flyer miles.


water wader said...

what about those amazing soup dumplings you can get in china town? i have only had them once and i won't try and convince you that they will match your siagon style potsticker ecstasy... but, they are pretty darn good. especially as one who loves this type of food but can not eat shelled animals (it is difficult to find potstickers, spring rolls, dumplings, etc. that are yumdelicious yet won't kill me) the soup dumplings made my weekend the one and only time i had them.

Fat 'n Happy said...

Soup dumplings are indeed lovely and wonderful. However, they do not hold a candle to the Saigon Style Potsticker, in my humble opinion. They are very different, so it is kind of like trying to satisfy a craving for pickles with zucchini. But thanks for trying to help me ease out of my depression.