Crispy Rice ‘Puff’ is Good Stuff

Vietnam Lunch: the young bloke next to me was eating a plateful of these, with rice.

Being of daring spirit and with a yearn to learn, I had to try one too. Delicious!

Similar to a Cantonese ham sui gok, it is a light, hollow, doughy “puff” coated in baked rice “bubbles” (a la crispy rice crackers) and, I presume, pan fried.

These being hollow, you could have a lot of fun experimenting with various fillings such as paté or mince, or do vegetarian with diced tomatoes and onions; maybe a sweet version with raisins and citrus peel, and serve hot with vanilla bean ice-cream.

(I’ve impressed myself with these ideas. What am I doing, pretending to write? I should be pretending to “chef” …)

Crispy rice “puffs”: a delicious addition to lunch in Nha Trang, Vietnam

Vietnam Lunch is ‘One With The Lot’

Vietnam lunch is a “one with the lot”.

A big queue was happening at this Nha Trang street food stall – building labourers, office workers, they were pulling up on their motor scooters; the family running the stall were working like clockwork, filling take-away containers and ladening plates.

They all seemed to be ordering rice with a bit of everything. So I did, too! Smart move.

The meal was pork done various ways, chicken, boiled/stewed pigeon eggs, vegetable, crunchy fried shrimp (yes, I crunched them – shell, head and all), and other bits and pieces.

Generously spoon on some SE Asian home-made sweet chilli syrup, and tuck in …

Lunch is a Vietnamese “one with the lot”


Breaking Bread With Broken Rice: “Quiche Nha Trang”

Chà com tâm is a cold “pie” made with broken rice, cucumber and eggs – this version tastes also of mushrooms and salty fish sauce, adorned with red chillies.

It’s like quiche Lorraine … shall we call it “Quiche Nha Trang”?

On the topic of “broken rice”, one evening I chatted to an American in the Muster Bar in Vung Tau who was building a factory on the Mekong River, in partnership with a local, to export “broken rice”.

There’s big bickies to be made in the non-perfect rice grain trade …

Chà com tâm is a quiche-like Vietnamese dish made of “broken rice” (ie non-perfect grains) mashed with eggs, cucumber and other ingredients

Excellent choice, Sir

The menu shows 5 items: you must guess which is the only item available? This is more fun than Wordle and with a tasty ending …

Bùn chà pho is a sweet broth with pork balls and pork belly pieces, served with lettuce/herbs and oodles of white noodles (those noodles – so much for the weight loss from my 10km street walk).

To add some kick, I squeezed in a few of those red chilli seeds. I didn’t know that red chilli “nukes” were already hiding at the bottom of the broth – like Russian akula subs lurking under the Arctic ice cap, ready to pounce …

Verdict: delicious, 50k dong (AUD$3)

Baker in the Rye with a chicken pie

It looks like a pie. That’s always a good start.

Thai chicken pie.

The Thai would be the hint of almost elusive chilli, the chicken would be the strands of pulled “poulet”.

Mild flavour without the all-too-common salt assault.

Yes, this is a good pie from Baker in the Rye

$5.50 bakerintherye.com Carlisle Street
East St Kilda

Taste of Freedom is a Big Brekky Brioche

A beautiful spring morning and a Big Brekky Brioche.

Cheese, egg perfectly fried with that only just juicy yolk, spinach and multi layers of bacon.

The spicy sweetness of the sesame seeded brioche bun and home-made tomato chutney is reminiscent of the French South Pacific, lunching by the crystal waters of the Île des Pins (Isle of Pines) … but St Kilda Grocery Bar on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, will do for now.

Lunch is a Journey in St Kilda

It’s a new Winter, a new Covid strain, a new pie shape. Seemingly hidden on the wind swept, litter strewn Fitzroy Street – empty but for a homeless, toothless woman who is camped beween the two deserted kebab joints and is haranguing myself and the only other souls brave enough to walk by, being a stream of young-ish women in buttocks-tortioning “active wear” who power past on a portion of their permitted 2-hour daily exercise in Lockdown – is the promise of renewal. Which brings us back to the meat pie. Meat and bacon, to be pedantic, from the enduring “Aussie-French (Chinese/Filipino/Cambodian) Bakery”. The pies have a new shape and a new pastry crust (and new ingredients, I’m sure). It’s good! Out with the old quadrilateral shape – it’d become a bit square anyway – and in with a traditional oblong shape, reminiscent of the meat pies of old. See the (delicious) irony? Old is new. Again.

I like this new pie. This thinner crust facilitates access to the contents; you can easily get to the business end of proceedings. I also rescued two hash browns, which looked forlorn and abandoned, alone in the bakery’s lukewarm bain marie. Now, I take my hash browns seriously. I have breakfasted on hash browns and black pudding in almost every county of Ireland, both Northern and Republic. I’ve enjoyed – sometimes endured – hash browns from Buenos Aires to Bangkok to Brisbane to Beijing. (Disclosure: in Beijing they were the Japanese croquette, called “korokke”, being mashed potato with peas and corn, crumbed and fried. Delicious with soy sauce.) Korokke these are not. These are more your common Macca breakfast variety hash browns. They have been fried in a peculiar blend of oils, perhaps an emulsion amalgem combining both the 20th and 21st Centuries of the bakery’s history. I don’t know, I’m just postulating, because I find the exact source of that oil taste to be elusive and mysterious.

But wouldn’t life be boring, without hash browns, meat pies and little mysteries?