Friday, January 30, 2009

Sea, Sand, Squid, Shrimp, Scallops (and crab)

(With an apology to Seattleites who are still battling snow) ...above is a picture of Mui Ne Beach, and to the right is not a picture of the Sahara Desert, but rather the sand dunes just a few miles away from the beach. It's kind of a funny ten-mile stretch of beach resorts - hard to tell where the town is - a four-hour "sleeper bus" ride north of HCMC.

I make no reservations, which everyone tells me will be a mistake, this being Tet week and all. Honestly, I'm just too lazy to make them, and I have some friends here and know I can stay with them if necessary. But I'm able to get a place right on the beach with no problem for $35 per night (quite expensive...non-Tet price would be between $10 and $20).

However, the highlight is not swimming in the warm ocean water nor reading in the sand by the's this:

finding a purely Vietnamese-only tourist beach with some friends after a sand-dune excursion. While kids play in the water and families picnic behind us, we are mesmerized by the system of seafood catching, preparing and grilling going on on the beach. I know I have never had seafood this fresh in my past life, and can only hope to have it this fresh again in my future life.

You see the buckets sitting in front of these women? You would not believe the size of the prawns and squid in them. They are being caught and brought in as we sit on cement steps right behind them. We pick what we want, they weigh it and we pay them. Then the selling women bring our purchase to the grilling women and we pay them to cook it for us. This all happens within a five-step radius, and all we do is point and nod.

We have grilled scallops, squid, crab, prawns...more squid, more scallops, more prawns - we just keep ordering and ordering...and these: they are shrimp covered with glutinous rice. Of course, each dish comes with a special sauce. The mixture I am hooked on, though, is just simple coarse salt with lime squeezed into it - both salty and sour - the just-right addition to perfectly-grilled seafood.
I think we eat for two hours straight. And I don't keep close track, but I think we spend about $10 each, including Heineken.

So this question is kind of similar to "are you a cat person or a dog person?"

"Are you a beach person, or a seafood-on-the-beach person?" If you could choose only one, which would it be? You know which one I am.


Michelle said...

totally a seafood on the beach type for me . . . can we go there when I am visiting????

Brian Bowker said...

I am so jealous... so, so jealous. I just don't have the words.

Angie said...

I feel your pain, Brian!

Mungo said...

YUM. Just plain YUM.