I know what you're thinking. Marjie - what about the food?
OK, here you go:
The market is the same. Everyone is here except no sighting yet of Pomelo Guy or Spring Roll Lady. But that means nothing. You know how elusive Pomelo Guy is, and Spring Roll Lady - well, Thanh says she's still around.
The hardest thing for me is choosing where to eat in the mornings. How is this for a problem: all of the vendors want me to eat at their stand. Today I had to pass the rice cakes and go to Chicken Soup Couple's place because I had to turn them down yesterday. They have moved - now they serve right in front of their home. I still don't get how the market works, who pays whom to occupy which space.
Chicken Soup Couple rules. They are so kind, and he speaks pretty good English...he's the one who emailed me in response to my goodbye note. Today he welcomes me and asks, "Do you remember (our) soup?"
"Oh, yes," I say. "I remember! No soup in America like this."
"You eat chicken soup for ten days!" he says, because they are all establishing that I am not working, I am just "on holiday."
I don't have the heart to say anything but, "Yes!"
Thuy and Thanh are so in touch with what I want to eat. The first night, Thanh asks me what I want to eat.
"She want wonton soup," Thuy says, and of course that is exactly what I was thinking.
Yesterday at lunch, I stopped by the stand.
"What you eat?" Thuy asks, and I shrug, indicating that I might just wander and find something. "Thanh, take her to the _____ ______ place." So that's what we do, and this is a picture of what we eat:
Clockwise from top: sliced cucumber, lemongrass, pickled turnips and carrots, star fruit, green banana, pickled ginger and fresh rice cakes. In the center is minced grilled pork. You wrap it all up in fried rice noodles - with the greens, of course - and dip it all into the brown sauce pictured at 11 o'clock. The sauce is a mix of soy sauce, fermented beans and butter.
"Butter?" I clarify when Thanh says it.
Dairy products are so scarce here that I can hardly believe it, but if she says butter, butter it is. All I know is - it's amazing. It rivals the rice cakes, if you really wanna know.
At 11 I will head to the Seafood Couple's stand for steamed clams, tamarind crab and scallops grilled with peanuts and green onions, dipped in a salt/pepper mixture. I passed them yesterday, and the man ran to get his uncle up from his afternoon nap to come down and speak to me in English.
"You are back working?"
"No, just for ten days."
"You eat seafood for ten days!"
See how hard I have it?