But this soup was OUT of this WORLD. I mean, just look at it! How can something with squid, shrimp, eggplant and basil not be divine? And for the sake of the picture I didn't show this part, but underneath is a bunch of shredded banana roots. The combination of textures is fantastic.
I ask if it's hard to make.
"No," Thuy says. "It's easy. So easy."
I've heard that before.
Thanh begins describing the process. It's complex, of course, and involves fish bones, lemongrass, sugar, fish sauce and lime. She gets to the tenth step and mentions "fish in liquid."
"Wait a minute. What is 'fish in liquid?" I ask, already knowing that this soup is way beyond me and my Seattle ingredients.
"I show you," she says, and heads into the kitchen. Here is the kitchen, by the way:
Such deliciousness comes out of such a small space. See the flowers next to the altar? I bought them for "Mom," thinking they would go into a vase. No, they stayed in the plastic wrapping and went to their proper place.
No running water in there, either; you have to get that from a hose in the bathroom. The dishes are done in the back corner, over to the left. Dishes are piled there, then the bucket of water comes out of the bathroom.
Anyway, Thanh retrieves a red bucket from somewhere in there and sets it on the floor next to me.
"Fish in liquid," she says.
I pry open the lid to see multiple fish parts floating in a brown chunky liquid.
"Where do you keep this?"
"Under the stove."
"For how long?"
"Long time. Maybe one year. Want to take to Seattle?"
She thinks she can seal a container and that I can take it on the plane.
"Won't it smell?" I ask.
"Yes, I think."
It's a pretty long flight for that. I will just have to come back.
Thanh cooked lunch earlier. I just can't keep up with all of my meal invitations. Here's what we had:
1) Prawns with garlic
2) Eggplant cooked over fire (slowly) and topped with green onion and nuoc cham. One of my favorites.
3) Pig intestine and beans. The beans were great! (I figured that was adventurous enough, just to taste the flavoring of the intestines.)
During the afternoon, Thanh and I had a map-making competition. It began after I showed her my product: a map that took an hour to make and required me to walk all over the neighborhood. (This is a necessity; I have already misled many people trying to direct them in this place).
"I can make a better one," Thanh says in a very matter-of-fact tone.
"No you can't," I say. So I spend the next hour perfecting mine and come back to see the neighborhood mapped out in the most clear way possible. Alleyways marked by numbers and everything.
"Why didn't you make this for me four years ago?" I say. Katherine can attest to the fact that I have absolutely no idea where I am, ever. So, anyway, if you come to my neighborhood, you will now get a really good map. I took Thanh's and labeled it well; T and T laughed at me, though.
"It's all food!"
Of course it is.