Som Tam (Papaya Salad)
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Last night, my landlady's daughter and her boyfriend called to invite Hai and I to join them for a late-evening treat. What a nice surprise! Sounds fun.
Then they told us: We'd be "enjoying" durian pancakes. OH, DEAR!
I tried eating durian on my first visit to Asia decades ago. I recall that I was barely able to get past the horrendous smell of the fruit. It took all my willpower to choke down a small bite. And the foul taste lingered in my mouth hours thereafter, in spite of a quick follow-up meal trying to rid the distaste.
But I appreciate that my Vietnamese friends love this fruit. They say it's amazing! And now I'm actually living in Vietnam.
Soooo, it was time to give durian another chance. Perhaps whipped into a "tasty" pancake would be the best way to revisit durian.
"Welcome to my shop!" Vinh announced. Oh, wow! Vinh was now the proud new business owner of Bánh Sầu Riêng Durio, a modern and trendy new fast-food eatery featuring durian pancakes!
I WAS TRAPPED! NO WAY OUT NOW! Common courtesy to my host now required that I ingest the loved, foul fruit.
Actually, the clean, spiffy decor and the friendly staff eased my mind a bit. And surprisingly, the pancakes themselves looked great as they sizzled on the grill.They actually looked yummy.
Vinh ordered. OK, ready, here they are! All eyes turned to me!
I carefully nibbled around the edges of the pancake without reaching the creamed-durian center filling. The pancakes themselves were wonderful--tasty, with a crispy exterior and chewy cake interior. Very nice.
Now, breathe deep, chin up--bite deep into the pancake to "enjoy" a mouthful of the durian filling.
Oh, now I remember. How could they say this is good? Never mind, swallow. Take another bite. Finish it. Your Vietnamese host is watching, attentively.
There! I ate a durian pancake. Finished. NOT QUITE.
Now it seems I had to try the special durian-filled pastry as well.
Again, breathe deep, chin up, bite into the pastry.
Swallow. Try again, swallow. There, finished.
Hai enjoyed our evening snacks. I enjoyed having the experience behind me. Actually, looking back, it was okay. I ate it all!
Overall, a fun experience. Good luck, Vinh, with your new business.
Other great Saigon eateries and eating tales at: WWW.EATINGSAIGON.COM
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