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Vietnamese food: an obsession

Braised ox dick anyone?

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If there's a place calling my name, it's Vietnam. Our food critic Jeff Allen's neighbor is a native of the country, and she's invited them to take a trip there with her this summer. Her best friend is Mama Rose Durden, former head chef of Carolina's who's also from Vietnam, and the two of them cook together, killing live chickens, making delicious pho, and generally cultivating a serious hankering in me for authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

Then there's City Paper's former arts editor Patrick Sharbaugh, who hightailed it to Asia a couple summers ago and has since settled in Vietnam (after being booted from Japan — you'll have to read his blog for all the ugly bureaucratic details).

I've threatened to buy a ticket and ride on Jeff's coattails this summer, and Patrick is urging me to come visit, promising a culinary tour of the countryside on a Vespa.

And it seems the universe is fueling my cravings. Last month, Smithsonian magazine had a story about finding pho in Hanoi. The New York Times recently had a big piece on drinking beer in Ho Chi Minh City followed last Sunday by a piece about food, and now Sharbaugh has posted a blog about eating braised ox dick. Despite the revolting nature of that dish, I am obsessed with the idea of heading to Vietnam this summer. Now if only I could convince my publisher to subsidize a trip.

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to satisfy my cravings for pho at Quyen on James Island (which the P&C reviewed today and Robert Moss will be reviewing in our paper next week. Read Jeff Allen's review from when it was still called Party Kingdom Bistro.). Anybody got a Vespa I can borrow?

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