I am SO FULL of BEEF. Fan and I went to Vietnam House tonight with great plans to partake in Dac Biet Bo 7 Mon – Special Seven Courses of Beef. I’m normally not a great meat eater – I’d easily opt for a croissant or bread pudding over a good hunk of steak, but sometimes you just really crave meeeeeeaaat. Today was one of those days.
So here was our plan, one order of the Dac Biet Bo 7 Mon ($12.95) and a Banh Xeo ($4.95). Banh Xeo is the Vietnamese interpretation of a crepe stuffed with sliced pork, shrimp and bean sprouts galore. The ideal Banh Xeo batter made from rice flour and coconut milk, should be moist on the underbelly but bear a crisp, flaky skin. Vietnam House’s take on this specialty was heavy and somewhat soggy, save for the crispy edges which we quickly finished first. However they were generous with the filling, wonderfully fatty pork blending in with the cooked bean sprouts and shrimp. I first cut off a piece, fold it in lettuce leaves and quickly dip into the nuoc nam, which in addition to serving as a flavoring agent, helps to cut out the grease. This dish is fine example of how Vietnamese food seamlessly blends fresh produce with all dishes, even heavy ones, so that you’ll always end up with a balanced meal, intended or not.
Then came Course #1: Bo Nhung Dam, three slices of raw beef to dip, fondue-style into a vinegar and onion broth.
After you cook the beef, place a rice paper wrapper on your plate, pile it with fresh lettuce, cilantro, basil, mint, then pickled carrots if you so desire, sliced cucumbers and bean sprouts. Roll it up and dip into a blend of fish and peanut sauce with sliced garlic.
Courses #2,3,4 and 5 come all in one plate. At first I was like, aww man, this is cheating, sending out so many courses in one plate. But then after I started eating…well if everything on the plate is good, then maybe it’s not cheating? heheh. We begin on the bottom left with Bo Nuong La Lot, it was my favorite of the bunch, beef wrapped in lot leaf (tastes a lot like the laulau leaf!) and charbroiled. It was so juicy that one bite into the tender rod, breaking in through the leaves, released a gush of savory meaty juices. I intended to wrap it with the rice paper, but found it so much better with just lettuce and cucumbers. Right above it is the Bo Sate which, strangely enough, did not taste of sate at all! Nonetheless, it was still tender (especially when you got down to the steamy hot innards part) though not nearly as juicy as the Bo Nuong La Lot. Hiding under the shrimp chips is a trio of Bo Mo Chai, rounds of beef steak seasoned with just enough five spice for recognition and grilled in their own heavenly right. The big ball is Bo Cha Dum, a massive steamed meatball, so soft with yet tightly packed with peas, mushrooms and vermicelli adorning the fatty meat. I loved how it was so tender and easy to chew, almost effortless, really, and comforting…you know, in that way that Vietnamese meatballs make you feel?
The Bo Salat came next, a simple dish of peppered grilled beef with red onions over lettuce in a simple vinaigrette. I found it to be tasteless save for the tang of the dressing, and somewhat repetitive of the beef fondue.
Just when I start to think I can’t handle any more beef, we were brought Chao Bo, a bowl of beef jook. A nice, lighter way to interpret beef. Warm, very simple garnished with ginger and green onions, it was exactly as you’d expect…except for the tiny pieces of star pasta hidden inside! I almost didn’t notice it, but there they were, innocently buried among the grains of rice. It’s like a little surprise at the end of your meal…surprise! hehe, well I thought it was funny.
So I am totally beefed out, especially considering the fact that my diet is mainly based on starch and sweets. Before we left, I ordered a cup of ca phe sua da to go. Odd thing is, even though Vietnamese coffee is reported to be much stronger than American, I can go sleep after a cup or two of ca phe su da, yet just a tall starbucks mocha will keep me wired for the entire day. Odd how the body works isn’t it?
Well, I’m going to unbeef myself with a taro-mochi bun tomorrow morning. It was an adventure and a very delicious one at that, but I’m going to lay low heavy meat for a while. I’ll take a picture of the bun and promise to let you know how it tastes!
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