So, as you'll notice, there are two posts today about food.
That's because after I finished my first lunch (yeah, I said first!), An and her friends called me up and invited me to a second.
I had to go - they were having eel!
My first introduction to this slimy yet scrumptuous fish was through sushi. Cut up into tiny cubes and served in a ball of rice and seaweed, I never got to know my eel all too well. Also, it was served to me dead, on a platter, with other dead things - usually the way I like my food to be prepared in the States.
Not the case in Vietnam.
After our waitress had set the cooking pot down in the middle of the table and walked away, I saw what I thought was a mushroom sticking out at the surface of the stew: it was that typical blackened-brown mushroom color, bobbing up and down in the broth, but this piece was slightly longer than any cut up mushroom I had ever seen, and with a distinct sharp "tip" on the visible end.
Excited, I grabbed my chopsticks and reached for it.
As I attempted to drag the anticipated mushroom out of the pot, it just kept going and going and going...until I realized what it was: the whole eel.
I dropped the fish and laughed.
"It's not dead yet," An said, smiling at me. "It has to cook a little bit longer."
Of course it does, I thought to myself. And after just being told by An's husband Minh that I'm the only American they've known to try "everything" in Vietnam, I couldn't back out now...
Alas, I've come to realize one very important thing about eating, thanks to Vietnam: the scarier it looks, the better it tastes. So let go of your inhibitions and try everything.
In the end, you'll be glad you did.