Day Tripping to Epping

These hills that greet visitors on Melbourne’s northern approaches once were dotted with sheep and rocks. Now they are blanketed with houses and huge shopping centres.

For lunch, a taste of Japanese tonkatsu at Plenty Valley.

Not fancy, just crumbed pork with udon noodles, vege and egg in a curry, heated by a cute, gimmicky blue gel tealight.

A filling lunch for $16.80 at Fukutontei.

The taste test: pass with distinction

Does this look good to you? It sure tastes good to me.

See the bowl of sweet chilli dipping sauce? It packs a tickle more than a punch, but the red/orange chilli bits can be little “Smokin’ Joe Fraziers”, and best treated with respect.

The pork chops are thin, juicy, almost boneless and grilled with a salty/sweet marinade (brown sugar and fish sauce?).

The SE Asian egg is full of taste (think of Australian fresh farm eggs pre-1980s) and, mixed with the steamed rice, is a meal in itself.

Cucumber and tomato (yes, again with flavor) are the healthy bits.

Good lunch for USD2.15/AUD3.15.
– Vung Tau, Vietnam, 2019

Sea Mantis Shrimp if it’s still kicking, it’s fresh

Mantis shrimp/sea mantis are a popular Vietnamese seafood.

Locals call them tôm tít.

There’s not a lot of meat in them but they are a cheap-ish treat, and usually barbecued, steamed, or pan fried in coconut oil.

I don’t recomment the fried version as I find the oil too sweet, and extracting the meat is a hot, messy, oily affair.

But don’t let me stop you – give them a crack …

 

An oyster’s beauty is more than shell deep

Sometimes the words can be more appetising than the pics. I don’t fake my food pics, what you see is what I eat 😁.

Here are 12 scallops and four huge oysters, all barbecued on the shell.

I like mine with a (visually somewhat unattractive) dollop of sweet, home-made mayo/sauce; others prefer savory/chilli condiments.

This has almost become my staple dinner in Vung Tau, Vietnam, thanks to my hotel’s street seafood barbecue.

USD6.90/AUD10. Not bad for “tourist prices”, eh!

Always remember: “Never judge a scallop by its shell.” 🤠

 

A 24-carat lunch for $US3.40

Carrots add character: this colorful combo is fried egg, fried rice, salad and a chicken leg with a slightly spicy salsa of tomato, onion and carrot cubes.

It’s served in a “hot pot”, I presume for looks, as it’s all fried in the wok (except for the salad, derrr) at the restaurant”s streetfront kitchen.

Big serve, big taste, big value at USD3.40. I’ll be back again …

Crunch, munch for a snack or lunch

Vietnam tortillas: Bánh xèo are crispy, fried-then-barbecued streetfood snacks that I relish. This Vung Tau foreshore version has an ageing shrimp/fish sauce aroma that I’m not overly keen on, but the best I’ve tried had pork-and-veg filling, at a little cafe in a side street across from the Pullman Hanoi hotel. I added a dash of light soy sauce to those … superb. USD50c each.

Seafood, taste food

Real pics don’t do this food justice. But  this is what I’m really eating and really tasting. Believe me, it’s all about the taste:

#ôc tói is a Vietnamese broad term for garlic snails but these big sea molluscs are more than that – they are snipped out by by the cook, hard bits removed, placed back in the shell and barbecued with a mild chilli sauce, mild garlic cloves, chopped green onion and uncrushed peanuts. The trick is to grab a bamboo skewer, get in there and give the shell a good poke – there’s always a juicy portion hiding around the curve.

#scallops simply barbecued and finished with a mild, creamy sauce. I’d pay again, just for that scallop sauce …

Squeeze a little South-East Asian lime juice over all of it, add a slice or two of rye bread, and it is a meal everyone should get to enjoy at least once in a lifetime.

(I genuinely, sincerely, feel sorry for people with seafood and/or peanut allergies.)

USD6.50/AUD$9.60, street seafood bbq, Vung Tau.

China, lobsters and soaring prices

A roast chicken USD10, average live lobster USD50, airport taxi USD30: The huge Chinese “spend” in South-East Asia is causing a rapid inflation of prices.

Expect enormous inflationary pressure to soon weigh on the smaller economies as locals struggle to cope with rocketing property/food/transport costs.

It’ll be much worst if tourism turns away from “once cheap” Asia…

Clarification: roast chooks in SE Asia haven’t yet undergone the Ingham/Steggles “miniaturisation” program and are a decent size, and come with claws and head cooked and intact – woo hoo, a bonus locals love!