I had my bites of nem chua ran soaked in the ketchup.
All too often nem chua ran goes on well together with homemade chilly sauce. And perhaps it tastes mostly well at the school gate, where vendors pay decorous advertising shouts by the combined ordor of heated grease, heated refrigerated rolls, various dusts and dirt from rush-hour streets and uninvited flies along with other insects, towards empty-belly students exhausted after 5 classes in a row. No students, however, could ever resist the physical calling, irrespective of their parents’ long hours of wait, and inched towards the store, paying for some ‘junk’ (as it’s scientifically known). Nem chua ran, a type from the nem variety made from pork paste and corn powder, is served continuously in a very large pan with the seller’s exuberantly soliciting hand gestures, which lengthens the time eaters insist on staying together, either to joke and gossip around or to let off some steam leisurely as it’s deeply-seated in the Vietnamese lifestyle.
Different from nem chua ran, ketchup has always been found as an indispensable ingredient at every thoroughly embellished Western restaurant, which now comes first in the favorite place of modern Vietnamese people opting for newly-imported cultural habits. Speed and convenience as what the fast foods offer abandon most eaters from taking notice of how ketchup draws catchy color of fresh tomatoes onto an original pizza and how it helps to leave users’ own mark on finished dishes of fried chicken wings yet an extra pile of work to the servers. Deny that you’ve noticed all these, you could find it easier to understand how the bottles stand individually on each table as if to make sure the eaters can grab it within reach, minimizing the time they spend eating alone kind of represent part of Westerners’ culture.
There I sat, a little puzzled at first, in an opening restaurant that I chose to drop in out of curiosity. I didn’t have to order, but instead I went around the place to pick up different dishes of food served at all corners of the room. So as you may have guessed, the restaurant’s name is Buffet of Junk Food. I was seated on a typical red-and-blue four-legged chair which is in typical use for Hanoi vendors, and a flat winnowing basket replaces two hands taking hold of the bow. The waitress shouted at me when naively I asked for a dish of nem chua ran, “Go serve yourself!” as loud as in response to my later murmured questions of where the chilly sauce was. I’d never been accustomed to traditional food served in such a high-pitched tone. As I took bites of the combination of two nations so dear to my heart, I found it odd yet somewhat relieved to recognize the richness of each culture still so strong at the tip of my tongue. Still it was nem chua ran, trung cut lon, nom, and a multitude of all my favorite junk food present before my hungry eyes, yet each of which was served in different dimension (in pairs, in dishes, or in plates) that urged me to bring them to my own plate in order to check if its flavor remained the same. Sighs were let out if the food still stirred up my desire to take more than I wanted. Thanks to such blend, countries in which an array of fast food systems have bloomed vigorously are now having their eyes turned towards not only Vietnamese food but also the culture of enjoyable eating habits.