Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dadlands: French Onion soup and a steak

One of the things I find funny and a bit sad about my Dad's old letters is his dogged search for Western food all across Southeast Asia. There he was in culinary wonderlands like Bangkok and Saigon, ordering hamburgers, steaks and fried chicken -- and with such disappointing results!

A couple of nights ago I had Southern Fried Chicken and it was more like Southern Fried Roadrunner. It wasn't much larger than a sparrow and was in perfect condition -- pure muscle. I don't know how they ever caught it. It could easily have beaten back a dozen men. -- Bangkok, Jan. 29, 1968

The irony is, after the Great American Ethnic Food Revolution of the 1980s, Dad became a big fan of Vietnamese and Thai food, along with Afghan, Puerto Rican and all sorts of other cuisines that had suddenly popped up in the strip malls of Northern Virginia. I wonder if he ever looked back on his Bangkok burgers as missed opportunities.

Anyway, I wanted to order one of those classic Dad meals as part of our sentimental journey up the Vietnamese coast. When Chad spotted French onion soup and steak at a place around the corner from our hotel in Hue, we knew the moment had arrived.

 Everyone seems to specialize in French Onion soup and most of it is delicious. Most of it is made with a little chicken and ham in it and is quite different from the French Onion I am used to. It is also often served with a lot of cheese mixed into it so that it is quite thick. -- Bangkok, Jan. 14, 1968

This soup was probably a bit more like the French Onion my Dad was used to. There were no bits of meat in it, but the broth tasted like beef stock flavored and darkened by lots of caramelized onions. I could have used more cheese -- I like lots of cheese -- but it was a perfectly good soup.

The steaks were marinated which was just perfect.

I wish I could find a good old American steak. They marinate everything over here. I've never had a steak in a restaurant that wasn't heavily marinated. -- Bangkok, Jan. 19, 1968

They had also been pounded for tenderness, and were quite tasty. In fact, after weeks of sampling as many Asian tastes as we could, it was nice to eat something familiar -- sort of like pushing a culinary reset button. The ice-cold bottles of Tiger beer didn't hurt, either.


johnorford said...

just want to say i am really enjoying these 'dadlands' snippets!

kopisusu2 said...

Thanks! They've been a lot of fun to write!