Monday, July 21, 2008

bánh giò: a steamed dumpling-tamale in a banana leaf

for the longest time, i had no idea what the name of bánh giò was. like many vietnamese dishes, i only knew bánh giò on sight and taste. i adore these things. i adore the steamed rice flour and tapioca dough that cuddles the yummy filling....a filling that consists of sautéed salty ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. i find these things to be a bit addicting.

when i was a little neophyte foodie hunter, i remember getting 3 of these triangle shaped goodies at a time at local delis that specialized in vietnamese street food. when i got them home,

i'd quickly unwrap one,

spit it apart,

splash on some nuoc mam and reheat it in the microwave

for a quite a few years, my favorite food was a toss up between these goodies and chile colorado burritos -- extra guadalajara market (10th and empire in san jose). i think if you asked me during that time, i would lean one way or the other depending on which fave i thought i was going to eat that day.

now, fast forwarding to present time...because didn't know the name of bánh giò, it was a bit more complicated tracking it down because quite a few steamed dumplings-tamale-like dishes like bánh giò come wrapped in banana leaves. when i would try to find it, it was more hit-or-miss (mostly miss) as many folks that work the deli's i went to didn't speak very much english and i speak no vietnamese.

yet, my luck changed yesterday when i was in oakland's chinatown. i decided to drop into a take out place on webster....from the window it looks like a typical fast-food chinese place...the sort of place where i usually just keep walking by... but a couple of months ago, i saw some vietnamese street food sitting on top of the counter....and when i walked inside, i noticed that they had quite a selection of vietnamese street food products. normally, this place is super duper packed and there is absolutely no notion of a line or cue...and the spoken english is pretty pidgin. yet, yesterday, after i grabbed some bun bo hue, i noticed it wasn't as crowded so i ducked in to get some snacks.

lo'and behold, the woman that waited on me spoke perfect english! i used that as an opportunity to ask her what was in the various triangle shapped dumplings...and with great patience she explained the ingredients until she got to the bánh giò. when she got to the bánh giò, i asked her the vietnamese name. she seemed pleased that i asked and after she told me, i kept repeating "
bánh giò, bánh giò, bánh giò, must not forget!" to myself all of the way home. i doubt that i'll forget the name of this goodie....ever.

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