Monday, March 24, 2008

The Right Rice

One of the only-funny-if-you’re-there running gags in the yellojkt household is that whenever I make a pot of rice I say really loud, “Ooops, we’re out of rice!” It’s funny because we never are and heads would roll if we were. As much as I prefer pasta and potatoes as a starch, I am consistently outvoted in favor of rice for most meals. If the large Tupperware style tub in the pantry runs low, I just top it off from the twenty-five pound bag in the hall closet.

However, the other day that bag was empty and all the rice we had on hand was in the cupboard. Saturday, since we were in Northern Virginia (for the Vonnegut play) anyways, I decided it was a good time for a trip through Eden Center, the center of the greater DC area Vietnamese community. An entire strip mall development except for the K-Mart anchor has been completely turned over to Vietnamese run business: restaurants, jewelers, travel agents, video stores, nail salon suppliers, and so on. All the stores have mostly Vienamese signs in the windows and cater to first and second generation immigrants.

Our destination is usually a small grocery store that stocks Asian specialties. Here they carry about five different brands of rice. The brand we get is Double Golden Fish®, or as we call it, The One With Two Goldfish On It. It is Thai jasmine rice, which after years of experimentation is the type and style we have settled on. About every six months we have to find ourselves in either Falls Church or Wheaton, the two places we have found that stock this particular brand. Once I bought a brand with a big elephant on it from the massive Korean grocery store in Security Square Mall, but even though it was jasmine rice, it wasn’t the right rice.

A trip to Eden Center also means getting some bánh mì and bubble tea at Song Que. Song Que is the small deli/sandwich shop associated with the over-rated What White People Like Huong Que restaurant (Viet Royale next door is less pretentious, cheaper, and more "authentic"). Even the minor charms of Song Que have gotten out to the general public and it is always packed, often by people that don't quite know what to order.

Bánh mì are small baguette sandwiches that have a choice of Vietnamese style meats topped with condiments such as pickled carrots, cilantro, and jalapeños for less than three bucks. The bubble teas, which come in exotic flavors such as durian and jackfruit, cost more than the sandwiches.

My wife always adds in some soups to go and gets some brightly colored gelatinous sticky sweet desserts for herself. Loaded up, we made our back to Ellicott City knowing that for the next several months my cries of “We’re out of rice” will cause sympathetic cry-wolf smiles instead of cries of concern.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Triple choice (pick one or all): What staple do you buy in bulk? What brand of food are devotedly loyal to? What is your favorite ethnic specialty?


Unknown said...

Amen to Stuff White People Like being way overrated. Every time someone tells me they like that site, my soul dies a little. It's like "Crash", but on the internet.

Unknown said...

Hmm... looking at your post again, it looks like you might have meant the restaurant is overrated and like the site. In that case, sorry about the previous comment. But you might also apologize to me for killing my soul.

yellojkt said...

How about if we say both the site and the restaurant are over-rated? Sorry for any psychic trauma.

Impetua said...

Staple I buy in bulk: Coffee, a particular brand from Costco. You can only get it at the stores with roasters. It's cheap and tasty. We grind it to almost the finest setting on the grinder in the store, and J uses it in a French press. (Yes, you're supposed to use coarse grind in a press but This Is How We Do It.) If we run out of it and I am forced to buy some from the local store, there is chaos and mayhem and the fabric of space-time begins to unravel. (Note: I personally don't drink coffee except on rare occasions).

What brand of food am I devoutly loyal to: Um... Reese's peanut butter cups. No other peanut butter cup will do.

My favorite ethnic specialty: I'm boring and not very ethnically savvy. We go to a local hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese/Thai place and get pho, salad rolls, red curry, that kind of thing. I have no idea how authentic it is, but I like it.

Anonymous said...

I can't say I'm particularly devoted to any one ethnic specialty, but there are a couple of things that I miss here in Germany. First off, while the Greek restaurants tend to be better than those I was familiar with in the States, none of them have the egg-lemon soup that is such a staple there. The Chinese restaurants here are pretty good, but none of them have anything resembling General Tso' /sesame chicken. But what I really, really miss is decent Mexican. They claim that Mexican restaurants are really common in the big German cities, but when we lived near Düsseldorf, there weren't any. There are 2 in Göttingen, which isn't too far from where we live, but both of them lack that certain something. One is more in the "healthy Mex" mold, like Chevy's, and the other just has something not quite right. Neither can do tamales and neither even has refried beans. Germans can't do salad bars either, but I only miss those occasionally. I wouldn't say no to a Sweet Tomato/Souplantation in the area.

Needles said...

On the strength of Kerric's deep and abiding affection for peanut butter, and yes it was only him, we used to buy the 2.5 gallon pail of peanut butter from Costco. I miss the pails, but don't miss having to have an entire room for the peanut butter pail.

and popcorn. We used to buy the big bags from Costco. We'd fill up 2 - 2 gallon jars and still have some left in the bag. I think they were 2.25 gallon bags. Lately they are only stocking some palid containers that don't even hold a full gallon of popcorn. We asked and they aren't going to carry it in the big bags again. We cried.

We are not over it yet.

2fs said...

I buy staples in bulk. From Staples.

Uh, no. Anyway, depends what you mean by "bulk": the food co-op we buy most of our food from sells lots of stuff in bulk in the sense that you can buy as much or little of it as you want, it's sold by weight, and it's stored in large containers with various mechanisms to let you pour it out. Anyway: we buy rice in large quantities (not as large as yours), although we prefer basmati. Rose buys her soy milk and veggie broth in bulk also.

Don't know that I'm particularly brand-loyal with foods - I tend to like to try different stuff, so even if I like some particular brand (like, say, Amy's spicy veggie chili) I'll still try others.

Same with ethnic specialties: nothing leaps out as "gotta have this, all the time," even though there are lots of different foods we eat. I will say that if someone passed a law that we could eat only Indian food, I'd still be happy.

Stella Dean said...

I'm not particular to any one ethnic food, so far, I've enjoyed them all. However, I am a total brand whore to
Coffee-Mate Creamer and I buy Orvil Redenbocker (sp) microwave popcorn for the man. As for items I buy in bulk, 5lb bags of rice (I don't care what kind but we eat a bag a month) and dog food (50 lbs a week). Thankfully, those are the only things I buy in massive quantity.

Mooselet said...

It's difficult to buy products in bulk over here - it's not a concept that's caught on, especially with foods. I do, however, buy large quantities of toilet paper. You can never have too much TP. Ever.

I'm not a 'brand' person, unless you mean the generic brand I use for those day-to-day items.

I love Italian food, and had a rude awakening when I discovered Australian Italian is different from North End Boston Italian. I miss the ooey-gooey cheeses of lasagne and stuffed shells that just doesn't happen here. On the plus side, I've discovered authentic Thai and Indian since I moved here. I prefer jasmine rice, but basmati has a lower GI.