Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Quang Ngai Sushi

Margaret and I decided we each wanted a pair of 'quan' made while here in Tinh Khe so we set out to find the mother of a student I had taught last year. She was a tailor and had made a blouse for Tinh, our translator. Tinh led us to the house with no hesitation. A young boy was playing on the front porch/parking area. He went in and called his mother. We sat down and talked a bit. She said she was no longer doing tailoring - not enough business. Currently she is working as a cook at the Veterans Respite Center which opened here in Tinh Khe last year. Her husband works there also as a watchman.
While we were talking, My, her daughter, came home from school and greeted us happily. She had been in tears when she bid Pat, Tinh, and I goodbye last year thinking that she'd never see us again. Her mother said, "I've just been to market and bought fresh fish for us to have for lunch. Would you stay and join us for lunch?" We agreed. My and her younger brother, Ti, entertained us on the porch while her mother went to the kitchen. Soon their father came in and joined his wife in the kitchen.
My showed us her history book with a lot of pictures of Ho Chi Minh and places he lived or visited during his life. I pointed to one taken in Tuyen Quang and said that I had visited that place. Ti, not wanting to be overlooked, brought out his math homework book. He is 8 and in third grade. In his notebook were some simple algebra problems he had solved. These two kids are very intelligent. After a bit another woman arrived on motorcycle. It turns out she had been invited to lunch earlier so we were just joining a planned luncheon which made us feel better. Soon the bowls and food were brought out and set on the table. My's mother explained that the dish we were having for lunch was made from small fingerling fish - about the size of minnows. Their bones were removed and then the RAW fish were chopped very fine, mixed with a kind of rice cracker, peanuts, herbs and spices. We then placed this on a flat piece of rice 'paper' with some greens and rolled it up. This was dipped into the wonderful, creamy sauce she poured into our bowls.
"Hmm." I commented, "Quang Ngai sushi."
This brought a laugh from everyone - as they all knew what sushi is. It was delicious. Even Tinh, who is from Quang Ngai but from one of the inner mountainous districts, had never eaten this dish before. We all ate quite a bit. Thoughtfully, My's mom had fixed a small bowl of the 'sushi' for My and me without 'ut'(hot pepper) which gives me severe heartburn.
After lunch we discussed our mutual hopes that My and 'Ti' would continue to be at the top of their classes and someday be able to go to university. I told them about the UWS scholarship program and encouraged them to keep that in mind. As we prepared to leave, Margaret asked if they could recommend another tailor for our quans.
"Oh, for you I will do it;" My's mom said, "because you are going to be here for a couple of weeks yet." We went into her sewing room and she took our measurements. So we left expecting to come back later to pick up our new quans.
Next morning I greeted Margaret and Tinh, "Well, how are your stomachs?"
"Fine." None of us suffered any aftereffects from our Quang Ngai sushi.

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