Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 153

Co'm Tam Bi Cha: After this week's unexpected weather situation, I was happy to get back out on the streets today in search of new blog foods. I've had a rather difficult time coming up with interesting entries this week, and I had to rely primarily on foods I had stockpiled (except for that gross fake jerky I bought at the Candler Park Market). With the roads being much more drivable, me and GF ventured out to Buford Highway in search of some shopping options. Since we hadn't had lunch yet, we stopped at Thien Thanh Vietnamese Cafe (5219 Buford Highway NE). I had a Scoutmob discount I'd been wanting to use for this place, so we decided to give it a try.

I love Vietnamese cuisine, and I usually end up getting a steaming bowl of pho instead of perusing the menu. However, today I decided to try something new. I noticed the section of the menu devoted to rice dishes, and one caught my eye: co'm tam bi cha. They described it as "shredded pork and baked egg with broken steamed rice." I'd heard of the co'm dish before, but never tried it. And, anything with pork and egg as ingredients never sounds bad to me. Done.

The dish included several components: rice, a couple slices of something that looked like meatloaf, green salad, and something that resembled rice noodles coated in a brownish, powdery substance. Interesting. The server also gave me a small bowl of nuoc cham (a standard Vietnamese condiment) and a bowl of some sort of soup. I tried a bite of the meatloaf-looking stuff first (pictured in the lower left corner), and it was really tasty. It tasted like it was made from a mix of egg, pork and glass noodles, and it had a spongy texture that I loved. Dipped in the nuoc cham, I could have eaten much more of it.

Now, on to the other components. The noodle (?) dish was something entirely new to me, and at first, I thought it was made entirely from tripe. The noodles had that crunchy tripe-like texture, and I spotted a couple pieces of something translucent that I thought had to be tripe. Upon further tasting, I deduced that it was definitely rice noodles cooked under al dente, which were then mixed with small slices of pork. The whole thing was also coated in a nutty, powdery mix that also mystified me. When I got home, I did some research on this dish, and discovered that it's called "bi." Googling "Vietnamese bi" produced some, umm, funny results, but I did manage to figure out what it was. It turns out that it's actually a mix of rice noodles, pork skin, shredded pork and ground rice powder. It was a bit dry on its own, but a little nuoc cham made it good.

Now, on to the rice. I'm not sure if the "broken rice" refers to this portion of the dish or not, but it was much like any other rice I've had. The grains were a little smaller than what I'm used to, so maybe that was the "broken" part? Someone who's more familiar with Vietnamese cuisine may know better than me, but I'm guessing that's the case. The green salad was just romaine, tomato, cucumber and carrot - nothing too fancy.The soup's broth was much like pho broth, but didn't have any noodles or other ingredients. I assume it's served much like miso soup in Japanese restaurants.

Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. Not sure if I enjoyed it as much as my customary pho, but it was still good nonetheless. And, I'm always happy when I can't identify something - it means I'm learning. If you like Vietnamese, check out Thien Thanh (and thanks to Scoutmob for the discount).

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