When I say I miss Asian food, I mean I really, really, really, really, really, really, really miss Asian food. One of the really (okay I’ll stop) tough things about living in Spain is the lack of easy access to the confetti of cuisines that is something we take so much for granted in Singapore. Jorge brings me to Asian restaurants for special occasions in Madrid and that is really sweet because such excursions normally cost a bomb and are very stereotypically Western in their interpretation of what “Asian” food is. For example, both of the best Chinese restaurants in Madrid - Asia Gallery in the Hotel Westin Palace and Tse Yang in Hotel Villa Magna serve Peking Duck. Nothing wrong with Peking Duck but its not part of the everyday Chinese set of dishes. Your mum doesn’t whip you a meal of rice and Peking Duck for lunch for example. Also a plate of beansprouts or in local words “Tau Gay” cost 15€ - 20€, which is both a joke and a travesty. I think for that amount, I should be getting a Tau Gay farm!!! Okay, I guess Tse Yang and Asia Gallery are better than nothing if I need an Asian fix quick, but when I say I miss Asian food, what I mean and crave for are everyday delights like:
1. Japanese ramen
2. Vietnamese pho
3. Chinese dimsum
4. Hokkien mee
5. Char Kway Teow
6. Carrot cake Chai Tway Kuey!
7. Korean Barbecue
As I said, I intended to get my fill of this in New York but sadly, this was not to be during the first few days as we feasted on Italian and rich gourmet Western truffle courses instead. On Monday, New York was really putting us over the edge (don’t judge, we’re old!) with the frenetic bustle of the city and very angry cab drivers and Jorge kept saying he felt really unsettled (a most foreign feeling to that old bull, steady and unflinching in his daily routine). He left it to me to make all the decisions and so, taking advantage of his momentary pause in our constant struggle to be smarty-pants-know-it-all-leader-of-the-relationship (kidding!), I whisked him away to 157 Mott Street “Pho Bang” (I think there are a chain of them) to eat Vietnamese Pho.
The minute we stepped into the shop, I just had that feeling that comes over you when you know you’ve made a good decision. Other than a few tables enjoying the savoury broth that is God and speaking quietly to each other, it was practically a library in there! Immediately in that temple of zen and tranquility, we found the cores of our yoga beings. Ohmmm…
Without looking at the menu, I asked the guy to bring us two hot pipin’ bowls of Pho (which I now pronounced as “Fur”, Sand has trained me well. I used to say “Four” all the time) with extra meatballs for Jorge and also some spring rolls to share. A big plate of beansprouts and herby looking leaves was served first and Jorge curiously asked what this uncooked plate of veggies was for.
"Wait", I commanded sagely.
When our bowls came, I told him to stick the leaves in and he giggled merrily like a schoolboy while doing so. “Eat the beansprouts but NOT THE LEAVES” I ordered. The pho was heavenly, (Could we have an Amen!) The rice noodles were glassy and fresh, cooked to absolute perfection. The beef was tender and soft, slathered lovingly in my Vietnamese sauces (chilli and hoisin sauce) before being gobbled up. Jorge was having a ball as well, using his leaves as a spatula to mix the soup around. Our spring rolls came and the cutie plucked some mint leaves and made a tobacco wrap with the meat, lettuce leaf and mint of the spring roll before chewing.
In the slow, quiet drowiness of the restaurant, we regained our inner balance over our shared Vietnamese meal. Jorge was mightily impressed with me for finding the place. He kept asking “How did you know about this?” (The answer is Yelp, again.)
When we left, an old lady counted out my change. She was watching a Cantonese opera, which my mother would have enjoyed, which was how I knew she wasn’t Vietnamese. Impressive, given that that one was one of the better Phos I’ve eaten in my life! The bill came up to USD 19. Jorge gave a 30% tip and said emphatically: “This is the only restaurant I’ve eaten in which I feel like tipping!” (I’m glad Jorge was born Spanish. If he were born a New Yorker, I think he would have been a much angry person than he is)
157 Mott Street
New York, NY