This morning I had a chance to follow up on a Vietnamese friend’s tip that the East Palo Alto Vietnamese Buddhist Church offers vegetarian food on the weekends. Located directly behind Mi Pueblo (and the other stores in the Ikea complex), the temple is set back from the street and I’d never noticed it before.
There were only a few cars in the parking lot this morning and I started to think that this might not be one of the food days. But I followed my nose and the aromas of cooking to a door on the left side of the church. Inside I found church volunteers busy preparing food. One table had a pair of people trimming and washing fresh banana leaves for wrapping. At the next station, a circle of ladies were filling the leaves with mochi dough filled with a stir-fried mix of seasoned veggies. These were headed for the steamer.
I was greeted in Vietnamese, and when I apologized that I did not speak the language, the helpful man then addressed me in fluent Mandarin. When that didn’t work, he pointed me to a couple of ladies who could assist me in English. I learned that the church has a lunch for the community nearly every Sunday. There’s no charge for the lunch but donations are encouraged. Additional food to take home is also available for sale. She also offered me the food that was already prepared, as they’d been busy cooking for special orders and customers that were picking up food on Saturday.
The lady was pulling the wrapping strings off steamed stuffed tofu skins. These are about the size of a chicken thigh, and I think meant to mimic that. A stick of lemongrass is the leg “bone”, and the tofu sheet encasing the mix of bean curd and savory bits approximates chicken skin.
This is also available deep-fried, the steamed packet dropped into the fryer until golden. This was so delicious when doused with a garlicky, chili-spiked soy sauce. http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...
The contrast between the two was akin to the difference between boiled and fried chicken. These were $1 each.
I also bought deep-fried tofu topped with a very tasty lemongrass-chili-garlic paste, $2.
While my order was being fried, a communal bowl of fried rice was pushed toward me along with a paper bowl and spoon to help myself. Flecked with a preserved dried vegetable, carrots, and peas, I enjoyed this too.
They invited me to return tomorrow (Sunday) for a more elaborate spread. They said that they’ll have a tofu soup, various salads, noodles, and more. I am planning to go back tomorrow, so let me know if you’d like to join me around 11:30am. My email address is in my profile.
1700 East Bayshore Rd, Palo Alto, CA
1731 E Bayshore Rd, East Palo Alto, CA 94303
Giac Minh Pagoda
763 Donohoe St, East Palo Alto, CA