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San Jose Vietnamese window-chowing

chibi | Aug 8, 200208:38 PM

While on our quest yesterday for that elusive fowl the Teochew braised goose, Melanie and I made a stop at the shiny-new Asian Plaza on Story Road in San Jose (one of the stops along the South Bay Limsterfest). The mall contains primarily vietnamese stores, anchored by Dynasty Seafood restaurant and a large supermarket. Since we had an eating commitment with a bird later on, and neither of us had remembered to stop at an ATM beforehand, we were largely restricted to window shopping.

The first order of business after a long un-airconditioned drive was to duck into the supermarket and cool off in the produce aisle. There we played "what's this vegetable", trying to sniff various unidentifiable vegetables inside neatly tied plastic bags. Melanie resisted the temptation to splurge on a giant pack of duck gizzards (for confit)and somehow I walked away from a huge frozen block of octopus. Well-chilled, we went into the bakery next door where we looked quizzically at the various multicolored sweets, and watched the people in line order complicated-looking drinks. As we were starting to slouch out of the store, Melanie's head suddenly swung around and she hissed urgently "Baguettes!" Sure enough, moments later, a man appeared out of the kitchen with a basket of piping hot bread, one of which was in Melanie's hands 30 seconds later. The baguette had a crisp crust that shattered between the teeth with a pleasant crunch, the inside pillowy soft and very airy. Actually, a touch too airy for my taste, and I'd have preferred a touch of salt, but the bread was intended for banh mi, so the almost completely hollow structure was probably by design.

Next we went into the sparkly clean mall where we tried to look unobtrusive while checking out a pot-luck party that some realtors were having (it looked good). All along one side of the mall there are half a dozen or so food stalls, specializing in things such as pho, banh xeo, duck etc. Few of the stalls had english translations, but there were plenty of pictures featuring much enticing food. We both decided that we need to brush up on our vietnamese, and come back to try everything. I'm convinced that the $6 special written up on a bright purple sign shaped like a duck HAS to be good whatever it is.

So sorry about the complete failure to name even a single store, dish or food item. Perhaps someone familiar with the mall can give us some pointers about where to go and what not to miss next time.

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