Veggie Guy: Vietnam Restaurant

Believe it or not, even vegans can get squeamish about tofu.

Now, I'm not talking about just any kind of tofu--I mean that stuff that's slimy and jellylike, but partly charred around the edges. Combine that with the faint smell of fish, here's what you might hear:


That was a long, cracked falsetto "eek," mind you. And yes...that was me.

My buddy Mark and his sig-o invited me and another friend to Vietnam Restaurant for dinner last week. The guys said the place is quite popular with the veggie crowd, and thought I would dig it. But dig, I did not.

We arrived at the restaurant starving, so we each ordered a set of tofu spring rolls, loaded with vermicelli, lettuce, cilantro, and thin slabs of tofu. The rolls themselves were fine, but the accompanying peanut sauce was more like a sweet and spicy soy glaze with a few chopped peanuts thrown in. Not terrible, but also not what I'd hoped for.

For our main entrées, we decided on tofu búns (without fish sauce). Bún is a dish composed of vermicelli (rice noodles) served in a bowl over lettuce, cucumbers, soy bean sprouts, and topped with choice of protein and roasted peanuts. Mark and I chose Bún with Stir Fry Tofu, and the other guys selected Bún with Lemongrass Tofu.

Our waitress brought out two dishes and set them down in front of Mark and me. We carefully inspected our bowls, then Mark asked, "Is this the Stir Fry Tofu?"

"Tofu," the waitress answered with a nod.

Mark was still not convinced we had the correct búns, but we dove in anyway. I suffered through a couple bites of slimy tofu and crushed peanuts, but when that whiff of fish hit my nose, I flipped-out and shouted, "EEK!!!--WHAT there fish sauce in this?!"

Mark replied in a calm, older-brotherly fashion, "I'm sure there isn't. It's FINE." Then he shot me that eat-your-food look I hadn't seen since I was a kid. So I put on a fake smile and continued to pick through my bowl of gelatinous gradoo. Ugh.

The other búns finally made it to the table, which looked a little better than the ones Mark and I were eating. We eventually learned our meals had, in fact, been switched. Mark could tell I wasn't happy, so he pleaded, "You've really gotta try the lunch buffet before you write this place off, okay? It's REALLY good!"

"Fine," I replied with a bitter face.

But after looking at my photos from dinner, I just couldn't get myself to go there again. The mere image of that slimy tofu made me clench up and belt out another yelp!

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Eddie Garza