Su Su Chicken

December 27, 2009 · Posted in Travel · 2 Comments 

In an attempt to be somewhat food-focused on this blog, here’s my first post dedicated solely to a restaurant.  Well, stall, actually, I suppose, when you get right down to it.  There aren’t so much tables, or bathrooms, or even permanent light fixtures.  It really is essentially a glorified street stall with about 10% more space.  The tables and chairs are all low, way too small for a person of my height to be sitting in, and I have to believe they’re actually kiddie chairs.  The restaurant spills out into the street where you can see the wonderful creations being basted as you walk by.  The establishment’s lights are strung up on the chain-link fence lining the sidewalk where most of the people eat their meal.  The beer is served warm, and you get a mug with ice if you’d like it cold.  (It is probably the most offensive beer I’ve ever had.  Yes, offensive.)  Homeless people will accost you.  The neon lights from the church across the street will flash at you consistently.

And yet, you will come.  You will hop a cab to District 3, and you will come.  More than once, most likely.  Because of the skin.  The skin is so perfectly crispy, so expertly cooked, that you can’t help but come and eat.  The meat so moist and tender you wonder if some sort of magician isn’t working behind the curtain, and the kitchen is just a facade.  And then, as your fingers are dripping with glorious grease, you take a bite of the accompanying tomato rice and fully submit to the fact that this can in no way be good for you.

It is of course, Vietnamese fried chicken.  But not fried chicken like you’re used to.  Legend has it that the owner created his own personal contraption that does not deep-fry the bird but instead constantly bastes it with boiling oil.  In fact the translation on the napkins reads “Chicken boiling fat”.  Fine words indeed my friend, fine words indeed.  The contraption looks like this:

The skin and meat are considerably less greasy than normal deep-fried chicken.  My educated guess is that because the chicken doesn’t sit in the oil, and is constantly draining, it retains the crispiness without getting soggy at all.

The finished version looks like the picture below.  As any good street stall or dive does, they serve one thing and one thing only.  Your dish consists of:

1 piece chicken.

Rice (optional)

A few tomatoes and cucumbers

Some sauce that’s totally superflous and also mildly offensive.  Not as bad as the beer but it’s close.

Admittedly the pictures did not turn out as I’d hoped, but I was slightly overwhelmed by the fried skin.

Our total dinner amounted to 7 of these plates and 3 beers.  The bill was 240,000 VND.  The current exchange rate is 18,475 VND per USD.  That means that our total bill was $12.99 or $4.33 per person.

I love this country.