a blog about seeing the world

Rewind: Hungry?

Flashback to April, and Vietnam…

During our stay in a quirky mint green guesthouse in the Mekong Delta, our host Phat continually brought up one particular item on the house menu: elephant ear fish. He directed our attention to guest reviews of the dish in a notebook, pointed it out in his brochure, and brought us repeatedly to a tiled tank where the massive, flat fish swam about fatalistically. Finally, on our last night, we selected our unfortunate dinner guest and while it was netted and taken to the kitchen we sat down with some beer.

Shortly, we were presented with our fish, fried whole and skewered upright like a fisherman’s stuffed trophy. The fish’s large toothy jaws were gaping open in an expression that led us to believe that the poor fellow was not expecting to be dropped into a pan full of hot oil. Being inexperienced fishmongers, we were thankful when the cook, Phat’s wife, scraped off the scales and dealt out portions of the flaky white fish. We had the more straightforward task of arranging the ingredients in rice paper rolls. It was delicious, and remains one of the more memorable meals of the trip. We wrote down the “recipe” with the thought recreating the meal at home some day, and now you, if you so choose, can do the same. You’ll need:

Rice paper

Rice noodles



Mint leaves

Assorted greens (cilantro, Thai basil, and baby lettuces would work)

And, of course, the fish.  In the event you find elephant ear fish hard to come by, any firm white fish should do.  You can probably skip the grisly step of dropping it live into the fryer and simply pan fry a fillet.

Cook the rice noodles, and chop the pineapple and tomato into strips so that they might fit neatly into a spring roll. Place the desired amount of everything on a sheet of rice paper, and roll like a burrito.  Eat, and repeat.


3 responses

  1. Jesse Littlefield

    I’m sorry but this makes me a bit nauseous. I don’t think I could ever condemn the fish swimming in the tank to death by frying alive! I bet it was yummy but I’d feel weird eating it knowing where it just came from. Sounds a bit hypocritical I know, but I would try the recipe with already dead fish from the store 🙂

    August 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    • to ease your snow-white conscience, it didn’t look like it was going to last much longer.

      September 4, 2011 at 10:59 pm

  2. Dad

    Yet we all enjoy those Maine lobsters dropped unexpectedly (maybe?) into boiling water! Ate 20 of them on SAT night with 6 of us at the pre=H. Irene party. Great night followed by major damage to roads, bridges (6-7 gone) and my new treatment systems 😦
    Guess you really can’t fool with Mother Nature – she’s a real bitch……………………………

    August 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm

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