Introducing a new column I'm starting up to showcase tequila master Chuy Tovar's eclectic food wisdom he acquired while working for Patina (in Orange County!) for two years.
For this week's Las Mamadas de Chuy, he bailed me out of Weekly world headquarters to show me his old dive for slimy, esoteric (for gabachos and wabs alike, but definitely not chinitos)--but not too sweet!--Vietnamese desserts at Thach Che Hien Khanh.
"Stopped by to buy some beers and saw the line...had to go in." he tells me in a text. Ahh, yet another beautiful thing brought upon by the power of beer.
Anyways, he was right. We stopped in on a Tuesday afternoon and they never stopped hustling sweets--not even a second. The crowd were all locals, native-speaking Vietnamese folk with a hankering in their sweet tooth. It was an uncomfortably Orange County warm afternoon, and despite the steam tables being filled with a bunch of fluorescent colorful desserts, everyone ordered the crushed-ice dessert with coconut milk, sweet mung bean paste, pandan jellies and a bunch of beans I had only eaten with pico de gallo in the past.
I soon figured out why everyone ordered this. It was like the raspado de coco of my dreams, man. Ethereally creamy, full-fat coconut milk sweetened with starchy, sugary bean paste and then an al dente variation of beans on top of that? Dayum, this was a beaner's dessert fit for a beaner, literally. I also am quite fond of the tropical-vanilla like flavor of pandan as well, and loved the earthworm-like texture of it.
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Chuy's favorite though was the slimy, gelatinous mung-bean dessert cup that you top off with warm coconut cream. Again, reminding me of yet another beaner food-favorite (ah hmmmm NOPALES!).
Ahh raaaaaza! It's food experiences like these that refresh my love for food and the highly similar anthropological qualities meals posses. I can' t wait to come back and try the rest of the desserts, perhaps those Vietnamese mochi-like things that are dusted in mung-bean flour and taste lightly of sweet onion? What?!! Everyone knows, the best sweets always have SOME sort of umami in them... (i.e Duuuriiian).
Stay tuned to see where Las Mamadas de Chuy takes us next!