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Vietnamese Wedding Food

Price: Ridiculously high for whoever's paying.
Rating: *** / *****

I am writing this review from beyond the grave. You see, a funny thing happened to me yesterday. While at my friend's house, she made me watch 15 minutes of Stick It, an inspirational coming of age story of a gymnast. I'm not what one would consider a movie snob. I've seen more movies with Amy Jo Johnson in it than I care to admit and regularly quote Billy Madison to friends and strangers alike. I even sat through Bring It On to get a glimpse of some Eliza Dushku boobage. But this movie...this movie had dialogue that put me in a fugue state where I became responsible for everything you saw on the news today. Trouble in the Middle East? That was me. Elder neglect? They're breathing our air. HIV outbreak in Orange County? You better believe I didn't wrap up. And then I killed myself to ensure that I would never have to sit through that again.

A Vietnamese wedding is actually a lot like Stick It. It starts off painfully slow, with a barrage of strangers that you have never seen or heard of in your life generally gabbing it up with other strangers. Everyone appears to be eager to be seated, lest they have to interact for a long period of time with others like myself who are only there to eat. What's even worse, the watered down fruit punch doesn't have a trace of alcohol. And for the handful of gringo folk that are invariably present at each one of these things, the time before reception starts is a fascinating ordeal. As they are greeted with stares and broken English, I could envision them saying, "Listen, buddy, if you want small talk I got your small talk right here(cue the crotch chop)." Good times.

But also like Stick It, the eye candy to entertainment ratio is sorely lacking. The band is so unenthused that they look like they had spent the last two weeks getting prescriptions for horse tranquilizers. The singers...my god, the singers. They all sing like William Hung, and only the one who doesn't sing like William Hung actually is William Hung. Thankfully, my headphones drowned out most of the noise as I enjoyed the meal.

What you must understand is that Vietnamese weddings tend to take place in restaurants and not halls or churches. This wouldn't seem so odd to me, except that every wedding serves the exact same food. Right down to the very garnish. I am reminded of the scene in The Simpsons when Homer is touring the Duff factory and we see that Duff Dry, Duff Light, and Duff are coming from the same funnel. Either wedding chefs aren't very creative, or there is secret underground assembly line for this stuff. And the saddest part of it all? The cooks are all Mexican.

"Get to the fucking food, Ace."

Alright, alright. Without further ado, the food accompanied by bad pictures taken in the worst lighting possible for foodstuffs. You get the idea of what it is, though, so stop complaining.

1. Seven Star Cold Platter: Ah yes, the ubiquitous seven star cold plate. I'm not going pretend that I know everything on the plate, but I know I generally avoid most of it. Basically, there are seven different meats on a bed of greens. I'm not too fond of this as an appetizer, mostly because I don't care much for the different cuts of sausages, hams and mystery meats as a precursor to tastier items. For the record, I have no idea what those things are in the picture but they were pretty good. One is meaty and the other is very refreshing and stringy...whatever they are.

2. Shark Fin Soup w/ Crab: Another Asian favorite typically served on special occasions. If you've never had it, the texture of the soup might seem a bit strange. It is both stringy and gelatinous while going down very smoothly. Coupled with diced crab meat and hearty chunks of mushroom, it is a mildly flavored but very fine soup. Sorry Yao, but if sharks didn't want to be hunted they shouldn't have produced such delicious fins.

3. Honey Shrimp w/ Walnut: This really could have been dessert(and probably should have considering their choice of dessert) but is instead placed as a starter of sorts before the heavier items came in. The immediate thing you notice with the honey shrimp is that the coating is almost crunchy. Since the shrimp is also very firm, this makes for an interesting culinary experience. The coating is made with real honey, which was strong but not overbearing on the taste buds. It was very pleasant, but not something you would eat a lot of. The shrimp ball is just shrimp paste deep fried; pretty much standard Chinese buffet or dim sum fair. I found it to be a bit too salty, but maybe that was their intention to offset the sweetness of the honey shrimp and candied walnut.

4. Roasted Duck w/ Seafood: "Hey chef, what do you want me to do with these?"
"Well, what do you have there? I already finished the menu."
"Really? Uh...well, I have some ducks...a bag of frozen calamari, shrimp, and some broccoli."
"Just throw those all in an oven together and I'm sure it'll be fine."
"...But sir! These ingredients don't really go well together. I mean, the duck would taste horrible drowning in the sauce of everything else."
"Oh, come on, it'll be fine! They won't even notice. It's not like there's an F-list internet food critic out there that's going to expose me crappy dish. Ahahahahaha...ahahaHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

5. Fried Lobster: This is the crown jewel. The dish where you have to make sure to clear out your area so that the waiter puts the plate next to you before all of the hungry guests have at it. Chances are you only get one shot at the plate, so you have to pick out the good pieces. I secured several meaty parts along with the head which I enjoy immensely. It is a whole giant lobster that they chop up and stir fry in a seasoned batter until it is perfect and delicious. Some green onions are tossed in there too. And to think, lobsters were actually known as poor people's food before over fishing caused the population to dwindle. If only those jackasses knew what they were doing.

6. Fish w/ Fried Rice: There is no more fitting way to end a Vietnamese meal than with fish and rice. This is nothing groundbreaking here. The fish is fried and lying on a tangy sauce which goes well with the spicy jalapeno slices. The fried rice is your typical fried rice with pieces of shrimp and sweet Chinese sausage. There are some previously frozen peas and carrots tossed in for good measure, though they neither add nor detract to the meal.

7. Taro Root: This was just kind of there as a palette cleanser. It was so irrelevant, I didn't bother taking a picture of it. It was purple and starchy and kind of tasted like mashed potatoes that were mixed with corn starch. And then covered in a gelatinous milky syrup of mixed nuts. Was someone watching porn when they thought this thing up?

All in all, a decent meal that was not a culinary orgasm that one would hope for. Anyway...things to learn from this review: Don't watch Stick It unless you want to ruin yours and everyone else's lives, Ace can be unintentionally racist, and most importantly, you can't think up good desserts when watching porn. Words to live by.

Hahaha, you capture the Vietnamese wedding dinner perfectly from the food to the cheesy Viet bands. I have attended numerous Vietnamese weddings and you're right, it's always the same fare. The cold yellow stringy stuff in the first pic is jellyfish but I don't know what the meaty thing next to it is. It reminds me of chicken feet :O
I'm suprised your honey walnut shrimp wasn't slathered in a puddle of mayo like they do in the restuarants up here. Eww...and the taro root stuff is horrible. I remember no one ever touoches that plate because it looks like a purple version of The Blob and I remember one time the kitchen chef even placed a dallop of whip cream and a maraschino cherry on top. Probably to distract the guests from the purple horror beneath.

i like taro root...i wonder if you guys eat it the same way Chinese people do? I'd compare but it's the only thing you didn't take a picture of!

This is so weird. I just went to my first Vietnamese weding and it was xactly as you described, down to the purple dessert! I am one of those gringos, by the way.

kat - Been to one, been to them all I guess. I HAVE had honey-shrimp slathered in mayo before, it is not an experience I would like to relive.

anonymous person - I'm sorry, I was distracted by the cavalcade of people rushing to the dance floor when they started playing "It's Raining Men"

nameless - Hopefully it did not leave a bad impression of my peeps!

shark fin soup... mmm... my favorite. the only reason why i would get married. haha. to have it at my wedding.

xoxo

contrary to your belief vietnamese people do have weddings in churches/temples/whatever. the reason you have a wedding meal in a restaurant is that..you're supposed to. people generally don't have wedding banquets in a church..from my experience..

depending on their denomination (if any at all) they'll have the marriage ceremony first. the banquet is separate and later..in case you didn't understand

i found your blog hilarious and true in so many ways. so i guess you're one of those that do not attend the church or any ceremony but just the reception. shame on you. lol.

the ceremony is an important part of any wedding. u should try it sometimes.

hmm and did you give a gift of money like you're suppose to? or were you just one of those cheap people that go to eat the food?

what would you prefer a Vietnamese wedding reception to be like? Serving Filet Mignon and/or pasta? But then it wouldn't be so much of a Vietnamese wedding...

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