Last night, Huyen and I went to Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia, a strip mall full of Vietnamese restaurants, grocery stores, jewelery stores, music and video stores, and more. It used to be known as “Little Saigon” and, indeed, Vietnamese come from long distances to visit the center. Think Chinatown for the Vietnamese.
Huyen is Vietnamese and we used to live close to the Eden Center, and it’s one of the things we’ve missed most about moving away from Falls Church. However, since we were in DC yesterday to volunteer for the end of the Cherry Blossom Festival, we decided to go to Eden for dinner.
We’d been to the Four Sisters Restaurant a number of times and the pho places don’t offer up vegetarian versions of their tasty beef soup, unfortunately, so we decided to try out one of the smaller restaurants with less visibility than some of the bigger eateries at Eden. We settled on Hung Long (you in the back, stop your snickering!). When we were seated, I was bit dismayed that their menu was entirely meat and seafood dishes with nary a single vegetarian option on the menu. However, I remembered hearing that almost any ethnic restaurant—Asian ones, in particular—will make vegetarian dishes on request. Sure enough, they were willing to.
I asked for a pretty straightforward dish that I usually order at other Vietnamese restaurants: rice with cooked vegetables and tofu. I also asked that they not use fish sauce (“Khong nuoc mam” in case you get a waiter that doesn’t speak good English), since fish sauce is often used in Southeast Asian dishes, including vegetarian ones. Don’t worry, though—a substitute can be made very easily and you don’t lose any of the flavor.
A side note… a couple of weeks ago I went to a Thai restaurant and ordered Vegetarian Pad Thai without the fish sauce. They brought me Pad Thai with no fish sauce, sure enough, but it had three giant shrimp sitting on top. They apologized profusely and fixed the mistake.
Anyway, back to last night’s dinner. The waiter nodded politely and said the vegetarian dish would be no problem.
A few minutes later, he brought out my dinner and it looked fabulous: rice on the side with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and small, perfectly fried chunks of tofu covered in a light-tasting soy sauce. It tasted just as good as it looked and I couldn’t believe that they wouldn’t offer this on their menu alongside their meat and seafood dishes. They charged me $6, the same price as a corresponding meat dish.
When I paid, my waiter asked, “So you eat only vegetables?” I nodded and he said, “That must be hard.” I responded that it’s not as hard as it might seem and he smiled. “You come back again. We’ll try something different next time.”
Sounds good to me.