Friday, October 2, 2015

Embark on the Unknown - The Mysterious Nep Cha Bong



Once at a Chinese restaurant, when my husband and I were surrounded by Chinese-handwritten menu items, plastered on four walls, I said to him, "Instead of looking at the English menu, we should just randomly point at some of those and wait for the mystery to unravel." Yes, it was a facetious and ridiculous suggestion, which of course, he didn't follow. That doesn't mean it won't ever happen, though. Someday, if we feel bored enough and crazy enough, we might do just that. Everything we've had there so far was delicious or at least decent, and I wouldn't be too faint-hearted to eat some weird animal parts like intestines, feet, or eyeballs. So I'm seeing this silly plan as a risk within the realm of safety....something we all should embrace every once in a while.  

Recently, I did something of similar nature. No, I didn't haphazardly pick a dish from a foreign-language menu. I could see the prepackaged item I purchased, but still, I was somewhat ambivalent about what it might be (until I ate it and also did a Google search). I bought this bewildering-looking snack from Huong Lan, a Vietnamese sandwich shop in South Sacramento. On its cellophane package, the label read "Nep Cha Bong." That was it. No English translation, list of ingredients, or nutrition info. It seemed to be some sort of meat sandwiched between two fried doughy sheets. A crepe, I assumed. A stuffed rice cake--I took another guess. I suppose I could have asked someone. But the place was quite busy, and the staff didn't seem to speak much English. So I thought, "Oh what the heck! It looks edible enough. I'll give it a try." 

It turned out those golden sheets were rice crackers, made with cooked sticky rice, pressed into about half-inch slabs and deep-fried until crispy. And the filling was comprised of fluffy dried pork (aka pork fu or meat floss), sliced Chinese sausage, dried shrimp and green onions. Was it good? Well, let's say it wasn't repulsive. I ate all of the filling and one of the rice crackers, which I wished would have been crispier and less greasy. But you know what? Despite its little shortcomings, I still cherished my nep-cha-bong experience. The food itself might not be impressive, but I loved the taste of surprise. 

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