Before I came to Vietnam, duck seemed so old-fashioned, so Peking, so Donald, so Daffy, so cartoon-character. So zoo animal, even.
At Christmas in Australia, the duck was envied by other birds, less often getting the chop. I wonder if a duck breast could be found in a supermarket there now, tidily wrapped in cling-film on polystyrene like chicken. Come to think of it, what made the chicken more common on our tables anyway? Perhaps the fact that they weren't too good at flying. Wasn't it the ducks who flew somewhere for the winter?
Must've been Hanoi and....well, Peking.
While they've been through a rough trot these past few years, with the avian flu epidemic resulting in mass cullings, duck is very visible on the food landscape in Vietnam. Like chickens they go by motorbike to market, where they can be purchased live and killed dead. The grisly blood-letting can be confronting but no more than a scene from True Blood or Twilight. If you can't kill the beast or bird you're intending to eat, at least witness it.
And then, eat its blood in chunks. Served in a broth with thinly sliced bamboo pieces, duck's blood has the texture of firm tofu and a barely identifiable flavour, both bland and inoffensive.
This particular duck-house is run by a very jocular, smiling woman called Xuan and the literal translation of the eatery's name is Fat Xuan's (Xuan Beo). Patrons would be advised to stand back when she is cracking her cleaver across the duck carcasses. Accurate and forceful, Xuan slides evenly cut chops of breast from her cleaver to our plate and these come adorned with more bamboo and quickly blanched spring onions. The herb match, generous on the side, is hung que (Asian basil).In the mouth, a few plucked leaves ruminate with luscious duck flesh and the effect is a revelation.
One serve duck blood (tiet), one serve duck pieces (vit luoc), one serve broth and noodles, two large beers - 89,000VND (USD$4.65, AUD$5.05)
Xuan Beo Vit
76 Quan Thanh