Chao LongYesterday, for the first time in about 3 years, I ate chao long. I don't know why the hiatus. Nothing planned or determined. It has just worked out that way.
Those who read this Experience may have looked at my story of Hanoi chao, which is similar, only in it they tend to use chicken or fish as the main ingredient to go with the rice gruel stock of chao soup. Long in the local language means innards (it is also used as a word for heart in more romantic less culinary contexts). So as you can guess, the main ingredients of this soup are offal related: bits of windpipe, slices of heart, slices of sausage made from the gut and stuffed with a delicious oaty textured filling, gristle from various stomach sphincters, cubes of congealed blood. Then of course, add the usual Asian flavours, lots of fresh ginger, chilli, and green onion. Absolutely delicious. Even if not for the faint hearted.
Don't worry, when I first confronted this soup some 17 years ago, I tentatively ate the rice gruel and picked around the rest without being game to attack one mouthful of offal. And, this from someone who in his own cultural cuisine, loves offal: liver, kidney, blood, brains, etc. But it didn't take me long to overcome my first fears. And hence this soup has been on my cold (and warm) day agenda ever since.
Street vendors with small pushcarts sell it here. I think that's why I haven't eaten it for so long. For when the lady appears in my street, I always seem to have just eaten, or am about to eat a planned meal. It's just been that way; no other special reason, as I said.
But yesterday, chao long and I were re-united. Fabulous.