Wednesday, August 22, 2007

fish sauce emergency

i know i am always complaining about something, but this one is the realest: i got home last night, and after opening the door to my place, the smell of fish sauce hit me square in the face.

so the story goes like this: i took a group of students camping this past weekend, and as part of the trip, we always cook lots of food. (the students are all southeast asian, and so we make stir-fry, sticky rice with bbq chicken and tammakhoung, and even Lao-style eggs for breakfast). well, i took the students shopping the day before the camping trip at viet-wah, where we bought supplies for cooking. when we got to the fish sauce isle, the students all started clamouring for me to purchase the squid brand fish sauce. (if you are Lao you know what i am talking about. if you are white, then you think fish sauce is that "a taste of thai" junk they sell in the white people grocery stores on the oriental/hispanic food isle for $3.67 for an 8 ounce bottle. so click on the link for squid brand and get educated). well, i argued with them that the "three crabs brand" was a much better choice - even though its three times as expensive (usually running about $2.69 while squid is usually .99 cents) but they countered with "my mom always uses this kind!" "yeah, i be seeing this up in the shelf! she never be using nothing with crabs." "yeah! she be putting the squid on everything!" at this point i really didn't want to explain that the use of the squid brand was a budgetary decision rather than a culinary one. i mean, clearly (a taste of thai excluded) price should indicate the quality of the product being offered. if you pay three times as much, then you should expect a three times as tasty fish sauce. and, to further bolster my defense, i will quote from surfasonline:

Three Crab Fish Sauce 24 oz.

This fish sauce has a subtle sweet flavor and its fish sauce smell is somewhat muted compared to other brands. Three Crabs brand fish sauce has achieved a kind of cult status in the American market, being mentioned in various culinary circles as "the" premium brand.

but i gave in, and put the squid brand in the shopping cart. i mean, its not bad. i used to use it too - because i too saw it on every table, in every cupboard, and at every pho restaurant in fresno back-in-the-day. but i converted to 3 crabs after a dream i had about being attacked by pad thai. that is another post altogether. so i figured i would let them use their squid, and i would bring my own 3 crabs and everyone would be happy.

which is what i did. and everyone was happy (until last night). and that's when it happened. see, we had a good camping trip, lots of food, lots of sun, lots of fish; but as the group facilitator, i am left responsible for clean up. so i unloaded all the stuff into my apartment, and in doing so i stacked 3 large plastic storage containers on top of each other right in front of my tv set. then i left for work this morning with plans to put everything away when i got home. well, the bottom container buckled somewhere between my clocking in and clocking out at work, and the top container came crashing to the floor, and the squid brand fish sauce was in the top container. the squid fish sauce bottle broke. the 3 crabs was just fine... still intact, in fact - everthing else was fine: the bottle of sugar, the shrimp paste, the padek bottle, oyster sauce, msg bags don't break so of course it was ok, but also the soy sauce; the only thing that broke was that cheap 99 cent squid brand fish sauce. i bet even that nasty "taste of thai" wouldn't have broken.
so my night was all about cleaning up fish sauce. and the smell is just not leaving - and there aint nothing muted about the smell. i had to get up all the shards of glass too, and that alone took an hour. and then i called chandra, a friend of mine, and she suggested baking soda. so i dumped a whole box of baking soda, but the smell still won't go away. i couldn't even eat the fish sauce with the vietnamese broken rice today. i am ptsd'ed. the students didn't figure what damage a broken bottle of fish sauce could do to a person when talking me into buying it. i don't know if i will ever be able to eat it again. and i love fish sauce (not as much as padek, but getting there.)
my front room is under quarantine right now. i just go right into my bedroom and close the door. toxic fumes i swear.

any suggestions? any fish sauce emergencies that yall would like to share? help me.

Monday, August 06, 2007

cambodia space needle

we will be showing our film, "i am american" that we made last summer, during this event: