This morning, while listening to Adagio for Strings, Opus 11, the music from the movie Platoon, I was eating a bowl of WonTon Mi Tom and thinking how lucky I am: “Good grief” I ruminated, “here I am in Vietnam eating a dish most people from my hemisphere will never get to enjoy. Can life get any better?” I said a small but very heartfelt “thank you, G-d” as I slurped my noodles and enjoyed the wonderful fresh shrimp, delicious won ton, tender slices of liver, tiny bits of crunchy onions and pork skin (Vietnamese Gribbinez), chives, bean sprouts, and thin and thick yellow noodles. This soup comes from a small stall in the big local market, Nguyen Tri Phuong (pronounced ‘When Chi Foon’) where the Viet equivalent of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi holds a captive audience tightly in her grasp.
Two days ago we ate this soup from the same stall and when I remarked to KL how good it was she told me this story: I have been getting this soup from the same lady for over 25 years, so she knows me, knows who I am; but when I ask for a little more soup, or some extra vegetables (normal practice in VN is to give more if the customer asks, but for no charge), she tells me “NO! YOU HAVE ENOUGH! GO AWAY!”
Immediately I thought of the Jerry Seinfeld show about the Soup Nazi and how JS was banned from the shop and had to send someone in to buy his soup, so I told KL to offer to pay a little more for the extra soup and vegetables–an extra half cup of broth along with some bean sprouts, chives, thin juliennes of celery. She did, and the woman brightened and smiled for perhaps the second time in KL’s 25 year patronage of her business. Can you imagine, in 25 years nobody had ever offered to pay a little extra for the little extra they wanted. It just isn’t done here. If you want a little more, just ask. Want a little more coffee to make your coffee darker? No problem. Want some more broth for your Pho? No problem. But until today, if you wanted a little more anything for your Won Ton Mi Tom, NO WAY! GO AWAY!
Wow! I hope I didn’t disrupt the balance in the economy of Vietnam!
BTW, for those of you who like Classical Music, I found a new app called Deezer for your iPhone or iPad. Check it out in the App Store. It is free today and from first perusal seems very nice.