What is this hunger?

I keep coming back to my same favorite Vietnamese Restaurant here in Austin & thought I would share a blog post I had written earlier that has not been published under the Blinded By The Bite Blog.  Having moved to Austin from San Francisco, I have found myself left with this insatiable hunger for Vietnamese food since leaving my city by the bay. San Francisco boasts one of the largest Asian populations in the continental United States, having your choice pick of Vietnamese Restaurants on almost every corner.

Lucky me I happen to stumble across a book called ¬Å“eat.shop Austin¬Â (www.eatshopguides.com), written by author¬â„¢s Kaie Wellman & Marianne Malina , which I happen to pick up at Anthropology in the Domain. As I began thumbing through the book, low & behold I came across ¬Å“Sunflower Restaurant¬Â located at 8557 Research Blvd., Suite 146 (Phone 512.339.7860) (Yelp.com Review’s).  A little birdy told me that Kaie & Marianne are working on a new addition which is exciting!

With a lunch menu that has over 90 items to choose from, the dinner menu adds to that with an impressive 100+, I was in Vietnamese heaven (the book promised I would experience this at least a little)! And being that I¬â„¢ve had this hunger for Vietnamese cuisine, I knew just what I was going to order! To start off my trip to Vietnamese heaven, I ordered up the No. 3: Spring Rolls ¬ ¬Å“Goi Cuon¬Â (Soft rice paper filled with shrimp, pork, lettuce, sprouts, vermicelli and fresh mint) served up with a peanut sauce. For the main course No. 25: BBQ Pork & Imperial Rolls with Vermicelli ¬ ¬Å“Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong¬Â (Vermicelli rice noodle bowl with grilled pork, shredded carrots/cucumbers, sprouts, lettuce and green onions, finished off with peanuts) with an accompanied rice wine vinegar/chili dressing.

While eating my little slice of heaven, I wondered if I could master this cuisine at home and if like with many other ethnic cuisines, does it vary from region to region and just what are those differences & influences? I knew obviously rice and noodles would figure in, but is one from the North & the other from the South? In researching recipes, I came across the website AsiaRecipe.com, which met two needs: recipes & an education on Vietnamese food history.

Vietnamese cuisine is geographically split into ¬Å“two great river deltas separated by a belt of mountains; it¬â„¢s like two rice baskets hung on each end of the carrying pole. With the Red River Delta encompassing the North of Vietnam and the Meking Delta the South, each region maintained it own regional influence and reflects in the cuisine. While vegetables are a mainstay in both North & South, the Northern cuisine tends to use fewer vegetables and has a strong Chinese influence with being so close to the China border. In contrast in the South, you find more herbs and vegetables and the use of other sauces in lieu of soy sauce, such as fish sauce, oyster sauce, with hot chilies replacing the use of pepper that is emphasized in the North.

We are really lucky here in Austin to have such restaurants as Sunflower Restaurant and are able to enjoy such amazing cuisine. If you’re looking for a delicious lunch or dinner, looking for a noodle bowl or soup, the Sunflower Restaurant is a ¬Å“must try¬Â and a major slice of Vietnamese food heaven! *Update to this post – Sunflower Restaurant won the 2010 Austin Chronicle Restaurant Award – this is their 4th year running!

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