the scent of green papaya.



Damn, it's steamy out there this week. (And it doesn't help that we're trying to save money at Salivation Army barracks by keeping the thermostat at 79 degrees â?? so it's pretty steamy indoors as well.) When it's this hot, I only have two solutions ...

1) Unfortunately, my employer prefers us to wear clothing, so #1 is out.

2) Stick with Vietnamese food until it cools off.

This morning, limp and sweaty from a 7 a.m. walk, I decided to concoct an iced Vietnamese coffee at home. I had the ingredients at hand: a can of sweetened condensed milk, a bottle of cold coffee concentrate (graciously brought to me from New Orleans by the glamorous Billy Manes â?? read about his N'awlins trip here) and a full ice tray.

Results: so-so. I thought I was being clever by chilling the condensed milk, but I hadn't reckoned on its thick consistency â?? it was like trying to pour pudding out of a can. Once enough had dripped out to lighten the coffee to a caramel color, I had to stir like mad to combine them. Added ice, had a sip: still too thick.

Once the ice had melted a bit and watered it down, it was delicious. But it would have been a lot easier to just go to one of these restaurants and buy an iced coffee, and perhaps also a green papaya salad; Anh Hong has a particularly good one, either with grilled pork or fried tofu. Either way it's great hot-weather food: grilled meat over cool, crunchy strands of cucumber-like green papaya, bathed in a sharp vinegar/nuoc mam dressing.

If you want to make a night of it, head to Stardust and pick up a DVD: The Scent of Green Papaya (see photo above) would be most appropriate, or maybe Indochine (speaking of steamy ...). Stay away from Apocalypse Now: It'll just make you feel hotter, and not in a good way.

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