Monday, March 23, 2009
My Lonely Planet post and a reply re. lobster on the beach
Nha Trang lobster on the beach
Nha Trang lobster on the beach - my mouth has been watering for this for 8 months. Now I'm here and the experience was underwhelming. Not awful, but short of my expectations.
The lady cook has been after me for 3 days, so today I took the plunge. It is quite a bit of performance art on her part. First comes all the excitement of showing me her wares, She takes out a plate and puts on a lobster, some scallops and some more sea shells and a crab. It looks fantastic. We refuse an offer to pay her 250,000 VND and get the price down to 200,000 VVD ($12 US) Great bargainers we are not.
There are two of us - each to get the same plate. One of her buddies shows up to help cook on the little charcoal pan they all have and in the hurly burley of being told where to sit, fending off sunglass or insole salesmen, saying "No' to a massage, the helper cook substituted a teeny weeney lobster for the one that was on offer in the first place. I called bullshit on that move and got that put right.
In retrospect i realize:
The "shrimp" were about 6-7 inches long, but are what we in Washington State USA call "sand shrimp" We use them for bait. They actually were tasty but not too meaty. She partially shelled them and put nuoc mam in a slit she cut in the meat, and then grilled them.
The crab was a round red thing about the size of your fist. If you work hard you can get no more than a tablespoon of meat out of it. I'm an experienced crab gourmand and found I had to put the body part in my mouth and grind it all up and spit out the shells. REFUSE the little round crab! Look for a larger white and red one that has big meaty claws. These were kept tucked away somewhere and not pulled out until they started bugging us for the second course.
She showed us 3 scallops in the sample plate that each of us was to get. On the final accounting Mike said he got NONE. I ate 3 (they were damn good)
The lobster (if it is one} has NO CLAWS . I think it is really some type of shrimp that is called a lobster.The restaurants charge by the kilo for lobster and one we looked at was $40 for one lobster. Yes. $40 US! All the other seafood here is inexpensive, so I was shocked at the price. I'll have to check to see if the restaurants have lobster w/ claws.
After we finished she tried to sell us more food. We felt a bit taken advantage of so passed seconds.
SUMMARY: If you must have this "experience" keep you wits about you. Watch for the bait and switch. She tried to get us to sit under a palapa, but we wanted to be close so we could be close to photograph the experience. It really is a visually appealing sight. No telling what would have happened if we had not been right on top of her and her cronies. Make sure she puts both COMPLETE meals in her display bucket and then keep an eye on her.
Alternately go to Nha Trang Seafood restaurant and order deep fried grouper. The breading was crispy, not too thick and the absolute BEST I have had in 60 years on this earth.
You have been a seafood taster for so long, and from Wa state, yet you do not know that real lobsters (with claws)are only from the Atlantic ocean, the rest are all fake, these others, in Canada, we call them crayfish,
these so called lobsters grown and sold in VietNam are Langouste, and are farmed
the ones sold on the beach and in many restaurants in Nha Trang , are very bad quality or sick, not able to be sold to the wholeseller, or are stolen by night by divers ... the real cost of the real langouste is actually 1 500 000 to 1 800 000 vnd / kilo, ( yes around 100 usd) which is what the growers get, and most are shipped from the farm direct to Hong Kong, tokyo or Singapore
you say, that's crazy, so do I, but I know some growers and that's the going rate, one of them is a french dude, who does not even eat his, he says, at that rate he sells them all, and waits to be in France and pig out on real lobsters at 1/3 of that price ...
the big shrimp, at about 10 pieces per kilo (1/4 pounders) are going at the market for about 800 000 vnd [nearly 50 usd) / kilo ...
the ones you talk about i think are meaty shrimps (translated from the vietnamese name) , with many bone like separations in the meat part, very hard to eat are cheap, then again they are not the real shrimp, but they do look goor until you bite into them
and you are right, seafood restaurants have much better quality seafood
a very good place in Nha Trang is Truc Linh rest. on Biet Thu st. they also have 2 others but the 1 in front of crazy kim's is the best as far as I am concerned
and yes, the bait and switch is very big on the beach, are you must look out very good, they are expert at it