Yesterday was Thao's last day. She is Vietnamese but now lives in Australia. She has been here for 3 weeks and always promising to make me Vietnamese spring rolls. Mostly she has been a shopping machine. A confirmed clothes-a-holic, she has definitely added a significant amount to the local economy. She has had to buy two more suitcases to get her things back to Australia.
Early Sunday afternoon we take off for Chinatown. We take the subte rather than the bus. This allows me to show her more of this barrio. Belgrano has a much different feel than the other barrios. While still part of the Capital, it is more suburban. The streets are wider, the sidewalks cleaner. There are more families here.
We walk down Juramento to Chinatown. I point out the Sarmiento museum, the Teatro Larralde, Museo DE Arte Enrique Larreta. One normally does not think of Belgrano as being culturally oriented, but there are small theaters and places to hear music along with a few small museums.
We cross the tracks to Chinatown. Thao finds it cute. I point out the few restaurants and Chinese fast food places I know. We head for the market. Once inside, just like Jane, Lee, and Kenny she is thrilled to see the selection of food and Chinese products. Unlike those 3 she does not speak Chinese.
My friends who work in the market grin when they see me with Thao. I know that I am an enigma to them. The Asians here do not mix with the Argentines. Then there is me, coming in with all these Asians all the time. They ask Thao if she is from Singapore. She tells them that she is from Vietnam. I have to translate the Spanish to English for her. They check out what she is buying. My friends are impressed.
I am buying my usual things, only now since my trip with Kenny I have some other things I now like. Spicy noodles, some sauces, and now dumplings filled with shrimp. I wish I could come here more often. Thao is buying fresh shrimps. I have never bought fish here although it always looks so excellent.
Walking to the bus we stop in a shop that says it sells soy products. They do, but they also have lovely fast food. She and I go crazy buying. The food is fresh, still warm. This makes up for no decent Thai food, sushi that is only salmon, and too much chicken.
We race home, leave the groceries and take off for Plaza Serrano. Thao is a shopping machine. I have never seen anyone buy as much as she does. She even surpasses Jane. When we enter the markets, some of the vendors greet me by name and hug me. They are thrilled to meet Thao. I have christened her "Maquina de las compras" (Buying machine) $500 pesos and many dresses, shirts, and jewelry later I beg her to leave. Even I can get tired of shopping. I am dreaming of Vietnamese spring rolls. We make a quick stop at the market to pick up the few things we could not get in Chinatown, then it is home to start cooking.
Thao becomes a small tornado of activity. I have never seen her move so fast. She is making a vietnamese curry, spring rolls. She starts the dumplings. She bought shu mai a dim sum in the market. She tastes it and decides it needs something. She makes a chile sauce for it. She makes rice in the microwave. This is something Kenny did too. Thao says her mother would die if she knew this is how she now makes rice.
I watch every step. The yam noodles are boiling for the spring rolls. She stir fries the rice with egg and garlic scallion. I do my part. I nuke the fast food I bought for us to snack on while she cooks. Her spring rolls are not like the ones I used to eat in the Bay Area. They are shrimp and yam noodles. But she uses cilantro instead of mint, cucumber, and red pepper. Her dipping sauce is orange juice and chiles. I am in heaven. We are like kids sampling everything.
Phillippe comes to eat with us. I have decided he makes a better friend than boyfriend. I wanted him to go to boyfriend school, but he doesn't want to go. OK fine. Argentine men are not used to women calling the shots. Independent women to these men is when they want to watch football you need to find something else to do. As liberal as they think they are, they still are not used to a woman who thinks "well if you can do that, so can I." So like I said, better we should be friends.
The dinner is amazing. I am eating much more than I really want to. The spring rolls are incredible. Even better is that I have learned how to make them. The curry came out great too. Good thing my friend Belli brought me curry from India because the "spicy" curry we bought in Chinatown was far from spicy.
Everything was so fresh, so tasteful. The shrimp was excellent. I now know that this place is the best to buy my seafood at. It reminded me of the shrimp I ate in New Orleans when I went to visit Eva. I tell Thao her mother should open up a restaurant here. While Thao moved to Australia from Vietnam her mother went to Russia. She has a restaurant there.
Phillippe is overwhelmed by the smells and the tastes. I tell him not try the orange chile sauce. He stays away from it until the end when he decides to try it. He almost dies. It really is not that hot. He thinks Thao and I are crazy. She and I are in hysterics watching him eat.
I am sad to see Thao go. She promises to come back next year. I am thinking of going to Australia in January. This is as I always write, the sad part of having guests. You never know if you will see them again. They become little acts in the grand play of your life.